Thursday, December 31, 2009

It Will Find Us

Went to Taco Bell to get the guys a cheap, filling dinner before they went out for their frolicking with friends (I am here on my lonesome and feeling a bit blue and lonely). But enough about that. As I walked up to the counter to place my order, I noticed an older/retired couple eating their dinner. A couple of things went through my mind. First, that it was kind of sad to be eating a New Year's Eve meal at Taco Bell. Then, I felt those surges of jealousy. Why do these people get to be together? Why isn't my husband still with me so in 20 years he and I would be like this couple? But then I took stock of my thoughts and feelings and told myself to knock it off. I smiled at the woman and she smiled back. I thought instead of being jealous that this couple is so lucky to be together - to even have a partner to join them at a crummy Taco Bell. What a blessing, what a gift. I looked at this man and woman and wished them well, wished them love, and felt grateful that they are together. Maybe if I can harness this energy and focus it outward when I see such couples together in the future, it will mean more than my feeling bitter and envious. Seeing this lovely couple gave me hope. I felt the love and connection between them. It is what I so want for myself and my future. And rather than begrudge that, I will celebrate it whenever I cross its path. To love, wherever and however it finds us - with friends, lovers, the soul mates we miss and family. To all those who connect with us in numerous ways throughout our days and to those who reach out to us as we forge ahead. To those who have loved us and those we have loved (even Husband #2) and the love that WILL greet us all in 2010. TO LOVE! It will find us, sometimes when we least expect it. Alone at a Taco Bell on a cold, wintry New Year's Eve. And we need to let it in.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make Difficult Times Loving

I read this short interview from "O" Magazine with actress Julianna Margulies (from 11/09). This is what she said and her words are speaking to me very strongly. So I am passing them along here.

"...I say to myself at least once a day: This is just a moment; it's not the rest of your life. I say it to my niece, who's 19 and isn't sure that she wants to do with her life; when she's 30, she'll wish she had just enjoyed being 19. I tell it to my friends who are having babies. I say, "Enjoy all of it, even the stressful things, because you'll never have that time with them again." What people say is true: You SHOULD live in the present. Instead of making difficult times hard, make them loving. Knowing that this is just one moment, whatever kind of moment it is, is a more peaceful way to live."

The words that really got to me were: "Instead of making difficult times hard, make them loving." Maybe I would revise hard to harder.

My new mantra: I will try to be loving and focus on love, even through these difficult times because they are just a moment, not the rest of my life. And I so want to feel peace.

These next words appear in a little box within the text of the interview. They also speak to me.

"All moments pass quickly - the good ones as well as the bad. So enjoy all of it."

Food for thought for us all as we end a year that I know brought challenges to many and on the eve of 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Running In Place

This morning I went to my dermatologist to have him check out some growths on my thigh I became concerned about. Skin cancer runs in my family and I had a mole removed a couple years ago, also on my leg. I figured I needed to know whether I needed to be worried before canceling my health insurance. My doctor has been out of the country for the last month and a half so worrying about this has been in the back of my mind. It turns out the growths aren't even moles but are caused by insect bites. And that my doctor does not take my insurance anyway. He accepts Blue Cross Blue Shield but I have BCBS - Select and he doesn't take that one. So much for the $350.00 a month I am paying for health insurance. I can't afford it but am so fearful of not having it, especially because of my husband's long illness and then when my youngest got diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome.

While on the road, my bankruptcy atty. called me and we talked about my not being able to afford the filing right now. I have received two checks totaling almost $1,000.00 from the mortgage lender from when I sold the house. But I am unable to cash them because they are made out to the estate of my deceased husband (and with no will or estate set up my bank won't cash them). My attorney said he would prepare and file a small estate affidavit for me free of charge if necessary.

Then I went to State Farm to discuss options for car and health insurance. I want to suspend the ins. on my beater car and just start using the van. I also requested that my oldest be taken off the policy just for now, until I get a job. But apparently there were problems doing that. I still have to figure that out. My agent warned me to not cancel my health ins. before being accepted for another plan so I've kept the Blue Cross for now although I am starting to have panic attacks about not being able to afford it, having the payment bounce and then getting prosecuted for writing bad checks and then not being able to find work because I'll have a criminal record... Oh lord, the worry just doesn't cease.

I stopped by a local resource center to check into benefits. The food pantry had just closed but is open every Mon. and Wed. I am no longer ashamed to apply for any type of assistance.

I called up my old mortgage lender to see if they would reissue the checks but they will not because my husband was the only name on the mortgage. They suggested I stop by one of their facilities that operates as a bank. I did so but it turns out the place is not affiliated with the mortgage branch so they could not help me.

Then I seemed to remember having filled out a small estate affidavit at some time, so went to the storage shed and took stuff out and found a box of old records but no such affidavit. It was snowy and cold and I could not get all the stuff I took out back in so I ended up with storage boxes in the van and will have to figure out where to store them now because I am not going back to the shed any time soon. That was pretty depressing!

Sam called to tell me he was thinking of me and understands my low mood and feelings. He wants me to come over tomorrow and stay through Wed. as his son will be with him and he has to work Wed. The boys have found friends to stay with so I will go tomorrow. I told him we have to sit down and really discuss this move and whether or not it is going to happen. We also need to discuss finances and the whole nine yards. He agrees. I know he believes it best that I bite the bullet and move but he also gets my hesitation because of the boys.

During the afternoon I stopped by a large nursing facility to see what positions they have open for Nursing Assistants. There are some during the day shift, part-time only. When I got home, I spent a larger part of the afternoon than was fun tearing through my paperwork to try and find some old check stubs from the big box store that I need for the bankruptcy filing. With the move and all the crap in the storage sheds, it appears next to impossible to locate anything that I need. So I will have to call corporate for copies as I am not opening that storage shed until spring!

My oldest is sleeping over at a friend's. My youngest and I heated up the turkey and trimmings leftovers my friend gave us for the second time.

In the old days, just a few short years ago, a day like today would have been spent browsing at Barnes and Noble, eating lunch out and then seeing what was on sale at Talbot's. I would have struggled with the decision of whether or not to buy one or two sweaters, or maybe even three. Ah, the good old days.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Too Hard and Too Much

I feel that I have failed my boys. They've lost their Dad, their house, we've lived in a financially strapped position for years. The least I should be able to provide for them is some sense of safety and security in their home town and beloved school. But now my dire financial condition threatens that too.

I remarried because I fell in love but also because I felt that it would provide a better and more stable life for my boys. That turned out to be a bust.

They've done nothing but be my sons - that is their only crime. And they are being punished for it. For poor decisions I've made, for being too tired as a caregiver to my parents when I should have been concentrating on them. For feeling incompetent and scared as I try to market myself after not working for years. For feeling bitter and betrayed for the lack of support and help I've received from my family.

It has been too hard for to manage on my own. I have been a shitty "only" parent. I've needed more help and support. I haven't asked or demanded any. None has really been forthcoming. I have not been able to do this for as many years as I have.

My grief therapist says one of the top criteria as to how people manage being widowed is in direct correlation to how much support they receive from family, friends, community, church and other networks. We have not received much and now I feel too tired and drained to keep this up.

How can people just blindly turn an eye to us? My husband's family has been non-existent in regard to any contact or interest in the boys. I don't care if you blow me off but what about these young men who have lost so much, suffered and are still struggling to find their way? All I will say is that I would reach out to any relative I knew was struggling to raise children on their own and especially the children.

We were not the family to have the dad die. It should have been another family where there was a stronger support system in place with family that cared and was loving. Where family would reach out to offer love and support. The death is enough to have to recover from and survive. The being alone and financial struggles now seem insurmountable. Why? Because I'm just too damn exhausted from having had to try and get by on my own all these years. I don't have the energy or strength.

I feel as though I'm being forced to move because of the finances. But how can I keep going on like this? At least Sam loves me/us and has offered us what he can. Can't say the same of family or Husband #2.

But it just seems that this is such a sad and defeating moment. A sense of failure and rejection permeate my being. This is not how it should end. There should not have to be so many years of hardship and pain following such a major loss.

My siblings have lived the past six years in their same homes with their kids surviving no major upheavals or losses. How can no one fathom the amount of pain that accompanies the loss of two husbands and a home? These are tragic and horrific losses. To have to wake up every day after suffering these events and face the world and parent on one's own and try to plan and figure out the future alone - no husband/wife by your side to talk to and share the worries, as well as the burdens.

What has the world expected of us? Why has the world cast down its evil so much on this little family? Couldn't it have been spread around a bit or bypassed us? I hate life and the world right now. I don't like writing or feeling like this. It is scary to let such rage come out to the surface. But my therapist says bottling this stuff up is what leads people to become nasty and bitter. And I don't want that for my future. I do not want to be an ugly person inside as well as one who grieves. The grief is enough!

I Don't Want to Hurt Anymore

All through this holiday season I have been not sleeping well and waking up with a migraine. The first thing I do upon arising, is pop some Xanax and migraine medicine. Obviously, this cannot go on. (And I only have four Xanax left anyway). I took a few days off forcing myself to not think about moving but have to now face reality. Hopefully, blogging my thoughts and emotions about this issue will bring some perspective and clarity.

The winter weather has also been throwing me for a loop. I hate it with such an intensity it almost scares me! I so wish I could look at the big fluffy flakes coming down even now with some sort of wonder. But all I see is treachery and danger. If the van skids and we even have a minor fender-bender I do not have the funds for repairs. I drive so cautiously - there is a pit in my stomach constantly because sometimes there is nothing you can do and an accident is caused by another driver. The cold and unsunny days do not help. I feel down and gloomy because I need sun and the brightness and hope it brings.

