Saturday, May 30, 2009

Changed Forever

My husband's death changed me profoundly. For example, it took me nine months before I let the boys ride in a car with anyone but me driving. I reasoned that if there was going to be an accident, we all needed to go to the hereafter together. Shortly after the death I also started to be acutely aware of how I communicated with others. I made a point of really looking into people's eyes and listening to their words because I wanted to "see into their souls" and not just interact superficially.

It remains challenging to explain to people how much I have changed and how I sometimes think. Just another ongoing challenge of widowhood. Not only do I not think and react to life the ways I used to but now others don't understand me. And they still don't get it even when I try and explain.

In Kate Braestrup's memoir "Here If You Need Me," she writes of becoming a minister, which was actually her husband's dream, after his death. And she says, "Death alters the reality of our lives; the death of an intimate changes it completely. No part of my life, from my most ethereal notions of God to the most mundane detail of tooth brushing, was the same after Drew died. Life consisted on one rending novelty after another, as anyone who has lost a spouse can attest."

What struck me so acutely about her words was the mention of tooth brushing - how even that everyday act we so much take for granted was no longer just a mundane detail after her husband's death. That is what I meant when I started this post by observing how my husband's death changed the very core of me - from how I think whenever I drive a car to the way I look into people's eyes. Or in Kate's case, how she brushes her teeth and now looks upon God. That is what is so hard to explain to others - the breadth and depth of this change. This is why blogging has been so helpful to me - I know that those in my shoes reading my posts all get it! And it has helped me to read the blogs of others and know exactly where they are coming from! No one needs to expain for a change.

Today I am grateful:

1. For getting through eight hours of work without the aches and pains I usually feel in my feet!
2. For the opportunity to get back into the swing of working again.
3. For even having a job because they are still pretty slim in this area of the country.
4. For having a good work day (no register errors).
5. For having an easier time of making it through the eight hours.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bragging Rights

One of my youngest son's teachers called me this morning to compliment him on his dedication in class. He is just two points away from an A and is doing his hardest to end up with that grade instead of a B. By coincidence or not, this is the same subject my late husband taught in H.S. My son's teacher told me he seems to have a real interest and knack for the subject. I was going to donate all of my husband's books to his old school or the resale shop - now I may consider holding on to them in case my youngest would like them.

I try not to brag too much to others about my boys. Over the years we have heard far more "complaints" than compliments. The boys went through some periods where they had defiant attitudes. Both boys were physically attacked in separate incidents. This teacher reminded me that he had last spoken to me in Fall when my son was stabbed with a pen at a football practice! Both of those attacks were totally unprovoked by my sons. Then there were all the times they were late for school and had to serve some detentions - and my oldest wore pants with too many rips in them and was sent home to change. (Actually, those sound like things kids do whether they've lost a parent or not.)

Anyway, I guess what I have been thinking about is that it is hard not to want to brag about the boys when my heart is overflowing with pride about them. If my husband were alive, we'd be celebrating this call together - but he isn't here. I try not to talk too much about the boys with my friends and family. I don't want to be considered one of those moms who thinks her kids walk on water. My boys certainly don't - but they're good kids and have gone through a lot and seemed to come out pretty well. It's hard living alone and not having someone to share this kind of thing with - to not be able to pick the phone up and tell my spouse the good news.

I was cleaning out the garage today and came across a collage of photos from the year their Dad died. The boys look so young and innocent in those pictures. I am glad this young man teaching my son took the time to tell me some positives about him. But I am most proud that my boys have grown into mature and decent young men despite much hardship.

This is what I am most grateful for each and every day.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Banana Bread

I cannot bear to write a depressing post today. Obviously my same problems exist today as they did yesterday, I just want to think about something else for a moment.

I love to cook and especially bake but that hobby has really taken a back seat the past five years. One reason I am able to continue my interest in knitting is that I can carry small projects with me to all the baseball and other events I go to with the boys. Many days over the summers we are out of the house from sunup to sundown. But an oven is not transportable.

Recently I had a hankering for banana bread and came across a recipe in a British cookbook called "Comfort Food." This one was for chocolate banana bread with yogurt and allspice. The picture looked divine so at the store this week I added bananas and yogurt to the cart. Today seemed like a perfect day to bake. I'm at home concentrating on cleaning the house as a realtor is coming tomorrow. Also, the clothes dryer is not heating and I had an appointment for it to be repaired. The dryer repairman came sooner than expected and when he left I thought about the banana bread mix I had in the pantry. I decided to make that instead of the homemade recipe and did so, throwing in a handful of mini chocolate chips since the boys like that.

Making the mix was so quick and easy - one bowl, no measuring flour and cocoa powder, etc. The end result was not as good as what I'd have baked on my own but still pretty tasty, especially still warm from the oven with a cup of Constant Comment tea. Such a small act of nurturing to myself! Just what the doctor ordered! I am glad it has caused me to remember one of the lessons I learned from my husband's death - that it is really all the little acts and blessings that end up mattering in life. I don't want to lose sight of this even as I have to deal with the reality of the looming financial issues.

