Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Out of bath tissue (t.p.)!!!

We have run out of bath tissue and still have to get to the end of the month before I can make grocery purchases. The roll I got from the food pantry last Thursday is long gone. Luckily, this morning I found a box of facial tissues that I'd purchased for one of the boys to take to school and felt grateful that we have something to use as a substitute. This is all so sad. My oldest was off from school today with a sore throat and as he looked around the kitchen for something to eat for lunch he said, "We are really cleaned out. It has never been this bad." Seriously, my refrigerator is empty and the cabinets are fast being depleted. We are having to use up all the stuff I bought that I shouldn't have - you know, items that appeared to be a great deal but upon getting home you realize that no one in the house really likes it and so the box of whatever sits in the pantry until NOW! Yeah! Part of me wants to feel grateful that there are still food items to eat but I'm not really looking forward to tonight's entree of canned chicken stew with biscuit topping.

I think the real problem is not having a choice. We are forced to eat the less desirable pantry items instead of being able to have something more appealing. There is no say in the matter and that adds to feeling worse/bitter about the circumstances.

I went back to the food pantry today to apply for emergency food stamps but was denied, I am assuming because our pension income is too high. (I'll get a letter of explanation in a few days.) So after paying the mortgage, we have about $300.00 left from the monthly pension. Even with the monthly spousal support check of $700.00 I receive from Husband #2, we are in the red and there is not enough left to afford food. My utilities are $500.00, credit card payments $400.00, cell phone charges $200.00, etc. I recently read that the average family spends $800.00 a month on food - I'd be happy to have half of that!

Today I am thankful:

1. That somehow we've almost made it through the worst month of winter and I do know that we'll survive these last few days.
2. That it is only four more days until February!
3. For just having made it through today - sometimes that is the most you can expect of yourself and that alone is enough.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Death vs. Divorce - which is harder

I have been really struggling with the grief and loss I feel about the end of my marriage. For me, this process is far more painful than what I went through when I was widowed five years ago. I think it has to do with the fact that Husband #2 made a conscious decision to leave the marriage, whereas Husband #1 had no choice in dying. So much of the situation mirrors an actual death. Husband #2 has refused to speak with me about the divorce and I do not have a definitive explanation as to why he wants out. Even the fact that I think Husband #2 has intimacy problems (he had not been in a relationship the five years prior to meeting me which included not having sex for five years!) does not make it easier to comprehend and move on.

I feel that I need an opportunity to respond verbally to Husband #2's divorce action but he has cut me off from any opportunity to do so. I sent him several emails but am not sure he received or read them as he did not reply. This has just left everything hanging for me and although I can suspect why he filed, not knowing for certain causes doubt and confusion. I believe that Husband #2 is exerting such rigid control in an effort to avoid feeling intense hurt. He had little experience in relating to others having been in only a few very short term relationships throughout his life. For example, he did not date in college and only started dating at age 25. He also never was married and had no children and I think that he exhibits a preference for living on his own. In the end, he could not adjust to a life involving a wife and two teen boys. He is far more comfortable living in his own limited little world.

So far it has been much easier for me to write about Husband #1 and his death but I am ready to undertake more introspection about the end of my marriage.

Today I am thankful:

1. For friends who care about us and are kind enough to take us bowling and lunch out. What a treat!
2. For friends who ask how our day is and really want to hear the answer.
3. That the world and Universe are large enough to provide more than one partner for each of us.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Food Pantry

After resisting as long as possible, I finally visited the local food pantry. The experience was of course humbling and trying. I had to wait for 45 minutes or so and passed the time helping a woman practice her crochet stitches. There were a number of other nice women I spoke with, all offering hints and the names of other pantries to a first timer like myself. I was the best dressed person there having decided I would wear work clothes to present a positive image about myself. I held it together fairly well until entering the warehouse type room where I would select my food. It was then that I burst into tears all the while thinking I would never have thought that things would come to this.

Here is a list of the items I received. All in all disappointing. Not much selection and the fresh fruit and vegetables were moldy. I actually felt nauseous, even for some hours after getting home (just the whole experience and the poor quality of food).

Bread items:
Family size box of low fat Triscuits; 14 oz. box Corn CHEX cereal; 32 oz. spaghetti; tuna noodle dinner mix (off brand - never heard of it); 7.25 oz. KRAFT mac & cheese; 16 oz. bag long grain white rice; frozen slices of garlic bread (looked like from a restuarant); loaf of Butternut honey wheat bread expiration 1/24; Trader Joe's wheat hot dog buns expiration 1/22); Trader Joe's uncut loaf of crusty bread expiraton not marked; Trader Joe's Everything bagels expiration 1/21; Voortman Chunky Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies expiration 10/24/08.

Canned Goods (unless noted all cans are off brands):
Large can orange juice; tuna in water; 1 can diet soda (yes only one can); 2 cans unsweetened applesauce (unsweetened doesn't go over too well in our house even with me); 2 cans Green Giant cut green beans; 1 can corn; can sliced pickled beets; 1 small can tomato sauce; can tomatoes for chili; jar turkey gravy; can of cream of chicken soup; can of vegetable soup; can of pure pumpkin; can peaches; can pears; grape jelly (you could take a jar of peanut butter or jelly but not both).

