Monday, November 30, 2009

"Welcome to the First Day of the Rest of Your Life."

What a crazy week it has been getting here.

Mon. 11/23 - Schedulded for work since I normally had this day off from school. But because of Thanksgiving on Thur., the school switched Thursday's class to Monday. So I was in a panic to find someone to work for me, which I thankfully did so I could go to class.

Tue. 11/24 - Attended class which was mainly a review for the final but also a pot luck party which I really enjoyed. It is sad to say that we are skimping on food so much that being able to eat nice food at a pot luck or party is such a treat! I am not ashamed to go back for seconds.

Wed. 11/25 - Got a 92% on the final exam. It as one of the highest scores. I made 3 silly errors that I should have gotten right. Came home to work on the storage shed consolidation. Got son haircut.

Thur. 11/26 - Thanksgiving. Had two helpings of dinner and a small slice of pumpkin and apple pie. Ditto my comment about having an opportunity to partake of a nice meal. The day went very well with my family but there is stress involved with such get-togethers. The night was cold and rainy but I still tried to work at the storage shed. Because of computer glitch I could not gain entry but maybe that was for the best.

Fri. 11/27 - Put in an eight-hour shift cashiering Black Friday at the big box store. They did provide a nice lunch for everyone (cold cuts, cheeses, chips, dip, veggies, fruit, potato salad, cookies, cake, pop). Again, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this meal, especially the fruit. I took some home with me. After work, my close girlfriend treated me to dinner out. We both got fried chicken salads with soup and I saved half my salad for Sat. I am finding that the poorer I have become, the more food means to me. And that is a sad observation to be aware of! Gave my manager notice and he requested two weeks. I asked for a transfer to a local store near the town we are moving to but not sure of the liklihood.

Sat. 11/28 - Finished moving the contents of one 11 x 30 shed into another. Now I only have two sheds - an 11 x 30 and an 11 x 20. Before I was paying $600.00 monthly for the three sheds which of course is impossible to afford. Trouble was, after working an exhausting Black Friday, the strain of moving things at the shed left me physically exhausted! Plus, I ran out of room and ended up taking the excess to the apartment. So the apartment is overstuffed with a bike in the kitchen and so on. I figure we are not going to be living there so what does it matter? Had to work from 5-11 p.m. Just very tired.

Sun. 11/29 - Went to my final school clinical at the nursing home on only four hours of sleep (but that is how it has been the past five weeks since I have worked Sat. nights until closing). Got the highest score on the final clinical exam (90%) but again made silly errors. Class let out early and I'd hoped to get an earlier start with driving to our new home but my oldest was with his girlfriend and not being cooperative. I did go to the apartment rental office to give notice of my intent to move. Breaking my lease early will result in some costly charges but the rental company will work with me to pay them off over a monthly time frame. We are looking at $2,000.00! From there it was a mad dash packing up things for a week's stay. There hadn't been time to organize earlier in the week so our packing was of the throw it all in bags strategy. Both boys were exceedingly rude and nasty to me during the afternoon and for about three-quarters of the four-hour drive. Basically, they blamed me for having to move since I haven't been able to get a full-time job, threatend to not do their homework, refused to particpate in sports, claimed they would not speak to anyone ever at the new school, that sort of thing. I know they are upset with the move so I tried to bear it but my resolve was running thin and I told them that I will not tolerate disrespect, etc. The little restaurant we like to stop at half-way was closed so we just grabbed some McDonald's which we ate in the car. We got in about 8:45. My sister kindly called me to see how we were doing. She mentioned that my brother told her how much he likes GF (even more than Husband #1 and Husband #2. I felt a little bad about that because Husband #1 isn't here anymore but I tried to take it as a compliment about GF who really is about as decent a guy as you can get).

Mon. Today 11/30 - We escorted the boys to the guidance office at 7:30 but left as we were the only parents there. GF and I then went to Walmart for groceries. We came home and handled financial matters, e.g. making an appointment to transfer my car/life insurance over to GF's new local agent, etc. We also made a truck reservation for me this weekend so I can clear out the smaller storage shed since I have to go back to work on Sat. night anyway and I'll bring the boys with me so they can see their friends while I am at work. We'll put the contents of that shed into the garage here where I can finally have a chance to get through it once and for all! A lot of it is from my parent's home from the sale of their house two years ago. It will be so wonderful to knock the monthly expense of two of the storage sheds off. As it is now, we will have a very tight month financially this December which is so sad bcause it is the most magical month of the year. And we've had such meager holidays the past two years (I heard about that too from the boys). I hope we will be able to get them something. As long as I can have some nice food here in the house for everyone I will be happy.

Now the boys are still at school and GF at work. I am bracing up for hearing an earful when they come home. It is a bit surreal that I am sitting in a living room of a home that I will now be residing in. GF said goodnight to me last night by saying, "Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life." I was way too tired to make any witty replies. I am grateful to be sitting here in a home again with groceries in the pantry. Enough for the entire week. I am glad I took the Certified Nursing Asst. class. If I don't get hired for a social services job I will seek employment at a nursing home. It all could be worse. The sun is out and the tidy neighborhood we live in is quiet and peaceful. GF will come home this evening and my sons will be here. We will be safe, sound and sheltered. The boys have their pick of soup and a grilled cheese or two with carrot sticks, sloppy joes with tater tots and corn, spaghetti with garlic bread or Enchilladas for dinner. Cheap and filling.

No one has starved. We somehow made it. It hasn't been easy. I remain terribly worried about finances and must find a job as soon as possible. In the meantime, I will take some downtime with getting the smaller storage shed moved and then we have to focus on moving out the contents of the apartment. I will go back home to take the state CNA certification exam in mid-Jan. In fact, since I had to give a 60-day notice with the apt., we will go back over Christmas break for one week so the boys can be with their friends.

What I dreaded so much was the move to the apartment. But we all got through that and in the end, it was certainly not as bad as what I'd anticipated in my mind. The constant shuffling around and moving of my possesions from such a big home to a smaller place has been the real pain. All in all, we only spent 2 1/2 months living in the apartment. And already we've moved onward and upward.

But the most amazing piece of all of this for me is to have truly fallen to the lowest financial level I have ever been. Once the rent and bills are paid this month there is NOTHING left for food. And I am not even sure if there will be enough for all the bills. If GF hadn't been here for us I'm not sure what would have happened. I feel as though he has saved us. It is hard to describe in words how I really feel inside. To know that you have fallen to the bottom of a long and dark basement staircase. But thankfully someone helps you up, turns on the light and starts guiding you back up the stairs. We could have spent a long time in a musty, damp, dank basement. By a stroke of luck or a miracle or both, our time on the basement floor was very brief. As soon as we fell, we were picked right back up. There that describes it perfectly. To be picked up at the exact moment of hitting the bottom. That is what it feels like to me. If that isn't getting saved, I don't know what is.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Survivor

I am so glad that I went into Thanksgiving with a neutral mindset. We went to my brother's home and if I could have had it my way, would have skipped it. But my oldest wanted to go and I bit the bullet and decided to make the best of it. My family is not particularly close, something that I struggle with. And over the past months, the estrangement has been quite painful, as I've had to deal with the divorce and loss of my home. The last I spoke with my sister was in April.

Going in with a neutral frame of mind helped in that I just accepted what was going on in the here and now. I forgot the hurt and resentment I've felt and dropped the expectations about how I think a family should act. I just tried to be and all in all it was a good experience. My sister and I spoke and I hope the rift that has been between us has lifted. The entire family told me that they missed GF not being there. In fact, my brother said it was not the same without him. All were supportive about the move/marriage. My sister said good men are hard to come by and GF is a good man. We ended up calling GF and wishing him a Happy Thanksgiving. Poor GF said nothing much was open except Walmart. So he had a Hungry Man TV Dinner (chicken). He told my brother that he hopes this will be the last Thanksgiving he will have to spend alone.

Today I survived working Black Friday from 8:00 - 4:00. I gave my notice and said I am moving. So I suppose it is official to some extent.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving "Break"

I am taking the day off and purposely going to try and not think too much, process everything, figure out problems or fret about the future. I am just going to try and be - to keep my mind blank and neutral. A bit of a rest from all the turmoil swirling around my head and body. Unless they've had to grieve a terrible loss, I don't think others realize the amount of inner work going on inside our brains. There is constant motion, never ceasing. Over and over our minds say, "What if," and/or "I miss him so much," and/or "I just want my old life back" and/or "I don't think I can go on." Our inner pain seems endless because we can't turn it off. When we go to bed (if we can sleep), we sometimes end up having dreams or nightmares. We wake up thinking about our loss/losses, during the day these thoughts consume us and then at night we toss and turn in loneliness. No break. And then on top of the grieving thoughts we have to figure out how to do things we've never done before, we have to live in new and unfamiliar ways and we have to make backup plans. Talk about overloaded minds and brains!

Today I wish everyone a bit of a break and respite from the thoughts swirling around within.

And to those who will be with a grieving loved one or know one, please take a moment to see beyond the person in physical form. Recognize that there is so much going on within and take a moment to give an embrace and demonstrate some compassion, comfort and love. No words are necessary and a gesture can be as simple as bringing someone a plate of pie and coffee or gently touching their cheek or holding their hand for a moment.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Corn Pudding

In my old life before widowhood, I was one of those over-involved PTA moms. I worked part-time and spent at least 10 hours at the grade school my boys attended weekly. I worked in the library one afternoon, assisted in the classroom another, tutored reading, collated, stapled and distributed the weekly newsletter, headed the monthly food drive as well as other committees (Yearbook, Health & Safety, Fun Fair, etc.). At the holidays I coordinated the room parties and made goodie bags for all the kids. I baked my share of treats for various events (cake walk), gave the teachers generous presents and was a very visible face always willing to give a helping hand.

