authentic reality.

It has been five months since my beloved left our Earthly home. In that time, I have continued to experience the ups and downs of the new reality. In the midst of my continued grief process, I am making plans for a new adventure in Alabama, renewing my love affair with Pure Barre, and coaching track. I must go forward and grow, even if it feels like burrowing into the hollow would be the better choice.

There have been words and voices around me that make me feel confident in this growth. Two weeks ago, my amazing Rector, Sari, spoke of re-birth. If we want to experience being truly re-born and experience God, we must go through a passage from one reality to another and we cannot go back. This is terrifying and true and amazing and horrible. It is real. Yesterday, his sermon focused on vulnerability and love. True love exists when we demonstrate that which is our inside on the outside–with another person. When we open our hearts and souls to allow someone in, it is then we experience God. And this, too, can be a wounding experience.

I would not give up this experience of having been vulnerable and experiencing love with Ken for anything, despite the current wounds that may never fully heal. I rejoice in this passage that has been given to me, even if it is the most difficult passage of my life thus far. I choose to live this passage with great vulnerability on the outside, so that others around me know that it is ok to be real. In our society, we view vulnerability as weakness, but I see it as a chance to be honest.  Super-hero Brené Brown writes: “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” (The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You AreIn this time of trial, change, and renewal, I can be nothing but authentic. For anything else would be something and someone that I am not.


a new regard for poetry

I read this article tonight in the nytimes: Bringing a Daughter Back From the Brink with Poems. It is an incredible essay by Betsy Macwhinney about her subversive use of poetry to open her daughter to mental and physical healing. It is amazing. It is an incredible example of maternal love that is only matched by that of my own mother. (And I’m sure yours too, but really, mine is the best.)

I would encourage you to read the article and the poems to which she links. But…this says it all for me:

“At some point, I knew she had come out of a long dark tunnel. I also knew it wouldn’t be her last tunnel.”

I’ve never been one for poetry. My connection to Tennyson came less from his works and more from the way Megan Follows recited them as Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. I am not a Shakespeare girl, much to my mothers chagrin. The words of Frost and Teasedale have been appealing but only when they have been set to music. e.e. cummings and Emily Dickinson have some appeal but have not typically captured my mind and soul in the way of prose authors.

But, I am the daughter of an exquisite poet and my respect for words is immense. So I’m not terribly surprised that poetry has turned a new light for me. Emerson, Rilke, now Neruda, are helping me to walk out of the tunnel of the dark and into the light. The gifts of words of those more wise than I provide a balm to my tumultuous spirit.

I leave you with this one for your heart. peace.

If Death is Kind

Perhaps if death is kind, and there can be returning,
We will come back to earth some fragrant night,
And take these lanes to find the sea, and bending
Breathe the same honeysuckle, low and white.

We will come down at night to these resounding beaches
And the long gentle thunder of the sea,
Here for a single hour in the wide starlight
We shall be happy, for the dead are free.

Sara Teasdale

All the things he will not see

I’m on page 10 of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and I just read a blog post called This is 39 by the amazing Allison Slater Tate. Both of these things made me think of Kenny. Not at all because of their content but, like many things, my thoughts were turned to a life unfulfilled. He was 39 and I continue to mourn not only his death, but also all the things he (we) will not do or see.

He will not walk down the aisle at the end of his wedding with a smokin’ hot new wife. He will not hold a first born child. He will not get revenge on the Lake Placid Ironman course. He will not see peace in Gaza. He will not see Boko Haram, ISIS, and Al Qaeda brought to justice. He will not learn Arabic. He will not buy a house. He will not finally get lasik. He will not turn 40. He will never see the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore or the Great Pyramids.

But, oh what he did see and do. He traveled Europe. He played his tootles  in France. He finished Ironman, four times. He read so many books. He made thousands of people laugh. He inspired children and adults. He watched his Dad kick cancer’s a**. He became #7 in his Mom’s second grade classroom. He went to college and grad school and loved playing the clarinet even when he hated it. He loved his sister with a ferocity beyond measure. He was a patriot. And he tried on a wedding ring and it made him that much more handsome.