1 apple (we were told to only take one); 3 bananas (again told I could have three); 1 bag carrots, 10 red potatoes.

Trader Joe's salmi & cheese tray expiration 1/21; frozen package of turkey lunchmeat with 11/08 expiration.

1 roll t.p.
2 peanut granola bars

You are allowed to visit this panty once a month. Obviously no one could live for a month on the items received today. In fact, except for the can of tuna and box of tuna noodle helper, there wasn't anything that would comprise an entire meal. No spaghetti sauce to go with the spaghetti, etc. Actually what is making me feel the most ill is the prospect of eating food I don't know where is from or how soon it was frozen. For this reason I am going to toss the garlic bread and the turkey lunchmeat. I served the cheese from the cheese tray tonight with crackers and soup figuring 1 day past expiration is o.k. for cheese but I would not serve the salami. It is bothering me to even let the boys eat the cookies from 10/08. It is just the thought that this is all old food that has been sitting around.

I figured up the approximate cost of these food items to be around $40.00 but some are things I never would have bought in the first place. I was disappointed there was no laundry soap or other cleaning items like paper towels which I really need.

I also went to a job fair today and registered at another job counseling agency. I was applying for a "part-time, part-time job" of just 10 hours a week with a rate of pay of $10.00 per hour and no benefits or insurance. This was an entry level position geared for students in social work and psychology. Yet I saw other middle-aged clinicians male and female with master's degrees applying just as I. A bit depressing. I overheard someone say that the market is saturated with clinicians of my level and there are just not enough jobs to go around. Then later I spoke with the real estate paralegal about information she needed as well as my divorce attorney at length about trying to negotiate a settlement prior to mediation, etc. After my day I was just exhausted and drained! Wanting to just go to bed and hide under the covers. And another deep freeze is moving in - oh joy!

Today I am thankful:
1. That until today I never had to visit a food pantry and I pray there will not be many more times.
2. That I will never again think negative thoughts about a person in front of me at the store using federal assistance to purchase food.
3. That my children look at this time as an adventure rather than as something shameful.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I am starting to feel a little frantic over the financial situation. I returned two items for $11.00 so I could get potatoes, a box of cat food, bath tissue and dish soap. I was actually upset that the chain store I was in did not have dish soap for $1.00 - the cheapest bottle was $1.79. I contemplated going to the dollar store afterward, but ended up getting the soap because I just wanted to get home. Forget those nice big packages of 12-roll bath tissue. I got the single roll for 79 cents! At this point I don't think I have anything left to return.

Yesterday I cashed in $35.00 of pennies and loose change but I only have one stash of pennies left and it might not even be worth $10.00. We still have a week to go until the pension check comes in. I do know we can count on canned soup with cheese and crackers. And there is a $25.00 gift card for Chili's left over from Christmas. Basically, I am finding that it is exhausting to be poor. Everything I am doing to come up with a few dollars so I can fill the car halfway with gas or buy potatoes to go with dinner is tiring and draining. I call it creative financing!

I went to one of my career counseling appointments yesterday and was inspired by the affirmations in my counselor's office. One was "Abundance." My counselor explained that the Universe is abundant and I will find a job because one will be available for me. All very inspiring until I went to look at the job listings and the only one for my field of Human Services was for an addictions counselor 50 miles away. I was actually considering applying but I have to be realistic that the job would just be too far away. Also, I spoke with both attorneys yesterday. We have a mediation date for mid-Feb. and I am going ahead and filing some needed probate action for the house. After meeting with the career counselor and then talking at length with both attorneys I was additionally drained.

Today I am thankful:

1. That we have food for dinner.
2. That the temperature is in the upper 20s and the sun was out.
3. That someone in my life cared enough about me to call and ask how I was doing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A trip to the store when you're poor

Yesterday, I ended up getting $260.00 back on my debit card and $40.00 in cash for returning nine clothing items at Talbot's (not recent purchases - purchased over the past two years when I had money to blow at an upscale woman's clothing store).

Today, I went to the grocery store for items to make dinner. I planned on a chicken chili because there is chicken in the freezer and I want to use some nice sourdough bread bowls purchased last week. If they are not used soon, they'll be too hard. So off to the grocery needing milk, vegetable cooking oil, onions, peppers, stewed tomatoes, cheese, sour cream and cat food. My total bill came to $22.88. I agonized in front of the canned tomatoes trying to find a better deal but the ones I needed were $1.99 a can (and I needed two). The same thing in front of the cooking oil. As it is, I usually buy the house brand. I couldn't believe that oil is around $6.00 a bottle but I got the cheapest and smallest size for $3.00. When did it go up in price?

What really got me about this shopping trip though was the feelings I was experiencing about wanting items and not being able to afford them. For some odd reason I saw a box of Hostess Ding Dongs and wanted them, although that is not typically something I would even consider buying for the boys. The fact that a box was on sale for $2.50 made it even more desirable. Then there were sugar cookies decorated with the face of President Elect Obama and I was tempted because they were so unique and cute. But at $3.99 a box I could not justify the purchase and I also was not sure I wanted to be eating the head of our new President (even before he is sworn in!). I just thought they'd be a fun treat for the boys.

