Saturday, January 30, 2010

All By Myself

I knew this would be a tough weekend in terms of feeling alone. But I am surprised at the intensity of my loneliness. I guess I need to try and find diversions for myself to get out and about in the future because here on my own I just seem to simmer and stew. Not that I'm unproductive. I've been going through the boxes of my parent's paperwork that has been in the storage shed. Tonight one of the boxes I concentrated on was full of cassette tapes of my dad's. This is a depressing job because none of the tapes are labeled. There have to be around 100. So I am playing them on a cassette recorder before tossing in case he recorded one of our high school band or orchestra performances. I got to hear Richard Nixon's resignation speech and a couple of band concerts, although which one or year is unknown. Then the cassette player broke, probably because the tapes I am trying to play are circa 1975.

In a sense, the mere fact that I am taking the time to listen to these tapes is depressing in and of itself. But I know he taped us kids talking at the dinner table and I do not want one of those thrown out. I came across a bunch of old slides from a trip he took in the late 1950s and some taken of he and my Mom on a trip they took a few months before I was born. Then there were some wedding photos of my father's brother. So in between the junk are a few treasures.

Because the boys are out I decided to make do with what is in the pantry for my dinner and save what I was going to fix for tomorrow. That way I can stretch out the food budget. But there really isn't anything tasty except odd flavored soups such as leek and bean with bacon that I now have no idea why I ever purchased. I am going to try the leek soup but wish there was some split pea or veggie.

There are times it is good to be reflective, contemplative and by yourself. But right now with the gloom of winter upon us, I need to be surrounded by loving warmth and company. I wish I didn't have to be home alone tonight. I am down about that. And the leek soup doesn't help! It would be better if there were some carbs around to uplift my spirits a bit. I should motivate myself to bake some blueberry muffins or some oatmeal cookies but hearing the Nixon speech kind of put a damper on my enthusiasm. I'm holding out for Saturday Night Live which I hope will bring me a laugh or two. Having some popcorn and a cup of hot chocolate while watching might revive me a little.

Today I am grateful:

1. That although it is cold it is not bitterly so.
2. For the moon overhead - hauntingly beautiful tonight.
3. For the cute ovenmitt I got at the dollar store. I needed one since all my towels and such are hidden somewhere in the depths of the storage shed.
4. That my oldest had a good time on his overnight band trip.
5. For the opportunity and means to vent about my pathetic Saturday night on my own!

Friday, January 29, 2010

It Costs Nothing To Be Kind

My mother often said this saying when I was growing up and it had an impact on me: "It costs nothing to be kind." Since my becoming widowed, I've often had opportunities to reflect on these words of wisdom. Before widowhood, unkind comments bounced off me more readily. Probably because I had my husband waiting at home to support me and take some sting out of the biting words. I've noticed that since living on my own, I am far more sensitive to the unkindness I've encountered. I think it is because I've become more sensitive overall having dealt with death and loss. But also that there is no longer a buffer at home to protect and help restore me.

What is it with people? Are we really that emotionally immature or thoughtless to want everything to always go our way? Are we so conceited and self-centered to feel entitled to always be right? To have to justify ourselves to prove a point? What harm is there in acknowledging another person's viewpoint? I just don't get it sometimes.

I've been trained as a counselor. To patiently listen to another person's feelings and thoughts. To put myself into the shoes of others. This skill should be taught to everyone, not just those in the social services field. No one seems to consider other people's feelings while barreling in and telling others what they should do, think and feel. Why is it so easy to give advice but not be able to accept criticism? Why can't people say they're sorry more readily? Why is it so important to have the upper hand and come out on top?

This is what I have come to strongly believe - that most of us just want to be heard and validated for our feelings. That's all. We're not asking to be right or for others to agree. Nothing big and nothing fancy. Just a few minutes of heartfelt listening and then some verbal feedback. Here is a little hint - people don't even have to come up with certain words or phrases. All it takes is repeating back the words you have heard. "I hear you saying that you feel this way about this and that..." How much simpler can it be? Why are the easiest and cheapest things in life sometimes the most difficult to attain?

My Mom was right. It costs nothing to be kind. I just don't understand why people are so stingy with their kindness, compassion and sympathy. What do they feel they will lose or give up by spreading a little kindness throughout their day, especially to those they know can use some?

Today I am grateful for:

1. Ice cube trays (talk about taking a product for granted).
2. Mundane office supplies like paperclips, rubber bands and hole punchers that we conveniently use without much thought.
3. The huge variety of music that is available to us and the convenience of CDs vs. the past modes of records, cassettes, etc.
4. Microwaves.
5. Paper towels, paper plates and napkins.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Love, Sacrifice and Gas Money

The following passage is from the current book I'm reading by Sandra Kring, "Thank You For All Things." I read it last night and it really struck a chord with me. Today I am finding that it relates to my situation:

"Oh, you know your father. First saving every penny for that sawmill, then for his retirement." Oma sighs. "Isn't that the way it goes, though? We get caught up in getting ahead, planning ahead, and for what? Whatever money he could have left at this point is useless to him. What does any of it matter in the end but who we loved and how we loved them."

I just really connect with that last sentence and know that after my husband died, I often thought that exact same thing.

This morning it is was very cold (frigid, single digits) and the van's heat was not blowing out. I was forced to take it in for an inspection. Turns out to be a faulty heating blower that will be fixed for $336.00. I suppose in the grand scheme of life this is not a major setback - I mean it is under $500.00. But when there isn't a fund in place to take care of unplanned emergencies, this cost is a fortune. This next month might be the one where we are eating PB & J for dinner three times a week. I'm gearing up for that.

I had to humble myself and ask the repair shop if they could hold my check until the 1st when the pension check is deposited. They were kind enough to agree to this. For that I am grateful. But now Sam has decided that due to this unexpected cost it is not a good idea for me to visit him this weekend, which had been planned for weeks. It is cost prohibitive to make the trip since between gas and tolls, the amount I spend to see him is about $80.00. Sam reminded me that when I made the decision to have the boys stay here for the school year, it was going to be a very tight financial sacrifice to do so.

I understand and appreciate his view. But I am sad about this. Both my boys will be gone this weekend, one on an overnight field trip and the other snowboarding with a buddy. As much as I long for peace and quiet, when I'm actually alone here I end up feeling very lonely. I'll try to make the best of it by going through boxes from the storage shed, organizing my financial papers and finishing my resume so I can start pounding the pavement bright and early Monday morning in a warm van, thank goodness!

However, there is still part of me that does not think staying home is the right decision. People need to connect on an emotional and physical level and it is a challenge to maintain a long-distance relationship. January has been a tough month for me and now I won't be seeing the number one person in my life whom I rely on for support. Conversing over the phone leaves a lot to be desired.

We'll be saving $80.00 but at what cost? To have me feeling disgruntled, hurt, semi-rejected and down this weekend. To have Sam's son need to go with him to work on Sunday for at least part of the day since I'm not there. And maybe even go with him on Saturday afternoon if he is not comfortable staying by himself.

Maybe it is because I know firsthand what this author set out so wisely in words. That in the end, our relationships and love matter more than the gas money. And maybe sometimes the sacrifice has to go in the other direction. Instead of saving the money, the sacrifice comes from spending it. Having written this post, I am left with the niggling feeling that the cost of saving $80.00 won't be worth it. There will be damage from putting off seeing one another, which raises another point - sometimes you have to spend money to save money because it ends up costing more to fix something broken than maintain it in the first place.

Today I am grateful for:

1. The kindness of small business owners allowing checks to be held til the 1st.
2. The fact that the needed van repair was only $336.00 - it could have been worse.
3. The warmth of hot towels fresh from the dryer.
4. The sun which made a pleasant appearance after hiding under the covers most of the month.
5. Electricity. As much as I am getting into burning candles, thank goodness I'm burning them with lights on and that I don't have to read by candlelight!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Little Step Back

Was out of commission yesterday due to a migraine. Although I have been spared many physical ailments like the flu and colds since my husband's death, I do suffer from frequent and severe headaches. This one hit me in the middle of the night and I wondered if it had started from some of the stress I felt after attending a mandatory parent meeting at the high school for an overnight field trip my oldest is taking.

Monday was a cold and snowy night - my favorite kind of weather for trekking over to the school. The meeting started at 7:00 but my son needed to be at school at 6:30 for volley ball practice. So I sat in the parking lot not wanting to go in earlier and make small talk with the other parents and sit by myself. As always with these kinds of events, I end up feeling a bit down because most of the parents attending are together. You'd think that after six years I'd be more used to this but I am not. There is still a pang seeing myself as the odd man out and then feeling alone. It especially hits me at school events.

There was another pang when I had to write out a check for $95.00 to cover the cost of the trip. We just don't have that kind of extra money right now. But at the same time I want my son to have the opportunity to attend this trip. I went on some overnight trips in high school including Washington D.C. and want my son to have these experiences too. We're so cut to the bone financially in so many ways. Giving my son this opportunity seems to me the least he is entitled to.

Yet another pang when I had to approach the dad who is the treasurer for this organization and whom I personally know and ask him if the check could be held until the end of the week for cashing. There wasn't a problem with that but I still felt humbled and embarrassed at having to ask.

The issue of health insurance came up at the meeting and I want to avoid that topic since it is such a hot one for me. I am awaiting word on approval from our state insurance program, which I was rejected from last spring for making pennies (yes, pennies) over the yearly income base requirement. That was because my income from the big box store was included. This time when I applied, I was no longer working there so should be approved. But I am still waiting...