Flash forward to the present. My Certified Nursing Assistant Program ends this week and a party with the 32 students was planned. We were all supposed to bring a dish for a pot luck lunch. My heart wasn't in making anything. Things are just too crazy right now. I thought about picking up a nice platter of holiday cookies or brownies. But in the end tried to come up with a dish that would be very simple and quick to make. I decided on corn pudding because I associate corn with Thanksgiving and I love the dish. My huge cookbook collection never got unpacked so I went online to see what I could come up with. I found the Jiffy Corn Bread recipe for Corn Casserole and went with it because it doesn't get much simpler than that.

Jiffy Corn Casserole

1 can whole kernel corn undrained
1 can creamed style corn
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. sugar
8 oz. sour cream
Small box of Jiffy Corn Meal Muffin Mix

Mix all ingredients together. Pour in slightly greased pan or pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

I got up today at 5:00 a.m. to make this dish before class. Sadly, it was not a hit at the party. The spread, however, was wonderful since we have a group of such diversity. Many prepared dishes from their native lands. Everyone went around wanting the rest of us to try their dishes. I know many of the other students have only been in our country a short while and are struggling financially. But they really cooked enough to feed an army as they used to say. I enjoyed potato salad from Peru, grape leaves, chicken kabobs, cheese blintzes from Ukraine, egg rolls, fried rice, pot stickers, ham, salad, pizza. It was a feast and I even went back for seconds as most of us did. I was so glad I made my lowly corn casserole (or pudding as we always called it at my house) because it was a contribution. Anyway, now I am eating it for my dinner and I have to say it is pretty tasty. I should have made more of an effort to get the others to try a taste.

I also realized after having such a great time at this little party, how much I have been missing small pleasures in my life. Widowhood can be isolating and now that I am getting back into the work force, I'll have an opportunity to increase my social network. I also need to make more of an effort to get out or do more for myself. The past months have been difficult and this was a break in the storm clouds. It has never taken much to please me - I'm not a diamond ring kind of gal - for me it is all about simple pleasures. Good food, some wine, intelligent conversation and interesting friends. I needed this party in my life right now - it revived me - it was fun - I forgot about my troubles for a bit and had a good time.

My sons got a big laugh when I came home and told them no one had eaten my dish. Gone are the days when I could and would go overboard with baking, cooking, volunteering and so on. But I am glad I was able to compromise and find a balance in being able to do something, rather than nothing. I found an inexpensive and easy dish to prepare - I made the effort - I was part of the team.

More balancing - our clinical instructor told us on Sunday that we need to bring some sort of breakfast to the last class next Sunday to thank the nurses and CNAs who have worked with us. I have to say that I was a little put off by this - I always think such actions need to be presented as voluntary and not dictated. The student organizing this asked to collect $3.50 from the 10 of us. I thought about this and felt the amount was too much to ask for donuts and coffee so I gave what was affordable to me, $2.00. In the old days, BHD (Before Husband's Death) I would have just gone with the flow and put in the $3.50. But I'm not the same person I was, nor am I in the same position. And it felt good to do something on my terms for a change.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tired Inside and Out

I am so tired - exhausted is probably the more apt word. This condensed CNA training has taken its toll - I'm not as young and energetic as I once was. I'm slowing down and it is harder for me to bounce back. Grief takes it out on us physically. After class today my oldest and I worked at the storage shed. I am hoping to finish the consolidatation of two sheds into one tomorrow - FINALLY. I felt a lot of sadness while working. I need to grieve the loss of my home and living there for 19 years. I haven't really done that yet and I'm not sure how you go about grieving a house. There is the actual physical exhaustion of moving boxes, sorting and stacking. But another part of the exhaustion is the pain that comes from having had to move my belongings into storage sheds - all that has been lost. Yes, material losses but a home that represented what my life was for so long.

Am I becoming an old hand at this grief thing? I am so much more aware of the process this time around. Really seeing and knowing that the current pain is resulting in my tiredness, listlessness and wanting to just go to bed, pull up the covers and sleep.

Grief brings on tiredness inside and out. Physical and emotional depletion. Crying leading to external exhaustion. The effort of keeping it together so that internally there seems nothing left to keep me standing. That loop that keeps running over and over in my head of memories and what ifs and regrets. The more it plays, the wearier I am. I work, study, move boxes and am tired. I think and I am tired. I grieve and the tiredness consumes my being - inside and out.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fog Shrouded First Year

The first year following my husband's death is a blur. Looking back I think I existed in a bleary-eyed fog. I'm not sure how I managed to stumble through. I remember that I kept telling myself that as long as I could make it through the firsts (first holidays alone, first anniversary of death, etc.) I would be okay.

I was entitled to only three days off from my job. Isn't that utterly crazy? I recognized that this was absurd from the get go. Here I was a grieving mom needing to make funeral and memorial service arrangements on my own and then handle the complexities of the required complicated insurance and pension paperwork. I was luckily able to negotiate a month-long leave of absence. That first month was spent handling all the arrangements including those made long-distance for the funeral. My husband died October 25th. His funeral was November 1st and then the Memorial Service on November 11th. It was good to keep busy. Then I had to deal with the holiday season which had started with Halloween.

I returned to work on December 1st and had the crazy job of dealing with childcare because as a counselor my work hours (20 weekly) were in the evenings and on weekends. I remained committed to toughing it out and trying not to make any major life changes during the first year. I was also overly committed to trying to keep life as it had been for my boys, including their participation in travel baseball, which starts in January. I was the only single parent with two kids in travel - travel baseball is such a time consuming sport you need two parents just to keep up with the scheduled practices and games! It was an extremely stressful spring and summer for me but I was proud that the boys were able to participate in their beloved sport that they had shared with their Dad who had been their coach. But in reality it was very hard on me and took a lot out of me. I was exhausted. The juggling of my work hours and the boys' schedules was grueling because they traveled all over the area and even out-of-state (on separate teams).

As the summer waned, I realized that I had been so busy I hadn't taken much time for myself to grieve. Everything had been focused on the kids and trying to keep their lives as close to what had been as possible. I started to consider quitting my job and taking six to nine months off to organize my life, the finances, get some grief therapy and have an opportunity to just chill. Caring for a dying spouse over three years had been very trying. I took some time off from work during October as the year anniversary of my husband's death approached. His birthday and our wedding anniversary were in the same week.

I had been gearing up for this time all year. I thought that once that year anniversary of my husband's death had passed, like some magical wand, I'd be cured of my grief and everything would be okay again. I have no idea why I ever thought this. Because what happened was that after I made it through the first anniversary, I realized that my grief was more potent than it had been in the beginning. It was as though that fog I had been living in had cleared and suddenly I realized what I had really lost when my husband died. I also realized that as an only parent I'd gotten absolutely nothing accomplished over the year in regard to organizing my finances or handling the estate. Working and parenting had consumed me. I agonized over the decision but finally came to the difficult one that I needed to take time off for myself. My plan was to take 6-9 months off and then look for a job with daytime hours over the summer to coordinate with both boys being in middle school the upcoming fall. I left my long-time and beloved counseling job with the county at the start of that December, just a year after my husband's death.

Did I really grieve over that first year? Yes, of course. In the early weeks I would go to the various bookstores and sit on the floor in the grief section and just sob. But that period was short-lived once baseball started and life flew out from under me. I also think that that fog I was in somehow protected me from really doing the hard grief work I needed to. In a way it was protecting me because it knew I wasn't ready yet to face and handle that part of the process. But I did cry and feel sad and grieve as best I could in the way I could at that time.

That first October I was vividly aware that the new level of pain inside my soul was far deeper than what I'd been feeling during the first year when the fog was shrouding me. It was kind of like getting sucker punched - I never saw or expected it coming. I was blindsided by grief. That fog had allowed me to keep it together and going - but now I suddenly realized that I was in trouble. I needed all those casseroles that had come during the first weeks following my husband's death that we couldn't eat. Now we were all hungry and I was so grief-stricken I couldn't cook. These realizations were in part what led to my decision to take time off from working. By the time I was ready to really grieve, the world thought I should have been over it because it had been a year. It wasn't cool to be grieving anymore and people shook their heads and tut tutted.

I don't mean to scare anyone by my account of how the grief that second year was far more harder and intense than what I'd experienced the first. It is what I recall from my experience and I hope by relating it to bring a greater understanding into what the process of grief involves. It is not this predictable pattern that everyone expects. I never would have believed that it could get harder after that first year - but it did. The fog protecting me had cleared and I began to see the full extent of my loss. And that first year of only parenting had taken its toll too. It was the time that we really could have used those casseroles!

Giving Myself a Long Overdue Hug

According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, the death of a spouse is the most stressful change a person has to endure. Back in the 1960s, these psychiatrists ranked various life events and assigned them numeral correlations. The death of a spouse comes in at a whopping 100! Getting married is ranked 50. Taking out a small mortgage is 17 and so on. The main point behind this scale is that the higher score someone has, the more likely that they will be facing significant stress which can lead to serious illness, anxiety, depression and anger. To see the scale go to Wikipedia and then just search under Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

I am not surprised about the highest ranking being assigned to losing a spouse. After all, I've been there and I know what this is like. The stress just doesn't go away, say like having your computer break and then having to either get it fixed or chuck it and buy a new one. It is not a short-term life change that can be quickly dealt with. Rather, a spouse's death is so multi-dimensional and the changes that result continue for years. Talk about long-term stress!

