Monday, March 30, 2009

The "Widow Card"

Yesterday I got a call from a domestic violence shelter that is interested in having me do some volunteer work for them. The woman calling asked me when I could come in for an orientation. Although I am flattered at their interest, this is not something I am jumping up and down to add to my life right now. I've done a lot of volunteer work in my past and I feel now is the time I need to be concentrating on earning some regular income. However, that is not the point to this story.

I told the woman I would not be able to come in this week because it is Spring Break for us and I need to be around for my kids. She didn't accept this answer and kept pressing me to come in for a meeting. I finally had to pull out what I refer to as "the widow card." I firmly replied that as a widow I am on my own and it can be difficult to schedule things. I then told her that I did not want to have to make an appointment to have to cancel it because of something that may come up with one of the boys.

This exchange brought to mind similar situations in the past where I've been put on the spot or pressured to conform to someone else's schedule with no regard to the difficulties I face as an "only parent." In the early days of my widowhood, I very much felt that I was always on the outside but having to shift all the obstacles facing me to fit in with everyone living on the inside. I often felt that no one ever made concessions for me and I always had to be the one trying to keep up. For example, carpooling - I was always expected in my circle of parents to drive as much as the two parent families. It is only since Husband #2 filed for divorce that I have had the strength and sense to start refusing to play this game. I make it clear that I can only drive one way or not at all.

I'm not sure why it has been so hard for people in my circles to put their feet in my shoes. I know I live in an upscale community and perhaps the people here are more self-centered than in other places. And I also think that some of it is that widows my age are in the minority - there are so few of us in my community that people don't know any. But come on, give me a break here. It is impossible for me to function as a mom would in a two person household - yet the same requirements are expected of me unless I speak up and say no. It just would be nice once in awhile for someone to offer me a break without me having to explain why I can't do something or other. In my mind it is obvious - I'm one person doing the work of two. But I guess for people who haven't faced my life, it is not something they can actually conceptualize.

I hope that when I enlighten people by saying no or explaining why I can't do something, that I am paving the way for others in my situation and expanding the understanding of those still lucky to be happily married.

Today I am grateful:

1. For having a place to vent, process and work out my feelings about widowhood, divorce and life.
2. For others who have the strength to blog about their experiences so I can gain from their perspectives.
3. That I have gotten up and am facing the day.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A depressing start to Spring Break

It is Spring Break and everyone is a bit down here. After a whirl wind of social activity last weekend and this week (real estate appt., therapy appt., band concert), I stayed home the entire weekend. As hard as it is for me to get out, when I do, it does help me disconnect from the difficulties going on at home. On my plate currently: the foreclosure, upcoming job interview on Thursday and of most distress, not knowing when the divorce settlement check will be coming which I need to pay my taxes and figure out what to do with the house. I am still married at this point and my husband's attorney was supposed to have overnighted the check to my attorney last Thursday (a week ago). That was never done, nor did he provide my attorney with an explanation. It is distressing that no one seems to be concerned that we have no money for food (pension check gets deposited on the first). I had to borrow $50.00 from a friend but that went so quickly it was almost like we never received it.

It is tremendously hard not to be able to give your teens a couple bucks when they go out. At least I can turn to a book or my knitting for comfort. Last night we had the following for dinner:

Frozen fish fillets from the dollar store - $2.00
Canned green beans .49
Boxed scalloped potatoes 1.29
Corn muffins from box mix .39
Soda 1.60
Total 5.77

My oldest made a comment about there not being "good" food in the house and while I agreed with him, I also remarked that no one has starved. Yes, we've eaten a bit more peanut butter and jelly and gone without treats but no one has really been hungry. Still, it is hard to be so limited in what we can and can't do. And eating is such a basic part of our lives that we take so much for granted - until it becomes a challenge to afford groceries.

My oldest is now griping that we can't afford a cell phone charger - the boys' charger is broken. I just had to tell him that I only have $2.00 and a charger is $30.00. I'm surprised that we still have cell phone service anyway since I'm late on the bill. I'm expecting them to cut off service any day and won't be able to restore it until Wednesday.

Life is clearly challenging right now but I'm trying hard to remain calm. For me, the greatest hardship is having to face such an uncertain future. I don't know where we'll end up living; I don't know where I'll be working. I long for stability and peace of mind - solely lacking in my life since my husband died. The divorce and utter disregard (meanness) of my second husband put me in a total tailspin which I'm just now climbing out of.

I need help and guidance in getting through this dark period of my life. I really don't know what to do or which path to take. The only thing I have been able to do is get up every morning and face the day. I'm having trouble getting financial and legal advice about bankruptcy and foreclosure even though I have three attorneys working with me right now - divorce, real estate and bankruptcy. Everyone is just going along in a holding pattern and I need to have some finalization in order to feel like I can move on with my life - starting with having this divorce finalized! Not knowing why it is being dragged out is yet another torment for me - is it possible my husband wants me to experience even more pain and unrest?

