Gifts from Gma: Letting go of stuff

“Gma” is the nickname my kids gave to my mom. Some of us kids have been posting announcements on the caring site we set up for her. Here’s one I sent this morning about clearing out the house where she lived for 54 years, having moved in on my 2nd birthday….


Even those of us who have been working on it are shocked to see that the house is now almost completely empty! But it’s a been a process decades in the making…
Starting after Dad died in 1997, us kids got used to Mom “deciding” that she was going to sell the house. In the early rounds, we’d ramp up, call everyone and start making plans. She’d start talking to a realtor and we’d start reserving our strength.
In the later rounds, we knew to just wait it out for a few weeks, when she’d come back to the now familiar, “Never mind. I’m going to die in this house.” And fortunately she had her wish.
So not only did she plan her own funeral in every detail, but she also thought a lot about what would happen to the stuff and the house. She repeatedly said, “I just want to make sure each kid and grandkid gets something special from me. And I don’t care what happens to everything else.”
She also admired how her mom had passed on a bit of money to each kid when she died, and her plan was that we sell the house and distribute the money among the kids.
When I talked to Mom and said, what’s new? She’d often tell me about which room she was ‘working’ in. Then, one of us would get called in to assist. Her friend was one that got the job of sorting through rec room cabinets. They filled the ping pong table with photos and baby books. Then boxed these up and sent them out.
Several of us participated in these projects. In 2008, Mom had Carol writing names on the back of art hanging on the wall. In 2011, she had me taking photos and writing up the back story of items. Like the hand drawn picture and poem by a Native American who had lived as a boarder in her mom’s boarding house. Or the desk that belonged to Dad’s mom. In recent years, several of us got turns in the back office “Dad’s office”, sorting through stuff including letters Dad wrote during his time in the Navy, his high school and college diplomas.
Most of these sorting projects ended with a trip to the post office. Just a few months ago, Mom pulled out 30+of Dad’s old ties that mysteriously appeared. So grandkids got boxes with a tie or two, old birthday cards and miscellaneous knick knacks.
In these past few weeks, as my brothers and sisters gathered, each asked, what can I do? So we pulled out the lists of special stuff, finding that we had been asked by Mom to do the project that had already been done years earlier by another sibling. Things didn’t really match up 100% but it gave us enough guidance to start making decisions.
And as other friends arrived, we began giving away more. Our friend’s daughter, was famous for running upstairs and hugging and kissing the statue of Mary each time she arrived. So, I grabbed the statue and showed it to Mom a few days before she passed. I asked, how about if I give this to Teresa? Her eyes crinkled, a tear leaked out and she said, “Great!”
Having all the siblings there, and knowing the house would have to be cleaned out, and knowing it would in the end fall to our big sister, we were motivated to work together and make good progress. Having each other right there to ask, what should we do with this, made the work go quickly and easily.
We had a huge day on Saturday, yesterday. We advertised on NextDoor, Craigslist and FreeCycle that we were having a Garage Un-Sale: Everything Free! Friends and family hauled stuff out to the front lawn. People showed up and took items, each tagged by us with a note “Enjoy this gift from Gma! She enjoyed connecting people with treasures. Enjoy your treasure with love from our family.”
Today, we’re putting out a few bedframes, some tools, and some bamboo trays. But other than stuff we’re holding in the garage, the house is nearly empty. The living room was the perfect place for an impromptu dance party yesterday, when my brother busted out a song on the piano and we danced in honor of Mom and her friends.
Tomorrow we have movers coming to haul out the dining room set. The piano will make its way to a granddaughter in Florida.
And within another week, the house will be that much closer to being put on the market.
We wanted to fill you in on this. Because while it seems like a lot if happening in a week (and it is!), we also feel like we’ve been working on this with mom for a couple decades now.
That house has been a very special gathering place for all of us. It’s been therapeutic to work together, and to move piece after piece along.
Thanks to each of you for having been a part of Mom’s life and ours! We are determined to let go of the stuff, but we aren’t letting go of the love that we share. Love goes on.


Eulogy to my mom: The Most Important Thing


My mom passed away at age 89 on October 8, 2016. Four days later, on my birthday, I was one of the family that spoke. Here’s my eulogy:

My name is Joan Magnie Gregerson and I’m the seventh of the eight kids. In 10 minutes, I don’t have time to share about her 89 years of life. But I can share what she taught us these past few weeks as she was dying.

If you know Mom, you know that she was a tenacious conversationalist. She remembered more details about your life than you did! She wanted to know if your nephew’s musical went well, and if your daughter liked her new job in Kentucky. She kept track of when John was playing and where, better than he did himself. She wanted to know which bus I caught and what time I got home.