Today I am grateful:

1. For being able to compromise and whip up a box baking mix and not get down on myself because I took the easy way out for more instant gratification.
2. For doing the best I can everyday.
3. For the hug my older son gave me last night and the "Love you" my younger son said.
4. That my sons and I can talk together about having to leave the house and so far they are not freaking (although no one is jumping up with joy about all this).
5. For gardening gloves that save your hands from those horrible, tall, prickly weeds that take over the garden.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sleeping Better Tonight

I went online briefly before dinner and came across sites offering health insurance quotes. I filled in some introductory info. and got a call back from Blue Cross Blue Shield later in the evening. Tonight I will be resting much better because I obtained immediate coverage starting on Friday which will be in effect for the month my actual policy is underwritten. This is a Godsend because my oldest starts Club Volleyball tomorrow night and one of the questions on his application form requests insurance information. I was actually afraid he'd be dropped from the team without insurance.

Instead of the $600.00 a month cost I had feared, this coverage will be $320.00 monthly and can be canceled at anytime (when I obtain full-time work, hopefully soon).

I can't tell you the relief that has come over me. This will not be an expense that is easy to afford but I don't feel I can live without health insurance and this amount is $300.00 less than what I'd first expected. And there are other options I am finding. For about $240.00 a month I could obtain hospital only coverage if I want to reduce the monthly premium. This plan doesn't cover prescription costs so I am still going to need to investigate how to obtain some relief from those costs - Walgreen's has a Prescription Savings Plan I'll probably need to get. And there is still dental care needed.

But at least for the time being we are covered medically if there is an emergency. And I know only too well the realities of hospital bills and medical costs.


Today I took my oldest for his driver's license which he has waited nine months to get - but no one informed me that he'd need to show his social security card and we couldn't find it. So we spent the day waiting at the social security office to apply for a duplicate, as well as some time at State Farm finding out what my car insurance rate will increase to with adding my son as a driver (an increase of $80.00 monthly). We also spent some time going over my life insurance coverage for the boys because I want to add coverage for them so they will have money to cash in/borrow against in 15 years. My folks were unable to give me any kind of monetary assistance over the years and with all that has happened financially I want to provide something for the boys in the future.

It was a long and drawn out day. My son was upset that he has to wait for his license and I am worried about the increased financial pressure. I also thought a lot about my disorganized lifestyle which resulted in not finding the social security card in the first place. Over the past five years there hasn't been much time or priority given to organizing my house and affairs. I've made much progress over the past months, especially with all of the financial stuff but certain records and documents have fallen through the cracks, such as my son's social security card.

It seems as if every day there is another reminder of the difficulties of widowhood, for me at least. It would just be nice to have a day run smoothly for a change and to not have our problems become even harder to work out. Having to run to the social security office when you're already so pressed for time is one task I could easily cut from my list.

But in the end, I guess what is important to focus on is what was accomplished. The replacement card will come within two weeks and it buys me another 14 days to not have to pay that extra car insurance!

Today I am grateful:

1. For being able to sleep and recharge enough to face another day.
2. For food.
3. For air.
4. For not freaking out about the missing social security card and hopefully modeling for my son that sometimes you have to wait for things.
5. For the green leaves in the trees and the still blooming Spring flowers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Still Falling

The reason we were denied state health insurance coverage is that with the part-time retail job I've taken on to try and save the house, I make too much income (about $200.00 over the qualifying limit; although that might have changed now since they've cut my hours). Anyway, to get insurance through my pension plan will cost $600.00 a month! So, I don't have many options available to me except to go without insurance for the time being. I don't care about myself - it is the boys I have concern about.

I guess I can also consider quitting the job; asking them to reduce my hours for the next month so I can reapply for the state coverage; keep looking for full-time work. All of this is daunting because it is on top of the worry I carry around every day about our situation, not to mention that I still have to figure out if the house can be sold and if I file for bankruptcy. Handling this all on my own in addition to caring for the boys and trying to keep up the minimum with the house (plus cooking) just seems overwhelming right now.

I would not wish this life on anyone. It seems so unfair that a family already devastated by the death of their husband/dad would have to continue to endure such struggles.

I'm passing on the gratitude list today because I just need to be with my sorrow.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Want a Gold Star

I went to our town's Memorial Day parade because my oldest was marching in the high school band. It was an experience of such mixed emotions! For one, I was tearful over the men and women who have died serving our country. Then, I have always struggled with having to attend school/social events on my own but going to a parade by myself really takes the cake. At least for football and sporting events I can sit down in the bleachers and kind of hide. Out on the sunny street surrounded by families and couples made me feel so exposed and ALONE. I kept reminding myself that I was going though the effort for my son and I was so PROUD to see him marching. At first I didn't even recognize him - he is 6" and so handsome! So mature and kind besides. I only wish that I had some kind of proof that his Dad knows how well he has gotten through the years since his death.

Seeing all the moms fussing over their kids and the dads video taping the bands and scout troops marching by brought out those feelings of anger, bitterness, unfairness and resentment that have been surfacing over the past few weeks. It is hard enough getting through the days physically as an "only" parent - but then there is the emotional element besides. So much energy that is needed to pull myself out of the house, into the car, out on the street so I can be there for my son. Over time it has just taken such a toll on me - I don't think people can get this aspect of widowhood because on its face it doesn't seem like that much of a big deal - going alone to see your kid march in a parade. But for me at least, it is the buildup over time of these events - the mental and emotional drain they cause week after week, year after year. Let me tell you, it takes a lot of spirit, courage and energy to keep facing these events on one's lonesome.