My girlfriend got another vehicle from her dad. He got her their van some years back. Now he gave them an older model car for the kids to use. My other girlfriend also got a vehicle from her father. Both of my friends are divorced and hold decent paying jobs. I struggle with jealousy and resentment that I ended up with a family unable and unwilling to provide even a smidgen of emotional support. My second husband also gave generously to his older divorced sister making $60,000 a year and receiving child support from her attorney ex-husband besides. I remember being amazed at this! And here I am a widowed Mom truly believing that if we wind up on the street, no one out there will give a damn!

I am angry and bitter that we've had to bear more than our share of hardship and grief. Becoming a widow at age 44 and being left on one's own to raise two boys is and should have been enough. But to have had to face family of origin issues, a child diagnosed with a serious heart condition, a divorce. loss of home and extreme financial issues besides has made it more than I can bear.

That is part of the reason I do not want to move. It would help enormously from a financial standpoint but part of my resistance comes from the fact that this would end up being yet another loss and at this point I am being stubborn and saying to the world, "No, I can't take anymore!"

Part of my attitude is crazy and immature. I am involved with a good, kind, caring, patient, decent guy whom I am strongly certain would make a suitable life partner. When we became involved I was adamant that I only see or date men from the area. I did not want to relocate. So what kind of cruel twist of fate is it that Sam lost his job related to the Recession and ends up taking the first and only position offered to him out of state?

Part of me is upset that he was thinking of saving himself financially and being closer to his son, who also moved out of state with the ex-wife over the summer. Sam insists there were no other options in regard to his taking this job and moving. He claims he was on the verge of being unable to pay his mortgage so he could not move in with me and keep looking for work here in Illinois. But despite these realities, I don't feel there was much consideration made for the ramifications of a move out of state for my sons, currently in their second and third years of high school here and very much entrenched and comfortable in their lives. That is about all we have had to rely on and count on these past years - a strong connection within our community and school. And now if we move, it will be losing a part of us that has been what has sustained us the most over the last few difficult years.

I am going to be honest and get out my next thoughts openly and honestly but they are whiny and petty. I don't like the town Sam has moved to. It is ugly and industrial and working-class. Now I know deep down this doesn't really matter. The people who live inside the houses are what count and so far everyone we've met in the town is extremely down to earth and nice. But I am mad at the world for the curve balls it keeps sending me. If you want us to move, fine but could it at least be a cute little town? And why of all possible situations could this move involve the boys having to go from a semester format to a trimester one in the school district? Talk about complications and difficulties.

The boys are not matched up academically to their courses and will lose credits and possibly fail some of their classes. That means they will not be able to play any sports the last years of high school and sports is what has sustained them since their Dad's death.

I am furious that life continues to throw us challenges. Why couldn't I have met a nice and decent guy who still lives here? Why does the right one have to move away? Does that mean he is no longer the right one? Will I ever find another man that can even come close to Sam if I let him go because I don't/can't move right now?

What do I want? I want to be remarried here. I want to get my sons through high school and started in college. I know the system here and the local colleges. In the other state I am clueless and not sure how to navigate the system. I should be grateful and relieved that I have luckily met someone I am compatible with. I have read many blogs where the writers bemoan that they're aren't any decent guys out there. And here I am almost on the verge of throwing one away because of my fears and inability to face more loss and challenges.

Yet if I stay the challenges remain and may even intensify. I worry on a daily basis about not being able to properly provide for my sons (basic necessities much less college). I need to find a job but am afraid that it might take longer than anticipated. I sit for the state CNA certification exam on 1/16. What if I don't pass it? We will face homelessness if I don't find a job soon. Even this month I will be forced to go to a food pantry because there is not enough money for food.

I don't want to end up alone and bitter and resentful because I am on my own. But I don't even have the energy to date or go out. I've been in a long-term serious relationship for almost two years now and it has provided me with support and consistency. Just not marriage. I don't want this relationship with Sam to end but I know he doesn't want to sustain a long-distance one.

What happens when both options are not what you really want? None is the perfect fit or truly right? I suppose the next step is to list the pros and cons of each. Both have their drawbacks. Both have some positives. But the main thing is that they both involve major losses and that is what I am trying to avoid at all cost. I can't go anywhere near more grief and pain. That is what is mainly causing me this distress and agony. More later. For now I have gotten some of it out and I'll take it from there.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


We were fortunate to be able to have Christmas dinner with my close girlfriend and her family. We have been doing this a couple years now (since my Mom died) and we also celebrate together at the 4th of July. My brother who lives locally takes his vacation at Christmas so he is not in town. My sister and I have been at odds since my Mom's death. So, this dinner represents family and togetherness for us. My girlfriend is a teacher and has befriended a 74 semi-retired secretary at her school, R. This woman is estranged from family, lives alone and doesn't drive. She attends the Christmas dinner too.

I had to force myself the past two days to be cheerful and not morbidly depressed. Although that is how I felt inside. I didn't think I could ruin what little celebration the boys would have by my mood. Nor could I ruin my friend's kindness and her dinner. So I did my best to put on my game face and keep it on. I didn't put up any type of tree at the apartment because my massive collection of Christmas decorations are buried between two large storage sheds. When you already own so much it is hard to justify buying more, even when you can't dig them out of storage. So it was very nice to have such a pretty tree to gaze at and enjoy at my friend's home.

But it was painful to see the modest assortment of unwrapped gifts under the tree because we didn't have any this year. I saw a pile of those small cookbooks you can pick up at the grocery checkout line and asked my friend who was thoughtful enough to get her those. She admitted she had gotten them for her own stocking because she gets so tired of not having anything to open from it. I got a big kick out of this because in year's past I did the same thing for my stocking - the universal plight of the single or only parent!

It was snowing and very pretty outside but I kept remembering the Christmas Days of my past life (before husband's death - BHD) and the reality that if he were still living, we'd be at our own special and happy celebration. As nice as my friend's dinner was, I would have preferred my own with our individual and unique traditions.

I enjoyed talking to R. She and I have gotten to know each other a bit over the years. I gave my girlfriend a lovely soft and fuzzy scarf I knitted in shades of blue, her favorite color. Last year I made everyone at the dinner ski bands. BHD, I used to give such nice presents to the teachers, friends and family. And I baked masses of cookies and quick breads. It is humbling to be in a position where homemade gifts become the norm because of no other options. Although, I might consider re-gifting if I had anything to give.

My friend's annual gift to our family is a bag of soda, candy, popcorn and gift card for a video rental. She and her friend exchanged DVDs of their favorite old t.v. shows and my friend also got some Bath & Body Works lotions, a candle and ski band. My friend asked if the ski band came from a craft show since she likes to attend those. R. did not reply.

Our Christmas feast was traditional and with all the trimmings: turkey, potato (mashed and sweet), dressing, pear/cranberry/spinach salad, broccoli salad, cranberry, green bean casserole, corn, relish, rolls, cookies and homemade pumpkin pie. Since my friend is going out of town to visit her family, she gave us ALL the leftovers, which I am sure she had planned to do in advance. She was even kind enough to serve a bottle of Cabernet for me, my favorite.

We listened to Christmas music which I have heard very little of this season. My oldest left after pie to go back to his girlfriend's down the street. At 8:30, my friend took R. home but I stayed back just sitting in front of the tree and watching the snow fall from the picture window. It was hard being at my friend's home, which is a modest ranch. I felt sad with the realization that I no longer own my own home and that our life in now in a cramped and messy apartment because there isn't much storage space.

While my friend was out, I looked at the gifts she received and wanted to examine the ski band since I am a crafter. I looked at it closely and thought the pattern looked familiar. Upon closer inspection I realized that the band was one of the ones I'd made for my girlfriend and her family and R. last Christmas! Turns out the friend re-gifted my homemade gift back to my girlfriend this year! This realization was amusing but also a little sad. I suppose it made me think that people don't consider handmade gifts very valuable.

When my girlfriend returned she got a good chuckle over the re-gifting. Then we spent some quality time talking and listening to music. I looked at pictures of some guys she is communicating with at eHarmony and read their emails. Then we both admitted that throughout the evening both of us had had the thought that we do not want to end up like R. We don't want to be in the position of going to someone's home other than our families because there is no where else to go. To suspect that someone feels sorry for us.

R. got divorced in the 1960s, well before it became acceptable in society. Her husband had an affair and his mistress got pregnant. The baby was born on the same day as R.'s little girl. So R. raised two kids and worked as a secretary on her own. She was bitter about her husband's affair and divorce (rightly so). She never dated or remarried. I remember having similar thoughts about R. and her situation last year too. 50 years is a long time to go without sex or male companionship. I don't want that for my life. I have tremendous admiration for anyone raising kids on their own and working. It is very, very trying and tiring. But looking back on my own life, I am glad I still had the courage and strength to get myself back out there into the dating world after my husband died and even after the second one filed for divorce.

Despite the disaster of my second marriage, I have no regrets that I took another chance on love and went for it. I would rather be facing the consequences of that doomed relationship than to be living a safer and predictable life as R. chose. But I know and appreciate that everyone is different. What is right for me may not be for someone else. But I know that it is important for me to build and share a life with a significant other. And that I am extremely unfulfilled and empty living without a partner.

Here we were last night, three woman with different painful stories related to divorce and death of husbands. None of us had any clues when we first got married as to the final outcomes of those unions. It made me reflect on Sam who was not with us this Christmas like he was last year. The weather was just too risky for the drive and he only had Christmas day off and needed to be back at work today. Within this next week I have to make the decision as to whether to stick it out here for the sake of the boys finishing high school at their old school or go ahead with the move out-of-state and a quicker future with Sam. That will be the emphasis of my upcoming posts but for today I wanted one last entry about Christmas and to keep my depression and holiday blues at bay for a little longer.

And I had to share the story about the Christmas re-gifting! That ties right on in with my knitted oven mitt mitten! But if I can throw in my two cents here - I know after this I'll really think twice about ever re-gifting, even if that means all I can give is a handmade gift.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

From A Child's Calendar by John Updike. This poem's last line gets me choked up every time I read it. For me, it signifies and sums up so much of how I feel right now. This past year held so much change, hardship and stress for my family. It is impossible to look back and not feel the pain of 2009. And yet when I read this poem first published in 1965, I somehow feel some restoration and dare I say it, HOPE.