When you're poor you can't afford those little extras we all seem to take for granted when the funds are plentiful. And not being able to afford such little treats makes me feel deprived and even worse about my situation - really not being able to to spend a mere $2.50. So that is just an observation about my situation and how quickly I have come to have feelings of deprivation.

Today I am thankful:

1. That the cold spell lifted and the sun is out. 22 degrees feels like spring!
2. That at least we'll have a good/filling dinner tonight.
3. That I have come out of my dark mood to a less hopeless mindset.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A better mood

The boys asked for some spending money today and it was terrible to tell them that I could not give them any. Then I rounded up a bagful of pennies and ran them over to the bank ending up with $18.74 so each boy got $9.00 for a movie out with friends. I was proud of my resourcefulness and that I did not have to disappoint them. Next time I might not be able to come up with a way to obtain a few dollars.

I was lucky to be taken out to dinner two nights in a row (yesterday and today). My dark mood has lifted somewhat - I was able to enjoy both dinners, what a treat! Driving home tonight we went past the two homes of my childhood and the memorial for my late husband. I was very moved to see all these places. They were a reminder of how far I have come and how much I have endured as well as inspiration that life does carry on. People move, grow up, survive tragedy.

Today I am thankful:

1. That even in the middle of hardship there can be pleasures like dinners out.
2. For the special people in my life who have stood by my side through this difficult time.
3. For the magic just one drink with dinner can accomplish.
4. For being able to look forward to tomorrow because it will involve time spent with someone dear.
5. For recognizing that time spent with someone just putting away holiday decorations can be better than any expensive dinner or receiving flowers!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The bottom has dropped out

Today it feels like a heatwave at 2 degrees, a massive improvement over yesterday's 16 degrees below! However, my dark mood has not lifted with the rise in temperature. If anything, it is even darker because I am now more fully aware of how deeply in financial trouble we are. I have the hit the bottom. With two weeks in the month to go, we don't have the money for groceries. I went out today returning unused items that I still had receipts for and came up with $15.00 back at Walmart (returned 7 skeins or yarn); $20.00 at Michael's (yarn & Christmas craft kits); $6.00 at JoAnn Fabrics (craft supplies) and finally $35.00 at Carson's (suede top and black & white jacket). With the later, I figured since I hadn't worn the items in a year and they still had the price tags on, it was fair game. Although they were both such bargains it was not easy.

Ramen noodles for lunch for all of us. Tonight I can get a $6.00 pizza. Next week I will be forced to investigate a food pantry. I have never been in this spot before. It is heartbreaking to have endured so much pain and suffering already and to have it just continue! Our road to ruin only took about 2 months.

I have a job counseling appointment on Tuesday. I am begging the Universe for strength to get me through this holiday weekend (Martin Luther King Day on Monday). I am still trying to come up with some money by making more returns because I am afraid of over-drafting. My goal is $200.00 and so far I'm at $75.00. I think it is time to put the house on the market even as I try to renegotiate the mortgage. I am scared and feeling alone and more vulnerable than I ever have. This is absolutely the lowest point of my life - even lower than than the death of my husband! I feel that I am failing my boys and I have failed myself.

My youngest added some levity to all of this by telling me that on February 22nd, IHOP will be serving free pancakes and at least we'll be able to eat then. I admire his strength and humor. Hopefully, by then I will be less desperate.

Again, it is hard for me to be thankful today but I am thankful:

1. That the bitter cold is ending.
2. That there are still things to eat in the house - maybe not what everyone wants but something.
3. That once you have hit the bottom there is no way to go but up.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Feeling a bit down & out

The schools were closed today in our town and surrounding areas because of the bitter cold. All in all, the winter weather has gotten me pretty dispirited on top of everything else. Not even my knitting is helping lift the doldrums. I braved the cold tonight and attended a sporting event that was not canceled. It has always been very hard for to sit in the bleachers on my own surrounded by other intact families. Lately, it has become worse because of the stress I am facing (financial hardship, possible foreclosure, looking for employment). Tonight as I saw women sitting beside their husbands, I kept thinking of how much easier it is to face problems when someone is going through it with you. I must handle all of this on my own (huge issues when you think about them - with one of many being the loss of my home and having to find another place to live for goodness sake!). Not living with another adult limits the opportunities I have to discuss my problems adding to the stress and strain.

Which leads to another observation - people really don't want to hear about the problems of others anyway and when you are honest and admit what is going on, you run the risk of being considered negative. How in the world can a woman with as much on her plate as is currently on mine not be at times despondent and negative? And angry I might add. People always rush in to offer words of Christian compassion but I'm not sure they are that helpful. Probably more helpful for the people saying them because they first of all don't know what to say and once they've been said, hopefully the topic can be changed to one less depressing. People also are just so uncomfortable with talking about hardship and grief. And don't you just love the attitude of "snapping out" of your bad mood? As if that can be accomplished so readily.