After the meeting, there was some time to kill because my son's practice wasn't over until 8:30. We're back to driving only the van now. I canceled the insurance on our second car that I was driving because of the cost. I plan on reactivating it as soon as I start work. But in the meantime, there are some logistical complications in figuring out where we'll all be and how we'll get there, mainly on nights such as this one where two people had to be at places at different times.

I left the meeting feeling drained and worried. I am just so tired. Internally exhausted. I don't know how else to describe it. I feel weary to the bone. All these years of stress and strain have caught up with me. There hasn't been a respite or a vacation. Just more to fret about. I began to think about the dire necessity of finding a full-time job but then the concern that I am so beat how am I going to manage it and be an effective parent? It is hard living and coping without the stress of work as it is. All those thoughts were weighing heavy on my mind when I went to bed.

When I got up with the headache I took the last two OTC migraine pills left. Usually, one dose kicks the pain. But not this time. I could barely make the drive for the a.m. school drop off and got sick in the van. I managed to stumble into Walgreen's where they thankfully had the brand that works well for me on sale for only $2.50 a bottle - Excedrin. I went home and took the pills with some Coke (for the extra caffeine) and had to go back to bed. Thankfully, I was able to get up and about by the time the boys were home from school and make dinner, etc. But then I found myself berating my need for having had to take the day off so I am now behind in job hunting, working on clearing out the storage shed and organizing my financial papers.

Today is a new beginning and I'm trying to be upbeat and positive. But it is hard in this cold, dark weather and I feel so exhausted inside and out. How does one restore their energy at times like this? I cannot dismiss the fact the losses of my recent life kicked me down to the gutter. There was too much that happened in a condensed time - this has taken a tremendous toll on me emotionally and physically. I am weary to the core. Hardly the go-get-em attitude I need to embrace for job hunting in this frigid winter weather. It is darn challenging to pump myself up and plant that smile on my face. Far easier to stay hunkered down inside, hiding.

Point being - I think that my situation shows that a significant number of losses makes it more difficult to "get over it," and move on. There has been more to grieve and it has taken me longer. Consequently, I am more depleted - the energy just seems to have zapped out of me. Also, I believe that those of us facing grief and loss in midlife have a rough time because at this age it is harder to bounce back as we did when we were younger. We're more set in our ways and physically less active. This makes for less resilience that we have to counteract with our own internal fortitude. It's not easy.

Today I am grateful for:

1. The opportunity my son has for going on this overnight field trip.
2. My sons passing all their classes (no summer school at this point).
3. The price break I got on the turkey burger patties I picked up at the store yesterday.
4. OTC migraine medicine that actually works.
5. A heated place to live and hide in.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Spring Tease

The mild temperatures over the weekend and rain diminished our snow so there isn't much on the ground. All that is left are the remains of the towering piles from where the snowplows had to dump when plowing. It was so good to see the grass and ground - to smell the earth again. Yesterday it looked and felt like March. But today we are back to the cold and snow is in the forecast!

This reminds me of a tip I came across in regard to having to scrape your car in the snow. It suggested that you put paper bags over the windows to eliminate the cleanup. I tried this a few weeks back putting the paper bags over the front window of my van. Unfortunately, over the night most of the bags blew off so I had to scrape anyway. I came across another tip this weekend that suggested rubbing a raw onion half over the vehicle windows to prevent the formation of ice. So I am going to try that next along with the other suggestion I found that said to try garbage bags over the vehicle windows. I'll let you know if the plastic bags work better than the paper. Looks like there will be some more opportunities with snow coming.

Another interesting tip I read talked about the power of color to enrich our lives. During these gloomy and dark winter days, it suggested making a point of looking at red and orange items to lift our moods. Another suggestion was to put bowls of oranges, lemons and limes around with the scent of the oranges and lemons being especially energizing. Can't hurt and it is worth a try. I cleaned my bathroom yesterday with an orange cleaner and have to say it was very refreshing and vibrant. During my cleaning over the weekend, I "found" some of those adjustable gel air fresheners in holiday fragrances. I went ahead and put them all out and now our home smells great. You can get these air fresheners for a dollar on sale, even the name brands such as Renuzit. What a cheap luxury!

Although my funds are too limited right now to afford flowers, that was another hint recommended to lift winter doldrums. Buy a bunch for your home. Here is a cute idea I saw. You cut some slits into the tops off some lemons. Then you use the shell as a vase for small flowers. This next one is pretty clever too. Take a lace doily and cover with fabric stiffener. Shape the doily over a bowl to dry and when it is finished, you have a cute container. And you could use it to display some of that citrus fruit!

Luckily, none of us have been sick this winter. Surprisingly, we have all been extremely healthy in the years since my husband's death. I just don't "allow" myself to get ill and am lucky I have a strong resolve and immune system because I do think that stress can play havoc with our health. But here are two home remedies for colds I clipped out in case we need them before spring is really in bloom.

Sore Throat Soother to instantly relieve the pain and swelling:

Add 1 tsp. lemon juice and 1 Tbs. Listerine to a cup of water and gargle, 3-4 times a day.

Cold-Weather Cough Quieter:

Mix 1 Tbs. lemon juice with 1 tsp. honey and a pinch of cayenne pepper, then swallow. The lemon adds vitamin C and reduces inflammation. The honey is soothing and coats the throat. The pepper increases circulation.

Interesting that both home remedies contain lemon juice!

For flaky hair which comes with winter and dry scalp, gently work 1/4 cup mouthwash into the scalp for 30 seconds after shampooing. The mouthwash contains less alcohol than dandruff shampoos so is not as drying to hair.

To get out of bed more quickly and energized on these gloomy dark days, press the tip of your left pinkie to your left thumb; do the same with your right hand and hold both for two minutes. Apparently this is an acupressure point that stimulates the release of adrenaline.

I read yet again how the repetitive motions of knitting and crocheting reduce anxiety and relieve tension. I love doing both, especially in winter. I am making a point to have a project always going and in my tote bag so I can work some stitches while waiting to pick the boys up from school, etc. This weekend I whipped up a display for our door. It has been bothering me that all the doors in our building don't have wreaths or seasonal decorations. When I lived in our home changing the door decor was always something I enjoyed and I often made whatever was displayed. But all my decorations are somewhere in the storage shed and I wanted something seasonal. Remember the giant mitten I made for my son's girlfriend at Christmas? I took that pattern and crocheted two mittens in contrasting blue yarns. They are now on the door looking very cute hanging side-by-side. When I come to the door now, I feel part of my fun-loving and creative spirit greeting me. It is feeling good to have a part of me that has been buried the past months start to become alive again.

One last hint. To cure a broken heart: clean, organize, decorate. I've read this before. While our lives can be unpredictable and unruly, one of the things we can actually control is our home environment. By gaining mastery over our living areas, we have some say in how we are living and managing our losses. I may have had to leave my home, but that doesn't mean I have lost the ability to put up a decoration on my door to brighten the gloomy January days.

Today I am grateful:

1. That the van's heat and blower are still working.
2. That we have had enough food this month and have not had to resort to PB & J or Mac and Cheese.
3. For lint rollers.
4. For warm showers.
5. For duct tape, which has surprisingly many uses.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Time Is Now

I've been way guilty of saving a lot of objects in my life for later. Like all the creams and lotions that come with the perfume gift sets I get at the holidays or for Mother's Day. And I have tons of candles that have remained unburned. They are so pretty and smell so nice I don't know why I have never lit them. Also, various makeup items, fancy soaps, stationery, note cards, bottles of wine, clothing, bound journals - I can probably think of more things but I'll quit while I'm ahead.

Having to move from the house to the apartment resulted in me clearing out various drawers and shelves and all of this stuff became unhidden. The other day I came across a large bag of soap dishes, hand cream tubes and cute soaps in the shape of snowflakes. I had purchased them a few years back to have on hand to give as holiday and teacher gifts. It really bothered me to see them again as they were long forgotten. For one thing they are not being used and they are taking up valuable and needed space.

I knitted two adorable dish cloths in a multi-colored blue cotton yarn to add to the bath items and I gave two sets away. One to the boys' school counselor for all her help in getting the boys back on track after their move and return. The other to my Nursing Assistant instructor because I really liked her and we developed a bit of friendship between us in the five weeks I took the class. I plan on knitting up three more dish cloths. They are round and in the shape of flowers - just adorable. Each takes about two hours for me to knit but I do so during my downtime while watching t.v. - that is why it probably takes two hours because I have to keep track of rows, so I wait til the commercials. Anyway, I want to give away two bath sets to the moms of my sons' friends whom they often stay over with and as a housewarming to my girlfriend who sold her home and moved into a townhouse. I will keep and use one set for myself.

That big bag is just looking at me with an evil eye. I don't want any bags like this in my life anymore. Things need to be used and appreciated - not stored away for a rainy day in the future. I have started to use up my supply of lotions and creams and am finding that the five minutes I devote to myself in the morning to do so is a way cheap but well worth it luxury. I smell great all day and my dry winter skin is smooth. I am lighting candles during the day while I work on the computer and then again at night when the boys and I eat dinner and then they do homework. The candles glowing have taken away some of the gloom of winter.

I have also started work on cleaning and clearing out storage shed #2 of the original 3 - currently there are just 2. I am going to ruthless in what I decide to keep and discard. There are about 10 small boxes of my beloved grandmother's china that my mom gave me some years before she died. She knew I would appreciate the design because it is made up of orange flowers and orange is one of my favorite colors. I am strongly considering getting the boxes out of storage and displaying them in someway or just using them. Why not? What good are they doing sitting in storage? So what if one piece out of the eight piece set breaks? Isn't it better to use what we love and enjoy it fully?