Today I am grateful:

1. That no one has gone hungry this month, which has been the most challenging for us financially.
2. That I still have cell phone service.
3. That I haven't lost my mind yet or started drinking heavily.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Think, feel and act kindly

I think I am beginning to understand why having negative thoughts is so upsetting to me. My grief counselor told me to stick with the feelings and by doing so I am unlocking the door.

1. Having negative feelings is not the answer - we don't gain anything from dwelling on them and I end up feeling much worse in the end - even more down and then I am upset with myself for even having them in the first place. I think there is a part of me (deep inside) that gets this and that is why my inability to curb my jealousy, anger, self-pity and vengeful thoughts is so conflicting. Because on the other hand I get my counselor's view that we should not stifle our feelings but hear them out. I have just reached the point now where I know that is not the direction to take to achieve the life of love that I want to experience.

2. I think the problem is that we have all grown up hearing how to "Love our neighbor," "Turn the other cheek" and "Forgive and forget" but that is where that advice ends. How do you actually forgive someone who greatly harmed you or your children? We're told what to do but not the steps to take to accomplish the forgiveness. And I can say from experience that someone just can't wake up one morning with love in their hearts for someone who has betrayed them. Even though I am understanding that my negativity isn't the way to accomplish the peace I am seeking, I am somewhat uncertain how to replace the negative, hateful emotions with positive, loving ones. So that is the next step on my journey - figuring out how to put being more loving into practice every day!

I was reading Dr. Wayne W. Dyer's book "The Power of Intention" before I went to sleep last night and the following passage on page 44 resonated with me about negativity.

"Low energy thoughts that weaken us fall in the realm of shame, anger, hatred, judgment, and fear. Each of these inner thoughts weakens us and inhibits us from attracting into our lives what we desire. If we become what we think about, and what we think about is what's wrong with the world and how angry and ashamed and fearful we are, it stands to reason that we'll act on those unkind thoughts and become what we're thinking about. When you think, feel, and act kindly, you give yourself the opportunity to be like the power of intention. When you're thinking and acting otherwise, you've left the field of intention, and you've assured yourself of feeling cheated by the all-creative Spirit of intent."

Today I am grateful:

1. That the recent difficult aspects of my life (divorce, financial strain, potential foreclosure) haven't dragged me down yet!
2. That I want to use those events to empower me and become a better person for the Universe.
3. That I continue to be reminded of the gift I was given when my husband died - Knowing that "Love is the answer."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The hardest part of being a widow for me

Last night I attended a band concert for my oldest and this morning woke up at 4:00 a.m. with a migraine. I dragged myself up out of bed and went downstairs for medicine. It took a bit of time for the migraine to subside but by the time I got up for the day at 6:00 it was thankfully gone. This got me thinking about what I personally find to be the hardest part of living on my own.

1. Attending concerts, school and sporting events by myself.

2. Being ill or under the weather (or even just tired or drained) and not having a partner to lend a hand (run downstairs for the pill bottle and glass of water). Once, soon after I was widowed, I had such a severe migraine that I had to call up my job and have a co-worker run to Walgreen's for me to pickup some medicine!

Going to those endless school events on my own is a very visual reminder to me of the fact that I'm on my own. In my town very few people my age are unmarried, so the bleachers or seats are just filled with couples. I always feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. I can't say I have ever really gotten used to it. I attend so many events because the boys are very active in sports and school functions. Once, last Fall, I found myself crying as I watched a football game thinking of my late husband and how he would have loved seeing his sons play.

Of course, having kids means that I have to get out and see their events. I've never had the luxury of being able to hide from the world and this has been a good thing because I think I may have hidden if I could have. Sometimes I wish people in general knew how difficult it is for people in my position - that there is pain and grief even while watching your child play a solo at the band concert five years after the death of your husband!

Feeling the Feelings

I have been mad at the world and jealous and feeling sorry for myself the past few days (that it is during my period may have something to do with this) but anyway, I wish I were stronger and not consumed by these thoughts and feelings. My grief counselor has always told me that we need to feel whatever feelings that are there and it becomes harmful when we try to push them away. She says that if we can stick with them (even the really yucky, wimpy ones like I'm having now) we'll gain deeper insight into what is really going on with us.

I am particularly upset with myself for feeling jealous of people I don't know that I see in the store. Why do they get to buy a cartload of groceries while I am counting out $4.00 in change to pay for a handful of items? Why are they still married and my first husband died and the second divorced me? As a counselor, I am usually so kind, patient, understanding and tolerant of others. It is hard for me to accept this other side of me as I struggle to deal with so much hardship. But herein lies the key. Rather than try and stop my jealous thoughts, I need to stick with them when they come out.

I think most of us try to snuff out the "bad" feelings we have - anger, resentment, jealousy, intolerance because it doesn't correspond with the images we have of ourselves being nice, good, decent people. Maybe we still are those good people even when we struggle with our darker sides.

Today I am grateful:

1. That I got a call back for a third interview at a potential job (part-time) in my field.
2. That I have a very good grief counselor working with me.
3. That hard times pass and don't last forever.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Be Your Own Best Friend

I recently came across an article torn out of the magazine "Mature Outlook, April, 1995" and liked it so much I put it up on the refrigerator. It is titled "Be Your Own Best Friend" and this is the text.