Here's the real scoop though - sometimes to be negative and despondent and despairing is the only way to be. Words of hope and encouragement are meaningless when someone is at such a low place. What would be more helpful is to have someone just listen and affirm the hardship. Doing so doesn't make things worse or more negative. It is acknowledging what is and the truth of the situation. Telling me that I'm negative is insulting to me and my reality. Likewise telling me to be more positive does nothing to change or improve the situation. What I need is someone to walk with me into the dark and to hold my hand until I can see some glimmer of light. That means not turning away when I want to talk about my troubles but to simply listen. And then to hear someone say it is o.k. to be scared and sad right now.

Today I am having a hard time being thankful but I said I would list at least three things a day so will do so now.

Today I am thankful:

1. That the boys and I are healthy.
2. That the house is warm.
3. That I have enough knowledge and understanding to know that the best thing for me right now is to feel my pain and not try to avoid or numb it. That walking with and through the pain is what will eventually get me to the other side where there is hope.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Being Really Alone

Yesterday, after school, a friend of my son's knocked on the door because driving home from school he had hit a patch of ice and skidded into a snowbank and knocked a mailbox down. This happened a block up the street and he did not know what to do. I went out with him but was not able to offer much assistance other than moral mom support. The car was impacted in the snow/ice and he could not drive it out. Eventually, with the help of three burly men from the neighborhood, the snow was dug out and the car pushed enough so he could get home and leave the minor incident behind him. At one point he asked me about the mailbox and it was clear that he was worried about the damage and replacement cost. I replied that it was only a mailbox (thank goodness) - in the grand scheme of things, just an annoyance.

As usual, this event stirred up a host of feelings. The first being, I'll admit, that it is difficult for me to extend help/support to others right now because I have so little to give. Of course, I didn't have a choice in the matter - a 16-year-old needed help. It made me hope that if in the future one of my boys needs assistance like this that they will find it. (What goes around, comes around). I was also struck by the realization that if I were to find myself in a similar bind, that I wouldn't have anyone to call except for a tow truck.

For me, the constant knowledge (which is an underlying thought with me throughout the day), that I am really alone is the worst part of widowhood in middle age. That reality alone is so depleting and depressing. It constantly puts me on edge and on guard. When I am driving (even in good weather), I am extra careful because if something happens I don't have a partner to help me out of it. I always try to avoid/avert disaster which is also tremendously tiring. It takes extra energy to always be thinking and plotting ahead.

Another aspect of all this worth pointing out is that there aren't a lot of middle-aged widows out there. So not many people even realize/understand what we have to face on a daily basis. In addition to the regular stress of living there is the added stress of our widowhood to deal with. We get hit with a double whammy!

When I was younger, I still had my parents to rely on. Other people are fortunate enough to have larger extended families to call upon - that is not my case. I am truly alone. And besides being alone I am responsible for the care of two teen boys. As I interacted with this young man yesterday afternoon, I couldn't help but think of how little encouragement I receive on a day to day basis. That is another aspect of not being married that is difficult. When you are living with someone you receive daily support which gives you the strength to get through the days. I do not receive many compliments or pep talks and face it - one coming from yourself isn't the same as hearing one from a person who cares about you. I constantly tell my boys that "everything will work out in the future - that it'll be o.k." How I wish to hear someone assure me of those words as well!

Today I am not feeling very thankful (but will try to scrounge up some positives).

Today I am thankful:

1. That I was able to help someone in need.
2. That we were out of cooking oil last night and my substitution of margarine worked fine in the brownie mix I baked.
3. That I have a hobby that helps me alleviate my anxiety and stress (knitting/crochet).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Getting Over" Grief

You just don't wake up one morning and find that you've gotten over your grief. Why do we refer to grief as something that we need to "get over?" Where exactly is it supposed to go? What exactly are we supposed to replace it with? And how about all those time lines we think we have to adhere to? That once the first year has passed, we should be magically recovered. It isn't that simple and doesn't work that way. Life can throw in some complications.

In my situation, life events prevented me from attending to most of the duties associated with my husband's death so I am four years behind the process of getting over it! A year after his death, my youngest son was diagnosed with a heart condition and the next nine months were spent in and out of hospitals again. Then, when we could finally breathe a sigh of relief my parents became very ill and I spent two years as their main caregiver before my mom died and my dad went into a long term care facility. And all of those duties occurred simultaneously as I tried to navigate my new life as a newly widowed mom with two boys, ages 9 and 10. I also got remarried and did my best to negotiate a long distance marriage while getting my home ready to sell so we could move out of state. That was in addition to helping with the sale and clean out of my parent's large home. Maybe a little too much on my plate the past five years...

So, it wasn't until this past June that I finally had the time and energy to start going through my husband's possessions. It took me two weeks to get through the library and 20 years of old tax/financial documents. My deceased husband was divorced and with a son when we married so there were many items from that marriage to dispose of too. Husband #2 was exceedingly irritated at how I was going about the process. He felt that I should just take all the records/documents and throw them in the trash but I found out of respect for my husband (and first wife) that I needed to shred those containing personal information. Overall, the process was long overdue for me and very healing - lots of crying and reminiscing. But at one point in the middle of this difficult process, Husband #2 angrily accused me of not being over the death of Husband #1. I remember angrily replying that I would never be over his death and why would I even want to be?