And, he will see so much more. For if we truly believe in the promise of the resurrection, we know how he is spending his days. Listening to Nana’s stories. Playing fetch with Parker and Juddy. Talking war stuff with lots of people include Murph and Erik. Cracking wise with Robin Williams. And playing duets with Gigliotti and Mozart. And he gets to do all of this free of pain, anxiety, fear of the future, and full of love. And this, for a least a moment, gives me peace.

reading in 2015

(taking an aside from all the heavy posts of the last few months…)

I saw this graphic on facebook and was super excited about it. I love to read. I love to share what I read and I love getting new ideas for what should be on my current stack. This provides a great challenge.


This looks right up my alley to diversify my reading list and, perhaps, keep me focused. So based the categories above, I have created my list:

  • A book I’ve been meaning to read: Daring Greatly-Brene Brown
  • A book published this year: The Teenage Brain-Frances E. Jensen, MD
  • A book from a genre you don’t usually read: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-Douglas Adams
  • A book from your childhood: The Hobbit-JRR Tolkien  (I’ve actually never read it.)
  • A book your mom loves: Return of the Native-Thomas Hardy
  • A book originally published in a different language: The Odyssey-Homer (oy.)
  • A book that everyone has read but you: The Lowland-Jhumpa Lahiri (I’m totally cheating, I really want to read this and I’m late to the party.)
  • A book you chose because of the cover: No Mud, No Lotus-Thich Nhat Hanh
  • A book by your favorite author: The Sandcastle Girls-Chris Bohjalian
  • A book recommended by someone with great taste (Virginia M!): The Secret History-Donna Tarte
  • A book you should have read in high school: Their Eyes Were Watching God-Zora Neale Hurston
  • A book that’s currently on the bestseller list: All the Light We Cannot See-Anthony Doerr


I tried to build this entire list with books I already had on my to-read shelves at home. I only needed to buy two!! (Yes, Mom, I have a library card….but I like to touch the books forever!)

What would be on your list? Want to do a virtual book club? (Or if you’re local, a wine based one?)


ashes to ashes

In his message to the congregation this week, the rector of All Souls Memorial Church in Woodley Park, Father John Beddingfield, spoke of our own ashes for the year. He said, “mediating on the ashes of my expectations and assumptions might invite me to recall that God is in charge, and God alone.” Within this sentence he makes plain the need for us to connect to our own “things” and lay them upon the altar for ashes.

I have a set of ashes on my mantle. The small thimble full of ashes of my beloved who await their final resting place. And I will have a second set of ashes soon too, that of my sweet pup Parker. The third member of our Thomuto team, who joined his Dad today and will have his final resting place with him some day. In these ashes lay the loss not only of my two loves and my family, but in the loss of expectations and plans for the future.

So I might wallow a bit in metaphorical sackcloth and ashes but I realize that this will not draw me nearer to God. It is these deep, horrible, painful losses that I see plain that I do not have control. My own plans, expectations, and goals may not be in line with God’s plan and purpose for my life. While I probably could have sufficed with a loss of job or a broken bone, God needed me my heart to be broken in order to truly reveal himself to me. And so, God does, daily revealing wisdom through friends, words, sunsets, compassionate gestures, endless boxes of kleenex, strong coffee, television characters, and the laughter of children.

These ashes remain with me, not as a punishment, but as a reminder that the promise of God, through the resurrection, is the greatest gift. Henri Nouwen, in his book Turn My Mourning into Dancing, quotes Thomas Merton, “the real hope is not in something we think we can do, but in God, who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see.” My hope remains in the Lord—whose ashes I bear as witness to his sacrifice and salvation.