I'm thinking all of the above thoughts out on the street while watching the parade, which is another aspect of this issue to mention. For most of those at the parade, I can safely bet, their emotions were tied up with the event at hand and wondering what to cook at this afternoon's bbq. What I have found as a widowed mom however, is that an event like this will unleash a torrent of emotions (all unrelated and ranging from rage at being alone to feeling proud at my son's accomplishments). This also leads to tremendous mental fatigue because when you're overcome by such emotions you have to deal with them (or at least some of them) - they don't go away on their own. It is another challenge of my situation. And beng alone, there isn't someone right there to talk to or provide some comfort.

These are all things that people can't see because they are on the inside. So while I may look attractive and put together while at this parade, inside I am a crumbling mess! As the parade ended and I walked back to the van I decided that I need to get myself a "gold star" for being a devoted mom the past years. Like the ones that were awarded in kindergarten. I am going to be on the lookout for a gold star I can wear as a necklace or pin because right now someone needs to "award" me one. And as soon as I can find one I am going to wear it as a badge of honor proudly!

Good News -
My son made it to the club volleyball tryouts yesterday while I was at work, getting a ride there from a friend and a ride back from a school teammate. Out of the 50 kids trying out only 12 were selected but my son was one of them (and he has only played one season of the sport!). I was happy to know that his fellow schoolmate also made the team which means hopefully there will be someone we can call on to help us in driving emergencies.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the ultimate sacrifice our fallen soldiers have taken in the line of duty for our country. I hope this contemplation surpasses all of our more selfish thoughts about ourselves on this day.
2. For the opportunity to live in this great land and it is the best place in the world to be.
3. For hot dogs, watermelon, baked beans, chips, coleslaw and potato salad.
4. For all the sacrifices I made for the boys because today I saw firsthand that it was worth every struggle and hardship.
5. For the kindness of others, near and far, especially those taking the time to offer a few words of wisdon and understanding.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hitting Bottom (Again)

Woke up this a.m. to see an odd site in the front lawn - we were "forked" with dozens of white, plastic forks stuck into the newly mowed grass! I figured it was some kids who know the boys. I love that they are popular but it can be a double-edged sword. We've gotten t.p.ed by girls trying to get the attention of my youngest; egged by some boys jealous of my oldest. Then tonight, my oldest called me while I was still at work around 10:30. He was very unsettled and reported that someone had dumped ketchup on the driveway and thrown oatmeal on the car. I know it is still probably kids who know the boys but it is bothersome. The pranksters who did the forking did so right outside my open window last night and I did not hear a thing.

I guess where this is all leading tonight is that I am simply tired of living on my own as an only mom. I want a male presence around to help make me feel safer and secure. I've just worked eight hours and it is late. Now I have to come home and face such silliness. I don't have the energy or good humor anymore to deal with this kind of stuff. I wish I could laugh it off and make light of it. But at this time there are too many other problems to face and this kind of thing really puts me over the edge.

Oh, and to top it all off, in the mail was a rejection letter denying the boys state medical insurance coverage. And darn it that Monday is a holiday because now I'll have to worry about all this another day before getting some kind of answer. In the past five years the absolutely worst feeling I have had has been when I have not been able to provide for my boys adequately. To be facing no insurance right now is extremely upsetting to me. I have no choice but to look for another job that will enable me to have coverage. I am scheduled to work only 19.5 hours next week, way below the 35 I was originally promised.

I have really hit another low point and slump. It is hard for me to feel hopeful and many of my thoughts are focused on how I should have moved out of state sooner with my second husband instead of choosing to delay the move to care for my dying Mom. But of course I didn't have a crystal ball to see into the future. Never in a million years when I first got married and had the boys would I have believed this would have been my destiny. Nor would I have believed that after remarrying, my second husband would dump us and leave us in financial and emotional tatters.

Today I am taking a break from my grateful/thankful list on purpose. I am tired and have to go back to work again tomorrow morning. I hope I can sleep some of this sadness off. I wish my life was not such a struggle and hardship right now. I keep thinking I've hit my bottom but then I hit an even lower point so I guess I'm still not there yet. But I'm not sure there is any lower point to go from here - we're pretty darn low!

My friend says that I cannot dwell on the past and what might have been because it is over and no longer an option. He says I have to focus on the future. Easier said than done.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Night Blues

Today, when I signed online there was a little news blurb on the AOL page about a man who had survived anal cancer as well as divorce and gone on to find love/marriage again. A pretty inspiring story to say the least. It gives me hope to believe that one day I too will remarry.

The boys are out tonight because it is Friday and as per usual I am in alone and feeling terribly lonely. I want my nights to include more than doing laundry or reading. At age 49 I am way too young to be moping around the house on my own and feeling hopeless.

I guess I think that if I were married my husband and I right now would be perhaps going to a movie; having a nice/romantic dinner out; cooking a simple but delicious meal together; watching a video; making love; conversing over wine; playing cards. Earlier we may have taken a walk in a park or forest preserve. All of those ideas seem pretty appealing to me right now.