At that moment, I realized that at least for me, grief is not something you ever get over. And I do not want to be over it. This man was my husband and father of my children - I nursed him and stood by his side during the painful years of his illness and death. To be over him would represent the opposite of what I truly felt for him. It is an honor for me to not be over his death. Somehow by saying I am over it would mean that I am over loving him. Because we never stop loving people - even after they die.

That is not to say that I want to be mired in grief. I have moved on but that is different from saying, "I'm over it." I think that instead of getting over a death what happens is that we learn to live with it and incorporate the pain into our daily lives. It does not mean forgetting. We learn to manage our lives despite the loss. It means living with pain while at the same time focusing on the future.

Life moves forward and the pain lessens, is not so intense. A few days after my husband died, the boys and I heard something funny and I laughed. My youngest asked, "Mom, why are you laughing? Dad just died," and I replied that what we had heard was funny and it was o.k. to laugh. A good lesson at the time for us. And a good example of what I am trying to convey - that life goes on even in the midst of grief and somehow you have to balance the pain of the past with the progress of living. So sometimes you end up laughing and crying at the same time. But that doesn't mean that one day you just wake up to find the pain all gone and that you're over it. There is no pill to take that will ever accomplish that.

Today I am thankful:

1. That the projected blizzard that was supposed to hit us apparently missed us!
2. That the sun has just come out!
3. That I have learned to live with my grief.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Looking out through a different pair of glasses

I have been thinking about our recent visit to the hospital and the myriad of feelings, emotions and memories it unleashed. What came up was the general dislike of hospitals (the anxiety, fear and dread they stir up) and the memories of my husband's hospitalizations (as well as all the other ones we have encountered over the years). Then there was sadness over realizing that life has gone on over the past five years and there hasn't been much opportunity for incorporating memories of my husband into our lives (we have not observed his birthday or date of death with a special tribute). Although just yesterday I asked my son what his Dad would have told him about his wanting to quit the sport he is currently involved in, references like this have just come fewer and farther between. It is not that we have intentionally forgotten our loved one, it is just that current life with all its complexities involves most of our focus and effort. We don't have much free time to fondly reminisce. Along that line, I was discouraged to realize on Saturday night that details of my husband's illness have faded and no longer hold the intensity or importance they once did. And there was also the realization of how much my sons' lives have been changed (for the better and worse) having lost their father during childhood.

As I have pondered and processed all of this I have compared myself and my sons to other mothers and teens who have not faced as many losses in their lives. What do these individuals think and feel as they enter the sliding glass doors of the hospital? Surely not the hodgepodge of confusion, grief, anger, regret, pain and resentment that my sons and I are hit with. It is like having been forced to wear another pair of glasses the rest of our lives - to belong to a "club" so few others belong to and cannot even begin to understand. My sons and I are forever changed by the death of my husband and when we approach any situation it is through a different perspective and insight. In a way, this adds to our burden because we have to deal with and manage more baggage than others. Unfair and difficult, to be sure. But it became our reality that night five years ago when we were given the new labels of "widow" and "fatherless child."

Today I am thankful:

1. That we have heat, running water and a washing machine/dryer (I would not have made a good pioneer).
2. That a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of cold milk can go a long way in making someone feeling down, a little better.
3. That despite the hardships, my boys and I have survived and we continue to do so. And that we can proudly add the label "survivor" to our list of life credits.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Yesterday, after it had stopped snowing and we were shoveled out, I took my oldest son to the local hospital to visit his girlfriend. She may have to have surgery for a cyst. I was not thrilled at having to go to the hospital. It was 5:30 p.m., cold and dark. I also am not a fond visitor of hospitals in general, having been there so much during my husband's illness. After my husband died, there were many more hospital visits when my youngest was diagnosed with a heart condition and then both of my parents became very ill. Over the past 7 years various hospitals in the area have almost become second homes. Anyway, as we entered this hospital my son asked if Dad had ever been there and I said he had been (although his main hospital for treatment was in Chicago). I was struck by the knowledge that some details have faded from my son's memory - he was just 7 when his dad became ill and only 10 when he died. Over the years life has blown by with amazing speed and certain aspects of my husband's illness and death have retreated to the background.

Despite the effort, I was very happy to have taken my son when all was said and done. I sat in a lobby area and read and crocheted for about 2 hours. A steady stream of teenagers paraded in and out of this lovely girl's room and my son was disappointed he did not have more alone time with her (young love!). When we first arrived, she sat in bed clutching a teddy bear and it was so sad and sweet.

Actually, visiting hospitals today is somewhat different from years back. There are lobby areas with indoor fireplaces and waterfalls. The furniture is comfortable and attractive, as is the artwork and flooring. But the main thing about last night was that we did a good thing visiting a teen who has the misfortune of being hospitalized. And I am truly grateful that I have a son who wanted to be there for her. I think he and his brother share a very different outlook on life than other teens their age - and I know that their compassion and understanding of the world is more mature because of their life experience (not entirely a bad thing). I was proud of my son who also admitted how much he dislikes visiting hospitals. But he also commented that the hospital was pretty cool since they've updated it (even with the dark and snow the rock garden visible from the lobby was very pretty).