I got this image of my boys having to clear out my clutter and knew without a doubt that all the lotions, creams and candles would wind up in a dumpster somewhere. So I am going to be non-frugal with what I already own and have. I'm going to use it up with no worries about waste or running out. I am going to appreciate the little luxuries I already have. I am experiencing an unexpected surge of pleasure whenever a candle burns down and I have to replace it and I use up a tube of the nice body lotion.

Today I am grateful:

1. For all of the excess in my life because it does represent a life of plenty even now during hard times.
2. For the spring catalogs appearing in the mail. I get inspired at looking at pretty things even not being able to afford them right now. And I get decorating and craft ideas for free too!
3. For all the free craft patterns I can access via the internet.
4. For warm, cozy and soft gloves.
5. For the scent of Johnson's Baby Lotion. I am using a cream that smells like this right now and it is very soothing.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Comfort Within Winter's Wrath

The freezing rain that was predicted hasn't arrived and I am almost giddy with relief! Part of the strain of widowhood is having to face less than desirable weather conditions on one's own. A big part of it for me is not knowing there is someone there for me to bail me out of some sort of weather-related jam, such as getting stuck in a snowdrift or having a flat tire on some deserted road in a snowstorm. As a result, I am always operating one step ahead so to speak. When driving somewhere, I plan the route ahead of time based on my concerns. Sometimes it has involved waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to start shoveling out the driveway. I always have to have a backup plan in my pocket. But of course the backup plan doesn't just magically appear there - it has to be thought out involving extra time and energy. I have come to find that my widowhood involves living in an anticipatory state much like the fight or flight response to danger. I have to always be on alert and aware of whatever possible dangers out there exist. And with the threat of icy rain, there are numerous ones. So now that this danger has hopefully subsided I can let down my guard a bit, breathe a sigh of relief and relax a little.

It has been the everyday aspects of living that have worn me down and caused me the most distress. Looking back, the grieving part of my husband's death was far easier to handle. I think that is what a lot of people miss or don't consider. We all focus on the taxing work of grief and make it our priority. But the constant drain of living on one's own and just making it though week after week exerts a tremendous toll on one's overall physical health and spiritual well- being. I know that winter is a particularly grueling time for me and my spirit becomes reborn with the first signs of spring!

Yesterday I needed to come up with a quick and cheap dinner. I had two cans of tuna in the pantry and needing some retro comfort food to the max decided to fix my mom's 1960s tuna casserole, which she used to make us for lunch. The recipe had to be the original - no fancy additions of sugar snap peas, marinated red pepper or even noodles or cheese.

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can tuna
1/3 cup milk
1 cup cooked peas
2 chopped hard boiled eggs
1 cup crushed potato chips for topping

Mix all ingredients except chips and put into lightly greased pan, baking at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Then add chip topping and bake another 10 minutes.

I doubled the recipe and served with extra chips and peas on the side along with biscuits. My sons, not thrilled with the prospect of tuna casserole for dinner polished off all of it. We ate while celebrating the fact that my oldest has been nominated to participate in a contest for the males at this school based on the Miss America concept. There is a fashion show and talent portion involved. My youngest said his track coach thinks he can beat the current school record for one of his events this year.

Today I am grateful:

1. For retro tuna casserole.
2. That my sons are being recognized for their talents and abilities.
3. That my sons are being challenged to achieve at higher levels.
4. That the freezing rain didn't show up!
5. That I have made it through more days of January than are now left in the month!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Onion and a Few Potatoes

First, let me report that "payback" has been received and it only took one day! After helping Sam out of a financial jam by depositing some funds into his account, my good deed was rewarded by some unexpected financial gain! I am applying for health insurance benefits and had to locate certain records. While going through my file that stores our birth certificates, social security cards and the like, I came across some old savings bonds totaling $150.00. So that means if getting through the end of the month is a challenge, I do have a way of seeing it through! Whether or not all future favors are paid back in such a way is not the issue here because in the end, I want to be in reciprocal relationship with others. But it is an interesting development and food for thought about the whole Universal Law of Attraction theory and all.

Yesterday was spent focused on the insurance matter. Today I have to buckle down and put together a new resume suited for job hunting as a CNA. Having not been out in the job force for a number of years, I am a bit intimidated. Things have really changed since I last looked for a "real" job over 10 years ago! And I have to also admit that my ego took a tremendous bruising and battering with the divorce. There is a part of me that sees myself as a "bad" and incompetent person, which of course is totally false but I was emotionally wounded and have doubts about my worth. Attaining a job and working at it well will do loads for making me feel more balanced and adjusted.

So, today is a start in that direction. I find myself struggling less and less with thoughts of how this is not supposed to be. That we shouldn't be living in this apartment, that I shouldn't be seeking work as a CNA (I'm a master's level clinican for goodness sakes), that I shouldn't be on my own instead of married... Somehow, I am embracing the here and now of my reality with less horror and shame.

In that vein, I read a little entry from a book last night that really resonated with me. It is from a book published in 2004 titled "Younger by the Day," by Victoria Moran. It is presented in journal fashion with an entry for each day focused on ways to live, think and act younger. This is the entry for January 18:

"The Best-Laid Plans"

"One reason midlife disappointment is all too common a syndrome is that we sometimes reach the point of having our plans play out, and we don't like what we see. Someone may have liberally (to her thinking) given her children lifestyle choices A, B, and C, only to find as adults they've chosen D, "none of the above." Someone else may have done everything right: worked hard on her job and in her marriage, saved regularly for blissful retirement, and then found herself widowed, or caring for a partner with a debilitating disease.

Such things happen because life on earth is not a sure thing. We can do our best, hedge our bets, put unassailable actions behind well-conceived plans, and still find ourselves the exception to the rule. What do you do in a case like this? First, feel what it feels like - probably rotten. Sit with the feelings. Write about them. Talk about them. But don't reach for them when they start to subside. They're meant to go, and you're meant to go forward.

Going forward means acquiring the kind of flexibility that can make something lovely out of Plan B. It's seeing the big picture that you're a soul on a path, rather than the little picture of you as a woman alone, or one whose retirement savings half vanished at the whim of the stock market. It's making beauty out of the available ingredients, the way you can make a nourishing soup out of last night's leftovers plus an onion and a few potatoes.

And it's the stalwart commitment to continue making plans and doing the work to fulfill them. If you make them, they MIGHT not turn out. If you don't, they WILL not. Give yourself the best odds for the best life. Work with what you've got - that onion and those potatoes - and concoct something warm and comforting and delicious."

I read this last night and it gave me such peace and calm. I don't believe this author truly recognizes how derailing tragedy can be. My personal grief from my husband's death, my divorce and everything inbetween has taken more than a just "talk it out or write it down" strategy. Let's throw in loads of grief therapy and personal emotional work. In other words, it's not that simple or striaightforward. But I do appreciate this author's overall tone and message. Right now I AM starting over but I do have a CNA certificate to get my foot in the door. And hopefully that will be my onion and potatoes - the start to a better, future opportunity more in line with my education and experience. But no one says that leftover stew can't be pretty darn tasty, rewarding and filling in the meantime!

Today I am grateful:

1. That the freezing rain did not come last night.
2. That I have built up a nice and substantial book collection.
3. For our computer and internet access.
4. For being able to have a strong cup of tea every morning.
5. For having nice items I can donate to Goodwill.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Give and Believe You Will Have More to Give

I am trying to be conscious of the concept of giving what I need in order to attract it back into my life. This is not that hard to attend to as I try to be a thoughtful and giving person in my daily life as much as possible. But it is hard from the standpoint of not thinking that I have much to give because my own pantry is bare.

I went to see Sam over the weekend, leaving after taking my state certified nursing exam, around 5:00 p.m. I had made sure that the boys had friends to sleepover with as I am not comfortable having them overnight on their own. The boys did not want to go with me as they had just finished finals week and it was a long weekend with the Martin Luther King holiday. There were activities planned with their friends to celebrate the end of the semester.

So I drove the four-hour trip even though I was very drained from the week of finals and my own exam. Part of the reason I went to see Sam was that he had his son visiting and on Sunday had to work. My being there would avoid having to get a babysitter and/or bring his son to work with him for at least part of the day. If I can help out and give a helping hand I'll do so. I want to. It is positive to feel useful and valuable.

Being at Sam's gave me an opportunity to have a bit of a break from parenting my boys. I had the time to do some knitting and reading which translates into huge relaxation for me. Sam's son is 11-years-old and no trouble to be around. He enjoys playing his computer and video games on his own and is a pleasure to interact with.

When I left on Monday morning, Sam let me take home the leftover food he had picked up for his son's visit. This included milk, Hawaiian punch, 2 boxes of Little Debbie snacks, fruit snacks, french fries, bread, yogurt, hot dog buns, a box of Cheese crackers and 2 mini fruit pies. In addition, he let me have some bath tissue, a roll of paper towels, liquid dish soap, a can of peas, a stick of butter and even a new stick of deodorant from a two-pack since my oldest was out. Now this offering was really like hitting the mother load! We are really strapped and I am not buying items like cookies or snacks for the boys. When I started putting the items away at home, my youngest joked that it was better than the food pantry (sad to joke about this - sadder that it is true). To be able to have fresh items in the home like bread, milk, juice and yogurt is a gift.