I feel robbed and cheated that during midlife, when it seems a lot harder because of age and kids, I have to go back out there into the dating world. Life is already challenging just trying to navigate through the days in one piece and now I have to add the "fun" of looking for love to my plate! Talk about unfair and crummy! Also to contend with are guys not ready for marriage or who don't want to remarry when I am pretty old-fashioned in regard to marriage and commitment. So it is trying to find a suitable mate who is also on the same page, as well as sharing the same values.

I was thinking about the dating game today and wondering if it is different for the widowed vs. the divorced. I know for me that I have high standards about commitment because of what I went through with my husband's death. I know what it is like to be in the trenches, by someone's side during their darkest hour. And I think it is for this reason that I am not willing to accept a more casual level of dating or relationship. I want the real deal because I've been there and had it. I want to know that the man I am with is as committed to me as I was to my husband. My loss resulted from death so I'm not so shy about jumping back into the saddle. If anything, the widowhood aspect just seems to make my dating expectations more complicated and confusing!
I would prefer dating widowers but have not met any. I just don't feel divorced men have a full understanding of the realities of being an "only" parent as they still share parenting duties, albeit in separate households.

I'd love to hear how other widows are coping with this issue.

Overgrown, Rundown & Breaking

Thankfully, the lawn service came today to mow the yard. Every Spring, I put off hiring them thinking I can do it on my own but the grass and weeds overpower me and I give up! This all made me reflect on a long-term aspect of widowhood for me - feelings of failure. I know that my measurement of myself is unrealistic. I keep trying to accomplish what two people used to do and I am forever coming up short. But it is hard to cut myself any slack because everywhere I look there is such stark evidence of what I can't get done (the yard, laundry, dishes, unread newspapers/magazines/mail, unorganized piles of "stuff," outgrown clothing and unused items that need to be weeded out...). It is depressing and sad. Just way too much to do and not enough time - we all can identify with that, widowed or not.

For me, a large part of my being unable to be less hard on myself comes from what I perceive as other people looking down on me. When they drive down my street they see a more rundown house than the others on the block and the yard is more unkempt. This embarrasses me. I feel bad about myself and my situation. I hate to always feel that others are judging me negatively based on appearances. And that is where I start getting down on myself - if only I were better, stronger, faster then I could get more done...

It is a losing battle. The longer I live on my own the harder it seems to be (not easier!). I am more drained, more lonely, more discouraged. The house seems to get more rundown and that is how I imagine my body is reacting as well - like a car that is aging year after year, the rust becoming more evident; the creaks and dings more prominent.

Today I am grateful:

1. That the yard service mowed the yard.
2. That the yard looks a little better.
3. That the neighbors won't be so upset with me (I hope).
4. That I can knit because it is one of the few things right now keeping me sane (although I get such little time to actually knit).
5. That I am not drinking to excess.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Stupid, Unfeeling, Hurtful Things People Say

I am sure those of us facing losses through death have our lists of the dumb things people have said to us. My top three come from the FIRST WEEK following my husband's death and are as follows:

1. "Everyone has to die sometime."

2. "I know lots of single moms and they seem to be managing just fine on their own."

3. "Your kids are going to be great "latch-key" children!" (The boys were just nine and ten and were afraid to be alone in the house even during the day!)

Now I have a new comment to add to these zingers. It was said to me on Easter by my brother-in-law, whom I really like. His comment was made after I was updating my family as to my financial status and the very real possibility of my losing the house to foreclosure. I also briefly related my sadness over my divorce. He glibly replied that my life if better than any individual's living in Africa so I should find comfort/solace in that.

I was pretty amazed at his choice of words and logic. I replied that of course I recognize that my life is more fortunate than those living in other countries. Over the past weeks his comment has sat with me in an unsettling way. I brought it up to my therapist who provided insight with the reflection that it wasn't a very empathic thing to say.

That I think is what is most important when throwing in your two cents to those who are grieving. First and foremost acknowledge their feelings (where they are right then and there in regard to the situation). By bypassing any acknowledgment of my current situation, my brother-in-law ended by negating my emotions and making me feel bad for even having them. After all, if my life if better than others living in poverty around the world, how can I really feel bad about anything going on in my life?

What he could have said was "I'm so sorry for the hardship you're experiencing." Or, "this must be difficult for you right now." That is all that was needed. Nothing more, nothing less. Now I unfortunately cannot get images of poverty stricken individuals out of my mind. And I feel terribly guilty for worrying about losing my house.

Saving Grace

Today I received notification that the boys are temporarily covered under our State's health insurance program, while my application is being processed. The coverage is even retroactive so basically the boys were only without coverage for two weeks (and it would have only been a week if I'd been promptly notified of my divorce filing so I could have applied for the insurance sooner). This is such a relief to me! I didn't realize how much I was worried about the lack of insurance for the boys until today's mail and receiving this news. It has been a constant source of anxiety for me, especially since the boys are participating in sports - the kind of concern that has kept me up at night.

Being in this position makes me so much aware of how much we need to modify our health care system. Thank goodness there was some coverage available to me that I could apply for. I know that many employers are only offering part-time employment right now due to the Recession so there will be more folks like me in this situation.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the insurance coverage my boys are now receiving (I hope I can rest easier tonight).
2. For something that worked out (finally) to my advantage.
3. For my ability to stay focused on the boys and their needs - in the end that has to remain my number one priority.
4. That thankfully nothing serious happened during the time we didn't have health insurance coverage.
5. That small graces like this can provide huge impetus to continue forward!