Today I am thankful:

1. That the cliche of every cloud having a silver lining can be true (although sometimes it takes years to realize the good that can come out of the bad).
2. That the snow stopped and we survived another snowstorm.
3. That spring is the next season!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Snow Day!

Today there has been a little bit of a break from the routine. The snow yesterday and today has prohibited me from going to see the boys at their away sporting event, which is an all day affair. (I just don't drive long distances in bad weather if I can help it). They left the house this morning at 6:00 a.m. and I have been relishing the alone time and quiet (no quarreling brothers, no loud music, no pounding on the drum set). There is plenty of food in the pantry so no need to venture out to the store. To relax and putter around the house is one of my most favorite simple life pleasures. I hope to read a bit and do some knitting and crochet, which despite my best intentions to do more of, I don't do enough. It is so relaxing to look out the window at the snow piling up and to feel warm, safe and secure. These are feelings that are often lacking in my life in part because I have so little free "me time." It is also extremely draining to always be worried about the boys and to have no one to share that burden with. And although some might think that life in general has gotten easier since the boys have gotten older, it does and does not. Now I have to worry more about who the boys are hanging around with (and what their intentions are) as well as being a chauffeur, often later at night. The fun will really begin when my oldest gets his driving license this May!

But back to alone time. A few years ago, a close girlfriend's ex-husband took their three children on a three-week vacation of the California coast. I remember feeling insanely jealous of her ability to sit at Starbucks and leisurely paint her living room during this time, which also served as a break for her. My free time is snatched in between parenting and household duties. And somewhat guiltily too, because in my life when I take free time it usually means that something is left undone (like dishes) while I'm taking a few hours off. One of the very few indulgences that I allow myself is a pedicure about once a month. The last three times I have gone, my foot massage has been interrupted because of some calamity at home. I've had to shorten my pedicure forgoing the massage (which is the best part) to get home to let in a son who forgot his key, or to pick one up in an emergency situation ("Hurry up mom, the police were called!"). It is both funny and sad. And I would have let the one who forgot his key wait outside but it was too cold.

I never remember feeling this drained and fatigued when my husband was alive. He was very active with the boys, often taking them out for batting/hitting practice and then to lunch. Or he'd take them to the school where he taught for a Saturday afternoon where they'd play in the gym. I in turn gave him time to pursue his own interests of singing in a local semi-professional group and attending one or two-week long educational seminars over the summer, which were out of town. It was a good balance and worked for us. I knew I could always ask him for free time and he would be there for me.

There are many demands on "only parents." No one to confer with on what to do when your son just lost a game and tosses some of his equipment on the floor of the school gym in anger (which happened last night). I sure miss having a male perspective and often think that I am too soft or lenient with the boys. Just having someone to discuss the situation with is helpful - getting a different viewpoint helps. I think kids benefit from this balance too. I once read a description of widowed parents that described it as having to do the work of two but with only the resources, time and energy level of one. The tiredness and drain is what is most difficult for me. Always having to be on 24-7. Never having even a short break from the constant worry. Today, I am assured that the boys are safe since they are at a school event. So I am taking full advantage of my "break." Not only do we need a break from the outside world and its demands but also some peace from the psychological demands resulting from our situation as only parents.

Today I am thankful:

1. For snow days that force us to slow down.
2. That despite the hardships, I am able to be strong for my boys.
3. For simple pleasures like a strong cup of tea - which go a long way in restoring one's soul.
4. That my sons took 3rd and 4th place in today's athletic event and called to tell me.
5. That I can tell my boys that I love them and that they are able to say it back without being embarrassed. Likewise with exchanging hugs.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Multiple life complications

Today I went to a job counseling service in the morning, as my job search on my own is not proving successful. Then my real estate attorney called and I had to call my mortgage lender. I then called my divorce attorney about our upcoming scheduled mediation. After which I had to run to the grocery store, wash the boys' athletic uniforms and now I'll soon be off to see the boys at a sport's event at their school. It has been snowing on and off all day and I am tired.

FYI, the divorce action I am involved with was initiated by my husband and was not something that I wanted. He has refused any attempts at reconciliation or counseling and I have been forced to accept his decision and move on as best I can. Needless to say, the situation has been very painful for me so closely following the death of my husband, and the boys have also been dealt a raw blow having lost the man who became their stepfather. I should mention that my husband has refused to communicate with me and cut off all contact with us after he announced his intention to obtain a divorce. He did this over the phone, long-distance and then hung up on me. This has been devastating to me because as a counselor I try to "fix" the bad situations, or at least talk things through. Not having had an opportunity to even reply to my husband has been one of the hardest things I've ever had to endure.

The theme behind today's post has to do with multiple life complications, especially those that may occur after a death or divorce. In my situation I have to deal with getting a job and supporting my boys, finding a new place to live if we are unable to renegotiate the mortgage, parent two teens on my own, handle the ups and downs of daily life, manage the expenses under financial duress AND contain and confront the grief I feel about the end of my marriage. This grief brings up unresolved issues stemming from my husband's death five years ago so that gets tossed into the mix as well. There are times that I just want to break down and cry under the weight of it all but society dictates that I put on a cheery and optimistic face as I go out and face the world. In fact, most people (friends included) get downright uncomfortable upon hearing of the hardships we are facing. They don't want to hear about troubles and complications and most often I am left to try and stumble forward on my own without much support or sympathy. Why it is so difficult for someone to simply say "I'm sorry times are tough for you right now" is beyond me. I've also been criticized for being too negative. I'm not trying to get a pity party going but I don't think it is negative to simply relate the facts of your life to others. It is like being slammed doubly - for having to deal with excessive hardship and then for being honest and open about it.