I was and am grateful for these things. It cost me $45.00 in tolls and gas one way to make the trip. Sam provided me with this amount also for the return trip. I wish I did not have to rely on him for the gas money to get back home but this was a very lean month, especially with having to pay the speeding ticket for my son - that had to come out of the grocery budget.

I would like to believe that my helping Sam out with being there for his son resulted in my sons receiving some nice snacks that they would not have ordinarily. I didn't make the trip expecting to go home with anything other than some dish soap so it was the bounty was a nice surprise for me too. Just the milk alone, since the boys are going through a gallon every two days.

Yesterday, Sam called me to ask a favor. He was $80.00 short in his checking account and the mortgage payment was being taken out today. Because he now lives out of state, banking has become a little problematic. He would have had to leave work at noon in order to drive to Illinois and make a deposit. Sending a check by overnight mail was not an option since an out-of-state check takes longer to clear - he needed the cash deposited in his account. Fortunately, there is a branch of his bank in my town and very fortunately I still had (barely) $80.00 in my own account to withdraw. Even though I am cutting it very close with finances, I wanted to assist him because I could - it was a tight squeeze but it was the better option than Sam having to leave work early and drive 8 hours, not to mention the gas expense. Sam kindly reimbursed me the $80.00 and added another $20.00 which he sent out by Fed-X, so except for me worrying a bit that my own balance is low, all is good.

At least I know that even in such dire times I can still get someone out of a jam. And I hope that the spirit of caring and sharing that was created this weekend will continue to flow. Sam mentioned that we are a good team together - that too.

Today I am grateful for:

1. Being given opportunities to help someone out. This is very important when you're struggling yourself and don't think that you have anything to give. It is not true to believe this - there are ways to give other than financial. But it is ironic that I was even able to help out financially!
2. All fresh food - the basics: milk, bread, butter, yogurt, eggs, fruit. I don't think I will ever again take for granted a simple loaf of bread or carton of milk.
3. The bag of Gala apples I was able to buy at ALDI for only $1.29!
4. The grocery store, ALDI. This chain sells at a considerable savings. I am shopping there almost exclusively because of the deals.
5. That the heating blower in the van started blowing again after it appeared to not be working. If it can just hold up another month I'll be even more grateful!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Test And Life

I took my state certification exam for the nursing assistant program on Saturday. I am thankful it is over because I was getting pretty tired of studying. The fact that the boys had finals last week and I had this made for an emotionally draining week overall. Following are my observations from the test day:

1. I felt a sense of pride at having completed the CNA program. The test was the final loose end to complete. Whenever one finishes a project or course of study, there is that sense of satisfaction at having seen it through to the end.

2. There were many folks taking the test a good 10-15 years older than I am so that made me feel as though I am not the only one out there scrambling to get a foot in the door by studying for a short-term certificate.

3. One of my fellow classmates told me that her friend with a master's in psych. has been out of work for some time as a marriage and family therapist. I asked her what the friend has been doing and she said nothing. So again, I felt good that I took the needed steps to make myself more marketable with the current economy. It also made me realize that I'm not the only person out there with an advanced/specialized degree encountering trouble finding full-time employment.

4. This same classmate brought up another woman from our class. She asked me if I knew that she and her family, totaling nine people, all live together in a two-bedroom apartment. I knew this woman had remarried and her three children joined the four of her new husband but I had thought they lived in a home. I replied, "How can they do it?" and my classmate said, "They make it work." Hearing this story made me realize that there are others out there making sacrifices. The reason this even came up was that I made a comment about how lovely this woman's daughter is, a recent high school grad. The mom and her daughter took the CNA course together and now the daughter is enrolled in a nursing program. So despite her having shared a very small residence with her large family, she turned out from all indications to be well adjusted and productive.

5. A mini drama unfolded as we were all admitted into the large testing room. A poor young woman rushed in late clutching her car insurance card. She explained that she had just lost her driver's license, which she was going to use as a picture ID - she did not have any other photo ID. It was explained to her that without a current photo ID she could not be admitted to take the test but would have to do so next month. It was sad to see this young woman crying as she was almost physically forced from the area - she wouldn't stop pleading or explaining. As I saw her I thought how terrible the situation must seem for her at the moment. But that life would go on and that she will reapply for the test and simply have to retake it in February. I certainly felt her despair but was able to look past it and see that in the grand scheme of things, yes, it is a setback but not as terrible a one that really could be.

6. There were one or two questions I did not have a clue how to answer on the test and a couple that I didn't think were well written - I thought all of the answers were incorrect! Of course, I did my best to select what I felt was the best response. Bottom line - sometimes I won't know the right answer, sometimes all the available responses will look wrong but I still have to pick one. And after doing so it is best to not dwell on what was picked and to believe that it was correct and the outcome will be all good!

7. In the parking lot while circling for a space , a college student backed into the front side of my van as she pulled out. This was totally her error (she didn't see me) and except for a slightly bent hubcap, I didn't see or believe there to be any damage so I let it go. Filling out a report would have made me miss the test, although looking back it probably should have been done. I did take down the terrified girl's information. In the past, I've let occurrences like this go. It just made me reflect on the reality that sometimes it is not us, nothing we've done or not done - it is something that happens because of someone else and there really wasn't anything that could have been done about it.

Today I am grateful for:

1. Liveable winter weather
2. The trees I saw covered with a dusting of snow that looked like they had been dipped in powder sugar
3. The white and blue lights on some trees left over from holiday displays, still lit in some office complexes - they are so pretty in a wintry way
4. Toasted English muffins spread with butter and orange marmalade
5. The spotless bathroom at the very clean rest stop I went to this morning

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Bigger World

I am making the conscious effort to put aside my own challenges today to focus on the earthquake victims in Haiti. Whenever I start reflecting on my own concerns, I want to transcend that level by switching those thoughts toward prayer and good will to the countless others truly suffering. I am very guilty of focusing and dwelling on myself and my little life and situation. It is hard to step out of our zone and go outside of ourselves, especially when life is pretty challenging. But there is a bigger picture and a bigger world. And today I think that the others living on an Island nation far away from my reality need and deserve some of my energy and prayer.

Today I am grateful for:

1. Warm shelter
2. Running water
3. Plumbing
4. Living in a safe community
5. Food in the pantry even if it is a lot of mac & cheese and peanut butter & jelly

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Winter Blues

There is a daily fatigue that seems to settle into my bones during the winter months. An undercurrent of fear simmers that I will fall on the ice and break a bone. Who would care for me? The winter weather and darker days exaggerate my being alone.

These are the days for hunkering down and snuggling a bit longer under the covers. I miss having a warm body next to me sleeping. I miss the absence of a strong male presence in the home. Someone to rely on when the roads are slippery with snow coming down - just knowing they can be called to come make a rescue if I land in a snowbank.

I feel vulnerable and lonely. Soon after my husband died, someone told me that I was so lucky I had the boys to raise - because I would never be lonely (and I would be too busy besides). But I think it goes without saying that I am lonely for romance and adult interaction. You can be lonely even living with a large number of people (think homesick college freshman living in a dorm).

Everyone needs a cheerleader in their corner. I felt I had that when my husband was alive. We served as cheerleaders for each other. Now I have to rely on the occasional well wishes of friends and acquaintances. There is not a daily support mechanism in place. And truth be told, it gets pretty old pretty quickly being your own cheerleader.

I miss looking forward to a night out for dinner, a movie or a show with a partner. Those are the kinds of activities that help recharge our batteries. I miss planning a romantic dinner at home complete with a special meal and candles. I miss all the physical aspects of being in a romantic relationship, mostly the day-to-day hugs, affectionate pats, smiles and verbal affirmation.

We are ending finals week at the boy's school and I am convinced that the best decision was made to keep them here. But it does come at a great price because I have lost regular physical contact with Sam and I am sad about that. Long distance relationships bring with them their own challenges, in addition to all the others that exist in maintaining a committed relationship in the first place.

The well-known author and psychologist, Dr. Kevin Leman, who wrote all the birth order books, believes that single parents should not even consider remarrying until their children are out of school. He feels there are too many conflicting problems and issues in attempting to blend families together. I can certainly relate to his reasoning since I have struggled with balancing the needs of my sons with that of my own. And there is a part of me that remains annoyed with the situation of Sam moving out-of-state to take a job. It is such a slap in the face to me. To have met a decent, compatible guy and have him move away. It seems so ironic that I made a conscious decision to date only locally because I did not want to face a relocation. And then the same situation ended up presenting itself. I am beyond trying to figure out a rhyme or reason to this and just want to be able to rely on some safety and reliability for a change instead of having to dodge curve balls.

My husband's death came at a rotten time in regard to the boys' ages. It would have been easier if they had been younger or older in terms of relocating and remarriage. But I guess there is not much point to dwelling on that. It is what it is and I am where I am and have to somehow make the best of all of this from this point on. And part of that means facing any upcoming winter storms on my own here, at least for the time being. My sixth winter on my own.

Today I am grateful that:

1. We are surviving finals week.
2. The temperature today will be close to 40 degrees.
3. The boys have worked very hard on their academics (they had three weeks of missed work to make up).
4. We have not gone hungry this month.
5. The boys were welcomed back to their school with open arms, love and support.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Emotional Isolation

As I start back into the work force, I have been thinking about how my not having worked outside the home in recent years increased my physical isolation. This got me to thinking about the emotional element of isolation as well. I came across the blog of a mom also widowed at the age of 44. She quoted a statistic that only 3% of married people will lose a spouse to death at this age. That small a percentage really got to me!