Her humor was unfailing. Her questions were daunting and her appetite for visiting had always been unquenchable. And as much as she was a peacemaker, with her insatiable need to know she could also be a bit of a troublemaker. (We all have our strengths and challenges.) But over the past couple of weeks, her conversations and her focus changed.

It was October 1 and she was at St Joe’s Hospital. And at this point, she had just decided, no more. No more blood draws. No more tests. No more procedures. No more occupational therapy, lung therapy or physical therapy. She had made the decision to go home to be in hospice care.

Instantly, the conversations of the woman I’d known my whole life changed.

Irene called and we held the phone to her ear. Mom said, “I love you. You’ve always been a special girl. You are sweet, and kind and could always clean a house! I love you very much Irene.”

Dot called and Mom whispered, “I’m ready to go to lunch.”, then they both chuckled and Mom said, “I love you Dot. You’ve always been such a great friend. We’ve had such wonderful times together. I love you.”

Rita called and Mom said. “I love you. You’ve been such a good friend. You’ve been such good support for me all these years. I love you Rita.”

And when I stood by her bed she told me, “I’m so fortunate. I’ve had a wonderful life.” Then she got very serious and said, “Love is the most important thing.” She and I repeated it together, as if to ensure that I got this key point.

Several times she said with tears eeking out, “I’m so happy that the family is all together again.” She didn’t mean physically in one place because kids were scattered across the country at that moment. She meant that the divides that had eroded our family unity over time, were being repaired.  The differences between mother and child, and between siblings were dissolving.

And she was right. For the first time in decades, we were all getting along. Most days when I’d pop by the hospital, I’d find my brother Dan there before I arrived and he stayed long after I left. He was the one that usually fed Mom,  patiently spoon-feeding her pea-sized bites of cherry ice and a few mouthfuls of soup. Steve who lives in California  but has been working in Denver recently, would stop in after work most nights, grab dinner in the cafeteria and sit with Mom. Kay and Terry camped out beside her bed for hours. And Mary Ann got Trader Joe’s to open the doors early to get strawberry drinkable yogurt. The clerk ran and got it, and gave it to MaryAnn with a hug, whispering no charge and give her our love. And her buddies Voradel, Chrispy and Raquel came and sat for hours and modeled what families aspire to be. Countless family and  friends rallied around her. To be with her, to support her and to be together.  This circle of love that she had been cultivating for decades formed around her.

Mom got settled in at home and was fading fast. More family and friends arrived, but Carol was our rock. She was unafraid, confident and loving and helped keep our wobbly family upright as we headed toward Mom’s death.

And with each passing day, her strength was fading. It got harder for her to form words. She could listen to someone telling her, “I love you grandma!” and her eyes would crinkle and a smile would form. She would move her mouth, perhaps trying to say their name or the words I love you.

Mom’s longtime friend, Ann called. We held the phone to Mom’s ear so she could hear Ann say I love you, and then let her rest while John finished talking to Ann in the kitchen. Irene ran into the kitchen saying, Hey guys, grandma is yelling something. What? Yes, she’s yelling something.

Mom was straining with all her might to say, “Tell Ann I love her and that she has been the best friend to me. And that we had so many good times together. I love her so much.”

So it was, the woman who was famous for her visiting, her playful banter, and her interrogations, changed the conversations completely.

All those other conversations we’d ever had, were her way of trying to get to this thing. This thing that in the end she could just jump straight to.

  • I love you.
  • I appreciate you.
  • I recognize that you have enriched my life in a special way.
  • I am grateful for such a wonderful life and times together.
  • It’s crucial that we all get along.

So let me try this thing. And I’m saying this to each of you here, and to those that are with us in spirit. Speaking for our family:

  • We love you.
  • We appreciate you.
  • We recognize that you have enriched Mom’s life and ours in a special way.
  • We are grateful that Mom had such a wonderful life.
  • It’s crucial that we all continue to get along.

On Saturday, October 8, folks gathered outside the house for the Peace Walk and family was gathered inside. And then, just after the Peace Walkers began singing, Mom passed away.

So there she was ordering us around until the very end. Commanding us to form a circle of love. To hold peace and love above all difference. And to dedicate ourselves to continuing to get along.

It’s not just we are going to need the support. It’s bigger than that.

As Mom said, if you want to know the key to having a wonderful life, just remember:

Love is the Most Important Thing



Would you feed your bunny Coca-Cola?

  • Would you pour Orange Fanta into your dog’s bowl?
  • Would you give your cat Skittles?
  • Should a zookeeper feed a baby giraffe a frosted cupcake?
  • Does any other species ‘celebrate’ by giving their young ones food that harms?


You don’t have to be a vet to know what not to feed baby animals. And you don’t have to be an M.D. to know what not to feed baby humans. When we realize that we are responsible for little bodies, is there any other logical conclusion:

Stop. Feeding. Kids. Sugar.