"In a world packed full of financial dilemmas, deadlines, difficult people and negative attitudes, it's no wonder that living in [2009] can be tough. But you don't have to let stress get the best of you. By taking care of yourself, you can turn stress into energy. "It's not the big things that make a difference in our lives, it's the little things," says Donna Watson, PH.D., a stress-management expert. "Sometimes we get so busy that we forget to notice what a beautiful world we live in. We don't notice the smile of a child, the leaves turning gold and red or a rainbow promising hope."

Good-for-you do's and don'ts
To help keep stress in check, try some of these tips from Watson's book, "101 Simple Ways to Be Good to Yourself (1993, Energy Press)"

*Carry an interesting book with you at all times.
When you're stuck in a traffic jam or in the checkout line at the store, start reading. (Right now I've got three books in my tote bag plus a crochet project. I take a paperback with me in my purse too.)

*Unclutter your life.
Get rid of the things you never use, whether it's clothes you never wear or books that never leave the shelf. (Great advice for Spring Cleaning!)

*Exercise your right to make choices.
Choose to stay in a situation or choose to walk away - but choose. The way to stay in control is to make choices. (I never thought of decision making in this way but it makes sense.)

*Create a "wish bank."
Make a list of things -big and little-that you would like to do. Write each wish on a card and place the cards in a special box or jar. Then, periodically draw a card and grant yourself that wish. (Maybe if I do this I'll get to bring a book and sit in front of the fire with a chocolate croissant at Panera next Winter!)

*Do something enjoyable with friends at least twice a month.
If you don't set time aside, one day the friendship will be gone. (Great advice for us "only" moms who often find it difficult to make time to go out for fun.)

*Send flowers to yourself.
Gifts like this help you recognize your own importance. (I'd add to the flowers an inexpensive lip gloss or makeup item - that always cheers me up!)

*Make time for yourself.
Give yourself 15 minutes each day that belong to no one but you. (Couldn't this be an hour? Maybe 30 minutes in the morning and 30 at night? 15 minutes just goes by in a blink!)

*Don't "awfulize."
Anticipating the worst or exaggerating the dire consequences of some situations or action only makes things seem worse. (Amen! Why do we always seem to punish ourselves even more by worrying about what we can't control?)

*Know your priorities.
If you can't immediately list your top three priorities in life, it's time to sit down and consider the matter. Then, when things get out of hand, remember what's really important to you." (And remember that it is usually the little/simple things in life that are what matters - love, family, faith, friendship.)

Isn't this a great list? Written 16 years ago and still applicable (maybe even more so given the economic stress of 2009). None of the nine ideas of this list is costly. Everyone can do them. Simple solutions for big impact. I even feel better just reading the list again and thinking about how I can incorporate the suggestions to fit me personally. I would add to this list the plan to spend more time with nature by taking a walk or admiring a sunrise or sunset. Nature is all around us free for the taking and so often we take it for granted. I think that nature connects us to ourselves as well as the Universe and that leads to a better connection to our fellow man. Food for thought.

Today I am grateful:

1. For last night's rain shining from the sun in the greener grass.
2. For the rain that brings next month's flowers.
3. For the surprise in finding articles like this that sometimes pop up when least expected but most needed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Evil Thoughts

I suffer from bouts of jealousy, particularly when I'm under severe stress (like now). Over this past weekend I went out with two girlfriends (both divorced and making about $60,000 each) who got vehicles from their fathers. I am jealous of that as well as the fact that both friends can also call upon their dads for money, if necessary. When I have thoughts like these I refer to them as "my evil thoughts." They also include thoughts of revenge and right now my latest fantasy in that regard is that I want to send a cake in the shape of a penis to my ex-husband's work department. The cake will be inscribed with some kind of message like, "Guess who can't come?" I know this kind of thing is childish and silly but I can't stop those kind of thoughts when I get in this mood or frame of mind.

I talked about all this with a friend and he told me to let it go - that my ex will die a lonely, old man. I asked him why my ex just discarded us and left me to pick up the pieces. My friend replied that "it is safe." I called him back a little bit later to ask him what he meant. He explained that not having to deal with problems is safe. But not necessarily the mature or right thing to do I would add.

Sometimes when I'm in a store or wherever and I see a sloppy/unkempt woman being mean to her children or spouse I also am jealous. I was even feeling jealous of my sister - she has not been supportive over the past years and has totally blown me off since my divorce. Why does she get to still have a husband and helpmate while mine had to die? I would never have been so unsisterly toward her - I would have provided better support to her if she had been in my shoes. And why does my ex-husband get to walk away from all of this without even saying goodbye to me or the boys, nor face any responsibility for his actions?