I've tried obtaining statistics on how many widows/widowers are out there, particularly for the age group of 40-50. I came across the figure of 16% somewhere but that seems pretty high. I'll keep at it for my own satisfaction. I'm trying to prove, I guess, that with all of our medical advances, today there are not that many people dying in mid-life. At age 65, the numbers dramatically increase.

Point being, when you're widowed at this age, there aren't that many other people out there walking in your shoes. And that results in a great sense of emotional isolation. In my personal experience, it has been very frustrating to try and explain the extreme impact of my husband's death to others. Unless these people had experienced death intimately (didn't have to be a spouse) it just always felt as though I was talking to brick wall. People would nod sympathetically, but I could tell they didn't really fully comprehend the depth of my pain. They seemed perplexed. Oftentimes, I'd hear criticism about what I was doing wrong and that always increased my grief. I felt criticized for grieving or that people wanted to take my grief away from me. "Let me at least have my grief," I remember thinking. "Don't rob me of that right too when I've already lost everything most dear to me."

Being unable to convey how you are truly feeling brings forth such desolation at another level. I questioned my sanity. Was there something wrong with me? Why were so many people disapproving of my sorrow? At this point you have two options. 1. Stop expressing your innermost feelings to others because of the discomfort it brings. or 2. Keep doing it and irritating those in your life. Either way ends up with negative consequences.

It is imperative to get out there and connect with others walking this path. Surprisingly, I found very few available grief groups considering I live in such a large area. Some of the groups had disbanded, others focused mainly on the divorced. I did attend such a group where there was one other widow. We had a hard time up against the bitter, divorced moms. We didn't fit in and the overriding belief was that we had it better because our husband's were out of the picture. These moms were dealing with deadbeat guys and spent the two hours bashing them. The poor other widow and I just sat there shaking our heads and crying. We wished to have a guy to be bashing! Even a deadbeat one!

If I had to do it over again, I would have made a more vigilant effort to get involved in a grief group earlier in my widowhood. Walking this road on my own proved to be too daunting for me. I needed the connection and support such a group would bring. What eventually saved me was finding a counselor specializing in grief and life transitions. I had someone I could share with openly and honestly. She validated my experiences and emotions. This is the key - validation. To know that what your are going through and feeling is normal. And that is not possible when you don't have contact with others in the same situation.

Blogging for me has been a lifesaver. As a super busy mom of teen boys with precious little free time, this mode of contact with the outside world has greatly reduced my emotional isolation. To be able to connect with someone else out there who totally understands where I am coming from. To know about someone else's experience and to totally relate because I've been there too (on the exact same page). It would be nice to have someone to go out with for coffee, dinner or a show - a fellow widow or widower. A physical connection ultimately brings more to a relationship. But I'm grateful for the connections I do have in this mode. It is my lifeline as I continue to swim to shore.

Today I am grateful for:

1. The entire blogging experience.
2. That my oldest passed his Chemistry final with a C+ - this was a class we were concerned he would fail! So he passed and will not have to go to summer school!
3. The temperature warm up.
4. Hot, soothing showers.
5. Being forced to slow down in winter. It is a time to reflect and recharge.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Slow And Simple

I find myself being drawn to all things simple. It is like my mind is too tired and needs a vacation from having to process too much. I am mindful of how exhausting it is to grieve both physically and mentally. I am functioning much better than I was in December but need to remember to keep taking little steps and not try to accomplish too much too soon.

For now, I am truly grateful to be able to do laundry, cook, wash my face before going to bed and floss my teeth. To tackle the dishes straight on instead of letting them sit in the sink. I am less likely to snap at one of the boys and I feel in more control and calm, even when life is still pretty harry.

I enjoyed cooking up a super crock pot meal this weekend that made our little home warm and inviting. I also baked a dump cake which I love because it is simply dumping three items into a pan.

Slow Cooker Italian Shredded Beef Hoagies (Betty Crocker)

2 lb beef boneless arm roast, trimmed of fat (I used a cooked turkey pot roast I already had in the freezer and this still tasted great)

2 medium onions, sliced (These really make the mixture tasty)

1 can (14.5 oz) Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes, undrained

1/4 cup tomato paste (I just used a small can of tomato sauce since I didn't have the paste)

8 Hoagie buns, toasted if desired

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Place onions in bottom of slow cooker. Place meat on top of onions. Mix the tomatoes and sauce/paste and pour over meat. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8-10 hours. (Since my meat was already cooked, I just put the setting on high for a few hours.) Shred meat. Put mixture on buns and top with cheese.

Yeah, there is enough left for another dinner later in the week. It is also suggested, that you simply top pasta with the meat mixture if you don't want sandwiches.

3-Ingredient Pear Dump Cake

Coat 13 x 9 inch pan with cooking spray. Pour in large can of pears in heavy syrup (include syrup). I cut the pears up because they were in halves and spread out on the bottom of the pan. Top pears with a box of DRY white or yellow cake mix, spreading evenly. Top the cake mix with a stick of melted butter or margarine. Sprinkle nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes. Serve warm with milk, cream or ice cream.

You can use whatever fruit you have - canned peaches, fruit cocktail, etc. or use fresh berries or pie filling. For the butter topping you can also put on pats or slices from a stick, spoon on soft margarine or even spritz sprays of butter flavored cooking spray. This is also good to reheat for breakfast.

Today I am grateful for:

1. Clean clothes.
2. Flannel sheets.
3. Freshly cleaned bathrooms.
4. Being gifted two huge loaves of Italian bread from my oldest's girlfriend, whose family gets them from their neighbors, owners of a bakery.
5. My son's ceramic pots and vases he made this semester in his ceramics class. I am enjoying decorating with them.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Coming Up Out Of The Cave

When you are in the depths of grief it is very hard to do much more of anything but grieve. At least that has been my personal experience. I am coming out of the cave I have been in as I've tried to deal with the loss of my home. It has not been unlike the grief I had to travel with when my husband and Mom died and then going through the divorce.

The pain and intensity sometimes doesn't hit you until well after the fact. I was so busy cleaning the house and had to concentrate on selling it over the summer. Then there was having to find an apartment, the actual sale, closing and then physical move of my possessions, which turned out to be far more difficult than I'd anticipated. Doing all of these things on my own was another challenge.

I'm not looking for a pity party here - just stating facts. The move ended up being physically and emotionally draining for me and it wasn't until the dust had settled that I could comprehend how much. No doubt, that was some of the reason the idea of having to relocate with Sam to another state just ended up not being feasible right now.

I think that there was much grieving this holiday season about the loss of the house. It was there underneath everything without really being acknowledged. I was terribly depressed. Having to move was the icing on the cake, topping so many losses before it. It was another huge goodbye made even more difficult because the previous ones had depleted and weakened my soul and spirit. It has involved another identity change - from wife to widow to wife to divorcee; from homeowner to renter.

But I have started to take stock again as we all must at some point. A new year and all that comes into play too. When we are grieving people can point their fingers all they want with advice and solutions. But until we are ready, willing and able we won't be able to climb up out of the cave. The same thing goes for our own advice. At some level we all know what we should be doing to cope and function better. But again, until we are able to act accordingly we won't be able to do so. When our grief is that intense we need to stand strong and tall and make no apologies to anyone. Our job is to tend to the grief, pure and simple.

Whether enough time has passed or not, I'm not sure. I just have reached the point for me where I need to move past such active and intense grief. I am focusing on mindfulness, attentiveness, order and reframing.

Mindfulness/Attentiveness - I just need to be more aware of my surroundings and interactions with life and others. I need to be more of an active participant and less of a passive observer.

Order - I have always found and believed that when life is most chaotic, as long as we can exert some bit of control, we will be the better for it. I think that we need to feel we have some control over our destinies, especially when our lives seem particularly out of balance.

Reframing - I need to remember that it is not always what it appears and that there are more options.

This week I made an effort to get a bit organized to start the year out on a good foot. I changed purses, cleaned out my wallet and balanced my checkbook. I felt better just knowing that my purse was tidy. After grocery shopping, I reviewed the receipts for accuracy noticing one had incorrectly run up a purchase. The next day I returned to the store and received a $3.50 refund. I went to the dollar store needing to pick up some baking pans as mine are "lost" from the recent move. I am trying to make do with some cheap replacements knowing I already own decent bake ware, pots and pans. The pans were not marked but the sign underneath said all items not tagged cost $1.00. When I was at the cashier I nicely complained when they charged me $3.00 and was given the pans for $1.00.

At the bookstore I noticed a woman my age sipping a Venti Starbuck's while reading leisurely. My immediate reaction was to feel resentful and bitter. Why does she get to loll away the morning at a bookstore? Why can't I do that? Why is my life so harder...? But then I got off my high horse to reframe. Maybe this was a busy woman just like me and she had planned for this morning and then implemented it. Who says I can't do the same thing in the future? Plan a morning off where I sit and read at Border's. And then someone gazing at me might even have the same reaction as I first did - that I am a privileged, suburban mom with excess time on my hands!

I rented the small storage locker available in our laundry room and moved out the still unpacked boxes from the apartment. Enough is enough. I'll try and get through as many as I can (and the boys can help too) as quickly as I can but in the meantime, all of us deserve to live in an uncluttered and welcoming environment. At the same time, I am going through everything and donating whatever we no longer use or have use for. Eventually I will have to face the real job of emptying out the storage sheds.