I find it surprising that despite what these guys determined way back 40 years ago, that the world continues to overlook and dismiss the complexities related to losing one's spouse - especially, those of us who are younger and/or with children. I'm not sure why there continue to be so many sterotypes about grief and loss, such as people need to get over their grief and move on within a year period. Or the myth that you can get over grief in the first place. I also continue to struggle with how underserved this group is. Here we have had research into grief and loss that even shows that the brain undergoes chemical changes when grieving - reasons we are absentminded or forgetful, unable to concentrate. All the books and studies by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross on death and dying. While I don't totally agree with the stages of grief she developed, she brought into the forefront sociological and psychological data into what grieving really involves.

In a way it was good to see in black and white confirm what I have been living and know to be true in my heart - that the death of my spouse was the most significant life changing event I could endure save something happening to one of my children. Knowing this I need to be kinder and more gentle to myself. I need to step back and see the entire picture for what it is and what it has been. It has been a nightmare - having my soul exist in unending darkness within a world that continues to brightly shine. Maybe that sounds overdramatic but it is what I have endured. All the times I was so hard on myself for not grieving fast enough or being strong enough or making decisions that I shouldn't have made. Boy do I need to give myself a break!

I just had the silliest imagry of myself having a hand long enough to reach behind me and pet myself like I pet my cats. Giving myself a small measure of kindness and comfort. Then I had the image of part of myself breaking away from my body and giving myself a big long hug. Yes, it is sad that the world doesn't seem to understand how significant the loss of a spouse is. But I don't need the world's understanding to provide that recognition to myself. In the end that is what counts the most anyway. I get it - I know it - and from now on I am going to make more of an effort to show myself compassion and empathy I should have long ago.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fresh Air and Exercise

I am taking a break after six hours of physical labor at the storage shed. I am beat! I am almost finished moving the contents of one garage-sized space into the other. I should go back again tonight but it is dark and I am tired. It was good to be out in the fresh air exercising. Note: I should probably be doing more of it because of the mood lifting effect. But it was also a bit depressing. Just to see the entire contents of your home/life condensed within a storage/garage space. What would really be ideal would be to have the time to dig and go through everything, donate and toss as much as possible and hopefully move into a smaller space. A plan of action for the new year ahead.

When I got in with a $5.99 pizza for dinner, the boys immediately pounced on me because throughout the day the teachers at the new school had been texting them - they each got five text messages on their phones with the teachers welcoming them to their classes and saying how much they looked forward to meeting them. I sent the enrollment paperwork in mid-week because it was needed for the counselor to make up class schedules. If we end up not going, no harm done but because both schools are off the entire week of Thanksgiving I had to send it in when I did.

I'm pretty darn impressed with the reception being given to the boys. As much as I love the current high school they are at, I don't believe the teachers there would be sending text messages of welcome to new students. And our personal tour of the school was amazing! They really went out of their way to be nice to the boys. I was impressed because the school really did feel like a close knit community - I felt it while I was there. There could be worse places for the boys to be going.

I told the boys I would like to move and that money is so tight I'm worried about being able to feed them next month. My youngest told me he would go and eat at houses of his friends. My oldest said he would be willing to move after this school year. I had to tell him that I don't have the money to pay for his club volley ball payment of $450.00 due at the end of the month. Then I heard about my oldest's girlfriend and how he doesn't want to leave her. I promised to bring him back as many weekends as possible since I'll still have the storage sheds to contend with. I asked the boys to consider "trying out" the new school and going on the 30th and seeing how it is.

I am so grateful that Jude Miller commented and said the move will most likely be positive for the boys, they just don't have the ability to see it. She also mentioned that teens are usually selfish and self-serving. They are not able to see the entire picture for what it really is - that is why I still have the ability to make the final decision in all of this.

The youngest continues to be very sullen, surly and rude. He accused me of lying to him and not looking out/caring for him. I just said that my total focus has been on the boys since their Dad's death. Finally, my oldest told his brother to shut up because he was being so obnoxious. Both have now gone out for the night with the youngest telling me that it was stupid for the new track coach to text him because he will refuse to do anything at the new school if we move...

Now I am going to sit down with a book and some Cherry Almond Fudge ice cream. I picked up a carton ($2.50 on sale) for the boys. Then I added another. But I went back and got a third choosing this flavor for me. I never get cherry flavored anything because my oldest doesn't care for it. But now I am glad for this small splurge - the boys can have their Oreo and Rocky Road.

I will sleep well tonight - the whole night through without waking up. We all need to rest and sleep enough. It is essential for thinking clearly, focusing and having the strength to face whatever tomorrow brings.

Free Catch-up Day

The Big Box Store made a mistake - I'd asked for Mon. off to study for my final but they thought I'd asked for today so now I'm off the schedule with a free day. I am going to tackle the storage shed and do the best I can with this extra, unexpected "free" time. Not working doesn't help financially but is the loss of $40.00 really going to make that much of a difference at this point in the grand scheme of things?

I talked to GF last night - about my hurt feelings, his defensiveness, etc. He truly did not think he was being unkind in his remarks to me about it being a no win situation whatever I end up doing. He explained that he was trying to tell me that if I end up staying, it will not be easy and may possibly be worse. He wanted me to be sure that I understood this. Since the guy has never intentionally said anything to be mean or hurt me, I have to take him at his word on this, although it may have not been the best thing to say. We all say dumb things - I certainly have - sometimes even on purpose and we have to be able to be forgiving. It didn't help that we are on the phone and not in person. Being physically together can help avoid misunderstandings.

About his defensiveness - I think men identify with their jobs in general more than women (women may derive greater identity from our personal relationships than men for example). GF took a huge blow to his ego and pride in losing his job and not being gainfully employed for the first time in 32 years. My therapist pointed out that he is probably reacting in a way to totally protect this current job - his feelings around it are so fragile and he is so worried about losing it that he will do nothing to rock the boat at this point.

It was not fair of me to bring him into all of this by asking him to post a response on this blog. As talking on the phone can be, this blogging can only show a part of us and the situation. Of course, our lives are much more dimensional and complicated than what can be described within a post. Readers can only have that narrow view, while I have the one that is based on intimately being with and knowing this person for the past year and a half. We also bring our own prejudices and experiences into the mix and all of us are so different. That is not to say that feedback isn't good or desired.

GF has told me terms of endearment and has offered his support. He does not like being compared to Husband #2 because he doen't feel he has acted in the same way. He has never threatened to leave me if I don't move as Husband #2 did. He repeated that his home will always be welcome to me whenever I arrive there. He is as frustrated by the lack of alternatives available to us as I am. he reminded me that he has never been critical or put me down for my fiancial position (as did Husband #2). He has been accepting of the boys and more than tolerant and patient.

It is GF who has said the being together will lighten both our loads. Life would be easier for us together rather than continuing to struggle on our own - there would be a better semblance of a "normal" life for both of us and our children. Heck, we might even be a bit happy along the way.

Revelation Request

Heard this song on the way to class yesterday and ended up in tears most of the drive. It really spoke to me in a deeper way than when I've heard this in the past. I've always loved it. I'm truly on my knees praying for a revelation.

Revelation by Third Day - There is a nice video with pretty pictures of winding roads and such on You Tube - "Revelation - Third Day Worship Video With Lyrics" (From 11/21/08)

My life,
Has led me down the road that's so uncertain
Now I am left alone and I am broken,
Trying to find my way,
Trying to find the faith that's gone.

This time,
I know that You are holding all the answers
I'm tired of losing hope and taking chances,
On roads that never seem,
To be the ones that bring me home

Give me a revelation
Show me what to do
Cause I've been trying to find my way,
I haven't got a clue
Tell me should I stay here
Or do I need to move
Give me a revelation
I've got nothing without You
I've got nothing without You

My life,
Has led me down this path that's ever winding
Through every twist and turn I'm always finding,
That I am lost again
Tell me when this road will ever end

Give me a revelation,
Show me what to do
Cause I've been trying to find my way
I haven't got a clue
Tell me should I stay here
Or do I need to move
Give me a revelation
I've got nothing without

I don't know where I can turn
Tell me when will I learn
Won't You show me where to go
Oh, let me follow Your lead,
I know that it's the only way I can get back home

Give me a revelation,
Show me what to do
Cause I've been trying to find my way
I haven't got a clue
Tell me should I stay here
or do I need to move
Give me a revelation
I've got nothing without You...

Oh, Give me a revelation...

Bottom of the Barrel

If I have learned anything about grief and loss it is that life can be out of our control at times. Yes, we can control some things - but not everything, no matter how much we try or want the outcome to be. Life doesn't always flow according to our plans or desires. We remarry and have faith again in the future. But all the faith and love in our heart amounts to nothing when our partner refuses to consider reconciling and proceeds ahead with a divorce. We hope to meet a partner healthy enough to love and share our life with. We find one but the relationship takes a turn because of a blasted Recession and the need to move to relocate for employment. So in the end, all we are able to control is our reaction to these events - we can't change how someone feels about us - we can't hope and wish that someone hasn't been forced to move for employment. As much as we love and need someone, when they are dying we can't save them.

I am not a person who gets on well on my own. I thrive on living in a partnership and do not want to trod through the rest of my life alone. I have wanted to be remarried and will continue to want this. Of course that doesn't mean I am just going to get remarried for the sake of being married. I married Husband #2 because I truly loved him and thought it would be a successful partnership. Likewise, my decision to be with GF would have to pass the same criteria.

The thought of having to live by myself and get the boys through high school and then college on my own seems insurmountable to me right now. We are at the bottom of the barrel. I am at a place of having to start over virtually from scratch. Thoughts of eviction, not being able to pay the rent, not having enough money for food, the urgency I face in having to find work are worries and anxiety that now appear endless.

There are no perfect men out there. Husband #1 wasn't a God. We had our problems in our marriage - at one point very early on I even considered divorce. I've gone on after a devastating remarriage and divorce to meet another guy with whom I've gotten along very well. Despite numerous kinks in the road we've managed to hang in there and grow. Our relationship has demonstrated far more more tolerance and commitment than what was experienced in my second marriage. We are both starting over. Certainly not the most ideal circumstances in which to marry or move in together. But I've come to believe is there ever a good time? Who knows what is ahead for any of us. All I know is what I have right now and the picture in my head is grim.