The answer is of course that life is unfair but that is just not cutting it for me right now. I think this is because I have faced more than the typical amount of hardship - it has just kept coming and coming the past 5 years and now with the foreclosure it is still continuing. A friend offered a good perspective to all of this by saying there will always be those who are better off than us, as well as those who are less fortunate. But that doesn't stop me from being jealous of the woman I see in the store with her husband by her side or seeing the man looking confused as he calls his wife or partner for instructions on what kind of flavored tomato sauce she needs for dinner.

Today I am grateful:

1. That it is raining instead of snowing.
2. That Spring is here.
3. That despite my jealous thoughts, I also have more compassionate thoughts toward others.

Monday, March 23, 2009


This morning I was served with the house foreclosure papers from the mortgage lender. This was before 7:00 a.m. and I was taking out the garbage/recycling and my son's friend was waiting to park his car in our driveway before school. The guy who served me was nice - he wished me good luck and I had the impression that he has been doing a lot of these over the last months.

I have been unable to talk to my real estate attorney (of course) and left messages for both he and his secretary. There have been a few tears shed and I called the boy's school to find out if they can still attend if we have to live with friends in another school district (I was told yes because we will be considered homeless). I asked the school secretary if she is dealing with other families like ours and she said yes and fears it is only going to get worse in the months ahead.

So where is a book or guide I can get that tells me how to face crisis on my own and get through this? I feel like a victim a little similar to those who lost homes in Hurricane Katrina. How did those poor people who lost everything pick up the pieces and start over? How did they keep their sanity for their children in the days of uncertainty and unrest?

It is a good thing we have no food in the house (especially junk food) because there is no telling how much I'd go through right now. I just spent my last $4.00 at the grocery store buying cheese, bread, a can of cat food and a generic bottle of soda to go with dinner. I still have not received my divorce settlement check and the divorce attorney did not call back today with the status of that payment - I left her a message last night. I am afraid our cell phones will be cut off later tonight for lack of payment.

I can only hope that tomorrow I will receive some word from my two attorneys - until then it is very unsettling and difficult to even go through the motions, which I am still managing to do.

Today I am grateful:

1. For managing to go through the motions (continue to work on the house, confer with friends, make lunches, go to the store, drop off donations at the Goodwill).
2. For my younger son's comment this morning after receiving the foreclosure papers - "It's not the end of the world."
3. That I am still focused and thinking of the boys who have faced so much already and don't deserve this new challenge.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Some things are just not going to get done

At dinner out with my girlfriend on Friday night, I told her about my youngest son being very upset with me for missing the information needed for him to sign up and work as an umpire this summer for our park district youth baseball program. The fact of the matter was that by the time I had opened the information sheet outlining the requirements, we had already missed some of the necessary training sessions. He would therefore, not be able to meet the required three sessions. At that point, I discarded the idea of his umping and figured if we are still in the area next summer, he can do so then.

One of the problems I've had as a widowed mom has been the inability to keep up with the mail on a timely basis, as well as a severe lack in time to keep organized and up-to-date. I will admit that I have paid bills late because I have forgotten them or lost them. My case is more of an exception than the rule because after my husband's death I was thrown into having to care for my sick son and then sick parents. I just couldn't keep on top of everything - it was hard enough just trying to manage and forge my way as a widowed mom. Caring for my sick parents especially and then having to clean out their home pulled me under. A lot of the contents of their home ended up in mine because there was not time enough to go through it - we were only given two weeks because of a fluke in the closing. As a result, for almost a year, boxes were stacked up to the ceiling in my downstairs hallway. It is only now with the prospect of having to sell my home that I have undertaken the hard task of going through and throwing out their belongings. I don't think I could have even done it right after my Mom's death. I needed time to heal so I could have the ability to toss things out.

This morning I have been at it and the breezeway is almost empty of all the boxes, bags and baskets that were there when I emptied one of my two storage sheds. The progress is slower than I'd hoped or anticipated, probably because as a widowed mom I only have so much time and can't rely on a partner for moral support or physical assistance. My goal is to have the breezeway totally clean by this week.

But back to the baseball umping. My girlfriend wisely commented that in our lives (she's divorced) we just have to accept that some things are not going to get done. And in this case, that means that I opened up the Park Dist. mailer late (because it didn't look urgent) and as a result my son won't be umping this summer. Perhaps a blessing in disguise, because who would have to be driving him to and fro all across town if he was?

Today I am grateful:

1. For the wisdom and life experience of friends.
2. For my ability to face the ghosts of my parents and my childhood in going through their personal effects - better late than never.
3. For the courage to do things my way, even when others criticized me for not just tossing out all my parent's things sight unseen. I had to accomplish it on my terms.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dating and the widow

Today I am going out with a girlfriend to attend a local volleyball game and then dinner after. I am greatly looking forward to this - from the drink at dinner, to the girl talk, to just getting out and mingling with others. I've found the last few years somewhat isolating since I haven't worked and for a number of years I was so focused on caring for seriously ill family members. So tonight's event is a good thing for me all around. Only when I discussed the evening's plans with my youngest, he became very rude and upset that I wouldn't be home to drive him around to friend's houses. I told him he'd have to arrange his own transportation which is what two of my divorced girlfriends tell their high schoolers (and one still has her ex-husband living in the home).