First Snow! The flakes,
So few, so light,
Remake the world
In solid white.

All bundled up,
We feel as if
We were fat penguins,
Warm and stiff.

The toy-packed shops
Half Split their sides,
And Mother brings home
Things she hides.

Old carols peal.
The dusk is dense.
There is a mood
Of sweet suspense.

The shepherds wait,
The kings, the tree -
All wait for something
Yet to be,

Some miracle,
And then it's here,
Wrapped up in hope -
Another year!

I am thinking of all of you, my fellow bloggers with love and appreciation for all that we have shared the past weeks and months. I cannot imagine life without your support, concern and advice. My Christmas wish for all of us and the world is peace and hope. I love you all and will be thinking of you throughout today.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Is It An Oven Mitt Or A Mitten?

I am doing my best to not post anything depressing or down today - for my sake as well as those who read. So here is a funny situation that had the boys and I laughing hysterically last night.

I am knitting some items for my oldest son's girlfriend - mittens, ski band, scarf and mittens. My son and I picked up some little things from the dollar store. And he is using the gift cards he got from her (Walmart and Kohl's) to get her something else.

When my son saw the mittens I'd made he was visibly disappointed. He told me they looked like an oven mitt! I guess they were a little big and bulky. I ended up going to bed unsure of what I would do. This morning, I got up and immediately set to work on crocheting another pair of mittens in a smaller size. And my son was much more pleased. I'm not sure what will come of the larger sized pair. My son told me he could still give them to his girlfriend to use as oven mitts - but I don't think they are bulky enough to provide protection from the heat.

I don't know what happened - I made the mittens as per the directions. Despite my aggravation at having to redo a couple hours of work, the situation did provide us all with a lot of laughter and cheap entertainment. The laughs lasted all night. And I suppose that is a gift of sorts. Although as I'm still laughing over this, my youngest is telling me that the moment is way over!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Skipping Christmas For Real

I have stopped including my gratitude list of five things at the end of each of my posts. I should go back and see the date of when that happened. But today I am grateful that I haven't overdrafted my checking account. There is still $109.21 as of today left in it, so I am extremely grateful that I can still afford some food to get through until the 1st. It took a bit of juggling the bills to make it this month. Driving back and forth to Sam's each weekend put a big crimp into the budget. But I made it through fingers crossed. The worry and concern over bouncing a check is always on my mind too. I am going to go to Walgreen's to see if I can return a folding table I bought a few months ago and never used. I'd thought that I'd use it in the kitchen or as a computer printer stand but never did. That would get me $25.00 back, which would be enough for a Christmas feast! But I read the back of the receipt and it states that returns have to be made within 30 days. I'm hoping they'll give me a break.

Last night to scrimp and save I made pot pies for dinner with a can of peas which I thought would be filling. The pot pies each cost 50 cents. I had one pie and gave my youngest son two. The oldest was going out with friends and said he could grab a sandwich at someone's house. Right now my stomach is rumbling - the peas were not as filling as I'd thought. I'll be running out soon to pick up some groceries doing exactly what they say not to - shop when you're hungry.

My dear girlfriend called to tell me the time for us to come over to her home on Christmas - 3:00 p.m. She said she is trying to get caught up wrapping the gifts for her three kids, who have been very close to mine the past 13 years. I felt so removed from her statement because this year I have absolutely no gifts to wrap or purchase. This was the Christmas that wasn't. It will just be another day besides going to my girlfriend's for dinner. Part of me actually feels some relief about not being caught up in the celebration. But that may just be a front to keep me from feeling upset that the boys won't have any gifts to open. They did receive new phones from Sam who included unlimited texting and internet use too. Yes, this is nice but it would also be nice for them to be able to open up a little something - a surprise. Does it count that a few months ago I bought them each $200.00 of clothing (from the Used Teen Clothing Store Plato's Closet?). No, I think phones and clothes are in the pile of necessities parents are supposed to provide for their kids. They are a given.

Oh, I forgot. I did buy two things for the boys back when I thought our financial condition was more sound - a Packer's bean bag chair and some music picture (drums, guitar). I left them at Sam's because the car was too full coming back yesterday. Our trip back was delayed a good hour because my oldest drove into the piled snow at the side of Sam's steep driveway and it took a concentrated shoveling effort and even the strength of four big guys from down the street to get the van out. I told the boys I'd give them the gifts as New Year's presents.

But for now I am grateful for a roof over our heads be it at Sam's or here at the apartment. And that there is still money for food and maybe I can even afford a package of Christmas cookies.

It is funny - just the other day I saw one of my favorite holiday movies, "Christmas with the Kranks", which is based on the adorable novel "Skipping Christmas" by John Grisham. Unlike the movie or book, this year this family is really skipping Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Greater Losses than Vacations

My brother is taking his wife and three kids to Hawaii where my other brother lives for a week and a half over the holidays. I do not begrudge him this vacation. He works hard and like all of us deserves time off. I am just sad that the boys and I have not been able to go anywhere the past years. When my husband was alive we took the boys to The Field of Dreams, Mt. Rushmore, The Outer Banks, Niagra Falls, Canada and lots of small trips to Wisconsin. We had plans in the works to go to Colorado and Arkansas. Now I wish we had used some of the insurance money, small as it was, to go somewhere - anywhere.

It is not just the vacations that we have all missed. The boys have truly been deprived of so much over the years. A strong male presence; a father to rely and depend on; assistance with math and science homework; someone to teach them guy stuff, like how to put on a tie; a stronger disciplinary enforcer than I am; an adult male to talk with about girls, sex and guy problems - I could go on and on if I wanted to think more about it but I don't. Point being, my sons have been deprived spiritually and emotionally. It breaks my heart so many times a day when something comes up where the reality of them not having a father is so vivid and apparent.

And that is partly why I am struggling so much with the move and still not convinced it is the right thing to do. My boys have worn used clothing, lived without cable, received mostly used electronics and have not had a vacation in years. Their Dad died. They have no Dad and have not had one for six years, although you could really say eight, since the two years he was sick he was often at the hospital.

I can't give my boys a trip to Hawaii. I can't give them much help with math or science. I can't bring their Dad back. The only thing I can do is to try and keep them in their beloved hometown and school. They've already faced so much pain and heartbreak. I don't want them to feel anymore. Please spare them more agony and misery. We are not a "normal" family like the one that will be flying into Hawaii from Chicago in a few days. Decisions and solutions right for "normal" families aren't applicable in this case. The rules that used to be in place were chucked in the garbage six years ago.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The 541st Time

Tonight was my oldest's holiday music concert at the new school. I found myself overcome with various emotions throughout the event. Sam had to work so I stood alone in the hallway prior to the doors being opened for seating with tears in my eyes. Even 220 miles from home and at a new school I cannot escape my widowed status. If I was at home, I'd be attending the concert alone and that has had such a wearing effect on me throughout the years. Here, I don't know anyone. Back home I'd have had to smile or nod at people I know which can be even more distressing. Always pretending to be okay. Tonight I felt like screaming at all the couples I saw. "It's not fair," I wanted to rage. "None of you have had to feel this relentless pain. It has been six years and it doesn't go away - especially at holiday concerts."

In the past six years I estimate that between baseball, football, wrestling. soccer, cross country, track, volleyball, band, orchestra, jazz band, dance, drama, school open house, conferences and staffings I have attended at least 540 events for the boys on my own.

I eventually got off that frame of negativity to observe the parents and family members before the concert. This is a working class town unlike the upper-middle to upper class community I come from. There were so many dads wearing jeans and work shirts with their names stitched on them. The dads back home would be in suits having come home from their mostly professional jobs. But I found the work shirts comforting in a way. Real people doing an honest days work and all that.

My son sat on stage chatting away with his fellow band members just as he would have done back home - always Mr. Popularity. It was a good observation to make because I could see firsthand that he is engaging with these new students. He is a very handsome and tall young man who looked pretty striking in his band tux. They wear a tux as the uniform back home too.

While at these events there is a point where I start thinking about my husband and regretting that he is not there to see that at least one of his sons kept up the music lessons. He would be so proud since he was a semi-professional singer himself. Pride, regret, sadness, rage, pain, discomfort and enjoyment all at the same time. Just attend a holiday concert on your own as an only parent and you'll feel these emotions and more!

The band wasn't as good as back home but one of the choirs was better. I saw all the kids performing and was just struck that it doesn't matter where you end up living. Kids in towns all over the country have been putting on these holiday concerts the past month. The one at the old school is a Sunday afternoon extravaganza four hours long (how nutty is that?). It was nice to attend one that was more simple and understated. They performed works that have been banned in our school district such as "Silent Night" and "Away in the Manger" and it was good to hear them again after so long.

There were two medium sized Christmas trees lit with white lights on each side of the stage and garlands also lit with the lights. It was elegant.

Listening to the music helped dry my tears. This holiday season has been devoid of much celebration and cheer but I felt some seeing the decorations on stage and hearing the old familiar Christmas songs.

I camcorded the concert. Back home, practically every family would be doing so. I saw only one other parent doing so tonight. As my son and I drove the short distance from the school to the house, it was snowing. My son was demanding and said, "I hope you plan on driving me tomorrow because I don't want to walk in this stuff." Back to reality with my teenager. I wished I could go back to the concert which ended up being a rather pleasant diversion - even attending alone and getting all caught up in the widow stuff at the start.