Being able to share life including the burdens and better times is what it is all about for me. That is when I feel alive and am happy. I haven't been very "happy" since my husband's death. There have been little snippets of happiness but overall, when life is a constant grueling grind that is what you end up feeling - defeated, lonely, alone, sad, uninspired, hopeless. How can anyone keep on going with faith in their heart when that is the underlying feeling? The smiles and laughter are fleeting because the scale is unbalanced. When there is more hardship than anything else that is what permeates your feelings and ultimately influences your outlook on the present and future. The bad stuff has more power and it wins the match.

There has been too much hardship in my life of late. Maybe if my path had been different I'd feel stronger or more empowered. But right now I seem to have reached my personal limit as to what I am able to continue to handle on my own. Marriage isn't some instant cure all or easy street. I know that and accept it. But working together and having someone by your side to face life with makes a tremendous difference in the day-to-day quality of it.

What is going to be served by me continuing to suffer so? Is my health and sanity less important than my oldest continuing to play volley ball the next two years?

Is it better to admit defeat graciously and take the option/solution offered even though it isn't ideal? Or is it better to keep struggling to try and ensure a status quo for your kids when doing so appears impossible at the moment? What if I just can't do this anymore? Does that make me a bad mother, a bad person?

To have to balance emotional and social needs against the ones that are ultimately most important and basic - a roof over one's home and food on the table. I cannot currently provide dental care for my children; I am pretty sure I will need to cancel the health insurance at the end of this month; it will be the second Christmas in a row that I am unable to afford gifts for the boys; there isn't enough money left over from the pension for food - whatever I am able to buy comes from the hours I work at the big box store that are not constant or reliable.

I have to think of all the outcomes and potential realities. What if one of the cars or both break down? How will I afford the repairs? What if we cannot pay the rent? Where will we go and what will we do? Would that experience be better for my sons than having to move and at least have a home, medical/dental care and enough food and clothing? Forget the Christmas gifts - I just want to have the mere basics here - all that Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs stuff. You can't live without the basics of food, water, feeling protected and shelter. Take it from one who knows and has been there - all of your focus is on surviving and there is nothing left for living and joy. I know in my heart that this isn't the way - we are meant to experience joy and happiness too. Hopefully our lives balance between the hardships and joys.

What does my poor, sad story mean or amount to anyway? The world goes on without stopping or seeing. I am just an insignificant blip on the bigger screen. Today people will be more focused on Oprah's announcement concerning the last airing of her talk show than the fate of our little trio. Our plight is invisible and even if it were more apparent, I'm not sure it would matter. When you are alone like this is is up to you to take the reigns and find the way. It is only you - even when you have reached your personal limit and can't go on any longer.

So, after all these random thoughts, reflections and musings what have I really wanted to say from all this - what is brimming from my heart? It is this - the utter pain at not being able to adequately provide for my children is slowly killing me. There is no greater pain that anyone can feel. You could add up all the grief and loss I have experienced from the death of my husband, then the divorce, followed by losing my house and it would not come close to the depths of pain I am now feeling. And secondly, it has not been the grief from death or divorce that has crushed me. It has been having to face and live life on my own. Some of us do not have the personalities or stamina to do this well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Burdened by Burdens

A big reason I started to post and continue to do so was to illustrate the life of a widow burdened by burdens in addition to grief after the death of a spouse - financial hardship, divorce after widowhood, lack of family support, illness and the death of other family members, having to move from one's long-time suburban home into a box (apartment), losing one's socioeconomic status and having to continue to raise children as an only parent, as well as weather the storms of daily life (big thunderstorms and milder sprinkles).

I've experienced a slew of losses in a small amount of time and it has been very difficult for me to pick up the pieces and get my feet back on the ground. I have struggled. It would have been hard enough to just have been a widow. Most of the losses that followed my husband's death were flukes of timing and circumstances - all the events involving my parents' illnesses, my Mom's eventual death and the selling of their home. To add insult to injury, just a week after my Mom's death a high level tornado stormed by my home and I was left with extensive yard damage to clean up. I mention that incident because the past six years it has been like that. One crazy thing happening directly after another. One hard situation would end to only be replaced by another. Let me tell you, it is not easy to focus on a ravaged yard when you're grieving your Mom on your own as a relatively new widow yourself.

I wanted to convey that for some of us, the losses coming after the first strike of death were far more difficult to survive.

I wanted to depict that life is fragile - one moment you can be a middle-class suburban soccer mom living a comfortable lifestyle to wake up the next day and have that familiar reality ripped from you.

I wanted to grapple with the reality of life not being fair - that you can be a good, kind, decent person and still have to face more hardship than what others seem to have to face.

I wanted to tell my story to prove that for some of us struck by poverty, it is not because we're uneducated, drug using criminals. Some of us are intelligent with even advanced degrees. But we're struck down by ill-timed circumstances and flukes of fate.

I hoped to illustrate discrepancies in our country's social services network that is supposed to help our citizens in need. I've related having to go to a food bank and apply for services such as food stamps and my state's health insurance program. Problem is, I am not eligible for any services. The economic criteria used to calculate assistance is out-of-date and no longer applicable. It is a pretty hard pill to swallow to live in the greatest nation in the world and to have fallen on hard times. Because there are some of us who will slip through the cracks and not receive assistance. The state considers my pension of $2,200.00 monthly too much to qualify for any kind of benefit. Yet, I think most of us can plainly recognize that this amount is not enough for one person, let alone three to live on. After not being able to find full-time work in my field because I've been out of the work force, as well as the Recession, I've had to go back to school just to be able to get my foot in the door and get a job with benefits.

I hoped that in maybe sharing my story, readers would ultimately be less judgmental toward others, in particular those in financial crisis.

I hoped to show that grief and loss is so far reaching. It can start out as a single domino and quickly crescendo out of control as the others in the row start toppling.

And more than anything, I wanted to share that going on living as a widow, on one's own can be the most difficult challenge to have to face. It is kind of like a never-ending circle. You're facing hardship because of the loss but then you have even more made harder because you're on your own. It just keeps going on and on and the dominoes continue to fall.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Too Heavy a Load

Today my CNA instructor made a passing comment to me at the end of the day that I always look so uptight. I did not disagree with her, just replied that I have a lot on my mind right now.

My oldest has flatly refused to move to "that rural, hick town" and he will "find" someone here to live with.

I have received estimates from two moving companies and one of those POD storage/delivery container companies. The $2,300.00 moving company estimate is not affordable for us. The POD container is about $1,000.00 but I'd need to do all the packing and loading on my own. Also, I'm not sure my apartment complex will let me have one of the containers in the parking lot.

GF reminded me again this afternoon that he will not be able to assist with the move financially or physically. When I told him that we cannot afford the moving charges, he ominously replied that I cannot afford to move but if I don't move I risk losing everything when they put my belongings out on the street because I get evicted. I got pretty upset with him, asking what does he expect me to do? He does not want to ask for time off because he is new to the job. Then he said he has been working seven days in a row (as am I, as well as going to school and parenting). He will not charge a portion of the moving expenses on his credit card becasue he wants to keep an available credit line open in case he needs to pay for something for his home here in Illinois since it is supposed to be rented out in Dec. To me it sure seems as he isn't really that keen on having us move with him or he'd be demonstrating his support in some way/any way!

I suggested for example that he come on whatever day he has off in the near future with one of those trucks from BUDGET and we'd do the moving ourselves. He got out of that by saying he dosn't know when his next day off will be because the holidays are coming and he is in training.

GF said that maybe in a few months when he has received some paychecks he can help me. Gee, I thought we were supposed to get married. To me that means working together on solutions instead of making someone feel as thought they're handling and bearing all of the load. After school today I faxed the potential new school the enrollment forms so at least they can draft up schedules since both schools are off the entire week of Thanksgiving. But at this point who even knows what is going on.

I have fantasy visions of taking an entire bottle of Zanax (that is how high my tension feels right now) but I'm not even sure that would reduce the anxiety and fear I am feeling

Picked up my youngest from track practice and was met with the usual surliness and "You're a douche bag" insults. I'm pretty fed up with that. Basically a day where I've taken it from all ends while still trying to hang in there. But I do feel a bit resentful over what I perceive as doing ALL the work and trying to move toward a better life for all of us. And that includes the boys even though they might not realize that, as well as GF.

Today I am grateful for:

1. Chili Mac
2. Christmas decorations going up
3. The Salvation Army Bell ringing
4. Bright colored gloves
5. Scarves, scarves, scarves! I love them all year but can finally really wear them now!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Poor Poor Pitiful Me

I was on the phone on hold and heard the Linda Ronstadt version of this song. I really liked the chorus: "Poor, poor, pitiful me, Poor. poor, pitiful me, Lord have mercy on me, Woe is me, Woe is me." Pretty appropriate for my life right now. I was on the line trying to find someone to work for me next Mon. which is the review for my Certified Nursing Assistant program final exam. I really can't miss that but am scheduled to work 9-3. So I have to find someone to work this shift. I'm still waiting to see if someone can pick it up for me out of the people working tonight.

This week I am working every day I'm not at class or at clinical. My job is tiring because I am on my feet all day. Somehow I need to squeeze in studying and caring for the boys. This Sat. I didn't get to sleep until 1:30 a.m. because I'd worked until 11 and didn't get home until almost midnight. I only got 3 hours of sleep because I had to get up at 4:30 to work my clinical hours which started at 6:45.