These are small attempts I know but are helping me feel as though I am back in the game of life and doing more than just letting it run past me. In addition, I am trying to observe other strategies that work for me such as reading before bed, watching a half-hour of "The Office" everyday because it makes me laugh and devoting 15 minutes to my knitting hobby. I have forced myself to get up early and not hunker back down under the covers because it is winter, cold and I am depressed.

All in all, some progress.

Today I am grateful for:

1. "The Office."
2. Grapefruit in season.
3. Having too many possessions, hence the need for storage backup in the first place.
4. The winter sun making an appearance.
5. Crock pots.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wanting And Needing (Ode To A Calendar)

I am not a winter person and especially find January bleak and uninspiring. The only thing that salvages this time of year, in my opinion, it that we can start off with a fresh calendar and/or datebook. I always enjoy browsing the huge display of calendars that they put out in the book stores starting in October and usually by this time have purchased several. I have to have a datebook to carry in my bag or purse that sets out the boys' sports schedules, important phone numbers, etc. Then I like to have one with pretty pictures to hang in the kitchen. For the bedroom and my desk, I've always loved those page-a-day ones and have gotten them with knitting, crochet, water color painting, origami, cross stitch themes and so on. And oftentimes I'd give one of the boys a calendar of their favorite sports team as a Christmas gift.

If I am remembering correctly, I came across the figure a few years back that there are more than 300 different calendar themes to choose from. By now, maybe that number is up to 500! Talk about something for everyone - birds, cooking, gardening, puzzles, flowers, cute baby animals, The Far Side, jokes, nature... When you think about it, it is kind of amazing to have that much choice and selection. But also at the same time another in-your-face reminder of how our society operates - people will buy more, if there is more to buy. Boy, don't I know that being tempted to get more than one in the past. I remember those days when I was a kid and there were only a few designs to select from. It has almost gotten out-of-hand with too much product on the shelf, no matter what section of the store you are in. I once counted the soap dispensers available at Target and it was over 30!

Anyway, it has been a tough couple years financially. I have bit the bullet and strived to use and make do with what I already have. I came across the huge calendar displays at various times over the fall and resisted my impulse to at least get one of the page-a-days with the knitting or crochet theme since those are my hobbies. But alas, while I can hold off on buying new clothes and such, a calendar is one of those items that is non-usable. It needs to be replaced every year. So I went to Barnes & Noble earlier in the week to obtain a datebook. I'd been organizing my purse and records inspired by that surge we get come Jan. 1, and determined that a datebook is not something I can survive without.

I live in a big metropolitan area and the stores around here sell out of their stock quickly. The remaining calendar selection was slim but I found one that I liked with a design of birds that was cute and it was only $4.00, half price (plus I got another member discount so all was good). I had hoped to find one of the knitting or crochet page-a-days left but there were not any. This ended up disappointing me so the next day I went to another larger book store to see if they had any. They did not.

I was surprised at how much this started to bother me. I wanted one of these calendars and regretted not getting one earlier. They feature almost daily knitting/crochet patterns and pack a lot of bang into your buck. You're basically getting 100+ patterns for just $16.00 (full cost). I was disappointed and could have lived with not having one of those calendars this year - so be it - it wasn't the year for excess spending, think ahead to next year. But then I remembered that in past years they've had those stores in the mall that solely sell calendars at this time. So I said, "What the heck," I'll make a quick run to the mall and check it out.

Along with winter, I'm not a mall person. Just don't enjoy going to them and haven't for many years. I prefer hitting the smaller strip malls or to order by catalog. I was on a mission - to see if there was a calendar store and to get in and out as soon as possible. I entered the mall through a large department store and have to say that I did gaze longingly at the cute pajamas they had on sale for 70% off. Then when I walked through the fragrance section, I did think about how nice it would be to be able to afford a new scent. But for the time being I am doing okay using what I already have. And it does ultimately end up feeling better to use what I have!

Just a short distance away from this store was the calendar store and I purchased two page-a-day ones. I got the last knitting one they had and the crochet one, of which there were several. They were half-price so I paid $16.00 for both. I figure that ends up to be about 5 cents a day for a whole lot of enjoyment throughout the year. When I put the cost factor into it, I was able to justify the purchase. Making this purchase was also more meaningful because of the savings, as well as the fact that I'd had to search for the product after making the conscious decision that it was something that I really wanted and would miss if I didn't have. In the past, I'd just pick up one of the calendars back in October - it was a taken for granted, almost mindless purchase. This time is different. I am grateful that I found the calendars and that I'll be able to enjoy them all year. And again I am struck by the reality that it is often the little things that end up meaning the most. I also recently read that "the high" we obtain from material items is very short-lived. I found that once I got out of the sleepware and frangrance departments, I didn't really have any desire for pjs or a new bottle of perfume. Out of sight, out of mind.

Part of me wrestles with whether I should have restrained myself from making this purchase. After all, it wasn't entirely necessary. The datebook was what I really needed. But then I go back to the 5 cents a day cost and tell myself that indeed, it is worth that small cost. Even in the middle of struggles, whatever they may be, there have to be ways that we can treat ourselves and nurture our souls.

Today I am grateful that:

1. The snowstorm wasn't as bad as predicted.
2. Already the worst week of the entire year (in my opinion) is over!
3. There was one knitting calendar left and I got it.
4. The boys are getting caught up with their school work.
5. I don't have to shovel myself out as I did when I was a homeowner (at least one perk to renting).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Staying In As The Snow Falls

We are having ANOTHER winter storm here, SIGH, which is supposed to continue through tomorrow. It is a day for hunkering down and staying in. On days like these I like to have something in the oven going to boost up the heat and to make our home smell more warm and cozy. Last night, I baked banana bread from a box of cake mix I had on hand. I had wanted to use up some bananas and didn't want to put in much effort. One review of the recipe, which I found online, said that the first loaf of the bread was eaten by the family in one day. Well, I will top that. My boys ate one of the loaves within an hour! I didn't believe the reviews which raved about the recipe but it is very moist and good. Almost as good as my real banana bread made from scratch!

Cheap, Easy, Fun Banana Bread

1 box yellow cake mix
3 - 5 ripe bananas (I used 4)
1/3 cup vegetable oil (you can also use 1 cup of apple sauce if that is what is on hand)
3 eggs
optional - 1 cup chocolate chips, which we add to everything I bake

Mix all ingredients well, pour into two loaf pans coated with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes (start checking on bread at 35 minutes).

I also made a new recipe for chili last night, which was a nice change of pace since I make a lot of chili over the winter - once a week.

Sloppy Joe Chili

1 cup chopped onion
2 T. Chili powder (at least - I always use more)
1 lb. ground turkey or beef
1 can Sloppy Joe sauce
1 can drained kidney beans
3 cups hot cooked white rice

Brown onions and chili powder with cooking spray. Cook meat and drain. Stir in Sloppy Joe sauce and beans, heating for about 5 minutes. Serve chili over rice and top with cheese, sour cream and more chili powder. I always serve corn with chili. We don't usually eat chili with rice and it was surprisingly tasty.

I am taking advantage of being able to stay in and putter. We're supposed to get at least 7 inches of snow. This is kind of my last fling, since I'll be seriously searching for work as soon as I take the Nursing Asst. state exam next Sat. I am trying to be as cheap as possible in terms of feeding us but want to be preparing some more creative entrees focusing on what is in the pantry.

I have a large can of Bartlet pears and some applesauce so today's mission will be to see what I can come up with to use those. I still have some bananas left and might try the above recipe using a box of chocolate cake mix. I love to cook and bake and really have not done it since having to pack up and move from the house. Things seem to be settling in a bit or maybe I am just ready to try and make life more settled. For me that has always involved cooking and baking and I am finding it a creative challenge to come up with cheap and flavorful dishes.

Our place still smells so good from last night's meal and banana bread. I want to try and keep up this effort and momentum. It makes a difference. My oldest came in last night from studying with his girlfriend and the first words out of his mouth were how good it smelled when he opened the door. We all need more of those simple moments.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Turning the Page

I had to pick up my last paycheck stubs from the big, box store and went in to get them on Monday. That experience inspires this post. I called the office before I left so they would expect me. When I arrived, I greeted the female office manager who was talking with one of the male store managers. Both of these people know me and worked with me for 8 months. There were never personality problems or run ins with either.

I was given my paperwork by the office manager who did not even stop talking with the other manager. Neither one looked at, acknowledged me or said anything. I made a point of saying goodbye to both and left. It was an odd, unsettling experience but typical of this place. My feeling unacknowledged and invisible was frequent during my employment there. There were times when the top store manager would walk by and I would say hello and he also would not say anything to me. He'd just walk by. So I'm not sure if the people this guy hires are similar in disposition to him or they model the behavior after being hired to fit in.

In any case, this all got me to thinking about isolation and grief. Despite the rather bizarre experience of working at this store, I am grateful that doing so provided opportunities for me to socialize and get out and about in the world. I formed some acquaintances with co-workers and enjoyed interacting with the customers. For various reasons I didn't work much after my husband's death. And looking back am seeing that this may have been a hindrance. If I'd been working, I'd hopefully been able to tap into another social support network and my sense of confidence would probably be higher.

I am finding that grief feeds on itself. And in being isolated it can be very easy to fall into the trap of just staying in that cave longer than one should. Without a purpose or reason to get up, it can be so easy to spend endless days stuck on that page where the grief remains blinding and excruciating. There is also the element of resisting change and finding comfort in what you know. You stay on the same page because at least you know what that feels like. It can be very hard to turn the page when you don't know what is coming or how you'll cope or handle it all.