Monday, May 18, 2009


I got the job to help us financially but now have problems with parenting the kids - or in other words being unable to be in two places at once. My oldest came home today with the news that he needs to try out for club volleyball on Sunday but I'm working the entire day. To be honest, part of the reason I wasn't that quick to jump back to work was precisely for this reason - needing to be available for the boys, especially because they are so involved with sports and music. I have been proud that I've managed pretty well on my own in transporting them, until now.

I assured my son that I'll find him a ride but my closest friend and the one I rely on the most will be out of town for the Memorial Day holiday. He doesn't know anyone trying out but I guess I can tell him to check with his coach tomorrow. I'll try another friend tonight and maybe one of the nice moms on the team who lives close by. I've asked for so few favors over the years maybe we'll catch a break this time. What else can I do? No family is close by. The cab service in town is unreliable and scary besides. Any ideas out there?

Just more evidence on how hard it is to try and coordinate life as an only parent. It is one of the reasons I have wanted to remarry (because life is just too darn challenging to always handle on one's own with or without children!). Stuff like this results in more worry, juggling, coordination and time (all of which get added to an already full plate). Have I said I just want to throw the towel in right now? Oh right, I think I already did some posts back!

Today I am grateful:

1. For clean towels.
2. For washed and put away dishes (although the sink isn't empty right now in my kitchen - I can still appreciate when it is).
3. For fax machines which can transmit records immediately (am applying for health insurance and needed to fax some documents by today's deadline).
4. For our U.S. mail service - it doesn't get the credit it deserves.
5. For affectionate cats.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Conceding to the Truth

Wednesday night there were severe thunderstorms in our area. As I was going to bed I heard a loud thump of something falling outside against the house but I resisted the urge to investigate. As long as the house was intact, I could live with the suspense. In the morning, two large tree branches were resting in the front lawn. They were so heavy I had a hard time moving them on my own, which I needed to do because one was blocking the side door we use to enter the house.
Now I have to figure out how to cut up the branches. I don't have a saw and am not sure I'd use it (or allow the boys to) even if I had one. I need to recruit someone for this and it will probably cost more money than it should...

My deceased husband handled all the yard work - thrived on it! He had started out his college studies with the intent to become a forest ranger and only changed majors because he got into an argument with his academic adviser. Although he was a very gifted teacher, I often felt that a part of him was still off in the forest somewhere. So when he was alive, I never worried about the yard work (and we have a heavily wooded-double lot). Since his death I just can't keep up with the yard - I can barely keep up with what needs to get done in the house!

We had an awful tornado two years back and that was another project I'd really like to forget. Currently the entire yard is covered with weeds that I just can't seem to get to what with now working. Part of me thinks that it is now really time for me to throw up my hands and admit defeat. Yes, I can't manage this 2,500 square foot house and double-sized yard on my own anymore. I tried and have somehow gotten through the past few years (I always end up hiring a yard cutting service) but it seems that I now have just reached the end of my rope. This isn't a single person's home, or the home for a widow with busy kids she has to drive around to social and athletic events. This is a home best suited for an intact family where both spouses appreciate the abundant trees and flowers and have the time to garden and tend to the yard.

I now understand why people downsize and move to Florida. In my case, I've resisted trying to sell because the market has been so bad. The joys of home ownership have certainly not been present in my life for some time. My house is older and requires tremendous upkeep. I can't afford to make the repairs so they get worse. I should also mention that my husband was pretty handy and did all the painting and repairs that were needed. Without him around I have to rely on handymen who don't show up or those that seem to cost too much. I think I have finally reached a place where I am feeling less upset about having to downsize into an apartment. And that has taken me a long time to come to. It is the direction I feel I should move toward now although in doing so I struggle with tremendous thoughts of defeat and blaming myself for not having been able to keep up and handle things on my own. The reality is that I just can't any longer. And somehow that seems more honest and real than pretending I can.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the $1.00 box of hot, fresh popcorn they sell at the high school concession stand - I pick up a box every time I'm there to see my boys and get such a thrill from a great, cheap treat!
2. That the tree branches didn't damage the house or roof.
3. That I've moved to a different place - less judgmental on myself and more willing to face the truth.
4. That the boy's first summer baseball practice is today and it is the start of a new, fresh season of that wonderful sport.
5. That a part of me believes it will all work out in the end and that whatever happens, it'll be okay.

Friday, May 15, 2009


So much for the new job - I've been doing my best but my performance hasn't been up-to-par so my hours were reduced from 33.5 to 10. I've been taken off the management track I was on and am now classified as lowly cashier. The store manager and I had a long chat when I inquired about my reduced hours. I totally agree with him that I have not caught on that quickly. They will be training another new employee now for the "front-end lead" spot I was hired for. The manager said I am about a month behind in the training schedule they had hoped for.