This is the message I want to convey to others: try to be more tolerant, patient and understanding of folks you know going through crisis. Because these poor people have far more on their plates than you can imagine and they're doing their best to get up and face the day as best they can.

Today I am grateful:

1. That I can still get out of bed to face the day.
2. That I've been there for my boys and will continue to support them as best I can (thankful for the energy to still drag myself to a sports event on a cold Friday night on my own).
3. That hard times don't last forever.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More thoughts on hair cuts

As I admired my great looking hair today, (I may be poor but at least my hair looks good), I thought about how this subject relates to so much more in life, specifically in regard to poverty. Although I was trying to be conscientious by not getting my hair cut to save money, this tactic was actually detrimental. Having straggly hair meant I was having to use more product to style it as well as more time to do so. I also wasn't getting that lift you feel when you look in the mirror and know that you're looking good. This same principal can be applied elsewhere. When you're scrimping for funds there is nothing left over to keep up the house and by the time repairs can be made they end up being more costly and difficult. Not being able to replace clothing means having to mend them (which takes time) as well as looking shabbier. I put off going to the doctor for my routine checkup and I am thankful that there were no problems because if there had been it would have been worse because of the time I had waited. The same could be said for car maintenance. I'm not sure what the solution is because when you don't have money you don't have money. Maybe it is just to be aware that sometimes you have to spend money to save money and to not feel guilty for getting a hair cut or buying one of the boys a new pair of jeans because you are sick of mending them!

Today I am thankful:

1. That my boys and I are healthy.
2. That my van with 96,000 miles is still running pretty decently.
3. That I have a number of very close, dear girlfriends who have supported me during my dark times and been there for me when no one else was.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Some things can't be scrimped on or skipped

Today, I broke down and got my hair cut after not having had a trim or color at the salon in about 5 months! I got the Christmas photos back and looking at them decided my hair was decidedly straggly. I've held off so long in an effort to cut corners and save a little money. Some weeks ago I ran into a friend I hadn't seen since the summer and both of us noticed that the other's hair had gotten quite long. My friend, who is my age, admitted that she was also skipping salon visits in an effort to get through these tough economic times. My stylist told me that she thought my hair was 3 inches longer than the last time she had cut it. Getting off all the damaged ends gave me a huge boost in spirit. My hair feels and looks so much more healthy. I wish I hadn't gone so long between taking care of a basic necessity we all really need to attend to every 6 weeks. I don't make the boys wait for hair cuts and I think that I'll have to be more diligent in caring for myself too, even in the lean months ahead. Maybe I'll try to stretch out the next cut until spring. Until that time I'll continue to make due with boxed color as is my friend. Long gone are the days when I went to the salon every two weeks for color, a pedicure and manicure. I think there is a direct correlation between self-care and feeling better about oneself. One little haircut and I feel like a new woman!

Tonight's entree - Banquet Pot Pies (at just 88 cents each a real deal) w/that good old standby Campbell's soup

Today I am thankful for:

1. Having been blessed with the gift of motherhood. Despite the challenges of parenting on my own, I know my life would be unthinkable without being able to share it with my two sons.
2. Having a hair stylist I've known for years and whom I can trust not to cut off too much.
3. Being given another chance at love.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Winter Blahs & Chilly Burrrrr

Winter is my least favorite time because I find it so much harder to get through on my own. There is the constant worry about snow storms and particularly the driving aspect. If something happens to my vehicle, I don't know how I could replace it and it seems much more likely to have an accident during inclement weather. It is cold, bleak, gloomy and the darkness seems to last forever. I'm already struggling with sadness and the late mornings/early evenings do not help my less than optimistic moods. Shoveling and scraping off the van just are not up there on my list of fun things to do. Maybe having done them on my own the past 6 winters has just worn me down. Last year I actually got a terribly painful case of tennis elbow because we had so much snowfall (it lasted until summer). There seems to be more to keep track of too - boots, coats, gloves, warm socks, salt for the walkway, lip balm, hand lotion. I even need special hair conditioner to tame my flyaway ends. Of course, the worst aspect of all during this season is not having someone warm to lie next to on the coldest of nights.

In fairness to winter I will try to come up with a few positives about it in my "I am grateful for" section.

Today I am grateful for:

1. Flannel p.j.s.
2. Soup and chili (canned and homemade) which is cheap, filling and tastes the best during winter.
3. Ditto for oatmeal and hot chocolate.
4. Homemade afghans/blankets which probably would not get knitted if it weren't for winter.
5. Having a break from yard work.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Things I miss about being married:

1. Having someone to wake up with in bed beside me.

2. Sharing daily parenting responsibilities.

3. Face-to-face adult conversation over breakfast and dinner.

4. Getting compliments that I look nice, or my outfit looks good, or my hair is pretty.

5. Having someone to snuggle against in bed during the night.

6. Being able to call my husband to ask him to stop at the store on the way home from work for milk, eggs, butter, bread...