My oldest came home from the new school Friday afternoon threatening to take the van home (almost a four-hour drive). I told him he did not have permission to take it as we were going to stay the weekend since Sam's son was coming. I would drive us back home on Tue. afternoon, the last day of school before Christmas break. My son refused to give me his car keys and told his brother to be ready to leave at 4:00 p.m. I ended up calling the non-emergency police. This was after both boys were verbally disrespectful, swearing and all. Before the police officer arrived, my son offered to give me the keys but I did not back down on his coming. I wanted an officer to speak with him and lay down the law so to speak.

While I was on the phone with the dispatcher, I could sense her disapproval. She kept telling me that my son had to give up the keys because I'd told him to. She made some comment that I needed to demonstrate authority and control. I don't disagree with her. It saddens me that my sons have been so trying and acting out as of late. But considering this is the first time they've really done so since their Dad's death six years ago, I am willing to cut them some slack. I kept thinking how as a counselor working for the county five years ago, I too would often tell harried parents the same line I'd just heard: "You're just going to have to get Junior to his supervised court ordered visitation with the father he refuses to see because you're the parent and have to. You need to be stronger and have more control..." These poor parents, mostly moms would tearfully relate that 16-year-old Junior was a hulking 200 pounds and 6 feet - how did I expect them to force him into a car? I understood what they were describing and did feel for them. Funny how the table is now turned.

The officer did speak to my son telling him that if he left without my permission he could be facing time in a juvenile facility if I pressed charges. My son appeared to understand. The first part of the evening was quiet with Sam at work. But later my oldest infomed me that he was supposed to go out to a family dinner with his girlfriend and they had already paid for his meal. I'm not sure how true this is but in the end we scrambled and came up with the compromise of my driving back home Sat. a.m. with my oldest while my youngest stayed back to "babysit" Sam's son, which we would pay him for. The hope was that we'd be back late Sat. night.

We left at 7:00 a.m. on Sat. with my son driving. I constantly kept warning him to slow down his speed but he unfortunately picked it up while I wasn't looking and got pulled over by State Trooper for going 82 in a 70 MPH zone. This resulted in a $140.00 ticket which we surely do not need financially. But on the other hand I figure he was bound to get a ticket sooner or later and it was probably better I was with him when it happened. He admitted that his girlfriend got a ticket on Thur. for rolling through a stop and another friend was in an accident also last week.

My son spent the day with his girlfriend and her mother's side of the family (her mom passed away from cancer in March). My son received some nice gifts and had a wonderful buffet dinner. I had some time alone in the apartment and was able to tidy it up some. We were too tired and it was too late to drive back to Sam's so we stayed the night and left later in the morning. It was a good thing we didn't leave too early because there was darned snow again and as we drove there were numerous, at least 20 vehicles off the highway and in the ditch. That had happended earlier in the morning and the worst of it had passed, so at least the drive wasn't too bad. But the past three drives to Sam's have involved challenging winter driving conditions and that doesn't make it easier for me - I am just more anxious all around.

My son's mood was better as we drove back to Sam's. His friends from back home have already started break on Fri. Both boys know we are going back tomorrow for the whole break. Tonight is a band concert at the new school and it will be interesting to compare the two groups. It is funny. One of the main reasons I have wanted to become involved/remarry is to not have to attend school events like concerts and sports events on my own. So here it is that I have reached that point of being in a new relationship and living with someone - but I am still attending the Holiday Music Concert on my own just as I did last year because Sam is at work. Why do I somehow feel that the Universe is mocking me?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pots of Loss

Sam confided yesterday that the reason he pushed for us to move so quickly was well meaning. He thought it would be easier for me to deal with all the recent losses (selling the house, moving to the apt., etc.) if he threw the relocation in there along with them. His reasoning was that I'd be able to deal with all the losses at the same time and get "over" them more quickly.

Although I understand his intention, from my personal experience and what I have read about multiple losses, I'm not sure this is how it works. I think you have to deal with each loss on its own. You can't combine a bunch of losses and deal with them all together. Each one is its own entity.

I know from my situation as well, that there is a limit to how much grief I can handle. When it exceeds that limit I shut down and simply can't take on any more. When my Mom was dying two years ago and I was supposed to be packing up and selling my home and moving out of state, the only issue I could focus on was my Mom. I also realized I absolutely did not possess the strength to deal with my Mom's death and then handle the issues relating to the relocation. It was too much for me. I know Husband #2 did not understand this and it was part of what led to the divorce.

This current situation seems so much a repeat of what happened two years ago. I have just "lost" my home and moved into an apartment. The place isn't even unpacked. We never had a moment to settle in or process this life changing event. And then overnight I was forced to make decisions relating to another out-of-state relocation. I feel there wasn't adequate time for me to even gain some clarity or perspective before being thrust into this new whilwind.

One of my girlfriends commented the other day that people have to move all the time for jobs and family issues. She made it sound so matter-of-fact. But timing and circumstances do figure in there too. In the recent past I have had to face a very painful divorce, the sale and move from our home, finding and moving into a small apartment, fitting all the overflow of household goods and possessions into storage units and then taking a time intensive Nursing Assistant Program because of job necessity. Maybe for other people this wouldn't be too much, but it is for me. And it is also partly because I've had to face those issues on my own while trying to figure out what is best for my sons.

Sam described me as falling apart at the seams and being a wreck. I found the description very painful to hear. He said he wants to make life easier for me but it seems as though since the move I am more despondent and unhappy. That's grief for you. You are despondent. He thinks the boys have fed off my grief which can very well be true but the reality is that my depression has been so linked into their grief. Kind of like which came first - my grief over them having to move or theirs. But it doesn't really matter which came first anyway - it is all so interconnected. All of us are having difficulty with this. Sam thinks I should buck up and demonstrate strength for the boys - no more sleeping in during the day or crying. I don't relate this to bash him - it is how he feels. I've tried to explain that grief is very powerful and cannot be so easily batted away. I see his point about trying to be there more for the boys but that doesn't mean I can will my own grief away.

I have certainly learned through all of this that we can't push grief away and expect to heal. It is walking through it, crying, hurting and even vomiting from the grief that gets us out of the basement level of pain. So for those of us with more on our plates that also means having a longer go at the process. We'll be taking those steps out of the basement at a slower pace. Or maybe we'll stop a moment to sit on the steps awhile before making the effort to go back up.

I don't believe you can lump all your losses together to make the load easier or faster to get through. Multi-tasking may work in real life but not with grief. Each loss has to be grieved on its own. I think you have to concentrate on one to experience it fully. If you try to grieve everything all at once it just becomes muddled and unclear as to what you're exactly grieving. About grief overload - too much is too much. Being a wreck and appearing as though we're falling apart at the seams is an indication that it has all become too much. It would be nice to have the ability to take a break from life's current problems to have the time to devote to the past. It would be ideal if that could be the case. As for the times when life keeps piling up the challenges, I'm not sure what the solution is. What is the strategy for grieving at the same time you are living and facing difficult circumstances?

I suppose one answer would be to deal with what is most pressing at hand and having the strength and sense to put aside the other matters for a short while. Then returning to them when life has been restored to a more even level. What I have learned is that trying to handle too much grief all at once is futile. In doing that you run the risk of tuning out and avoidance, as well as feeling insane. Losses are very profound and each has such an individual meaning and significance for us. There is a certain level of honoring our losses that I have come to recognize as necessary. They can't be lumped together like a blob of clay. Each loss has to be formed and then put into the kiln and fired. For now, I will concentrate on this new move and put some of the other losses on the shelf to fire in the kiln later. They'll still be there, safe and sound. Let me tell you, they aren't going anywhere! But right now all my focus, strength and energy is needed to mold the pot determining where the boys will end up at school.

Fractured Family Riding The Hamster Exercise Wheel

My oldest is refusing to speak with me, except to announce that he will be "taking" the van after school to drive the almost four-hour ride back home for the weekend. I am planning to bring the boys back home to the apartment for Christmas break next week. We need to stay here this weekend to help Sam out with his son. He has not seen him for almost two months and works this weekend. If we are not home, the 11-year-old will be alone by himself in a home he has never even seen most of the weekend. I feel it is only fair that we help Sam out. Sam thinks I should let the boys drive home on their own. Letting a just-turned-17-year-old drive the "good" vehicle on his own, along with his 15-year-old brother and then be on their own an entire weekend does not seem to me to be responsible or rational. Too much can go wrong. We are too far away. That is a situation more applicable for college kids, not those still in high school.

I have visions of having to call the police or reporting the van stolen if he storms out of the house. I feel such a sadness and weariness about my sons and their behavior. Both of the counselors at both schools have said that they feel the boys should be more mature and better able to handle this transition than they have demonstrated.

I can point to so many reasons for why I think the boys are acting as they are. I was overly protective after their Dad died; they have not had any significant male role models in their life since their Dad's death; I did not spend enough time with them when I was caring for my parents; they were very hurt by my second husband blowing us off and virtually abandoning us; there were periods after the divorce when I was so grief stricken I'm not sure how much of an attentive parent I was. And some of this too is that they are teens and going through normal acting out and rebellion.

Sam took over my cell phone plan to ease up on my finances and got everyone new phones yesterday, including unlimited texting and internet, which I had blocked because of the cost. The boys seem to find this an expected given. Where we lived, fancy electronics were the norm for the kids. Every family had an SUV and/or luxury vehicle. So that is a part of who they are too. Despite my widowhood status, I did my best to keep up and provide for the boys. They have gone without but then again, they haven't. I was able to do it until the divorce, although on a much smaller scale than two-parent households. My boys got the electronics, although they were used models. They had phones with unlimited texting but no internet. I fixed up an old manual transmission car so my oldest could drive the van, which still looks good despite its 108,000 thousand miles.

I am awaiting a call from the guidance dept. of the old school to discuss options for bringing the boys back. Sam and I both feel that needs to be considered at this point. Maybe this move is not in the best interests of this family. The move was made with the best of intentions. The only thing we are not giving it is time but right now there is not any to have the luxury to play around with. If we move permanently, it will have to be at the end of the month and I will lose my apartment. Both of us adults have to consider the future consequences of the boys not adjusting or fitting in here.