On top of all this I am trying to figure out how I can move the boys and I, 200 miles out of state by Nov. 30th without any physical or financial help from GF. So this afternoon after work spent some time on the phone getting moving estimates. It is not looking good. Estimates are coming in at $2,000.00, which I cannot afford. On the phone with GF today, I asked him what does he expect me to do here? We both have no money, although he still has a house that will be rented out hopefully in Dec. - although the rental income will need to go toward the mortgage. He just started a new job and hasn't even received his first paycheck. He does not want to cash in his 401K until Jan. to avoid the $3,000.00 penalty. GF's work days off are Tue. and Thur. and next Thur. is Thanksgiving.

Okay I understand all that. But again, really what am I supposed to do here? If you want me to move with the boys I have to have some help. It is so hard to keep figuring all of this out on my own. I am struggling to study, work and parent on my own. I am tired, functioning on little sleep and have to waste my time trying to get someone to work my hours at a job that has pretty much been more trouble than it has been worth.

I am trying to brainstorm - should I just put all the furniture and my belongings in another storage shed and get them moved when finances improve? Should GF rent a truck and the two of us with the boys try to move on our own as I did with him two weekends ago? Do I tell him that he has to help me, I just can't handle/figure this out on my own? Can I demand that of someone? Is it too much to ask?

On the phone he told me that he doesn't know what to do either but together we will work it out. That sounded pretty good to me but it still doesn't solve the logistics of this situation. He added that once I've moved things will improve financially but if I stay, I face eviction if I can't make my rent which is pretty scary for me. At least we'll have a roof over our heads if we move.

But we just can't fly there like fairies and I don't think it is fair for me to just up and depart, leaving an apartment full of our personal belongings. So we need a plan and help and support.
Poor, poor, pitiful me. Lord have mercy on me. Woe is me.

Today I am taking a break from my grateful list to study.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reality Check

GF jokingly told me today to take a break from blogging since life is pretty hectic. Then he added that my posts have been pretty depressing lately and maybe I should try being a bit more positive. He was half serious and wasn't being mean - I got a huge laugh out of it. But hello, this is a grief blog. I would hope those checking in know that from the get go and aren't expecting cheeriness, right?

I think the whole point of blogging is to be real and honest. And for some of us, this place we have created is one of the few where we can let it all hang out without feeling guilty or having to pretend something that isn't.

Yes, I am sad right now. The prospect of moving while offering a new beginning is still a huge loss for my sons and I. We have already been through the wringer in having to navigate unexpected change. Staying in a familiar and well-loved environment has been the one constant we have been able to hang onto over the past years.

Moving for me would mean that I would finally have to admit that my life didn't turn out as planned. Never in a million years when I married 18 years ago, did I ever have the thought that 12 years into my marriage, I would be a widow at age 44 with two school-aged children. Somehow keeping the boys here in this community has been a way of making some of the life I thought I'd live still be a reality. Maybe that has all been an exercise in futility?

Today I am grateful for:

1. Tater tots - what a creative idea!
2. Those mini pizza egg roll things my sons like and I also used to love as a kid. Another great idea.
3. The Burger King Angry Whopper. While I don't eat beef or burgers, I still give credit for a unique marketing idea.
4. Ice cream sandwiches. Another cool product!
5. That old standby of grilled cheese and tomato soup. As long as you have bread, cheese and a can of soup in the pantry, there will always be a guaranteed decent lunch or dinner!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Marriage Reflections

Yesterday while we were with GF (for purposes of this post I will refer to him as Saul), he did something that was so perfectly HIM and what he would do I pointed it out and called it a "Saulism." He agreed with me that his buying three different burritos at the same time when he went in to get dinner was exactly something he'd do. We both laughed and appreciated his measure to save time by buying enough at once to take home and have for other meals/leftovers. I am glad that GF and I have reached the point where I know him well enough to predict what he'd order off the menu or how he'd react to a certain situation. To have gotten to the point where I recognize his quirks and accept them instead of being annoyed by them. This got me to also reflect on what I really valued about marriage to Husband #1 which was the commitment part through thick and thin. There were a number of times in my marriage where I could have thrown in the towel but I didn't. We hung in there and made it to the other side. It was worth that effort not only for the boys but ourselves as well.

When I first started to date after my husband's death, I heard from others how exciting it would be to go through the butterflies and anticipation of getting to know someone again. I actually dreaded that part of the process and if I could have would have fast-forwarded to skip it all. Having been married and survived many challenges within my marriage, all that new dating stuff just seemed like a lot of "fluff" to me. I wanted the substance of really knowing someone. So well that when the doctor comes to you asking what your husband's wishes for treatment would be, you know exactly what they are and feel comfortable relating that to the doctor. It is because you know that person intimately and have lived with them through the challenges as well as the good times.

I resisted dating and getting back out there because I wanted to go right to the solid predictability of what I'd had in my marriage. But of course, we all know that to get to that point you have to go through the early stuff so eventually I started to date because I was lonely and didn't want to be alone. And to be fully honest, I also missed the physical intimacy and sex. My husband was ill for a number of years and during that time sex was a pretty low priority for us. I regretted that after going a few years without any. I promised myself that in the future I'd never take a single sexual encounter for granted again.

It is difficult to date when you have kids and are an only parent. There are no alternating weekends off. So when I met the man who became my second husband and we seemed to get along well, I threw in the towel and stuck with him. I didn't date anyone else and married very quickly, I suppose in a way to cement the intimacy and connection I so much wanted. But a pairing between a widowed mom devoted to her children and a never-married 50-year-old man with very limited relationship experience was not a good fit. He wanted the excitement of the new relationship and I wanted the stability and security of the humdrum married life. I was willing to work through thick and thin. He wanted to be in control because he'd always been able to be. And there were issues between divided loyalty between a husband and the fatherless children from the previous marriage. Husband #2 often said he felt he was in competition with my late husband as well as my boys.

I just wanted my old life back - that of a middle-aged suburban soccer mom. And when given the chance tried to recreate what probably couldn't be, at least with the man I married. I try to limit what I post about Husband #2 out of respect for GF who reads this blog. I still feel tremedous betrayal and hurt over my divorce, although the shock has diminished. It sometimes amazes me that after such loss (a husband dying and the new one divorcing me so quickly) that I could ever experience feelings of love and romance again. But somehow life has gone on and a good, decent, kind guy has hung in there by my side for long enough a time to surpass the honeymoon period to get to that point that means the most to me - knowing someone more deeply and imtimately. This is what matters and is most important. To be able to nod one's head knowingly and smile because your significant other did something you can see him doing. And it is cute and funny and a good thing to have reached that place again.

Taking the Long Way

Some of my intent in posting is to convey to others (especially those who haven't experienced significant grief) exactly how much it impacts you - to your inner core and being. You are never the same in significant and minor ways.

For instance, after my husband died I drove differently. I was deeply aware of the responsibility I faced as being the sole driver for youngsters. I was also worried about getting stranded on the side of the road and having no one to "rescue" me. And worried about getting into a car crash, even a minor fender bender. Nor did I want a ticket because that meant rising insurance rates and the whole nine yards. Hence, I became somewhat of a little old lady driver. I'd always been a cautious driver, but after my husband died I became more so. I also was very worried about drinking and driving and for a long time never even allowed myself the luxury of a single glass of wine if I was out and about driving. I think this is similar to willing yourself not to get sick because you just can't, which is another mindset I've had to practice.

There was a part of me too that resented having to be the sole driver all the time. My husband had preferred driving and through the years I'd had no problem being in the passenger seat. I could knit and sight see. But driving takes on another meaning when you're the only one doing it and also having to handle all the maintenance and gas pumping too! I won't even mention the scraping and snow shoveling in winter...

Back to driving - if you live in the greater Chicago area you have to deal with the intricate and confusing maze of highways. But I became leery of fast four lane roads. So with the boys in travel baseball, resorted to finding alternate routes whenever possible. While their teammates raced along on highways (with dads in the driver seats), I took the local route - a two-lane highway instead of four or six. One with stop signs and stop lights instead of tolls. And generally I'd get to the same destination only 15 or 30 minutes later. That added padding of time gave me security and peace of mind.

I became proficient at reading maps and better with my sense of direction than I'd ever been. And so it has continued up to today. My oldest is at a volleyball tournament and I have to go to work in the evening. We used Mapquest and found another way to go on a less busy highway. And I have a greater measure of peace as he is out today. I wish it was me driving and I wish I could see my son play. These are sacrifices most intact families don't have to face. Even if I'd had to work, if my husband was still alive he'd have been able to attend the tournament.

Kind Gestures

I ran up a nice older gentleman and his wife the other day at the big box store. He left the counter before his wife paid telling her, "I'll go get the car and pull it up front for you." My keen ears picked this up and I was touched by his thoughtfulness. He was looking out for his wife and showing her his concern in a small but significant way. While touched, I also compared myself to this couple and felt the sting of not having had much of that thoughtfulness come my way, even in the face of grief and multiple losses.

I miss those random acts of kindness you receive unasked from a spouse. And I miss the favors given because you've requested them. I know that I relied on my husband for much of my emotional support because my family is not close. Since my Mom has died, I feel such a void in my life. As though there really isn't anyone besides my sons and recently GF who would care if something happened to me.

Those little acts of caring really add up and an absence of them over time takes its toll. It is certainly one of the reasons I am strongly considering remarriage. It is tough going on one's own for me. Maybe a more independent woman or one with very supportive family might think differently. But the way I am made up, I need to hear frequent terms of endearment and to have someone display care and concern like the nice man shopping at my store. I am sure he thought nothing of his actions - it was probably second nature to him. But I heard and saw him and put in a good word for him with the Universe.