I am just finding it very challenging to try and establish any kind of social life for myself. I've always put the boy's needs ahead of my own and I suppose I am now paying the price - the youngest one especially expects me to be at his beck and call. The oldest is more tolerant of my plans because he has friends who can drive and they have been good about picking him up.

So this situation has me feeling a bit frustrated and down right now. It is another factor that I just don't think people get about the lives of widows. Most of us want to reestablish our social lives but being able to coordinate one sometimes seems near impossible. I do not feel comfortable letting the boys on their own overnight (once they left the oven on while making cookies; another time they left their keys in the door; and before I forget, they also microwaved Ramen Noodles without any water in the container and the whole house smelled like burned Ramen Noodles for days!). So my nighttime excursions are usually arranged around the boy's athletic events and when I have to be home to pick one of them up from one of their friends.

Just another challenge to have to figure out and then execute. I am focused on getting out there and being more social. I want to move on with my life and for me that means meeting a special man, falling in love and eventually remarrying. I will not settle for less. But in the meantime I still have to work out the parenting glitches and how to be in two places at once - on a date and dropping my kids off. In the past the kids won but I am slowly seeing that I have to have some time too. But it is just a struggle that married moms never have to even contemplate.

Today I am grateful:

1. For my girlfriends.
2. For the end of Winter.
3. For being ready to meet new people.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Resilience and Strength - #2 of 2

The story continued - Part 2 of 2
A happy ending

This is what happened after the boys did not make the high school baseball teams. Even in the midst of huge disappointment and hurt on the night they were told they weren't selected, my youngest made the decision to look into Track and the oldest decided to try out for Volleyball. The youngest had been approached by the track coach even before bball tryouts so he went to see him at the end of the week and was given a warm welcome to the team. In fact, he had been pulled out of class to meet with the track coach some weeks earlier. The coach had told him that he had heard a lot of hype about him from kids who had run with him in middle school. When my son told him his times, the coach said he would probably be running Varsity in some events! Even though the season was already three weeks underway, the coach said they'd work with him to bring him up to speed.

My son then went to see the baseball coach to talk to him and find out why he hadn't made the team. He was told that they had "made a mistake" but that there was nothing they could do about it now. The coach encouraged my son to try out for the summer team. Needless to say I was very proud of my youngest for having the strength to talk to the baseball coach and also to seek out the track coach even after the team was already well underway for an opportunity to join the team. My son had his first meet last Friday and came in third in an event he ran with Sophomores. He told me they are video taping him to help him improve and his coaches remarked that it looks as though he has been running 10 years.

My oldest son had a few days off before the tryouts for volleyball even though he had never really played the sport - he went to one very brief summer camp (2 days) to learn the basic skills of the game when he was in middle school. After the Monday afternoon tryouts he told me that the kids in the group were extremely nice and all of them helped him (as well as the coaches) during his tryout. He said he loved playing but his knees were killing him and he hoped he made the team. The tryouts continued on Tuesday and Wednesday. I was just proud my son was giving this a shot - I didn't want to get my hopes up because he had never really played the sport.

On Wednesday he came home with a JV spot! The coaches told him that they had never had another kid try out who had demonstrated as much enthusiasm, worked as hard or listened to instruction better - they asked him if he could keep up the same level of intensity and when he said yes they told him he had made the team. They also said he was a natural athlete and this did a lot to help heal his bruised ego. At this point he is doing great in his practices and it looks like he may be starting in the first game next week.

I cannot relate how proud I am of my boys. They dealt with adversity and picked themselves right back up after dusting themselves off. I told both boys that I am looking to them for inspiration and strength. If they can do it so can I.

Today I am grateful:

1. That we are having unseasonably warm weather and it looks like Winter is finally gone.
2. That I am thinking less about Husband #2 and as a result have been really bearing down on getting the house cleaned out and cleared out so I can list it if that is what I decide by the start of April.
3. For my boys being able to demonstrate so much resilience and strength in the face of adversity.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Part One of Two Parts

Last Wednesday, my boys came home from their third day of baseball tryouts and all hell broke loose in our home because both did not make the team. That evening it was like all the grief bottled up in all of us was unleashed as we grappled with tremendous feelings of loss and deep pain. The boys retreated into themselves and refused to talk. I felt helpless as I was unable to take away their bitterness and disappointment. When I told some friends what was going on I got the response that it was not such a big deal. I tried to explain why this is not the case. For the boys whose Dad was a semi-pro bball player, baseball was still a way to connect with him on some level even after his death. The fact that they are good athletes and have been playing since they were toddlers and always expected to play on the high school team was another issue.

I have my suspicions as to why the boys didn't make the team. I know my youngest has suffered attitude problems with coaches and teachers since I got remarried to Husband #2. I think he had a reputation and did not get along with the head bball coach. As for my older son, he didn't try out last year as a Freshman for the team because we thought we were moving and that probably had some effect.