It would have been hard enough blending a family together in a new home even in the same old town. Try doing that in a totally foreign state and environment (rural, farm area). We're just trying to be realistic. At least we tried and made the effort.

My husband's death had such far reaching consequences, well beyond what I ever would have first expected. I wish I had been the one who had died. The boys would never have had to face the financial problems that hit us because of my husband's income and job position. As males, it would have been better for their father to have raised them. And that is based on my overall perspective having been an only female parent of two boys. I think it would have been easier for me to have raised two daughters on my own or a son and daughter.

This kind of death and loss has such far reaching implications for the family members left behind. I just want to impart that the complications, trials and tribulations faced by such families as mine can seem unbearable and endless. I can describe it as being like a hamster on an exercise wheel. The problems and challenges keep piling up and you just keep running and continuing to run to keep up but the wheel really doesn't go anywhere. People have such a finite view of grief. That somehow after a certain time period, life will be restored and whole again. But if you can never go back to the life you had, how will that be possible? No one stops to consider that. And what happens when the new life ahead of you is harder than anything you could ever have imagined? Suddenly you have to reevaluate all of your original perceptions of happiness and contentment.

The complications, curve balls, hardships and challenges keep one mired in the grief. It cannot be escaped because it has overtaken one's life at all levels. In my situation at least, the grief has continued to follow me. That is because there are losses after the loss. And you have to grieve those too. So, my hope for today's post is that maybe in some small way I can spread the word about this reality. Grief can expand beyond the initial death. Families become fractured. Mothers lose hope. Life does not get better, easier or whole after a year of mourning. Sometimes the grief gets worse.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Past and Present

The circumstances of the past few months have resulted in my not decorating in any way. There is nothing up yet at either Sam's home or my apartment. It is the first year I have never not celebrated or tried to pull together some sort of seasonal spirit.

My decorations and numerous trees are buried in two storage sheds and I am just not motivated to make or buy anything. I've run out of time for making decorations and money is beyond tight. My heart has not been in this year's holiday at all. There was just too much going on finishing my Asst. Nursing class and then moving out of state to get the kids enrolled in the new school right after Thanksgiving.

I can't believe it is only a week before Christmas now! If the boys were younger, I would be more concerned about the trimmings and decorations. I used to go all out. Every year I would have a different theme for the tree and sometimes had three or four in the house. I made many homemade decorations and ornaments, knitted wreaths, baked tons of cookies and breads. The boys got many presents. On display was my large collecion of antique Santas. Holiday music was played all day and the house was filled with good scents.

The memories I am recalling are making me smile because I did create some beautiful ones for my family. And that includes Husband #2 with a tree that was white with all blue ornaments and blue lights. But I am also a bit sad that this holiday is one that is turning out to be so sparse.

We are thankfully going to my girlfriend's for Christmas and her home will have a tree. We'll have to get our holiday fix there. I need to knit some scarves for gifts. I will put up Sam's little fiber optic tree tomorrow and we'll treat it as a joke. I have some stained glass window designs that can be colored and maybe I can request that the boys and Sam make one so I can hang them in the picture window. I can bake something, even one item from a mix, say gingerbread and we can have it warm from the oven with popcorn and hot chocolate while we watch my favorite movie, "Love Actually." Maybe I can get some little gifts from the dollar store and wrap them so the boys have a pile of something to open.

My oldest was born in early December and in the early years of my marriage, life was so hectic at the holidays, my husband and I celebrated with gifts on New Year's Eve. One year, when my oldest had been hospitalized with Impetigo/Chicken Pox and I was pregnant with my second, the tree wasn't even put up until Dec. 26th! I am laughing as I think about that memory. Perhaps years from now I will look back and recall this as an unconventional holiday that still got celebrated. A little time remains to come up with some ideas.

But this season will be one of extreme simplicity and restraint. Has anyone else noticed as have I, that there aren't as many decorations out at the shopping centers? Guess I'm not the only one cutting back this year. I do take back my first statement about there being nothing up at either residence. Sam put up some snowmen, including one I crafted last Christmas and gave him as a gift.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Transformation Isn't What It Is Cracked Up To Be

My grief counselor recently told me that a positive aspect of grief, if there can be one, is that in surviving it, one becomes transformed. You become a more in-depth person, introspective, kind, understanding, compassionate. She quickly added that she knew I would trade all the inner-growth and wisdom in a heartbeat to have my husband back.

A similar variation on this theme came from the asst. principal at the boys' new school. He said that living through challenging circumstances is what adds the substance and dimension to our character. He was saying that ultimately the boys will benefit from the painful and tragic lessons of their childhood in becoming better, more well-rounded men and citizens of the world.

I certainly get the belief in this but am not sure it really matters or that I care anymore. It doesn't seem that those of us who have had a more difficult path to travel get any special tickets to heaven or have to pay lower taxes. We still have to muddle through life with more on our shoulders beside all of those who have fewer burdens. I am not sure what any of this inner wisdom has gotten me. So I am more compassionate and kind. In the end what does it all really matter anyway?

We walk in a crowd of others and no one can see what is inside us. How we look on the outside provides no clue to all the transformation that has gone on within.

Wanting To Be A Hibernating Bear

I am having a rough time - continuing to doubt my decision about moving. The boys' pain and grief is tearing me up inside. We've already suffered so much. Why do have to continue to endure change and challenge? It is hard to focus on the good that will come of this because it is in the future and the boys are so miserable right now. I cannot bear to see them suffer.

I am experiencing all those miserable symptoms of early grief - sobbing, not wanting to get up out of bed, hopelessness, tiredness, depression, not eating, feeling sick to my stomach, inactivity, loss of interest, helplessness and I'll be honest in admitting even wanting to die.

It is very cold here and the weather is not helping. I want to become a bear and just hibernate in a cave until the Spring thaw. But of course I need to somehow pull this all together and be there for the boys even though they are not speaking to me.

My sons want me to at least try and make a go of it back home on my own so they can finish at their old high school. But what they don't and can't understand is that I am tapped out of the strength and energy to do that. Although they told me I should muster it up because that is my job as a mother.

This pain is worse than what I felt when my husband died and then when I got divorced. I was helpless in preventing the death and had no control of changing my second husband's mind. But making the decision to move is within my power and to a degree I am responsible for the agony of my sons. Even though I made the decision trying to rationalize the overall eventual good for the family as a whole.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Finally, A Loss I'M Not Crying Over!

Last night was my final shift at the big box store. I have worked there eight months, yet not one person said goodbye to me or acknowledged my leaving. Pretty sad. I have always felt invisible working at the store. There are 100 employees and so many shifts. The lunch/dinner breaks are staggered so we would eat alone. We were chastised when we briefly talked to co-workers. It was not an environment conducive for forming any type of attachments. And yet despite these obstacles, there were a few people I enjoyed working with and developed a sort of limited co-worker relationship with.

The sales/money emphasis did not fit well with who I am or what I believe in. If anything, my stint working retail made me realize that I have to work as a caregiver within some type of social services environment. The inconsistent hours also wrecked havoc on all our lives. "Only" parents need as much stability and consistency in their lives as possible. Never knowing from one week to the next when I'd be working was stressful. And I hated that there was never any rhyme or reason to how they scheduled the hours. I was always put as a closer. I've only now figured out (I think) that this is because my last name is at the end of the alphabet. People up front in the alphabet worked the morning and day hours. I started to get resentful that women with no kids at home or with husbands, got to work more manageable hours than me. I have struggled leaving the boys to run wild all these Fri. and Sat. nights. I would talk to various managers about getting more hours which I desperately needed and day hours at that but it never seemed to make an impact - maybe because there were so many of them and no one ever coordinated schedule changes with the others.

Anyway, that is all in the past now. It was one of those experiences that is fleeting and not very relevant in the grand scheme of things. One of those transition/fill-in jobs we take to get by while our lives are in-flux.

I have been greatly humbled by my financial experiences and working at this store put a lot of my new perspective into focus for me. The junk everyone buys and so much of it. I seemed to see a lot of consumerism for the sake of filling up unmet needs. Buying so much crap is not the answer folks! Those of us who have faced significant losses understand this. I put so much thought into anything I buy now - is it needed, necessary; do we really like/love it; how good is the quality; will it last? It seems as though so many buying Christmas and holiday gifts were just choosing things willy-nilly to put into their carts. There is always such a frantic quality to the holiday shopping season. Does anyone truly need a snowman toilet seat cover? Okay, maybe someone does who goes all out decorating for the season and will be having a lot of company in and out of their bathroom. But how about, and this is my favorite, a gadget that you put on the end of a banana in the event you only eat half of it? What happened to using a baggie or some plastic wrap?

The Western world is overly materialistic. We are programmed to believe that if we don't have this or that we won't be happy or we're not good enough. I just remember really being struck at the moment of my husband's death with the realization that he left this world as he came in and took nothing with him but love. He left all his junk and stuff for me to deal with, including 100s of National Geographic magazines my youngest insists he still wants/needs. I really now get those stories about people who lived through the Depression and saved all their old mayo jars to reuse. Some experiences impact us forever. I do not believe I will ever again blindly shell out money as I used to before widowhood. Another pretty significant change in who I was and who I became because of my husband's death. But this change isn't negative. It is a good lesson to have learned.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hungry Holidays Ho Ho Ho

It was my son's 17th birthday this week. I was unable to get him anything. That fact has broken my heart. He asked me for $5.00 to add to the $5.00 he had so he could look for a winter coat at the Goodwill store. His search was unsuccessful. While we were snowbound at the new home, there was no school for three days and on Thur. we were all stir crazy. My oldest went with us to look for a coat at TJ Maxx. He found one for $40.00 and Sam got it for him along with some new headphones since his had broken. Then at Walmart, Sam got my son a Packers t-shirt to wear to tomorrow's game, and an inexpensive pair of gloves and hat. The night before Sam brought home an ice cream cake and treated the boys to Taco Bell. So I want to believe that my son had a birthday of sorts. He received a few things. Not much and some were necessities. It hurts the most that I was unable to shop and get him anything.