Note to others, especially those who know someone who is dealing with grief/loss: It doesn't take much to zip off a quick email to someone telling them you're thinking of them and are concerned. Or offer to do some small chore or errand, even as simple as picking up some groceries or milk. Better yet - just do something/anything. Showing up with chocolate, soup or a seasonal pie for instance. Dropping off a coffee or walking someone to their car. Maybe next time the checker asks me if I want assistance with my grocery bags I'll say "yes" just to have someone help me, even if in this instance it is part of their job!

We all need to feel as though someone cares. We all need to have kindness shown toward us. We need to know that we matter and that once in a while someone will lighten our loads or pull the car up so we don't have to walk through a crowed parking lot. Not a whole lot - but it doesn't take a lot. Just small, frequent gestures.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the fabulous warm and sunny weather.
2. For the kindness and interest shown to us yesterday at the high school in GF's town.
3. For the kindness and support that comes my way through these posts.
4. For Mapquest.
5. For the softened hearts and moods that most people adopt through the upcoming holiday season - something to look forward to.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Behind and Ahead

"Although there are many things behind us, some of them wretched and sad and painful, there's also so much ahead of us, so much to look forward to, so much yet to come."

I read these words last night before going to sleep from a new book I started, "Man and Wife" by Tony Parsons. I was so struck by them I repeated them over and over. I was in particular moved by the words "wretched, sad and painful" because I think they so aptly describe my husband's death, the years that followed and then my divorce.

I was reading out loud to GF and told him if we marry I would like these words as part of our vows. In fact, these words are from the section when the main character is getting married himself. GF and I both have our losses. We are not starting out fresh, bright and new like a shiny penny. Believe me, I see us more as a dull and scraped coin. But that part about so much ahead to look forward to, so much to come. A perfect description of the reality of what has been but what remains open to the future. I just love this sentence! It says it all. The reality of the past and the hope for tomorrow. Maybe those two old coins can be shined up a bit and smoothed over.

Fork in the Road

I took my boys out of school today to visit the town, house and school where GF now lives. We left yesterday right after school and survived the four-hour drive in the dark. It was exceptionally nice to sleep with GF last night - just to be in the same bed with him and to be able to sleep the whole night through. I derive a lot of comfort out of that. Basically, it was worth the entire trip just for that aspect. I have only rarely spent the night with him because of not wanting to leave the boys home alone. So to have all of us under the same roof, safe and together was very comforting.

The tour at the school lasted three hours. They couldn't have been nicer. ALL the coaches met the boys, plus the activities director and the band teacher, who it ends up knows my son's current band teacher. He said he was going to call him this afternoon to say he'd met my son! They just really rolled out the red carpet for the boys and were practically drooling with the hope that the boys would play football and baseball. I liked how the football coach honestly described the school. He said they are located in a decent blue collar community so the test scores may not be the best but the teachers really work with the students and the school functions as a very strong community. I really sensed that during the tour.

That honest description of the town impresses me. Since my husband's death I've become so much more down-to-earth and less materialistic. Give me a straight up blue collar guy anyday over a stuck-up more wealthy professional. I've had the later with Husband #2 and where did that get me? Just more poor and miserable in the end!

The boys were very polite (thank God) but afterward compalined that they did not see "one hot chick" and that "everyone looks EMO." They have eyes and are observant so they did acknowledge that the town is blue collar. It is a rural farming community but GF's HOUSE is just five minutes from his job and the school is only two blocks away. There is no traffic. It is quiet. There are all the comforts of home - Super Target, Walmart, KFC, Taco Bell. It is not like we would be in the boon docks. Part of me thought about living in such a quiet place with no need to rush about frantically. That was nice, as was thinking about GF coming home to us and me being able to prepare a nice dinner for all of us...

Because of the school's grading period, they would prefer the boys start at the end of the month. If not, they would need to start in March. I finally got up the courage to ask GF if we waited would HE wait for me/us. He said yes but that he is not sure I can make it financially until spring. He has never pushed me to move or threated to leave me if I don't (unlike Husband #2). He reiterates that he hopes I will do so because it will be a better life for all of us. He admits that he knows it will be hard to move.

I did a fair amount of crying on this trip. Tears of tiredness and fear. I spoke to the boys about our difficult financial situation. I told them that I am losing the ability to keep this way of life up on my own.

All these years I have struggled to keep the boys grounded and in this same community and school. Some of it is because I have wanted to make them feel happy, safe and secure. I have wanted to make up for their having lost their Dad to death. I have wanted to protect them from further pain and loss. Only now I am beginning to realize that I can't continue to mount this battle to protect them because in reality I can't fully protect them. And I am realizing that I don't want to keep going on like this - I don't want to keep GF waiting. Maybe I'll protect the boys from loss and pain awhile longer but at what price to my own health and sanity? And even if we reamin living here, there will be difficulties the boys will feel. We'll continue to limp along financially. It is trading some losses for others.

We were given a truly crummy hand with all of this. But I've reached a point where I've been given an alternative. GF reminded me of that offer again today before we left - his willingness to marry and become a family. I so deeply wish that the three of us did not have to travel on this road. I wish my husband had never died. I wish Husband #2 hadn't divorced me. But that not being the case, I have to face this new juncture from where I am standing. This is a new fork in the road. It leads to a new state, a new high school, a new life, a man there for all of us and in bed with me when it is cold and dark. I have never had the strength or courage to travel down the new road before. Maybe this roadtrip has been the first step in that journey.

Today I am grateful for:

1. The warn, clear weather.
2. Walgreen's drug stores (my favorite store since you can buy anything and everything there).
3. Rolling corn fields.
4. The smell of freshly overturned dirt from the corn fields.
5. Panera.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Widows with Capes (Superwomen)

I didn't post last night because the computer was needed for homework and by the time it was free I was just too beat. Going back to school for this short certificate program has given me a reality check as to what it will be like to return to the work force full-time. Honestly, I don't know how only parents do it. Even with my boys being older there are logistical problems to navigate. My oldest has a volley ball tournament some distance away on Sat. I have to attend a mandatory all- staff meeting at the big box store from 7-9 a.m. to review the holiday selling strategy. I attended one of these for the bridal selling period and then for college and back-to-school shopping and found them pointless. A lot of rah rah stuff and help the customer blah blah blah but as a cashier I pretty much just ring up whatever the customers bring me. I resent having to attend these meetings at such hours because I have to return to work my shift in the evening. In the meantime, I have to figure out how to get my son to the tournament that starts in the afternoon. And how he'll get home since we're not sure when his team will end playing. Then I have to worry about the youngest running around. I would feel so much better to have an adult at home or near home in case of an emergency or just to be there for a sense of security.

I am anticipating taking the boys to see GF and the town and school leaving tomorrow night and returning Fri. There won't be any other time to do so since I work Sat., have clinical Sun. and need to be at school next week for the final exam review. And if I miss a class I need to go to the night class to make it up - much better to just go as scheduled. But in any case, here is where the superwoman expectations come in. Lets say I decided to move right away and get married and enroll the boys in the new school. They would need to ideally start the new school's next term on Nov. 30th. In the meantime, I'd need to get a moving estimate, pack up the apt. which has never been fully unpacked, keep studying for the final, complete the clinical hours, finish consoliating two of the storage shed units, work at the big box store unless I just quit without any notice, deal with teen boys who don't want to move, keep making dinner and parenting... YIKES!

I hate to be a complainer or always negative but all of this is for me right now an awful lot to handle and accomplish. I think for so many only parents, widows and widowers that we are often thrust into having to handle too much for our plates to hold because of the untimely deaths of our spouses. It is hard - it is grueling - it is frustrating - it is depleting - it is depressing. I know I've posted on this topic before pointing out that in addition to having to do too much physically, there is the emotional component of coping without a spouse's support and handling all of this on less rest than others because we are still dealing with the ONGOING physical depletion of grieving and loss.

GF mentioned to me last night that he has to deal with "problems" too. His son got a 99% on his multiplication test but a 0% on his division test. I wish that was the extent of what I had to worry about right now!

Today I am grateful:

1. For the beautiful red and gold leaves still on some of the trees that I saw today.
2. For the warm temperature.
3. For the sun and lack of rain.
4. Animal crackers.
5. A full gas tank even though it cost $46.00 to fill (usually I only put in $20.00 at a time).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Communication and Love

I finished the biography I was reading on the great magician, Harry Houdini last night. All in all a very satisfying read - I don't usually read biographies but picked this one up a couple years ago because it grabbed my attention and was reduced to $6.99. There were a number of aspects about the book from a historical perspective that I found very interesting and relating to grief.

Back in the period of 1900 -1930, there was a huge following of the Spiritualist movement. This was actually practiced as a religion which believed in the occult, ghosts and other unexplained mysteries. Mediums who contacted the dead were very popular and 250 alone were working in Chicago. This group was well organized throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. Houdini had worked as a fraudulent medium in his early days and knew all the tricks of the trade. It became his mission in his later years to attempt to expose the Spiritualist movement and destroy it. He sincerely believed that the people who profited from their work as phony mediums were taking advantage of those most suffering and in pain - the grief stricken.

Houdini and various scientists (some from Harvard) worked to expose the tricks of the Spiritualist leaders and mediums. It was not easy since there were so many sincere believers. The movement gained momentum after World War I when grief stricken families attempted to come to terms with the loss of so many young men killed.

Although Houdini knew the Spiritualist movement was a sham, he wanted to believe that the dead could communicate with the living. He spent his life trying to prove that such communication existed and died without doing so. In other words, he had a very open mind and hope.

I have never heard of the Spiritualist movement. It was an interesting piece of history for me to learn. I thought of the thousands of families grieving for the death of their young men after World War I and cannot imagine what that was like for our nation at that time. There must have been a sort of collective grief and mourning that existed. I think of how those families are no different than all of us today just wanting one final word from our deceased loved ones. Basically to know that they are okay and happy. To tell them one last time that we love them. Those points keep coming back to me over and over again - communication and love. That is what matters most. I wonder for many of us, if our grief would be somewhat lessened if we did receive a message from beyond reassuring and soothing us.