How have I taken this news? The best I can. I've considered quitting but I am not a quitter and we need the money. As they want me to fill in for people calling off their shifts, I am able to recover some of my lost hours. It is frustrating to want to do a good job but not remembering all the details going along with the training. For example, the stuff I'm doing wrong include not removing the sensor scanner from a $750.00 vacuum cleaner. (A horrible alarm was set off when the poor couple left the store and managers came running out of no where!) Or forgetting how to ring up a certain type of coupon that has only come in once before.

I did explain to the manager that people have different types of learning styles and I need to have hands-on training in order to remember a procedure. Their training so far mostly involves my looking over the shoulder of an experienced cashier, who quickly does the transaction. I am then supposed to remember how to do it but I don't. I also told the manager that I've asked repeatedly for just 5-10 minutes of one-on-one time but apparently that is too much time to take to train someone individually at this super busy store. The manager was nice and said they'd try and work with me. He acknowledged my lack of retail experience and even referred to me as a "fish out of water." He also conceded that it is a challenge to go back to work after being out of the work force awhile.

Some of this too involves my life as an only parent (with a lot on her mind as well, in regard to the foreclosure/bankruptcy). I only get about 5-6 hours of sleep a night and sometimes I'm drained when I go into work - not exactly the most conducive circumstances for starting and learning a new job. It doesn't help that I haven't worked in retail since college and the younger people at this place seem to catch on much more quickly and understand what is going on more easily. Some of them have worked at Old Navy, The Gap, Carson's, Linens & Things, etc.

So there is a fair amount stacked up against me - my being middle-aged (I don't think as fast as I once did); the challenges of being an only parent; returning to the job market after a break of a few years. In fact, I haven't worked full-time in 13 years! Since I got my master's degree I've only held part-time positions. Just the fact that I made it through two 30+ hours a week is pretty good for me! My feet ached from standing eight hour shifts and were covered in blisters. But I did make it through.

Now there is the question of what I do from here. And I have decided to take the lead of my oldest. At our Mother's Day dinner we talked about my "demotion" and he got such a kick out of it - laughing up a storm and exclaiming, "How can they demote you from a cashier? Are you in the stockroom now?" His sense of humor was contagious and I've decided to try and lighten up about all of this. Ringing up the wrong coupon may seem like a big deal to management and maybe even the customer but I know that it pales in comparison to the really big stuff. So I guess I'm going to smile my way through my mishaps and apologize if necessary - but then I'm going to take off the work apron when the day is done, go home and FORGET ABOUT IT. In the meantime, I can weigh my options - keep looking for a job in my field (a counseling agency is still interested in me), maybe take a few classes, work at this place until they fire me (or maybe I will start getting the hang of it eventually).

Today I am grateful:

1. For my son's wisdom, humor and support. He did a lot to lift my mood on Mother's Day.
2. For not having had to use the Food Pantry again - working is bringing in grocery money.
3. For sticking it out and not quitting when it might have been easier (on my feet for sure) to have thrown in the towel.
4. For having the courage to try a job outside my field.
5. For having the strength to take a chance.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I am starting to feel a lot of anger - so far in my grief journey anger has not been an emotion that I have allowed myself to experience much. But it is coming out now in full force. I was in the grocery store yesterday only picking up a package of chili seasoning and a can of chopped tomatoes. I went to the express line but was beat out by a middle-aged dad who took the first place. I glared at him as he pulled out his wallet and I saw the photos of his children - no doubt the wife was waiting for him at home. I wanted to point to the tabloid paper showing the photo of Patrick Swayze and say, "That is what my husband looked like before he died." But I didn't. I was angry that this guy with his life together had no problem going ahead of me in line. But I am the person who deserved to check out sooner. All pretty petty stuff I know but it was what I was thinking as I stood behind this guy. Wanting to say to the whole line in fact or maybe even the entire store, "Your lives are better than mine - but that doesn't give you an excuse to take the first place in line - maybe think about the people you cut in front of." Somehow I don't believe many people care much about anyone else's lives but their own.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day 2009 vs. 2008

Mother's Day 2008 -

1. Received a mega-size bottle and gift set of Calvin Klein Euphoria perfume from my then husband and a huge over-sized card from the boys (probably 30 inches tall at least).
2. Spent the entire day antiquing out in country with hubby and the boys - on the lookout for colored Hobnail glass and we ended up adding a number of pieces to the collection we were building together (when we divorced he ended up with the collection).
3. Lunch/dinner at a favorite restaurant that serves famous blueberry pancakes. We also had big ice cream concoctions.
4. I was gearing up to move 120 miles away and to another state to be with my husband.

Mother's Day 2009 -

1. My gift is a book on knitting/felting I purchased myself, after using a number of coupons to bring the cost well down from $30.00.
2. Worked from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
3. Treated self and boys to dinner at a local place where I could use a coupon. We haven't been out to eat since August! We splurged and had an appetizer. Then got Dairy Queen afterward.
4. Received phone messages/calls from three friends wishing me a Happy Mother's Day but no such call from my sister. One friend referred to me as one of the best mothers in the world! That was nice to hear.
5. Am gearing up to move to an apartment and hoping to sell the house before having to leave because of the foreclosure.
6. Am divorced and now get to have both the labels of widow and divorcee as badges of honor!

The moral of the story = life can drastically change in an instant. But somehow the day was salvaged to not be too gloomy.