While we were at Walmart I found a decent looking jacket for only $7.00. I wanted my son to get it and then we'd return the $40.00 one from TJ Maxx. I truly thought it looked warm and sufficient. Sam agreed with my son that we should keep the more expensive one. I regretted that we'd gone to TJ Maxx first. If we'd gone to Walmart first my son would have probably been satisified with the jacket there. It kind of amazed me that I was in this Walmart (a store I rarely set foot in when my husband was alive), regretting the non-purchase of a $7.00 jacket! Who would ever have believed this would be my reality following my husband's death? Pinching and counting pennies out of necessity. Being unable to afford birthday or Christmas gifts for my sons.

I know this low point is just temporary. Once I start working life will improve. But while we're here it is such a low point to be. I feel dragged and sucked under the poverty, worry and anxiety. I am becoming obsessed with food again. I am not eating much, throwing whatever odds and ends can be put together and concentrating on feeding the boys. They seem to have stomachs that are bottomless. Everyone seems to be hungry. There is food at Sam's - nothing fancy but at least filling. I am here back at home for the weekend wishing I'd taken some from his home because our kitchen is bare. But the boys were so anxious to leave I didn't. I figured we could make it a couple days.

I have a vision of a Christmas tree just filled with food. Do you know the ones that they sometimes display hung with sugar cookies or gingerbread men? Two years ago I hung a tree in my kitchen just filled with gingerbread men. I used a glue gun to fasten red ribbon bows as hangers. It was very cute. Now I imagine a tree filled with ribboned chocolate covered pretzels. And those little chocolate ball and santa ornaments. And loads of sugar cookie angels and bells to keep company with the gingerbread men. I think I could be creative and come up with some other food items to hand up there too - candy canes, popcorn garlands...

My son told me today he feels down about not having any money to afford gifts for his friends. Last year I knit and crocheted some things for his then girlfriend - a pink scarf and ski band. I will offer to do that again. Maybe I can come up with something for his buddies - key chains or a wrist band. It is pretty lame I know. Needless to say I am not in much of a holiday mood and do not have much holiday cheer or spirit. I just want this absolute miserable year to be over - the year of my divorce and losing my home.

Friday, December 11, 2009


We have been holed up because of that horrific snowstorm that swept the Midwest this week. It all started Monday when the boys and I left late for the 200 mile drive to the new house/town/school. This was because it was my oldest son's 17th birthday and he wanted to go to his old school as his friends had celebrations planned and gifts to give. But I needed to get the boys back to the new school so too much work wasn't missed. Anyway, we started out late, 10:30 p.m. or so because my son was taken to Buffalo Wild Wings for a birthday dinner from his girlfriend. I was a bit concerned about starting so late because the storm was predicted but the snowfall wasn't supposed to hit until the morning hours. We reached it about midnight. And I then spent a white-knuckled three-hour drive on the highway with only semi trucks to keep me company.

I couldn't see the highway well because of the wind and drifting snow and it was so dark. All of us out on the road were only going 45 mph and the limit is 70. It was also the first snow of the season and so I wasn't that confident about my winter driving skills since they've been shelved the past eight months. But we got there in one piece.

Tue. school was canceled, as well as Wed. and Thur. So much for trying to get the boys there. Our town received over 12 inches of snow. Back home in Illinois, there were no school cancellations but I don't think they got the same amount of snow or the blizzard conditions to go along with the storm.

The boys behaved okay while at home. Sam was off on Thursday and home early another day because of the weather. Except for my youngest refusing to get out with us on Thur. to go to Walmart, there were no incidents.

I felt depressed, despondent and down (DDD) most of the time. I'd forgotten hair conditioner as well as my hair dryer so I said forget it to showering a couple days and even stayed in my pjs all day on Tuesday. I read and did some knitting (halfheartedly). We have never had Cable and on Tue. I spent the entire afternoon watching a Discovery Chanel program about ghosts that aired three episodes in a row. Then there was a program about some ghost busters going around the country and visiting the most haunted sites. Another day, all of us watched a quirky sci-fi monster film called Tremors starring of all people, Reba McIntyre.

Some of the DDD might have had to do with the weather. I absolutely hate the winter and cold and snow and dark. Plus we are in a home where there isn't much there that is ours so we are lacking what is familiar to us in terms of possessions. Then it is the holdiays and it is sad to not be able to decorate (since all my decorations are somewhere in a storage shed), or to have money to spend on gifts and good food. I spent a lot of time sleeping too, although I hope I can pass this off as making up for all the sleep I've lost over the past years.

Today the boys went to school but I had to deal with transferring records from the old school and doing so made me very dejected. I spent the morning in bed reading and was not motivated to get up and do anything like wash dishes and go through the large bag of old mail I'd brought with me. I needed to do some shoveling so we could get the van out of the garage and getting out into the cold sunshine and doing something physical felt good.

We took off for home for the weekend right after school since my last day at the big box store is tomorrow and my oldest is going to the Bears/Packers game this Sunday - the tickets were his birthday gift from his girlfriend. My youngest was snippy and negative the ride home. By the way, we saw 30 cars and trucks in the ditches within a 20 mile stretch of highway and 12 more after that - and this is two days after the storm! As we got closer to home my resistence to the move started to give way and I found myself questioning whether it really is in our best interests to move. So in addition to feeling BBB, now I am grappling with whether I should do my best to stay here, even though finances will be exceedingly tight. Both boys feel they are ruined scholastically since most of their credits won't transfer from their old school to the new one and all the work they have done this year will be wasted. They also feel very behind and frustrated with their new classes since they came in at such an odd time.

Enough of all this. I am weary and bone tired even though this week I didn't do much of anything. My head is spinning and I just want to go to bed. I spent a lot of my time thinking about the boys this week and my heart is breaking for the hardships they have had to endure. If only we could have made it until they'd finished high school. I am very angry at my husband dying when he did. We have suffered more than enough! Change is hard enough under better circumstances but coming off of so much grief and loss, it is hard for my sons and I to be positive about this move. I found myself feeling irritated and mad at Sam because he took the job out of state, even though I know it was a survival strategy. But still. I also felt homesick for what is familiar to me and known (and that was only spending four days at the new house and in the new town). I wish I had the personality where I felt excitement about this new beginning and all of that, but I just don't. It is part of my pessimistic nature, my age and all the loss that has just multipled the past years since my husband died. Is it possible for people experiencing grief to turn on a switch within to feel positive and upbeat about the changes they are facing, including the unknown? I personally just don't think grief, loss and change are a compatible combination.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Enough is Enough!

The light bulb has gone off in my head that the past couple years of self-flogging, berating, beating up on and blaming myself for the divorce are pointless and futile. I have certainly suffered, well beyond the realm of what could be considered normal or appropriate. Enough is enough! All I am really guilty of is wanting to be in another relationship that made me whole again after my husband's death. I had the courage to take a chance at love again. It sadly didn't last. I am not the first woman, nor the last who will become widowed or divorced and then get back out there on the horse only to be thrown off it.

All this wasted energy of taking the sole blame for the divorce. Believing it was all my fault. Even when as a counselor I know that it is never because of one person - it is always a mix of how a couple interacted. One partner may want to believe it was all because of the other but their behavior, values and shortcomings had a role in the story too.

So much of all of this internalized anger against myself is coming to the surface. I am sure it would not have simmered and brewed so long if Husband #2 and I had had more opportunities to talk. But his cutting me off from doing so was a way to insulate himself from accepting any responsibility for what happened. It allowed him to make a clean break and go back to his neat and tidy life without any regard for what happened to the little family he threw away.

As we continued to plunge to the ground financially and in having to sell the house, my beliefs that I was a terrible person seemed justified. This has been a damaging and awful mindset to have. It has been there underneath the surface invisible to others but always at work tearing me down and making me miserable despite the outer image I present to the world.

As do many people who have been abandoned/dumped, I put Husband #2 on some sort of pedestal. Believing to some extent that if I didn't rock the boat and reveal my true feelings that he would come back to me. I also struggle with issues of childhood neglect and so a part of all of this has included internalized fantasies of having the one most closest to me who wounded me, recognize the error of his ways, do a complete about face and return to my life to rescue, save and protect me. How can that ever materialize when the guy is unable to have a healthy emotional connection with his partner in the first place, much less be able to communicate on an intimate and honest level?

I would like to relate to Husband #2 that what hurt me most was that his refusal to speak with me, offer explanations of why he divorced me and even say goodbye to me or the boys made me feel like I was inhuman. That has cut me to the core and damaged me beyond measure. People who are kind and nice do not disrespect those they married (or anyone for that matter). My divorce attorney and the mediator did not justify his behavior but they explained it by saying a lot of people become very mean-spirited and ugly during divorce proceedings. I don't find that an acceptable excuse. As someone who stood loyally by her husband's side until he took his last breath after three long years of fighting a horrendous illness, this behavior will never make sense. All of us deserve compassion and dignity. He knew what I had gone through before he married me. No one put a gun to his head at the alter. If you want a divorce in this country you can get one. He was going to get that - there was no reason to rub salt into wounds already raw, ragged and bleeding.

I'd like to hope that people undergoing life transitions learn, grow and develop into better people than they were before the trials met them. But that isn't accomplished by closing the door to self-reflection and communication. It is very difficult to look at a situation and accept your responsibility within it. God knows, I am not lily white. But I do know that I did not intentionally try to cause harm and pain to others. Most of my errors were those of omission. I didn't realize some of the problems because I was too busy beating down the flames of the fires that had to be put out. Nor did Husband #2 ever really communicate to me the deep level of his discontented feelings.