As we approach the season of Lent, I seek to honor these ashes. I seek to reach a place of gratitude that allows me to celebrate the past, honor it, and move forward on the path that God is building ahead of me. Ken and I used the word forward a lot. We talked about how, in the midst of job struggles, dog struggles, motivation struggles, that we needed to keep moving forward. We needed to keep up the pursuit of our goals. I still want to move forward. And I want to move forward with the knowledge that my goals and expectations may not fall into God’s wide net for my life. I will be corrected and I will be grateful.

May this season of Lent allow you to examine your own need to create ashes. Your own place for renewal. May you be graced with clarity, simplicity, and peace.

annvoskampat all times

image source

choosing the possibilities

I was a stubborn child. I did not like transitions. I did not like change. This battle went on all the way through high school. But then I went to college 1200 miles away from home. And after that…went on a year long adventure across the country with opera. I learned to recognize the value of change. How we are constantly evolving and shaping based on our community and our circumstances. (I also learned that I really don’t like eggplant and I can tolerate mushrooms.)

The last three months have been a whirlwind of change. Adaptations require energy output only matched by new parents and medical students, I imagine. The daily endurance race of living feels like 100 Ironman races. (Ok, at least it feels harder than one.)

Yet, life moves forward. Change occurs. And leaps of faith, in the arms of God, are part of living. My next leap of faith will take me to a new job in a new part of the country. There are more unknowns than knowns and while this could be paralyzing, it is a joy. Henri Nouwen in Turn My Mourning into Dancing writes, “A person of faith is willing to let new things happen and shoulder responsibilities that arise from unheard of possibilities.”  I choose the possibilities. I choose to open my heart, mind, and life to what God has in store. To recognize that change is part of His plan. I rejoice in this fact, even amid the still daily journey of suffering.

Just as this cold winter will lead to a rebirth of life in the spring, so too shall my life renew itself–I must only accept the change.


grieving with St. Alicia

In the last two months, I have binge watched the first five seasons of The Good Wife. (I am now begrudgingly paying Amazon 2 bucks an episode to catch up on Season 6.) I have become immersed in the world of Alicia Florrick as she navigates through her family scandal, raises her kids, negotiates and fights for her clients, and her own survival. I have cheered when she wins, cringed when she makes a shady deal, and literally wept for joy the first time she finally kissed Will Gardner. (I have loved Josh Charles since Dead Poets Society and truly fell in love with him in college as my roomie and I watched Threesome more times than can be counted. #musicmother)

Having had no previous knowledge of anything about The Good Wife other than knowing it was Emmy winning and well-received, I had no idea what was coming in Season 5, Episode 15. (*If you don’t know, stop reading, right now.) I also had no idea that a television show would become a short term companion on coming to grips with death, grief, and ptsd.

When the tragedy of this episode occurred, I found myself gasping for air. The tragic, gruesome, and sudden death of my favorite character (Will) left me anxious, my heart palpitating, and my brain swirling with memories of the worst day. I had to look away and cover the screen in the mortuary scenes. It was too real. This was the first time in my life where I have struggled to keep the fourth wall. I am an educated person; why does this feel like it is more than a television drama?

As I watched the few episodes that followed, I found myself grieving with Alicia. Her process of confusion, anger, sadness, unexpected breakdowns, exhaustion, and consumption of wine all mirror my own process grief. One night, I had to turn off the show and turn to another (thanks Josh and Toby) because it just seemed all too close. Yet, I kept watching and somehow, as she walked through the mire, I felt a sense of hope. While my grief is far from healed and I can’t wrap up all the pain in a 46 minute episode, I still feel like I know I’ll find light at some point. I can’t predict when or where or how, but I know it is there.

And while I can now watch TGW with less angst and more criticism (seriously, the Cary/Kalinda thing…I just don’t get it. Also, Alan Cumming is always perfection), I feel a bit of gratitude. Somehow I was meant to watch this show at this time and recognize my own issues through this well-crafted character. And for that, I thank St. Alicia.


PS-Here is some Matt Czuchry eye candy. You’re welcome.