The day after all this happened (last Thursday) I was somewhat of a basket case. I spent the entire day crying and was lost to the world (no job hunting or cleaning up the house for me). I grappled with feelings of tremendous failure as a mom for not being able to be both a mom and dad to the boys. I clearly felt that if the boy's Dad was still alive they would have made the team, no question. All the years of me sacrificing as an only parent to keep the boys on elite travel teams, all the private lessons and clinics were for naught. In the end, this just proved that I could not be both a mom and dad.

The biggest sense of loss I felt was for my inability to take away the boy's pain. Here are these great kids who have really suffered the past years and yet they still have to face disappointments in the future like all of us still living. My ever flowing tears that day were really about my boys and how much sadness I was feeling for them.

That day I had the experience of looking around my house and really kind of seeing it in a new light. Upstairs, where I have photos of the boys lining the hallway, I noticed that the last photos I ever hung were the boy's school photos from the year their Dad died - five years ago! It was like kind of seeing our life over the past five years as being in a time warp - or seeing that it kind of stopped when my husband died if you know what I am trying to explain. Along that same vein, I also had the realization (maybe for the first time at this level) of just how much my boys have lost in the last five years and how much not having a living dad has impacted their lives forever. I don't think people can really comprehend this loss. When I was talking to a friend of mine, whose dad died when he was 16, I asked him to try and imagine what life would be like for his son who is in fifth grade if he died right now. That was the same grade my oldest son was in when his Dad died - he had just started the fifth grade and was only 10.

As I dealt with the tremendous grief that was unleashed by this event I thought about my sister and others who have made the comment, "What is so hard about being a single parent? Thousands are doing it every day." Well, the majority of those singles are not having to also deal with their kid's grief and loss issues at the same time as their disappointment over being cut from a team. And there is no handy ex-husband to relay masculine advice and support to the kids like Mike Brady of the Brady Bunch. As I thought about this, part of me felt great pride for everything I have faced and accomplished over the past five years! It has been truly challenging and yet I have parented to the best of my ability. It can surely not be disputed that what I have faced has not been on the same level as my sister, who has a stay-at-home husband to take care of their two kids.

The reason I knew we were also dealing with grief issues relating to the boy's Dad, was because of a comment my youngest made. He cried in front of the coaches when told he had not been picked for the team and he confided to me that he has not cried since his Dad's death. I also know for me when the boys told me that they had not made the team that I felt we had let their Dad down. That he would have been disappointed, that we failed him. Somehow I just knew that much of the emotion that evening was not only about the bball team. Looking back, in a way, I was happy it happened because I think it was one of the first times we really grieved collectively as a family together. And even though the issue appeared to be bball, I know there was a deeper level that we were confronting.

I have waited a full week to write about this situation because it has been extremely painful for me to acknowledge and face. But there is a happy ending which I will relate in my next post!

Today I am grateful:

1. That I hear birds chirp and sing - a sure sign that Winter is on its way out of here!
2. For books, which have provided me with strength and salvation my entire life!
3. That last week's painful event resulted in a greater connection between me and the boys, and especially seems to have broken through some barriers between my younger son and I.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Love Knows No Limits

Yesterday I saw the You Tube Video of "A Lion Called Christian," which I was not aware of. I was very moved by the clip which shows a grown lion rehabilitated and then released into the wild lovingly recognize his two former owners who had rescued him as a cub and cared for him until he became too big. At the end of the clip, the words "Love knows no limits and true friendships last a lifetime" appeared along with the message to reconnect with an old friend.

Watching this little video I was so struck by the amazing power of love which never ceases to amaze me. I also thought a lot about Husband #2 and his ultimate lack of commitment and love for me. I am still struggling in that arena. When you have truly loved someone it is not so easy to forget. I am resolved to move on toward happiness because he certainly is out of my life and I do not want my future to be grief-filled or sad. As hard as it is I am trying to continue to look forward and not back. I believe that it is never too late for "happily ever after."

I just finished reading the book by Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady) "Here's the Story" and found it to be a really inspiring read. Her husband stood by her side through thick and thin and really supported her as she battled numerous issues. Again, I thought about how Husband #2 was not able to be there for me and how our marriage never even had the opportunity to get off the ground.

Last week as I was driving around on my own, my thoughts were on Husband #2 (how grateful will I be the day I don't think about him) and I realized that because I truly loved him I need to get over the vengeful thoughts I've contemplated for getting even. Some part of me finally got that when you love someone you don't wish them any harm no matter what pain they have caused you. Again it all just comes back to the meaning and power of love.

Today I am grateful:

1. That I actually saw a bug flying around yesterday when it was warmer - poor thing now because the temperature dropped 40 degrees!
2. That although it is cold again for a few days, at least the sun is out and it is not snowing or raining.
3. For inspiring video clips like "A Lion Called Christian" that seem to come out just when we all need to see them.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A bunch of flowers in a one liter plastic soda bottle

A friend was kind and thoughtful enough to give me a bunch of flowers last Saturday and they have lasted the entire week and are still going strong. He purposely chose a bunch of five flowers that had three that were still unopened. That was a great idea because it extended the life of the flowers and it was fun to see them open up a little each day. I put the flowers on my dining room table and that resulted me in having to clean off the table (covered with paperwork) and then keep it clean the rest of the week. This was smart on my part because it committed me to keeping at least one area of my home (yes, a very small one but one none the less) uncluttered.