It wasn't all my fault. I am not a terrible, undeserving person because this marriage failed. I wanted to work at it and wasn't given a chance. I hadn't given up on the love I felt. To be sure, this marriage set me back emotionally. In the end, it brought me all the way back to my childhood 45 years earlier. Who would ever have thought that on that gorgeous evening Husband #2 and I took our vows? Both of our childhood baggage has been at play within our relationship. I deeply regret that it wasn't possible for both of us to cling to one another throughout the storm and make it to the other side. That is what a marriage is all about. It would have been a glorious moment when both of us had stepped out from storm into the sunshine hand and hand together, instead of me doing so on my own.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Self-Image

I started referring and identifying myself as Middle in the Widow shortly after my husband died. I was picking produce from an apple bin when my hand brushed past that of an elderly woman shopping in the store with a group of residents from a nearby retirement facility. It struck me then as I observed the prominent veins in her hand that she was most likely a widow. And so was I. But so much younger. Still, I was not like a very young widow with babies to raise on my own. I was right smack dab in the middle of widowhood. A middle-aged widow, a widow in the middle. This title seemed an apt and appropriate way for me to describe and identify myself.

Since that time, six years ago, I've added to my identity by remarrying and then going through the excruciating experience of divorce. Even when I was married, a large part of me continued to identify with my widowhood. I looked upon myself as a remarried widow. There wasn't much opportunity for me to live a new life as a remarried, formerly widowed, middle-aged soccer mom. Because of my parent's illnesses I never moved to live with my new husband and he and I had a long-distance marriage - he stayed with us on the weekends and the boys and I spent holidays and school vacations with him.

When I started this blog I identified with myself as more strongly a widow. But things have become more complicated for me as I have worked to also heal from the divorce. There are these differing grief forces working beside themselves. One involves the death of my husband, another involves the divorce and the feelings of abandonment that resulted. Sometimes I need to focus and write about one or the other. Sometimes both sets of grief are combined. It has been a unique experience to say the least, posting about both events in my life and trying to go forward and make some sort of sense or reach some kind of closure/understanding to all that has happened. Then the old family stuff comes up too rearing its ugly head in between all of the newer stuff to process and deal with.

It is also weird to sometimes feel as though I am an old pro at widowhood since it has been six years, but then to feel all the emotions of being a new widow, especially if I am all caught up in the more recent divorce. I have also come to realize that some of the healing I needed to attend to regarding my husband's death got pushed to the back burner because the unresolved abuse and neglect from my childhood that took center stage shortly after he died.

When my parents were ill and we were handling their affairs, all kinds of long buried ghosts came to the surface. I personally had a very difficult time with all of this new turbulence, probably because I was still raw from my husband's death. I did not have the insight or strength to say no to helping my parents in the ways I did. I did what I thought I should do, the ever dutiful daughter to my mom. But at a great price to pay. I did not take care of myself or my children adequately or fairly. And my new husband was less than understanding or patient. I was having trouble managing and handling my own life and at times it was insane caring for my mother. There was a great deal of sacrifice and heartache surrounding this time.

All of these events have swirled around and around separately and then mixed together until they've represented a yucky looking, unappetizing stew thrown together of left-overs. What a mess! If I could compose a photo of how all this grief and loss actually looks like to me this is what it would be.

Today my identity has shifted. It is a broader view than that original description of widowhood. Today I view myself as a survivor of childhood abuse, middle-aged widowhood and divorce. A survivor of many different kinds of grief, loss and challenges. I don't want this to sound like I am bragging or deserve some kind of extra sympathy. There are others out there who have faced greater losses and challenges than I could ever imagine. This place where I have now come to doesn't feel as gaping and insurmountable. It seems survivable. That constant bleeding wound finally is slowing down a bit from the bandages I have applied.

I Had to Heal Myself First

In July, 2008 before hanging up on me, Husband #2 managed to bark out at that he had "refiled" the divorce he had originally filed six months prior. At that moment it was like being sucker punched in the gut when I was already on the ground writhing in pain. It was feeling more unbearable pain on top of all the existing pain. It was agonizing. I physically ached all over. At other points it felt as though someone had wrenched my heart out from my body. Needless to say, I was well aware that I had to get a job but could not imagine myself working in my field as a counselor. I lost about 20-25 pounds in a month or two, wasn't eating and could cry at the drop of a hat. The emotions surging inside me included anger, shame, rage, resentment, fury (and more fury), depression, betrayal, fear, intimidation, insignificance, powerlessness and abandonment/rejection. What is interesting is that the numbness some of us feel in the early grief period that shelters and shields us from the intense pain of a loved one dying gets bypassed when someone is dumped, rejected and/or abandoned. It seems as though the added feelings of anger/devastation keep those suffering from abandonment in this place of unremitting pain. This is all related to the neurotransmitters working inside our brains. But I guess the anger outwits the numbing effect our bodies are trying to give us as a gift.

Despite all those feelings, I had reached a point in my emotional growth where I refused to run after a man whose way of dealing with conflict included completely shutting out his spouse in order to protect his own fragile ego. I concentrated on forgiveness and understanding. I focused on love. I did my best to transcend the hurting of my soul. I also made the very deliberate and conscious decision of letting what was going to be, be. I was willing to see where the road would take me and not try and interfere by begging and pleading to change the situation to my will.

In those early months it was hard to concentrate and look toward the future. At one point, I was seeing my grief therapist a couple times a week - I don't think I could have functioned without those appointments. They were what held me together. I was living in a sort of twilight zone. With no communication from my husband I did not know what was going on and it was hard to plan and figure out what to do. I still hoped for a reconciliation - if we could just talk I'd be able to make it all better. But I refused to try and contact him. His habit of hanging up on me had done its damage and my pride came out. I wanted and needed a man who would have the decency and respect to talk to me. I was hoping he would reach out to me. I was also waiting to see him and talk in mediation.

By the time I was in a more stable place emotionally, the Recession had hit full force and I experienced extreme difficulty finding work. Face it. I was for all practical purposes a stay-at-home soccer mom who had not worked in her field for five years because she was caring for a dying spouse, child diagnosed with a serious medical condition and then her aged and ill parents. I felt incompetent, old, out-of date, and lost in the new world of finding jobs online. It did not help that the divorce wrecked havoc with my already fragile ego. I felt like a miserable failure too. How could I be a good counselor to others when I could barely handle my own life successfully?

Those feelings of failure and abandonment have been the most difficult to get through the past year and a half. That is also the piece that I have found to differ in the grieving process from being a widow compared to that of a divorcee. Having lived through both, my divorce was far more of a challenge for me to overcome than the death of my husband. Of course, it would seem as though a death is more significant. But those added feelings of being rejected have just fed and led to more feelings of being unworthy, tainted, a bad person, and so on.

Every loss we experience reactivates older losses, some of which occurred in our childhood and are not even remembered. Some of us have suffered more losses than others throughout our lives and therefore our grief process is more complicated. There is no time limit for working through grief. People get impatient when they consider someone's grief prolonged. It is a profoundly different experience for everyone. There are actual physical changes that go on in one's body during bereavement. I just read a fascinating explanation of how the chemicals react in one's body causing a person to either overeat or not eat. At times, both reactions are going on and fighting as to which will win out! Isn't that almost unbelievable? To feel famished but not want to eat at the same time? I take that back - nothing seems unbelievable in bereavement, right?

I just have such profound respect for everyone navigating this bereavement road. I am thinking about in particular all of us who have had to face the critics telling us to snap out of it and get on with our lives. It takes such courage to face those who don't know, realize they are wrong and then keep going with what has to be done, what is right for us. I felt such outrage at the divorce mediator who told me because I was such an "old hand" at grief I should be able to move past my sorrow over my divorce quickly, after all I'd had so much practice at it. This unknowing comment ate at me until I ended up calling my divorce attorney to complain and explain how her colleague's comment had impacted me. She agreed to talk to him about the matter when they next met. In the area of bereavement, practice does not make perfect. I have just found that added grief is a great burden and ends up hurting more. Or maybe it is that you are dealing with a lot of grief so that is what makes it feel like the pain is more.

I took the job at the big box store pretty convinced that I could not work in my field, at least for the time being. I wanted a job totally outside my caring/helping profession. As a counselor we are skilled at listening to our clients and then offering compassion, as well as suggestions and insights for healing/growth. It has always amazed me that Husband #2 could hurt me to my inner core by refusing to talk with me. As a counselor, communication is what is most vital to us. To have it ripped out of your system is unthinkable. As long as I have been able to communicate, I have been able to have a hold on my life and its outcome. Even when my first husband was in a coma, I was still able to speak the feelings from my heart. But Husband #2 took that away from me.

As I was driving home from a very wearying shift at the big box store last night the thought came out of my head that "I deserve to be loved." Today along that same theme, I have been thinking that I do not want to suffer anymore from all that transpired with Husband #2. I think all of this focus on Husband #2 has come from the emotions swirling around due to our move with Sam (GF). My youngest is being critical of me for not looking harder for a job. He wants me to try and tough it out here. All the feelings of self-loathing and beating myself down (which began in childhood) come flaring out. I try to ease the criticism by remembering those months of weight loss, fear, physical pain and utter torment. Yeah, right I say to myself. I was in good shape for job hunting. I was a complete mess. It is one thing to drag yourself to a job you've already had, quite another to have to look for a new one when you're suffering in the depths of grief. And then to have to hold the hands of your clients when you're in such bad shape yourself.

For what it is worth here is another idea. The way grief impacts us also has to do with our constitutional and emotional makeups. Some of us are better equipped to deal with adversity. Some of us can get through hardship on our own more easily, versus those of us who need a steadying presence to lean on. It is all so mixed up and confusing! Not to mention the constant ups and downs of going forward a bit and then backward a lot!