Today I am grateful:

1. For my handsome, athletic, popular boys who make me so proud.
2. That I have somehow managed to keep it somewhat together, if at least for the sake of the boys.
3. For the thoughtfulness of my friends.
4. For having the money to afford a dinner out (what a splurge!).
5. That my boys have managed to grow and thrive, despite facing adversity and hardship.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I finally got a chance to read a book I've been meaning to for years - actress Carrie Fisher's "Post Cards From the Edge." It was funny and entertaining. Toward the end, I came across a section that made me really ponder. Two of the book's characters are talking about happiness and one defines it as an absence of anxiety or pain. This really struck me because currently in my life I'm dealing with a lot of anxiety, as well as pain. Not to mention all of the grief and loss over the past five years since my husband died. So I got to wondering, is it possible to be happy when one is dealing with significant anxiety, pain as well as grief/loss? What happens to those of us who go through years of hardship? Can we be happy during times of strife and difficulty? Is it only possible to be happy when life is going your way?

Maybe those of us grieving only have snatches of happiness. A day after my husband died, I was caught laughing by my younger son who couldn't believe I was doing so. I assured him it was okay to laugh at something funny because it was. But was I really happy a day after my husband died? No, of course not. I just laughed at a funny event - a moment that lasted a minute or two.

Everyone out there has lives filled with stress, anxiety and pain. But grieving folks have all the regular stuff and the grief/loss issues as well - a double-whammy. I know for me that it doesn't seem possible to really feel happy right now. It looks as though we are going to lose the house and with that in my future for the upcoming months there won't be a period without anxiety or pain. So do I resign myself to being unhappy for the near future?

Today I am grateful:

1. For the quaint, charming historic town I live in.
2. For the excellent schools in our community.
3. For all the cute kids I see out and about in their little league uniforms.
4. For capri or cropped pants - how cool is it to have something in between shorts and pants to wear in the Spring.
5. For putting in a honest day's work and then some that deserves a good night of sleep.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Life isn't Fair

As if I don't have enough to manage in my already frantic life, the other day someone tossed two tires onto the side of my lawn. So now I have to figure out how to dispose of them, as they have to be recycled and can't be thrown out with the garbage. I don't know why out of all the houses on my block, mine had to be the one targeted. Why couldn't anyone else (all marrieds) have gotten dumped on?

This brings to mind what happened on the night my husband died. He had been in a coma for two weeks and of course that night was emotionally a nightmare. We finally got home from the hospital very late and I was still up at two a.m. doing some laundry. I looked out my front picture window to see an erie sight - a fire burning on my front lawn! As it was close to Halloween, it turns out some kids set my mailbox on fire (I hadn't remembered to pick up the mail with all that was going on). I can only imagine what the fire and police department personnel thought when they responded. I'm sure it wasn't everyday that they were called to put out a fire on the night a 44-year old woman had lost her husband!

I guess my point in relating these two incidents is that I don't think there is any rhyme or reason as to what sometimes happens in our lives. If anyone deserved a break on that chilly late October night five years ago it was me - surely there was another mailbox these kids could have ignited. I even had brief (very brief) thoughts that perhaps it was my newly departed husband sending me some kind of message from the hereafter. But then I came to my senses in knowing that he would never have done anything to scare us in that way - it was just what it was - some high school kids pulling a Halloween prank (although what they did was dangerous and a pretty stupid idea). And I guess in the dark my house looks as good as any other for someone wanting to dump some tires that they don't want to have to dispose of properly. But I'm going to put a message out there to the Universe right now - the next time something like this is going on, could you please intervene so my house isn't the one targeted? I have enough on my plate to deal with right now. In fact, I can barely get my own recycling out!

Today I am grateful:

1. For the warmer Spring weather - no snow or cold for two more seasons, thank goodness!
2. That I am a good cook - I made homemade spaghetti sauce tonight and it was fabulous!
3. That I am remaining calm despite being rather worried about the house situation (whether to file for bankruptcy or not).
4. That my boys are savy on the computer and can come to my aid when I need assistance.
5. For shorts and sandals (I wish I could wear them all year).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What Women Want

According to Life Coach Cheryl Richardson (check out her web site), the top things women want as a gift include: anything handmade; help around the house; to feel appreciated and quality alone time. The last was the number one request. She posed this question to woman and then reported the responses this week because it is right before Mother's Day.

I am not surprised to find that the four items listed are pretty much what I would also like to receive as a gift. The most treasured objects in my life are things my sons have made me through the years and I display them all over the house. Even the green bug and frog they fashioned out of socks in a summer camp are on display in my living room. Regarding more help around the house - considering my house is perpetually messy, that would always be accepted. Hearing some appreciative comments (from anyone) would be great too. Since I just live with two teen boys it is not often that I hear that my hair looks nice or that I have on an attractive outfit. But more importantly, it would just be good to hear someone (anyone) tell me that I've done a decent job raising my boys on my own the past years. Too often I hear criticisms about what I'm not doing well enough because as a widow, I'm still compared to the standard of a two-couple family.