The first few days the flowers made the whole room smell like Spring. Every time I walked past them I felt happier and thought favorably of my friend. He will not know how much his gesture meant to me or how much it really gave to me throughout the week. At times I marveled at how a simple bunch of inexpensive flowers could result in so much good but they did. I made a point of eating at the dining room table and doing my paperwork there too. Everything in the room seemed to perk up a bit - the tired, old furniture looked less worn.

I packed up all my nice crystal vases in anticipation of moving and have never unpacked them so had no vase in which to put the flowers. I ended up using a one liter plastic soda bottle and the flowers still looked beautiful. Somehow I liked the flowers even more because they were in that makeshift vase. I became inspired to crochet and then felt a covering to go over the bottle so future flowers will look a little more classy. I enjoyed selecting a yarn from my stash and finding a pattern. Those flowers took me in many directions including getting me to sit down and take a few minutes out of the past few days to work on my vase.

It is hard not to be able to currently indulge in "little pretties" that I so much took for granted just a year ago. No more running to Bath and Body Works for a new Spring fragrance or "tossing" a bunch of flowers in the cart while I'm shopping for weekly groceries. Not having these expected luxuries made the unexpected flowers worth that much more. I want to promise myself that when things get better and stabilize financially, that I will always have a bunch of flowers on the table.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the man who gave me the flowers.
2. For simple gestures that result in huge payoffs.
3. For the gift of the flowers which ended up inspiring me, comforting me, giving me hope and becoming a beacon of beauty in a home where there is so much worry and uncertainty.

Friday, March 6, 2009

One Size Does Not Fit All (Divorced vs. Only Parents)

Soon into my widowhood I became aware that my status was lumped into that of "Single Parent" along with all the divorced folks out there. This might have happened around the time I attended a grief support group for singles held at a local church. Two of us had just been widowed, while the rest of the women were divorced (some for a number of years). The other widow and I immediately connected and some of the group sessions became difficult - at one, the divorced moms all insisted it was harder to be divorced and the other widow and I had it easier. It became a contest of whose lives were more challenging. The divorced women rationalized that theirs were harder because they had to have ongoing contact with their ex-spouses and to experience continued disappointment and betrayal.

I remember thinking two things: that it was a mistake to have combined a group of widows and divorcees and that even if their contact was bitter and disappointing, at least the divorced moms had ex-spouses still alive to have contact with!

I have just finished reading Theo Pauline Nestor's book on her divorce, "How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed, A Memoir of Starting Over." While there are many similarities to being divorced and being widowed, there are differences and these seem to go unnoticed because everyone single just gets lumped into the group "Single Parent." I started to describe myself as a "Widowed Mom" and then my therapist introduced me to the descriptive label "Only Parent." As a widow there is no ex-husband to talk to about report cards and the defiant behavior of your son to his math teacher. He is not around to take the kids on Friday nights or the weekend to provide a much needed break from the drudgery of never ending housework and attending to the needs of the kids. Ex-husbands usually live somewhere nearby and can be called upon to fix a leaking sink or some other matter if necessary.

Theo very accurately describes the tensions and struggles of parenting and forging ahead on her own. But she is not truly alone or as alone as those of us who are widowed. She talks about all the finagling necessary so she could go on a trip or to visit her new long-distance boyfriend. There is an added step for only parents in this process, especially those who do not have family to rely on. She relates scenes in which she has to comfort her grieving daughters. For our families, grief is more profound. Not only has the family been forever changed, now the kids have lost their father forever. Theo's ex comes over to make minor repairs in her home, he helps her pack up the house and to help her move. On the nights he has the girls she treats herself to a massage, browses bookstores and has dinner out at a favorite Chinese restaurant. I have never had a massage, nor gone out for dinner on my own. I unfortunately browse bookstores way too often. The point being, however, that she did have a window of opportunity to focus on herself, whereas that is something I know for me at least has been an extremely rare commodity. When her ex has the girls for an entire week, Theo paints the house and moves the girls into their own rooms. She has enough time to even shop for new furniture at IKEA and hire movers and an electrician! Wow! A few years ago, I was so jealous of a close girlfriend whom is divorced because when her ex took their children on a three-week vacation she did something of the same in painting her home and buying new furniture. She also spent a lot of time at Starbucks and bookstores. I have never sat a Starbucks to wile away an hour. In my widowed life there has never been an hour to wile away!

So in conclusion what is my point? I don't think I have any specific one here. Just that there is a difference between folks lumped together in that "Single Parent" category and it is necessary for us to make distinctions between only parents and divorced parents. Most people out there don't realize or recognize the differences and we should inform them.