The death of my husband and the divorce that came so soon afterward cannot be erased from my life much as I'd sometimes like for that to be. It is a hard burden to carry those losses around with me everyday. But somehow, someway I am moving to a place where I want to stop hurting so much. That will be up to me to keep working toward. It can be a struggle on some days. For the first time, I am actively contemplating to work back in my counseling field again. And that appeared an impossibility a few years ago. And let me lay to rest the myth that a new relationship or marriage can erase the demons of grief/loss from within us. It doesn't work like that. Even if I soon remarry, the losses of two husband's cannot just magically cease to exist. I just hope that from now on into the future, the pain of these losses will lessen because more attention will be devoted to the present and future. I am the person I am today because of these losses but no longer want my future to be so defined by them.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


GF's dad was killed by a hit and run driver just days before he turned 16. He had been thrilled to tell him that he'd just gotten his first job at a grocery store in the city. GF never had that opportunity. His dad was supposed to bring home Chinese for dinner that night. But he never called or came home. Today, it is very important that GF hears regularly from the people he cares about. His ex-wife accuses him of calling his 11-year-old son too much. She also got annoyed with his frequent phone calls during the day. GF has always made a point of calling me throughout the day. In the morning to say, "Have a good day" and "I love you." In the evening to say, "Goodnight" and "I love you." During the day to say, "I am thinking about you." Over the past two days GF has called to say that he supports whatever decision I make regarding moving with him or to stay put for the sake of the boys at their current school. We came home for the weekend so I could work at the big box store during my two-week notice period and to give the boys an opportunity to see their friends.

The boys were in much better moods on the drive home. I let my oldest drive and he made it in far less time than I have since I drive a lot more slowly. They both spoke of joining the wrestling team at the new school upon their return next week; my oldest talked about going to one of the colleges in the new state; my youngest said he had made three friends in his biology class. I had spoken with the boys' school counselor on Wednesday and she met with them first thing Thursday morning to revise their schedules and get rid of some of those extra study halls. She also changed my youngest's lunch period so he can now eat with his brother, whom has already been sitting at a table with Senior cheerleaders. I think they are resigned to the move, although my oldest is upset about leaving his girlfriend as her mom died last March. I asked him if she would prefer that he be living out on the street and offered to drive him back as much as possible to see her.

GF's parents were poor. His dad sold real estate and back in the 70s there was a recession that killed the housing market. GF recalls that they ate so much canned spaghetti and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that it has only been recently that he could eat peanut butter again. After his dad died, there was not much money and he went to work full-time to support his mom and sister. It took GF 8 years to get through college going part-time while working full-time at the same grocery store he had been hired at when he turned 16. He rose to the position of manager there.

GF is not a complaining sort of guy. He is optimistic, loyal, responsible and does what needs to be done without griping (unlike me). He often says, "Life is good," a phrase he adopted after his dad died and "It is what it is." GF had a romantic relationship with a young woman whom he loved but had a fatal illness. It did not matter to him that she was going to die as a young adult. He loved her. She ended up breaking up with him before her untimely death. In the same spirit of love and acceptance, GF married his wife even knowing that she suffered from fertiltiy issues that would make it difficult for them to have a baby.

GF worked at a bank then was a manager at a big name drug store. He and his wife did have a baby through in vitro but their second attempt failed and they lost twins. GF wanted to spend more time with his son and moved to a less demanding store management position. He was extremely involved with his son's life taking a six-month leave of absence after his birth to be with him. GF felt the absence of his father and this of course affected him and how he wanted to be a parent.

I first started communicating with GF after Husband #2 initially filed for divorce in January, '08. My husband refused to speak with me and I was incredibly devastated and heartbroken. In fact, my husband didn't even have the decency to tell me he'd filed, a fact I learned having to call the courthouse every day per the advice of my attorney. GF and I started talking online but I was hesitant and wanted to reconcile with my husband. Basically, GF and I emailed about grief issues and when my husband and I got back together for a few months I ceased all contact with GF. But when my husband refiled for the divorce in July, I again was devastated and thought about GF. I decided to call him because I wanted to know what had happened to him. I truly hoped that he had met a nice woman and had moved on beyond his own pain and grief about his divorce. I called him because I wanted to know that life would go on and that I would survive my own loss. I wanted to know he was okay. Knowing that would somehow give me much needed strength to go forward myself.

I finally drew up the courage to call GF, which I did after going to an antique show attended by what seemed to me to be exclusively couples (gay and straight - mostly middle-aged). He remembered me (after 6 months of no contact) and all of our communication with surprising detail. He had just bought a small home and was with his son. We made arrangements to talk on the phone and soon after, agreed to meet for dinner.

GF was very supportive of me during my long, drawn-out divorce. We were friends and I certainly needed someone to communicate with, especially since my husband had virtually shut out any contact with me. GF was tolerant of the feelings I still had for my husband and was aware of my desire to still try and reconcile. GF also had been "dumped" by his wife who had not given much explanation why. We were two people who needed and wanted communication in our lives with our spouses but had been denied that. GF used to tell me back then that I had been sent to him. I used to think that he had been sent to me.

At the end of my marriage, I had fallen in love with GF and wanted to marry him. I was frightened of being on my own again and unmarried. Even during the divorce process knowing I was still married gave me some kind of comfort. But GF told me that it was too close to his divorce and he needed time to heal. When I made an effort to start communicating with Husband #2 after the divorce was finalized, I told GF although I do not think he thought it was a good idea or would lead anywhere. I know that he felt it would probably end up hurting me.

As the months went by and I faced the sale of my house, GF's ex-wife remarried, he lost his job and his ex moved out of state with his beloved son. Both of us were dealing with huge losses. I didn't have a lot of energy to expend on his issues - I had too much to handle on my own. We had some rough patches but always ended up getting through them with humor, commitment and lots of communication. I considered breaking things off with him when he didn't want to get married but found that I really missed him when he wasn't part of my life.

I saw the lovely home GF resided in with his ex-wife and son. His ex sold the home for a terrible loss before she moved out of state. I also saw the home GF lived in when he was first married which was closer to the city. GF bought his first place, a condo when he was only 25. He has perfect credit and is financially astute. We are both starting over at this point. As are I suppose many others across the nation. But GF has told me that he wants to be part of a family again, he believes we will be better off for being together and that he loves me. Is he perfect? No. Am I perfect? Certainly not. But he has accepted and loved me at my absolute worst. And he has not rejected me as did Husband #2. Rather he has embraced me and held open his arms. The boys get along with him and like him, even respect him. His son likes me.

GF is kind, optimistic, loyal, tolerant, flexible, enjoys the finer things in life, has a sense of humor, is honest and intelligent. I recently told him that at times he may be a bit too honest and maybe doesn't have to tell it like it is All the time. He has admitted when he has been wrong and says he is sorry. He is a devoted Bears, Cubs and Blackhawks fan. I like his strength and his manly scent. He is there when the going gets rough. He is a very physical guy and likes to show affection, hug, kiss and hold hands. He thanks me when I do so to him. He laughs and shares interesting news tibits that he has heard. He can be vulnerable and admits to it. He is well-balanced, doesn't have anger issues, and has done what he says he would do and doesn't cover up what he can't do. His personality is fun-loving and playful but he is serious when he needs to be.

I think he is overall a pretty decent and all-round nice guy. He knows what commitment is - he has faced adversity - I have seen him react to challenges and he has stood tall - he doesn't have any sexual deviances and he has told me that sex is only one part of a relationship, there are other facets of a relationship that are equally important - he is an extremely devoted father - he does his best to get along with his ex-wife and her new husband - he is attractive - he doesn't like to fight and wants to resolve conflict - he doesn't hang up on me when upset (as did Husband #2) - he communicates well - he is a hard worker - he is neat and tidy in how he lives and dresses.

I have always enjoyed being with him and have loved the comfort he provides me by being in my life. I love men and have so missed having one of my own. He has helped me feel safe and secure. I like the company of men and living with one.

GF's wife just lost her job yesterday. I am still not clear why she ever left GF because he has always been such a great guy to me. I know that she spent more money than he wanted and that was a source of conflict but that would not be an issue in our life together because I have learned to live on little and to appreciate all that money doesn't buy. I have never understood why she did not make any kind of effort to work on their marriage, especially since a child was involved. Sometimes I have thought that both she and Husband #2 were selfish, and acted out of their own desires without much regard for the others in their life who they would end up hurting. I have not had much respect for either of our ex-spouses. On the other hand, GF has been a respectful person to others and I think that I have always tried to think of others before myself.

GF's ex just bought a big mini-mansion type home and moved to a new community. She wasn't satisfied with the life she had here in Illinois. Now that she has lost her high-paying banking VP job will she be able to get another and afford their new home? I see her divorce from GF as such a waste. Will it have been all worth it in the end? The disruption of so many lives? GF told me in the early days that Husband #2's loss was his gain. I suppose I could say the same about GF's ex. We are two people who were very wounded but wound up together despite the odds.

When GF and I went to look for homes in the new town, he dropped me off at the local Panera while he went in to meet with his new boss and co-workers (his new job was right down the street). I sat in front of the gas fireplace where I would wait for him until his meeting was over. I watched GF as he walked out of the restaurant and thought about him being such a good man and a good guy. I heard myself say inside, "If you let him go, he won't last long. Some other woman will see his goodness and snatch him right up." And I thought at that moment that I didn't want to let him go. Why should I let someone else have this decent, honorable guy when he can be mine? I don't think it is easy to find good guys out there or maybe I believe that there aren't that many out there. Or you can find a good guy but it ends up all wrong as it did with Husband #2. There are so many variables to relationships. This one between GF and I seems to click.

Maybe it is finally time for me to say goodbye to some of all this past that has been haunting me for so long and to look ahead more to the future with GF. To think about what we will all gain instead of what will be lost. Maybe GF's optimism and zest for life can rub off on me and the boys. Maybe being in GF's strong embrace is where I now need to be.