Being a working parent is tough for everyone and especially only parents. I'm not particularly looking forward to joining the daily grind again. But I am trying to look at it from a more positive view. That I will certainly be deriving many benefits, the first of which will be to have greater interaction with others and the world. I will no longer be able to hunker down in my cave for as long as I want. I will be emerging to face the sun and air more days than I have in the past years.

Today I am grateful:

1. For having shelter from the elements and cold.
2. That we have food.
3. That we have a computer and internet access.
4. That we have cell phones.
5. That we have warm clothes, although our boots seem to have been misplaced in the move. We'll try to make due.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Advice. It bothers me a lot that the well-intentioned sometimes tell us that we "need to move on," "become more positive," or "handle and cope with our lives better than we are doing." It is very easy to cast a critical eye on someone else because you think you would or they should be doing something else. Most times, a concern is expressed and that is that. We've been told that we're lacking in some way and now we need to change. Oh, if it were just that simple. How do we accomplish it? May I suggest that if we're going to advise people that they need to think or do differently, that at least we can offer some suggestions.

So, in that spirit, here are some of my observations. I have been noticing that I can seemingly cope better, physically and emotionally, when I am active and exercising, even a little. Getting up to face the day and not staying in bed or in my pajamas, also helps. Having a goal list of tasks to accomplish during the day provides structure and takes my mind off dwelling on the negative. Getting some fresh air, even in this brutal cold is life-affirming. Reaching out to someone else, even simply to send an email, also takes the focus off self. Choosing to read uplifting or positive books vs. dreary, depressing ones can make a huge difference. Taking the time to do anything, however small just for me because it makes me happy; e.g., baking some banana bread is well worth it. So is socializing or being with people, even if that means simply mingling in with the crowd at the grocery store.

These observations come from the past few years having been in and out of depression as the result of active grieving. I won't kid myself that there might be days in the future where I stay in my p.j.s or can only manage to eat BLT sandwiches. It's a given. I am prone to depression and life is challenging. Two loaded bullets waiting to be fired off. I'm not going to tell myself that I can never go into that cave again - that would be fooling myself. In fact, there are times when that is where we need to be. But my list of helpful hints is for when I need to start climbing out of that deep, dark cave of despair and rejoin the land of the living again.

This last bout of depression in December was a tough one. Looking back, I can see how my inactivity and despair kept feeding on itself. It was hard to break the cycle. I was distraught about losing the house, having to move the boys, not being able to afford a Christmas, and experiencing financial hardship. It was a lot on my plate. I had to grieve it all first. That part could not be skipped.

But at the same time, I can see how dwelling on the hardship perpetuates the anguish and keeps me down in the cave. At some point, I reach a place where I realize it is time to come back up. And using my arsenal of past experience as to what has assisted me caused me to come up with these actions. I am going to focus on them now because they have worked in the past.

1. Greet the day with the intent of facing and living it fully.
2. Just get up out of bed.
3. Take shower, put on makeup, dress in decent clothes.
4. Get some fresh air.
5. Try to exercise a little.
6. Reach out to someone in a small way.
7. Write up a to-do or goal list and focus on accomplishing the tasks.
8. Read something uplifting or watch a humorous movie or t.v. show.
9. Do something fun or meaningful.
10. Socialize.
11. Be kind to myself.

And when all else fails, JUST DO ANYTHING, SOMETHING, JUST GET MOVING! Throw in a load of laundry, wash the dishes, clean out a drawer. Focusing on something usually leads to another productive activity. There seems to be something to the Law of Attraction of positive energy increasing and building upon what precedes it.

I should add that I made a concerted effort in the past to focus on positives and list five daily items per post in that regard. That effort petered out this fall when we sold the house, moved and life became pretty frantic with Sam moving and me taking the Nursing Asst. class. Did reflecting on the positives help overall? I'm not sure, I just notice that since I haven't been listing them that I have been in a state of pretty consistent low-level energy, mood and hope. So I will attempt to reactivate my Grateful List now and we'll see what comes of it. It can't hurt.

Today I am grateful for :

1. Postal carriers.
2. The U.S. Post Office.
3. The red, rosy glow of winter sunsets.
4. Being able to pay bills online or over the phone.
5. Weather forecasts, which allow us to know when winter snow is on its way.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

More of Sam's Feedback

Sam was kind enough to call me again to rehash all of this. He had 15 minutes before work started for him. He said he cannot see us moving if we are all going to be miserable. He is worried that the boys WILL fail at the new school and the problems that would then result. He said we are trying to work out the best solution for all of us and that it would probably be better to revisit the move at the end of the school year. He agrees that our trial run in Dec. did make him now hesitant to get married but does not want to end our relationship... He said he will try to send approx. $200.00 monthly to help out in addition to covering our cell phone bill. He wishes he could provide more but cannot do so. Sam also pointed out that some married couples live out-of-state and others work through situations like ours because of school issues with the kids. He admitted the schools in the new town are not as good as what the boys are use to and he understands the difficulties in moving.

Hearing all of this just makes me want to move because I don't want to lose such a stand-up guy. I feel we are right for one another but I suppose the timing and circumstances are not. Sam told me he does not think it is in my heart to make the move right now. I told him if I have to choose it would be to move because of him but he does not want to make ultimatums. Nor does he feel that the turmoil that is going on right now serves as a good foundation in which to start a marriage.

In a way, I am now having my cake and eating it too. Being able to stay back so the boys can attend school here but not being able to live with Sam and start our lives under one roof is a terrible price to pay and I am not dancing in the street with joy. There would be sadness, regret, pain and loss whichever decision the two of us came too. I just wish it didn't have to hurt so much and that no one road was a win-win for us. Both decisions involved loss and sacrifice.

Rocky Road

Sam and I spoke at length last night and this morning he called and the first words out of his mouth were that he thinks we should stay here and not move to him. It was a disheartening conversation. Part of his feelings result from the three weeks we spent living with him in December. He feels the boys and I were very unhappy and as a result, it did change his views about marrying me. We had spoken of marrying in January but now he does not feel "comfortable" doing so and wants to wait to "build up trust" again and to "make sure it is the right thing to do" for all of us.

I would have to say that this is all pretty distressing to me. I told him I'd wished he'd said something to me sooner and he replied that back in Dec. he had been hoping things would improve/change. I admit I was having a hard time of things and pretty depressed at that time. I thought he understood where I was coming from and would give me some leeway in getting through the tangle of emotions that surrounded me.

The move and my decision to enroll the boys in the new school for a kind of trial run was made very quickly and I had just completed the intensive 5-week Nursing Asst. training course. We literally left for our move hours after my last clinical class on Sun. and the boys started school on Mon. During the three weeks we lived with Sam I was also driving home on the weekends to finish my two-week notice with the big box store. It was very stressful and I did the best I could. Now I feel I am being judged by a set of criteria that is not fair.

Sam says the door to his home is still open and nothing else has changed except for his not wanting to get married right now. I told him that from my perspective the whole point of moving is to get married, be with him, share life and rebuild our family together. His view is that I should be moving to have a better life. I believe a better life will come out of being with him. He says marriage will come down the road out of a better life.

Well, I feel as though another curve ball as come my way. I am trying to understand and be patient with Sam for his outlook right now. But I still feel a little betrayed since the tune has changed here. Part of the reason I made the decision to move in Dec. was because marriage was on the table. I have never believed in living together and know that is not a comfortable option for me.

If we move now it will seem like I am on trial or have to prove myself and in my opinion that is the backwards approach to take to this commitment together. It seems as though we should feel strongly about our intentions to one another before I move, not have me move and then see how things develop.

I have never questioned my feelings about Sam. What I have questioned has been having to move the boys at this point in their lives. Sam said he thought I would be settling by moving to be with him. I'm not sure why he feels this way now when some months ago he told me that I had to move since I had no other choice. Wasn't that settling back then? I've never looked at it that way. It is a difficult situation because of moving out-of-state with the boys having to transfer schools.

I still have no question of Sam's integrity or intentions. He told me he was speaking from the heart. He has always been a man of his word and I trust him. But it was painful for me to hear him say last night that it would be easier to split up if it doesn't work out if we're not married than if we are.

Now I feel as though a can of worms has been opened. If we relocate and it doesn't work out, it would be incredibly difficult to come back, especially from a financial position. I have to consider that too. I also have to come to terms with my indecision over this and how it has impacted Sam. But that is all part of the only parent curse. He has an ex-wife with whom to co-parent. I don't and that has resulted in much agony the past weeks.

I was in the common area doing laundry and met a lovely, grandmother also doing her wash. We got to talking and I told her a little about what is going on. She knowingly nodded her head and shared that she moved out of the area when her son was 17. He ended up running back to Chicago and lived with a friend. He was not going to school and she moved back to get him straightened out and in school again. She was like an angel sent to me, a gift. She related that it is a difficult situation with kids the ages of my boys and maybe all we need is some more time to adjust. Sam has suggested that maybe we give the moving another try at the end of the school year or summer and see if that will make it easier for the boys.

Sam told me he would send me what money he can to help out and that we will see how our relationship progresses with the distance between us. He is trying to be as open-minded as possible. But in the meantime I am still stressing to the max about finances and the fear of just not being able to make it here. My angel said that it is hard trying to make it on one's own without a spouse. It was so nice to be speaking face-to-face with someone who knows and understands. She told me I was lucky to have found someone. I totally agree.