I understand that it’s entirely opposite what our standard culture promotes. This is the same culture that has generated previously unheard of rates of obesity, diabetes and now heart disease in kids.

We “heart” our kids. Let’s care for them in ways that support their overall health.

Sugar is not love
It’s just a crutch I lean on
When I am not strong

Examine the reasons you have for giving sugar to kids. If the kids was instead a baby animal, would you still give sugar? Let’s be strong!






Finding Your Purpose: Five Surprising Questions to Ask


Having quit yet another engineering job after too many hours sitting behind the computer, I was ready for a change. So ready that I was willing to follow the advice of my good friend, Emily. She had gushed about how she and her husband found the career assessments at CU to be incredibly valuable. I didn’t really understand how they could be, but I was desperate enough to get help. (Isn’t desperation what it usually takes to ask for help?)

So, at age 55, I participated in a Career Counseling Assessment Series through the University of Colorado in Boulder. We did a ton of assessments and exercises and each was helpful. With each class, I felt layers of confusion melting away as I was beginning to recognize the true me.

The last class was called Career in Translation, led by Kevin Glavin. As part of the class, we interviewed a classmate using the following five questions. I was reminded of writing poems about pollution at age 10, the Jane Goodall book by my bedside and that my forays into engineering began with a quest to work on solar energy. It was this experience that cemented in my mind, that at my core, I’m an eco-nut. Always have been. Always will be.

What are you? What’s your purpose?

Find a friend to ask you these questions or write your answers. (Just thinking them through probably isn’t going to do it.) If you find a friend to work with, you can ask each other.

  1. Who did you admire when you were growing up? Tell me about her or him.
  2. Do you read any magazines or watch any television shows regularly? Which ones? What do you like about these?
  3. What is your favorite book or movie? Tell me the story. (What books are on your bedside now?)
  4. Tell me your favorite saying or motto, and explain how it resonates with you.
  5. What are your earliest recollections? Tell me three stories about things you recall happening to you when you were three to six years old.

When our class did this, the teacher demonstrated with one student first. It was amazing to hear her tell the plot of the Wizard of Oz, through her frame of reference. It was a COMPLETELY different story than I would have told, but it aligned with her memories, hopes and dreams.

If you try this exercise, please write here if you discovered anything about yourself or your partner.

Happy interrogating, er, interviewing!🙂

I encourage you to contact your alma mater or community resources and find out if there’s a career counseling program you can enroll in. You’re never too old to find the true you!


Joan Gregerson is a Wellness Coach, Writer and Eco-Nut! She is the author of Tuning In to Inner Peace: The Surprisingly Fun Way to Transform Your Life and the upcoming books Eco-Nut and One World Wellness. Visit for more info.

A Mother’s Day Perspective: I Didn’t Ask to Be Born …or Did I?

Funny! I recently heard from my daughter that she remembers me crying once (maybe more!) on Mother’s Day …something about me saying I didn’t want anything and then I didn’t get anything then I cried. Oh how terrible! That’s exactly the way I remember it as a kid.

Throw all that out the window and just enjoy yourself, re-parenting yourself and others. Appreciate your mom for being a mere human, as you are. And our kids for reminding us who we truly are. And Happy Mother’s Day!

Positive Energy Works Blog

Let’s be honest. As a kid, Mother’s Day feels like a big, splatty serving of guilt pudding. Thank your mom for …everything. Your mom works so hard for you. She cooks and cleans and does your laundry. She packs your lunch and fixes your hair.

It’s not so much about thanking her, as apologizing to her for ruining her life.  Did it feel like this to you? You must ask forgiveness for being such a burden, to someone who does everything you can’t do for yourself.

I bristled at this. I felt like, Hey, I didn’t ask to be born!

When we brought home a puppy, we didn’t expect her to thank us for feeding and walking her, or picking up her poop in the yard. It was our choice. We picked her out at the pet store and brought her home. So, directly or indirectly, we chose to care…

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Poem: Run for the Hills (NaPoWriMo 28)

Piles of pies and cookies
Surround me
And I’ve only got so many
“No”s in me
Just before the meltdown
I run for the hills

Then Mountains and trees
Surround me
I’ve only got to be here
To be free
Just relax and let down
I run to the hills
To be free

Poem: Iridescent Mixed Messages (NaPoWriMo 26b)

Grey hovering clouds
Obscure the hills
I know are there

The next curve
Changes everything
Snow begins to fall
And the sun breaks through

Mixed Messages


About the poem:

After arriving in Estes Park today, I saw a little girl walking with her grandma, eating a big stick of pink candy. Love and junk food  is often interwoven deeply as a shiny mixed message too. I’ve been the giver and receiver of this one.