So many of us did not have an opportunity to say goodbye and I think that this haunts us. I know it does for me since my husband was in a coma for two weeks - with it one moment and the next unconscious and unable to breathe on his own. I can also relate this to my divorce and why that became so devastating to me. Husband #2 did not want to and refused to communicate with me. His refusal to say goodbye to me after our mediation session was especially painful. Saying goodbye is essential for closure and not being able to do so leaves such a huge gap open of unresolved words, feelings and emotions.

Today I am grateful:

1. For another amazing fall day.
2. For those cool State quarters designed to celebrate our great nation.
3. For beautiful postage stamps that are little works of art.
4. For all the symbols of our country - the flag, eagle, White House, Liberty Bell, buffalo, cowboys, pioneers, Pilgrims...
5. For libraries.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Miracle Fast Food Free Week!

Note : This was supposed to post from a draft on Mon. 11/9 but it is coming up the date that I started to write and then saved it (11/7). I'm trying to get through the month with a post a day so this needs to count for Mon. the 9th.

My goal last week was to get through it without resorting to takeout or drive through window stuff. I am proud to say I made it, although one son turned his nose up at the soup and the other the French toast. I have also made it through the first two full weeks of my Certified Nursing Assistant class - only three left to go. I am still mentally and physically drained. I am off this a.m. to a six-hour shift at the Big Box store and need to catch up on reading and studying tonight. At least I know that there are dinner fixings here (tacos) and my having survived the past weeks is giving me some sense of encouragement and optimism. I am trying to figure out how I can take the boys to see the town and house GF has to moved to as well as to tour the school. I'm debating taking them out of school on Fri. but am up against volleyball practice on Thur. night and the BIG football game Fri. night. If we don't leave until after VB practice, we won't get into the town until 2 a.m. on Fri. and I'm not sure that is productive. I asked my son if he could just go to half the practice but what would be optimal is us leaving right after school on Thur. If he misses the practice he won't start in his game on Saturday - maybe that is just the consequence that has to be accepted. For now, I told him that we'd both still have some time to mull it all over.

A week's worth of cheap eating at home - maybe the first time this has happened in a year?

11/1 Sun - refrigerated soup from the deli in French bread bowls, carrots & dip

11/2 Mon - spaghetti & Italian turkey meatballs, mixed veggies (California style), Texas cheese toast

11/3 Tue - French toast, canned peaches, hash brown patties, sausage links

11/4 Wed - turkey hot dogs w/canned turkey chili on top & cheese, chips & dip, corn

11/5 Thur. - turkey meatloaf (defrosted & microwaved), cheesy rice, carrots, toast

11/6 Fri - $5.99 bargain pizza (half cheese/half green pepper)

11/7 Sat - Chili topped w/cheese, sour cream & oyster crackers, left over pizza

Deserts this week - Pumpkin pie ($2.50) w/whipped topping & mint chocolate chip ice cream with leftover double chocolate pudding ring cake

Today I am grateful:

1. That there are no Ramen noodles on the menu last week (at least we haven't resorted to that yet).
2. That I feel somewhat more rested because I am forcing myself to lie down, nap or go to bed as early as I can - I refuse to exert myself beyond its limits anymore - I just can't do that now as I did when I was younger.
3. For the compliment the boys' guidance counselor gave me - that the boys are respectful, good kids with their head's on straight and most importantly that they have high values/morals.
4. That it is going to be warmer weather this week - that is such a huge thing for me - scraping the ice off the windshield and all that stuff is something I dread.
5. Hair Dryers - I've used one practically every day for the past 35 years! They need to be acknowledged!

It's Okay to be Sad

Yesterday, I spent the majority of the day at the storage sheds, moving items from one into the one I just cleaned and organized. By day's end, I was utterly physically exhausted and also depressed. It was long, tedious work and during the process, I just kept seeing all my pretty things in such a cramped and ugly setting. Pretty things aren't so pretty anymore when they're stacked up in a concrete, cold, garage. I thought a lot about moving from our home and that brought on feelings of sadness.

The day's work was in such contrast to the actual day. Very breezy but warmer and sunnier than what we have had. I certainly did not want to be breaking my back on such a rare late autumn day - but first things first. You have to do what needs to get done. Afterward, there was grocery shopping, monitoring the boys as they went out and doing laundry. I felt out of it and so tired I could barely stand.

This morning my low feelings continue. I have to work the afternoon until 8:00 p.m., which I am not looking forward to because I still cannot wear a closed shoe comfortably on my right foot. But really, I just don't want to go. I want to play hooky and have a few hours to myself to think, reflect and contemplate a move and marriage. And to have time to not think, reflect and contemplate all that.

I woke up before 6:00 to get my son off to his club volleyball tournament and then did the homework for my clinical tomorrow. Laundry is being done and I'll make chili for the boys to have for dinner. As I do all this I've been fighting my sadness but then thought why shouldn't I be sad right now? Working on the storage sheds probably triggered it but there are other reasons to be sad too - lack of free time, being tired, juggling only parenting with a job and school, worrying about finances and figuring out what is best for all of us in regard to moving. And there is still that remaining undercurrent about my husband's death and the divorce. Today I just told myself that it is okay to feel sad - even with it being another nice late autumn day (a rarity).

Today I am grateful for:

1. The fine fall day.
2. That I found my son's extra pair of volleyball shorts in the dryer from last night where they'd been left (good thing I did another load of laundry in the morning).
3. Having a storage shed to put my belongings in that don't fit into the apartment.
4. That I have extra belongings to put into a storage shed.
5. That I can walk despite having had a box fall on my foot.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dinner Around the Kitchen Table

I am feeling utterly drained. I don't think I've restored myself from helping Guyfriend (GF) move last weekend. Going to school four days a week is more tiring than I expected. There is homework and tests to study for, as well as reading. I am finding that my mind works more slowly than it did some years ago - or maybe the fatigue has a contibuting factor.

The drive to school is about an hour each way - lots of time to think and reflect. Especially on the situation of moving and marriage. I am wondering if all that reflection is also adding to my feelings of exhaustion. Everything is coming down at once! GF has been at his new job training in Detroit this week. I asked him what are some of the things he has been learning and he mentioned open and closed communication which is pretty funny because we also talked about that in my classes this week too! GF told me that he listed me as his emergency contact with the title of fiance. I laughed about that because he has never formally asked me to marry him. Rather, he has said that we will get married in December if I move. I don't doubt his feelings for me or his honorable intentions in the least. He is the real deal - genuine, honest and true to his word. Probably a good guy to have around when the going gets tough.

One thought has kept coming back to me over and over this week. My mind reviews the movie in my head titled, "The Widowhood Years" and what makes me most sad out of everything is that in these years, my sons and I have rarely eaten together as a family around a table. The last year of my husband's life, we got into this habit of eating dinner in the van on the way to see him in the hospital (to save time, convenience, etc.). After his death, we started eating in front of the t.v., or I'd make and serve dinner at odd hours because of sports, or we'd eat at the location of the sporting event we were at. Later, when my parents became so ill, we sometimes ate with my mom or I ate on my own and the boys ate beforehand. Just a mishmosh of throwing together meals, a lot of times on the fly.

I guess I equate the dinners the four of us used to share around a table, like a normal family with what is normal and should be for children to experience growing up. After my husband's death there was no normal. I know there are lots of ways to parent, lots of ways to live, lots of way to do things. There are probably a fair number of intact families out there eating around the t.v. most nights. But that was not what I ever expected would happen to us. Certainly not from a dedicated mom with her master's in psych. - of all moms, I knew better.

But as we all know, life doesn't go according to plan and we end up doing the best we can with the situation we face. And that leaves me today, a tired, depleted, middle-aged mom with a chance again at love struggling with balancing my own needs against what is best for my boys. In any case, for me the toughest grief I have had to face has not been the death of my husband but everything that came afterward as a result of his death. Like the lost routine of eating around the kitchen table.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Message to Danielle Steel

I am not a book snob. I enjoy classic literature, lots of self-help stuff, current bestsellers and Danielle Steel. Quite frankly, there are some times when only a Danielle Steel will do, like when I need a good cry and I'm having trouble making tears. I carry my D.S. books around without taking off the jackets or hiding the title. By the same token I do not hide the fact that I really find Hamburger Helper pretty tasty (although I only use ground turkey).

Anyway, the reason I bring this topic up is that my Certified Nursing Assistant instructor mentioned today that she doesn't watch much t.v., although she does enjoy reading Danielle Steel. But she added that she is getting tired of this author because her characters are always rich, famous, princesses and the like. My instructor commented that it would be nice to have Ms. Steel write one of her novels with poor or more ordinary characters. I replied that I find D.S. books to always have happy endings where everything works out with minimal conflict.

I was thinking of one of Steel's novels involving a widow with five kids. Her attorney husband is murdered by his client's vindictive ex-husband. New widow (also an attorney) falls in love with the doctor (if I am remembering correctly) who treats her teenager son after he is involved in a car accident. Doctor doesn't have kids of his own and is ready and willing to accept widow's bunch. A few of her kids put up some resistance but he wins them all over in the end and the couple gets married a year after the husband's death.

Now I had a similar situation with the man I remarried (being quickly swept off my feet) but he lacked the tolerance (no kids) or experience (never married) to win my sons over and bailed out so fast I can still hear the screech of his tires when our life became challenging. Someone should take my situation and make it into a novel (more realistic). Or how about my reality of meeting another guy who is really and willing to accept my sons (plus he is tolerant, accepting and patient besides) but he has moved out-of-state and marrying him would involve uprooting my sons for their last one and two years of high school. How about that situation for a D.S. novel? What would the characters do to reach that happy, everybody wins ending?