Part of me just wants to run into Sam's arms tonight and say we will make it. It might be hard, there may be a period of adjustment but it will work out. I don't want to lose this man but as my angel said, I don't want to lose my sons either.

There would be no conflict here is Sam had remained in the area. His move out-of-state has been the monkey wrench. I feel angry and resentful about that. Why would the Universe bring me this guy and then have him move away? Why does this widow have to endure even more hardship? When will it ever end? What I long for is a life with a partner and some basic financial security. I don't understand why there has to be so much torment to reach that goal. I don't think I'm asking for all that much. I don't want to be rich, just secure. I just want a decent, nice man (he can have flaws and be imperfect). After traveling so long on roads that are rocky, unplowed and dangerous, it would just be nice to have one in front of me where there are no potholes - a smooth and easy drive, even for a little stretch.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bad Mother Either Way

So I guess this is what I have determined to be the real question here - which one makes me a bad mother?

1. To stay in Ill. so the boys can stay at their existing HS where they are doing well academically and socially as well as in their sports.


2. To move out-of-state to a HS the boys are having extreme difficulty adjusting to. They will probably end up not being able to play any sports the duration of HS.

1. If I stay we are poor, to the point of me needing to use food banks for all of our food this month. I do not have the money for food. It is my reality. Even figuring out how I will be able to get some gas will be a challenge.


2. If we move, it would be less of a financial struggle and I would feel supported by Sam.

In any case, once I get a job at either location life will be greatly improved. But it will be hard to look for work on my own and then start in with the full-time hours and go with that grind here by myself. It would be far easier to live with Sam while working because there would be two of us on the home front instead of just me. I haven't worked full-time for years.

A lot hinges on how quickly I can find a job. I sit for the CNA certification on 1/14. But regardless, it looks like the month of Jan. would be very lean and mean and cold.

So back to the question. Is it better to keep the boys here where they have the stability of school, friends and community and the unpredictable nature of having to rely on food pantries? Or, better to move the boys where it will screw up their academics and possibly their chances at any sports scholarships for college but at least we will have more food and I'll have the support of Sam?

Which one makes me a worse mother? Knowingly moving into poverty or knowingly screwing up lives so as to avoid poverty? Or will I be a bad mother either way, so at this point does it really matter what I decide?

Only Parent Curse

My husband was an only child as was his father and even his grandfather! My father's sibling was a brother and my Mom's a half-brother she was never close to and whom died in mid-adulthood. Besides my sister and two brothers there is not much family for me to rely on. I suppose in some ways that has been the reason for the new parenting style I adopted after my husband's death. I was always what you would describe a very affectionate, doting, and involved mom to my sons. But when I became an only parent my focus on the boys increased and I became an overprotective and extremely committed mother overnight.

There was no one else to share the parenting chores or worry - mainly the worry. That is what will end up eating you alive. Will the boys make the baseball team, will they pass their math class, will they be safe as they start driving, will I be able to keep them protected and happy on my own? It is a double-edged sword. Not having a partner or family to rely on forces one to take on more than is probably humanly possible. Knowing that you're the only one out there raising and caring about these kids makes one even more committed to the task.

It is very trying to be the only one making major decisions for your children. I have such a fear of making a wrong one. These boys have already gone through way more than most kids their ages will ever encounter. I agonize over my decisions because in the end, my greatest hope is that these boys will be spared more pain and suffering.

I now worry about the boys being able to get into college. What will they study? How will we afford it? What kind of future can I provide for these boys continuing to parent and live on my own? There is no ex-husband to call and say, "We need to meet at the school counselor's office to discuss Junior's bad attitude." Or, "I need some more help here. Can you take the boys an extra weekend so I can have some time to myself. I need to regroup and recharge."

There is such pressure on me to raise these boys to the best of my abilities. But when you can't share some of that responsibility it wears and breaks you down. That is where I'm at right now. No one to mull it over with, talk it out, decide together on the best course of action. Just me.

"It takes two to tango." "Two heads are better than one." Yes, I believe all those sayings. I'm so tired and worn out now. I'm not sure how much I can trust myself with those decisions I have to still make.

You care and care and look out for the kids (even bigger ones) and then there is no one to help you. Just a little bit is needed. A hug, being brought a cup of tea, having someone remember to pick up a needed item up from the store. It is like running around on empty all day, every day for weeks, months, years on end. I just have to keep going for a little longer - gas don't run out on me, we're almost there... And more often than not, the gas gauge IS on empty! There is always a sense of anxiousness inside me, almost a sense of dread. Running on empty, always trying to be ahead of the game to fend off the potential evil forces.

I have come to know that everyone needs someone sometime to lean on and rely on. It is a given. I have needed help and tried to find it but have been turned down. When I told my second husband that I needed help cleaning out the garage to start the house selling process he sneered at me and growled, "You are so weak and pathetic." When I needed help for food and medical insurance, I was turned down for making pennies over the predetermined financial requirements. When I got the job at the big box store it was accepted based on my being given extra hours but that fell through very quickly. The food pantry I went to didn't have enough food to pass out!

And here is some irony - in the new state Sam lives in we would all qualify for free or reduced health insurance without a hitch. We are close to the free qualification but if I had to pay it would cost me only $40.00 monthly compared to the #350.00 I am currently paying out-of-pocket! Is that a kick in the pants or a sign that I need to move?

The point of my ramblings is just that I think all of us have times when we need to lean more rather than having others lean on us. But sometimes it is hard or maybe even impossible to find that. Except I believe I have with Sam. But he has had to move and now the boys are sobbing and screaming and wailing and blaming me for having to leave their school and community. So what is my choice now? They are each getting 3 Fs at the new school and one F on the report card disqualifies them from playing sports for a full year. Here at home they were passing with Bs and Cs.

Sam has given me the greatest gift by calling me this morning and telling me that if I decided to stay here in Illinois he will support that and we will work out a sort of "visitation" schedule to be together on weekends. But he honestly doubts I can make this work financially on my own and it will be expensive to drive back and forth 400 miles on alternating weekends. That will fall into my job category since he works on weekends.

Do I force the boys to move and then deal with the consequences whatever ends up happening because I want to live with Sam and try to assemble some sort of family life for all of us?

I have prayed for my deceased husband and my Mom to please come to me with some kind of message and advice but none have come forth. I have begged the Universe for guidance and a sense of direction but again, nothing is speaking to me. No inner or outer voice. Except to hear the sobs of anguish from my sons. And I am the only one listening. The curse of the only parent whose frustrated cursing is also unheard.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Dose of Reality

I cannot let a day as significant as the first of a new decade go by without a post. I read my post from 1/1/09, which was the first to this blog and it scares me a little that I was dealing with the same things then as I am now - fear, resistance to change, financial hardship, still feeling grief about my husband's death and then the divorce from Husband #2. At that time I still was living in the house, not yet officially divorced and did not have to make the decision of moving out-of-state and taking the boys out of their current comfort zone. So I still was cultivating a sense of hope in my words and mood as I wrote on that day.

If anything, 2009 was worse than 2008. We all say, next year is sure to be better and improve, it can't get much worse, blah, blah, blah. But I think it can. I think it did. Why am I now forced to make a decision that isn't clear and results in good and bad whatever way I go? Why can't I be given a choice that is so easy to make because it clearly tips one way or the other?

I can choose to move, which will make my life easier but may greatly be detrimental to my boys. I am losing an opportunity to rejoin the ranks of more normal families, if there is such a thing. I want to live with a man, share my life, build a new one with a partner. What if this is my last shot at it? I don't move and the relationship can't be sustained because of the stress and strain with the physical distance between us?

If I stay, I will make great sacrifices with my emotions and health to continue to parent on my own, as well as attempting to maintain a long-distance relationship. It doesn't seem fair to have to make these decisions after what I have been through. There is no right or wrong choice here. Each has its strength and merits. But I do feel as though I am having to choose between love for myself and what is better or right for my sons.

I am honestly not sure I can endure this only parenting gig anymore. It is a backbreaking burden and I am so spent and now I'm cold too with the bleakness of winter.

I want my cake and to eat it too. To still be able to have a significant relationship with a great guy and to have my boys finish high school here. I just can't bear and seem to face the grief and adjustment that a major move out-of-state will involve.

The boys and I have talked today. They remain so resistant to the move. I wish life hadn't thrown me this new curve ball. I wish it were easier for me to pack up my stakes and throw caution to the wind and just take off for a new life. To treat it all as an adventure. But I'm not that way with my personality and I've been through too much to make me not be cautious and wary. I wish I were the type of parent that said, "Tough it out kids. This is the way it is, deal with it." But I'm not that mom either.

Never in a million years would I have thought last year that 12 months into the future I would be at this difficult and confusing crossroads. Frankly, I am sick and tired of life being so tough and inconsistent. Unless you can call hardship consistent.

Why did Sam have to be offered a job at this location? Why couldn't have something come through to him here in the Chicago area so our lives could have remained stable in that regard at least? Is it weak and immature to admit that I just don't seem to have the strength to handle this move? That I am unable to see the good that lies beyond the initial pain of the move?

Well, this is hardly the uplifting and hopeful post I'd wanted to compose for this day. But it is honest and real. So that is how I'll be starting this new year and decade. Not on a fluffy cloud of hope and optimism but one that is where I'm at - confused, sad, scared, unmotivated, dizzy with indecision, exhausted and regretful. All the stuff we shouldn't be on this day I suppose. But it's where I am.