Today I am grateful:

1. That the sun is out again. What a difference this really can make on our moods and perspective.
2. There is that hint of Spring in the air. This results in feelings of hope, renewal and peace. (And cute Easter bunnies and flowers and lighter jackets.)
3. That we really made it through a challenging and difficult Winter.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Broken Toilets

Some time back (maybe a month or two but who knows, time gets kind of distorted for me) the downstairs toilet or commode as I prefer to call it, became unusable because the handle wouldn't flush. No big deal, we just stopped using the downstairs one and only used the one upstairs. This morning, however, the handle upstairs now won't flush. What is that called when that happens? I don't know. I have not been a good housekeeper since my husband died and all home maintenance has fallen by the wayside for lack of funds, lack of time and lack of knowledge.

I am feeling extremely distraught over this. It is just another metaphor for my life falling apart. I can think of all kinds of fitting phrases here. "My life has become a toilet." "My life has tanked." "I can't even flush the garbage out of my life."

There is no nice boyfriend who lives in town (or nearby) who will offer to drop by and fix the problem. My male friend told me to unscrew the handle and take it to the hardware store and then he told me I'd have to play around with it and I just ended up feeling helpless and irritated at him. He also told me to have the boys "fix it" but none of us here know how to "play around" with a broken commode. There has been no functioning dad in this home for the past seven years and I am weary and tired and drained and we are all angry and stressed and hurting.

But I'm just supposed to march on with a smile on my face to the hardware store and go find a job and somehow try to climb out of this hellhole we've fallen into. And to somehow be strong as a parent to two (sometimes difficult and challenging teenagers).

I'm crying right now just wanting someone to hold me and tell me that things will be okay. I want someone to take care of me for a change and to hear the words, "Don't worry, I'll fix the toilet." I know a week or so ago I wrote about feeling confident and take charge as I changed all the burned out light bulbs inside and out. But non-flushing commodes are at another level. It is not so easy as screwing in a new light bulb. I have to work at this and think about it. I don't want to have to add any more complications to my life right now but they keep popping up.

Last night, all was at least as tolerable as things could be in this situation but by morning all hell has broken loose because the commode won't flush. A small problem in the grand scheme of households but for someone like me the straw that will break the camel's back (or what will push me over the edge of keeping it all together - or pretending to keep it all together).

My therapist has been questioning my desire to remarry saying I haven't had much luck in that department, what with a husband dying on me and another divorcing me. But I throw the question out there to any widow or widower reading this. Why wouldn't we want to be remarried? Who wants to keep facing the drudgery and hardships of day-to-day life and parenting by oneself with no one to lean on? This life absolutely sucks and I'm sick and tired of it. Of course, it would be great to share the ups and joys of life with someone too. I just think there would be more simple pleasures to celebrate if there was less stress in my life which is partly related to the fact that I live on my own and don't have a loving and committed partner by my side.

Today I am grateful:

1. That the sun is shining.
2. That it looks like Spring is actually coming.
3. That it is warmer (just another reason to be happy it is Spring - the furnace upstairs is broken so I can stop worrying about that for a change).

As I finish this and try to end on a positive note (which is why I close with what I'm grateful for) I am still feeling down, depleted and defeated. I am thinking to myself is it any wonder people in our shoes get sick more often and may end up with more health problems as they age? The daily stress and strains of living like this take a huge toll. Just another reason for remarrying and spreading the crap between two instead of just one.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Better Person or More of a Fool?

Unlike Husband #2, whom apparently can just dismiss thoughts of me and go on with his life as though we never existed, I am finding that not the case with me. I still have thoughts of him and our marriage. I still have regrets and feel pain and am hurt. I wish there were some kind of pill I could take that would wipe out all traces of him from my memory. Especially, since I believe that he acted in incredibly cruel and callous ways throughout our marriage. I mean this guy is just not worth even my thoughts at this point. So, that leaves me with the question of whether I am a better person because I have feelings and am dealing with the rejection or am I just more of a fool?

Today I have an appointment with my grief/life transition counselor. I started working with her December, 2007 and have greatly cut back on my weekly appointments for financial reasons. So, I really need to make the most of my approximate hour with her today and one of the topics I most need to discuss is what I have just written about - how to stop that constant loop in my head devoted to an unworthy man and replace it with more productive energy. Easier said than done. At this point I need to focus on strategies that help propel me forward.

In regard to my question of whether or not I am a better person or more of a fool, I wonder if thoughts are thoughts - we have them - and that to some extent they are what they are and are therefore not foolish or wasteful. They are there for a reason right now and can't be wished away. About being a better person - perhaps it is not a question of being better but more of being capable and willing to face life challenges instead of hiding from them as Husband #2 does. What is most sad to me is that by his not being willing to talk to me at all about the divorce, both of us missed opportunities to grow, to become more insightful and ultimately better people. I would say that I am trying to come to terms with all of this on my own and with guidance from therapy, so ultimately the biggest loser in that regard is Husband #2. I do believe that I will eventually reach some sort of resolution and closure to all of this but he will not because of his inability and refusal to examine any of it. And that truly is what I find most sad at this juncture.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the chance and opportunity to face another day.
2. For my ability to be insightful.
3. For having the strength to face reality.