Message to Danielle Steel - Please write some books about normal widows facing complicated lives and decisions that are not so easily resolved. You'd still sell the books and they might prove to be of more value to readers out there instead of giving them pure escapism and fantasy.

Today I am grateful for:

1. Pumpkin donuts from Dunkin' Donuts
2. Pumpkin pie
3. Pumpkin flavored lip gloss (who would have thought that this would ever be created?)
4. Danielle Steel books
5. The first lit and decorated Christmas tree I saw this year in the window of the karate studio down the street.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Gift and a Curse

My husband and I never talked about his possibly dying. Never, not once did we have such a conversation after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. We continued to live life just as we always had with the chemo, radiation and stem cell transplant just taken as matter-of-fact details to be faced and dealt with. Except for the grueling medical aspects of his illness, our life was pretty much the same. We both worked, volunteered and were extremely hands-on parents. About a year into my husband's illness, he did bring up that he had been rejected for trying to obtain more life insurance for us. I did not make a big deal about this - just admitted that it was what it was.

I knew my husband very well and understood that this was how he needed to face his illness. He carried on with such strength and courage never even thinking of the possiblity of dying. That was perhaps a mistake for both of us because I went along with my husband's way of coping. I always considered it my gift to him - avoiding "Having the talk." If we had, I would have realized that the mortgage payment was just $200.00 less than the pension benefit we would receive. There may have been time to refinance or somehow reorganize the finances to have made our economic situation less challenging.

I am pretty sure that my husband truly believed that if he died, his mother may have provided something for us, or that we would make it financially. I do not even think that he knew what our actual pension benefit would be for us upon his death. It was just never looked into.

Looking back on the widowhood road, I have regrets over not talking about the what ifs. My husband died without ever knowing he was actually dying. That was a great blessing for him - that he was spared that. But that blessing has been a great hindrance to me. And I am the one who had to carry on raising the boys, his sons. So, in the end it would have been far better to have had the strength and courage to keep on living and fighting the illness, as well as facing the situation fully. I wish I had brought up the subject we so tried to hide from.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Widowhood Robbery

Right after the Fourth of July, I posted about my upset that fall scarecrows were already out in the stores. Way too early I thought. Now I wish I'd paid a little more attention to those fall displays because the season was over in the blink of an eye. That is more upsetting to me than the early consumerism. The past few falls have had so much crappy stuff for me to deal with, I just haven't had the opportunity to fully enjoy this season. Or Christmas for that matter; or knitting; or relaxing on a Saturday with enough time to just putter about the house. No baking the past years, no parties hosted for the kids or sleepovers.

Widowhood has robbed me of the gift of spare and free time. And I do feel mad about that. What I long for are mostly free and simple things - time for a walk in the park; the ability to have lunch out by myself; reading a book for more than 15 minutes; being able to actually finish a complete magazine; not feeling so rushed and frantic all the time as I race from one location to another with the boys, run into the store for staples and hurry home to whip up a quick dinner for hungry teen boys.

The last movie I saw was Slum Dog Millionaire - and besides a couple movies on cable, nothing even rented. In fact, Slum Dog Millionaire is the only movie I have seen in years (maybe four or five). All the self-help books suggest carving out time for yourself by making dates for activities in your appointment book. And then sticking to this schedule come hell or high water. But as an only parent what you hope and plan for often isn't the reality.

So I have a different perspective about the upcoming holidays this year. I spent some time at CVS this morning before class looking at the new display of Christmas ornaments. And I am not so upset with the Walmart commercial that aired yesterday with holiday music. Maybe the only way I will be able to squeeze in that holiday spirit this year is by starting now and cramming it in whenever and wherever I can.

Monday, November 2, 2009


My absolutely favorite poem is by John Updike from his "A Child's Calendar." It is fitting to copy it down here as it is about the month of November. I have always been so moved by these words but they seem even more poignant now having just ended my week of grief anniversaries. I guess you could say that I am more tuned into my grief work and everything I see, read or hear can be related to some aspect of grief/loss. What I love about this poem is that it describes the bleakness of this month with beauty. And that is how I am viewing grief right now. It is bleak, hard and grueling to say the least. But underneath it all, scraped to our very souls and bones, there is a beauty there as we grow, become stronger and do the work of transforming ourselves.


The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The loss of her departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
Displays a certain

The beauty of
The bone. Tall God
Must see our souls
This way, and nod.

Give thanks: we do,
Each in his place
Around the table
During grace.

If ever there was a month to describe grief, I think it would be November. The darker and colder days; the sense of losing time and energy; the desolate landscape. And yet even in this gloomy month, a holiday of thankfulness and joy. Two contrasts. Like our grief. So much pain and loss - but also when we come right down to it, gratefulness for the time we did have, the children born of that union, the memories remaining forever.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

When it Rains it Pours

I find weeks like the one I've just survived, challenging for me. I think the widowhood component really plays a hand in it all. Juggling too many things, physically and emotionally tired, not getting enough sleep, "only" parenting, worrying on top of everything.

Last Sunday I spent the day at the storage shed and dropped a heavy box on my right foot. I've been in significant pain since and have had to wear a slipper, as my foot and toes are swollen and terribly bruised. I went to the doctor who wanted me to get an x-ray but the week has been so crazy I've skipped that. I started my Certified Nursing Training, with classes meeting an hour away Tue., Wed. and Thur. during the day. Then on Tue. night my oldest had a band concert. I drove my son's drum set to guyfriend's house because it took up so much space in the storage shed. That took two trips (two evenings since he lives an hour and 15 minutes away). In my free time I read the text book and studied for an exam. And I met with my attorney to discuss the option of filing for bankruptcy and I delivered various tax and financial documents. As if all this wasn't enough, I had to give the apt. a good cleaning because they were doing a maintenance check on Wed. and would come in while I was in class - I hate that - not being home when someone will be there! But wait there's more! The "Service Engine Soon" light keeps popping up on and off when I drive my car, so just something else to toss on the plate to worry about.

But the real kicker was helping guyfriend move 4 hours out-of-state. We did it ourselves (to save money) starting on Friday morning. Packed up his entire little house and carried all his furniture in the rain to the truck. His home is actually smaller than my apartment and it was a good thing that he was kind of living like a bachelor. As in a lot of divorces, his ex kept everything and he just picked up used furniture and such at garage sales (except for the electronics and computers which are all new, big and hard to carry). We unloaded the beds and put together the king size one so we could sleep on it Friday night. Again, it was raining and cold (there were even snow flurries mixed in with the rain). The 4 hour drive took 5 hours because we had to drive through rain and wind.

The next morning we quickly finished unloading the truck. Although it was cold, the sun was out. Guyfriend rented a nice and cozy one-level home with a finished basement (3 bedrooms). The landlords are a delighful older couple and the woman hugged me upon meeting me. The neighborhood is modest but very well-kept and cute. The high school is two blocks away. Guyfriend's new job is 5 minutes away.

I was a bit resentful helping guyfriend with his move because I felt that he had kind of wimped out in helping me with mine and believe me, my move was pretty major - I've got stuff in 3 storage sheds that I'm trying to consolidate and it took the movers 2 days to complete! Talk about stressful and exhausting! I talked to guyfrind about this, also telling him that I was giving up the only two days I had off to work in the storage sheds to assist him. It didn't help that I had a bum toe and foot either. Then because it was Halloween the boys had a lot of activites scheduled and I insisted they find friends to sleep over at since I'd be out of town on Friday night. But that was just another aspect of the scheduling logistics needed. I suppose some of my resentment also stems from the fact that when I help someone like this it is at a cost to myself and my family. Two days away from the homefront and things start to fall apart. Guyfriend doesn't have to make arrangements for his son or to worry about him while he is away - just another piece of the widowhood puzzle that rears its ugly head, especially when I'm interacting with someone who doesn't face the same parenting challenges.

Guyfriend's training schedule necessitated that he make this move so quickly. He also wanted his home empty for the new renters he hopes to get for his place. He needed to fly out for training in Detroit today where he'll be for a week. He comes back next Sunday but flies out again for another week in Detroit after a week at this home base. It was just all so rushed and crazy. But we got it done - and we talked through my resentment and he listened and heard me and acknowledged me. We also talked about my moving to be with him and get married but he accepted that it is a hard situation for me. He told me he hopes I will do so because we make a "good couple" and we will have a good life together. I will always be welcome in his home, even if I can't move right away. He is not going to force or try to pressure me, which is exactly the opposite of how Husband #2 reacted.

We were a good team together this weekend. We get along so well and even when I am terribly upset, we work out the issue. Despite the hard, physical labor of moving, we had fun together and as always I enjoy just being in his company. I got home Saturday night and picked up my youngest from a Halloween party around 10. I was so beat and drained. It was fortunate that the time was put back and I could gain an hour of sleep because I had to be at my clinical this morning at 7 a.m. and only got about 5 hours of sleep. My foot is still swollen so I had to wear a different shoe to the clinical and I feared I'd have to cancel and make it up. But I got through it and am so glad my first week of class is over - just 4 to go! I feel a sense of accomplishment for all that I achieved this week. After I got home this afternoon I put in 3 hours at the storage shed and have finally made a dent and enough space so I can start transferring things from one of the other sheds tomorrow.

I still have to figure out what we are going to do about moving with the boys. I talked with them today and both want to complete high school here. I pointed out that we will still be financially strained here but the social aspects and potential scholarships their coaches are pursuing for them seem to be the great draw. Guyfriend told me if we stay, he can have "visitation" with me every other weekend.

Right now I am tired again and going to bed early to try and make up some sleep. I am sore and I miss guyfriend. He is now 4 hours away and that is pretty far.