Poem: My Long Found Friend (NaPoWriMo 26)

You know who you are
We were once so close
And now we’re so far

I know the challenges you’ve faced
The people and place you’ve embraced
It hasn’t been easy
But you’ve done your best

When you feel discouraged
Think of me
I’m your own personal cheer squad
Yelling and chanting
Doing flips in the air
Reminding you, to go for it
Oceans separate us
But I’m right beside you

Your smell and your smile
I can’t erase
Your sweetness and your tears
An indelible trace

That love we share
Can never end
You are my
Long found friend


Poem: Rat’s Den (NaPoWriMo 25)

My room was a rat’s den
Bits of paper
Empty glasses
Thngs to give away
Things to return
Covered the space where the carpet had been

I finally hit a turning point
There were more things lost
Than things I could find
My mind mainly
My mind plainly

A place for everything
Everything was all over the place
A place for everything
Aha, everything needs a place

I lugged bureaus and shelves, drawers and the chair
I moved them from here and put them over there
But that didn’t work
So I moved some right back
I switched out chairs for shelves
Heaven glimmered from hell
I flipped this and that
Became an organizing rat
I turned on the light
As day turned to night

I found a gift card
And a check
My cousin’s address
(In Quebec)
The receipts for my business trip
The jacket that won’t unzip
And after several more hours
I found the floor
That, and my peace of my mind,
Were what I’d been searching for

My rat’s den
Became my den
My office
My study

Next time
Don’t let it go so long
Tell me to clean it up
Good buddy



Poem: The Fourth Commandment (NaPoWriMo 23)

Honor thy mother and father

It’s hard to sit still
When the extension of ourselves
Is being desecrated
When air, soils and water are being contaminated
When forests are being obliterated
It’s hard to nod politely
To accept the reasons why

Honor thy mother and father
While corporate greed
Is predictable
And government bureacracy
Is intractable
Why are so many
Of faith
So unmotivated
So unconcerned

Honor thy mother and father

Why preach love and mercy
And caring for the poor
But look away
From pesticides
And slave wages for workers and
Obscene conditions for
Factory farm animals

Honor thy mother and father

Like Luther condemned
Status quo then
I reject the teachings
That fail to teach love
I reject the preachings
That fail to preach truth

Honor thy mother and father

To neglect is
To destroy
To treat our planet
Like a throwaway toy

It’s the habitual
Turning a blind eye
It’s the willful ignorance
That masquerades as bliss

Honor thy mother and father
So that it may be well with you
And that you may live long on the earth

Mother Earth, Father Sky
What have we lost?

Now we have low, low prices
But at what cost?

Faith and food
Nature and nurture
Respect and responsibility

Mother Earth, Father Sky
What have we done?


About the poem:

Let’s wake up to the connections. Join me for “One World Wellness”, Sunday at 3 pm from May-July.

Poem: I Say What I Want (NaPoWriMo 22)

I say yes when I mean yes

I say no when I mean no

I know what I want

You know what I want


I’m nicer now that

I say what I want

Less drama

Less trauma

Not as much misery

Not as much mystery

But kinder

I know what I want

I say what I want


I want to be kinder

To myself and others


When I’m kinder

I say what I want


About the poem

This is how I actually behave… on a good day. Today was a good day!

Poem: The Baths by Generation (NaPoWriMo 21)

shared and short
shallow and shivering
in a queue of siblings
were the baths of my youth
all business
all clean

shared and bubbled
storied and lingering
stacking cups
and dinosaurs
were the baths of
my young daughters
little people with
little bubble hairdos

solo by candlelight
goblet of wine
exquisite music
lavender bubbles
are the baths of
the daughters
when young women
they became
exquisite reward
spa well envisioned
and earned

i never thought of that
said mom
who tried it
and was hooked
the guilt of luxury
washed away by lavender

what smells so good
said grandma
who tried it
and was hooked
though wrinkled

Poem: Color-full (NaPoWriMo 20)

Art palette

Browns, blacks, greens
Yellow highlights
Blue undertones

Painting my heart out
Painting my heart in
Mind blissfully empty
Soul color-full



About the poet:

These days, Joan Gregerson is teaching poetry and wellness classes and taking painting classes with Molly at Violet Hive Art Therapy and Healing, 3107 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO. More info at

Poem: Dum-Dums Mystery (NaPoWriMo 19)


The bowl of dum-dums
They silently beckon
While thousands of dollars
the teller must reckon

Take one, two, three
Make it four
When the teller ain’t looking
Take three more

Cream soda




Poem: Yoo-buh (NaPoWriMo 18)

Thanks for picking me up
I drive for Uber too

What’s that you say?
You drive for you-buh?

What’s that you say?
I drive for Uber

That’s what I said
I drive for You-buh too!


About the poem:

I love that there are still regional accents in our sprawling US of A. This weekend, I learned that in Maine Uber is called “You-buh”. Love it!