I could go on and on about the desire for more private or "me" time. I am lucky to read a few pages before bed or carve out 15 minutes to knit. There just aren't enough hours in the day and they get filled up with all that I have to do to keep the house running on my own and care for the boys. Today, before I went into work at noon, I did two loads of laundry because my oldest needed his volleyball uniform washed for today's meet. I worked from noon to five, rushed to a track meet, came home to make dinner and now here it is just after nine and I am tired and longing for bed. It would be heaven to have a free afternoon to go window shopping and have an hour relaxing at Starbuck's with a book.

What really struck me about this informal survey of "what women want" is that the women who responded are most likely married and have way more help and free time than I do. Yet, these women are in need of more personal time, more appreciation and more help too. It just made me realize that those of us juggling lives on our own are that much more depleted and that much more in need of these "gifts." Yet without husbands willing to take the kids so we can escape to Starbuck's for an hour, we also have to come up with creative ways of meeting these needs. Way too often we can't work it out and we are the ones who put off caring for ourselves because we have to - there aren't any other options.

So what is the moral to this post? What is the solution? I don't know and don't have any quick answers. Maybe that I hope this Mother's Day some of us will be fortunate enough to receive the gifts of appreciation, time and cleaner houses! If even just for the day!

Today I am grateful:

1. That my new job is becoming easier.
2. That I was able to see my son's track meet.
3. That it won't be Winter for another seven months.
4. That I've tried my best to be a good mother despite some tough situations.
5. For the Spring tree blossoms and flowers.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


My divorce was final as of April 15th although I did not receive the paperwork until about a week later. I am deeply saddened by this event and am trying to close this chapter of my life and move painfully on. In a way, I actually believe my being a widow somehow doomed this marriage. I was greatly affected by my first husband's death and it altered how I view the world and life. I have become more concerned with doing what is ethical, moral and just plain right. A year after I was remarried, both of my parents became seriously ill and I chose to delay moving out of state to my new husband's home to take care of them. I don't think he ever forgave me for that decision, but it was what I had to do at the time. In the end, we just didn't hold the same values regarding commitment, family and loyalty. I believe he was in love with me and wanted to be so but wasn't willing to make the effort for all the stuff besides the love - you know, the sacrifices and hardships we sometimes have to endure to remain a couple. Like staying by your husband's side for many long years as his body wastes away from the ravages of cancer. Never in a million years would I ever have considered breaking my marriage vows and deserting my husband in his time of need. My second husband's definition of commitment wasn't as strong as mine. If anything, I find myself valuing commitment even more. I made reconciliation attempts up until the very end and would have forgiven Husband #2 and made every effort to salvage our marriage. And that is despite being very hurt and treated disrespectfully by him.

My husband's death taught me much about love and how I want to love. I came across a passage in a novel I'm reading by Joy Fielding, "Mad River Road." This is a suspense/mystery book, no less. The passage got to me because it is what I believe about love and commitment. "Real love [is] built on a foundation of trust and truth. It [takes] time to develop and [is] based on common goals and interests, respect as well as chemistry. Besides, any idiot can fall in love. It [is] the staying in love that [is] the hard part."

Husband #2 just wanted the bells and whistles - the falling in love part. I want the foundation of trust, truth and respect. I know that is what is important because I had it with my first husband and those aspects of our relationship were strengthened through his illness. Our facing his illness together brought us closer. I still deeply regret that Husband #2 does not realize that the true rainbow comes after the pain and hurt - that it is the getting through the hardship that brings the reward in the end. He ran to avoid the painful stuff. How can you explain to someone that making it to the other side is what brings the gold. It isn't logical to believe that facing hardship can have its rewards but having experienced it, I know that it is true. Now I need to be with a man who understands the hard part of staying in love after falling in love!

Today I am grateful:

1. That I know what real love is.
2. That I am making conscious choices to reflect this love so my current relationships are better.
3. That I am more patient and calm with others because I know the "bigger picture" and what really matters in the grand scheme.
4. For the lessons I realized from both of my husbands.
5. For love - however, whenever and wherever it pops up - I need to grab it and appreciate it more often.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I Just Want My Old Life

I want my old life back - I don't want to be living this new life anymore. I want things to be the way they used to be. When I was married I had security, safety and financial stability. I was part of a team and felt like I fit into my community. This new life has been depleting, draining and devastating. I can't think of anything good that has resulted from my husband's death. I feel alone and depressed. Handling everything on my own (over the years) has become harder, not easier. I honestly wish there were some way I could resign from this life, like I was at a job. Hang up the work apron and say, "I've had it, I can't take this anymore." I don't want this life - I just want things to be the way they were when my husband was alive. The advice is to move on with your life. But how do you do that when living is just so hard and you're so tired? The other problem is that I had a good life before and I can't just erase those memories and make them disappear. Of course I am going to compare my current life with my old one. Of course I am going to want to have what I had before because it was better. It scares me to no end to imagine my life not improving and for me to have to continue with this struggling. I wish I were a more optimistic person and able to say that I am looking forward to the future and all the riches it will bring. But right now I only want to go back to what I knew and remember because it was a decent life and I was happy.

Today I am grateful:

1. For Peanut M & Ms (I wish I had some right now - that super-sized bag).
2. For Strawberry Twizzlers (I also wish I had that super-sized package right now).
3. For soft pillows to rest our heads on after long, hard days.
4. For friends who worry that you are okay and call because you have been too busy to keep in touch.
5. For my boys.