7. A pair of strong arms to do half the snow shoveling.

8. Someone to lean on, especially when the going is tough.

9. Having a ready and willing "exterminator" around who isn't afraid to kill spiders and pickup poor dead mice who have fallen victim to the kitties.

10. Having someone bring me aspirin and tea when I'm not feeling well.

11. Reading the paper together over Sunday breakfast.

12. Having someone take out the garbage/recycling, fill the gas tank and to call when the car sounds funny and I don't know what to do.

13. Getting cards and flowers on my birthday, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.

14. Being able to ask someone to check out the funny noise I heard down the hall after we're in bed.

15. Kissing hello and kissing goodbye.

16. Going to school events together.

17. Having someone to complain about when I'm out with girlfriends.

18. Getting into disagreements and then making up.

19. Hearing another perspective and realizing that my way of doing things/thinking aren't always better.

20. Going to bed with someone at the end of a long day and feeling safe and secure because of the man beside me.

*****New Addition*****

The end of each blog post will list at least 3 things I am thankful for.

Today I am thankful:

1. That it was 31 degrees and not -3.

2. That most of the snow has melted.

3. That the sun came out.

4. That we got through the holidays without too much sadness and disappointment.

5. That I still believe in love and hope.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Today, I went to the store for ground turkey and frozen french fries. I planned to make Sloppy Joe sandwiches because I had the sauce mix in the pantry, canned corn and some cheddar cheese. The store I went to sells ground turkey from the meat counter for only $2.19 a pound, which is less than the $3.49 per pound I pay at the main chain stores. As I went through the store, I could not remember if we had dill pickle slices in the refrigerator. When we have Sloppy Joes we have to have pickle slices topping them! I figured that I could pick up a small jar of pickles but changed my mind when the only jars available were larger sized for $3.00. Although disappointed, I figured we'd be o.k. with just cheese as a topping. Picking out the bag of fries, I chose the cheapest one at $1.69.

When I got home I rummaged through the entire frige and on the top shelf in the back located a full jar of pickles! Our main meal was saved and I was grateful I hadn't given in and spent $3.00 on the jar at the store. To round out our meal, I cooked the corn along with a can of cheap pork & beans and for some reason they tasted more delicious than I've ever remembered them tasting. I suppose it doesn't take much to please when you don't have a lot of options to choose from. We made do and it was fine.

Tonight it'll be cereal if anyone is hungry. This week's goal is to clean out the pantry/freezer and use up what's there before getting anything at the store. I am feeling challenged at seeing how many meals I can concoct out of eggs and turkey hot dogs!

Saturday, January 3, 2009


For me, one of the most distressing aspects of living and parenting on my own has to do with what I refer to as the pileups. In my case there are specifically three - the always overflowing sink, constant towering laundry basket and ever present growing stack of unread mail. Last night I tackled the mail which was contained in a basket and a handled shopping bag. Both boys were out with friends so it was a perfect opportunity to do so. I only tended to the mail in the basket and even after a number of hours or sorting and reading I had not finished the task. My eyes were bleary eyed by the time I called it a night around 1:00 a.m. I will sort and recycle the rest in the shopping bag on Sunday and hereafter promise to make a better effort at nipping the pile in the bud by dealing with the mail as soon as it comes in.

The problem has to do with lack of time, fatigue and juggling too many balls at once. For example, my mail comes late in the day just as I am usually making dinner. I bring it in but then have only a moment to glance at it. It gets tossed on the pile. The boys come home at dinner time after their sports practices and remove their athletic clothes (after 6 days/nights of practices and games the pile can get pretty high!). We eat dinner and then there is homework to help with or something goes wrong with the computer or printer or I have to run out for milk or a needed school supply. By the time all is quiet, I am drained and the sink remains full, the mail unread and the laundry has fallen out of the hamper onto the floor. And of course looking at all of this only serves to depress (not to mention make one feel guilty for not being able to keep up, etc.).

There is much to be said for tending to chores in manageable chunks on a daily basis. It takes longer and is harder when there is more! So starting Monday, I am making a sincere attempt in at least managing the mail on a daily basis because I never want to have to dig through a stack of old papers, ads and hidden bills ever again!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Focus on what can be done!


Today I have been a little frustrated at not being able to take care of some matters with my real estate and divorce attorneys. Both offices are closed because of the holidays. I am doing my best to redirect my focus and energies on what I can do now. And I think that this has also got to be more of my focus in 2009. To take action on what I do have some control over and letting go of all that I do not. Harder than it seems but at this point there is no use in worrying over things I can't attend to today.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year, New Beginning


This blog will deal with the issues of grief/loss through death & divorce, financial hardship, unwanted change and on the flip-side acceptance, healing and hope. Having been widowed at age 44, there will also be discussion of parenting and life complications as a middle-aged widow. As the new year starts there is some fear and apprehension about what lies ahead but hope that it can only be better after the year that has just ended. Feeling sadness and hope at the same time.