Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thank You All

Just want to take the time to thank everyone for responding/commenting the past few posts when I was so worried about the insurance issue. Dan was kind enough to say it is not necessary to comment back. But I have always been so grateful for those interested in me and my life that I want to acknowledge you. I've been a bit overwhelmed with having gone back to work - my free time has kind of vanished!

Kelly - I know you have had a lot on your plate and I am always glad to hear from you because we seem to be on the same wave length. I hope all is calm at your end with the death of the boys' grandfather. This must be a tough time for you so please let me know how you're doing. And thanks for checking up on me!

Anonymous widowed for almost a year - It was very nice of you to comment about my insurance worries and I hope you're holding up and doing okay.

Vanessa - I always appreciate your practical and useful comments.

Dan - I enjoy hearing from you because of the affinity I feel with you with both of us working in the social services arena.

wNs - What can I say? I often think of you and tonight did so when I saw the moon. I am honored that a woman of your artistic creativity and intelligence reads about my life and offers heartfelt comments.

Melaka - I was very struck by your story of your husband losing his parents and his job loss. In the end, I agree, there are times we must do what is right at that time. There will be other jobs in our lives to replace those we may have lost but people are not replaceable. You offered good advice about taking each day as it comes and letting life unfold without our trying to always control it.

Jude - It is always great to hear from you and I like your real warmth and honesty.

Thelma - You always offer a lot of encouragement to me and inspire me to keep going.

Beth - I always appreciate the support you offer me for the decisions I've made on behalf of my sons.

CCC - I have appreciated learning about your personal experiences and you always offer a dose of inspiration and strength.

Again, I thank each of you. You've provided me with a great deal of support that would otherwise be absent in my life and I am grateful for you all!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Finally, A Break At Last!

First of all, I am very grateful for the kindness and support received from those leaving responses the past few days. I will try and comment on your individual responses but am still feeling sick so may not get to it today - I'll try for tomorrow afternoon.

There is finally some good news. I called the State this morning and have been advised that I can still maintain the insurance - it renews and has to be re-qualified for in a year. So that is the biggest load off my shoulders! Having insurance for the boys has no doubt been the biggest worry I have faced the past couple of years - and it is the number one worry I have had. At least that can now be put to rest for the time being.

I've thought long and hard about this job. It is not the best fit for me but I need to work. It is also extremely physically and emotionally draining. For that reason, I called in today and requested that I go down to part-time hours until the boys are out of school. Then I can reassess the situation and go from there. This way, I can work and it will be less physically and emotionally taxing on me and the boys. And I can use some of the days off to look for another, more suitable position. And I can devote the time to clearing out the storage sheds once and for all now that the weather is warm and mild enough to do so. I feared that if I continued to work full-time, I would end up a basket case and be so exhausted I'd have no energy for anything on my days off but catching up on my sleep.

In a way, making this decision was one based totally on what I want and need. I don't love this job. It is difficult for me to motivate myself to go. But at the same time I want to make an effort at it - hopefully I'll feel more comfortable with more experience. I've never not worked in my life. I have worked since my preteen years. Actually, my first job was in second grade selling seeds and Christmas cards door-to-door. I worked for almost all my own clothing in high school and put myself entirely through undergrad and grad school. I did not receive a penny from my parents for my undergrad college! So, I have been working hard for a long time.

It is just when I was widowed that it became hard to work and parent on my own. Just not enough hours in the day and too much to do. Working part-time is my preference if possible because I have trouble doing it all on my own. My requesting part-time hours is the one concession I can give to myself knowing how hard it is to run a household and parent solo. I know myself and my limitations. It will still be hard working part-time. But at least not as hard. and maybe once I get into the swing of things it won't be as hard increasing my hours. Or I can work more over the summer months and cut back again when the boys go back to school.

I am glad I stood up for myself but feeling upset at all the anguish that has existed in my heart and soul over the past days worrying about this issue. Part of it is the fact that I live alone and don't have an adult partner or even family member to turn to when this stuff comes up. It is bearing the brunt of the unknown alone. And that increases the anxiety and stress. No one is around to say, "Hang in there. It'll be okay. Let's put this to rest right now and watch some mindless t.v. to take our minds off it." Sometimes it is impossible to distract oneself despite the best intentions. This is one of the advantages of living with someone. Having someone around who cares about you and to physically and emotionally lean on is worth its weight in gold.

For now, I am working hours that I think are manageable and I have insurance for my family. My hope has been restored. The new L. L. Bean catalog came today and for a moment I let myself imagine buying a bright lime green blazer and short blue chino skirt that I'd look good in. It has been so long that I've allowed myself the luxury of such fantasy. And that felt good - no it felt great. Much, much better than the dismal feelings of failure, doom and gloom that have been floating around in my mind the past days!

I think being sick has not helped and I am still fighting whatever it is I got. I just do not feel myself or up to snuff. It doesn't help going into work and trying to orientate to a new job when you don't feel well. And it has probably contributed to the worry and anxiety. I am sure being under the weather increased my feelings of despair and depression. I hope I will kick these lingering feelings of malaise in the days ahead - I still have to work but I think the relief I feel knowing that we still have insurance will let me relax more and deal with going back to work better. I would say that when you're sick there isn't much spare energy left to boost your mood and morale up. You're already physically down and that is where your mood kind of remains too.

Thank you all again for listening and caring. I hope if anything, that what this has accomplished is for others out there to realize how desperate and necessary the issue of affordable health care for struggling families and individuals is and has become.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Insurance Nightmare Continues

Bad news - the monthly cost of health insurance at my new job would cost me $764.56, although there is a rate increase April 1st, so the cost will more likely be $789.56. For all practical purposes, $800.00! Had I known this, I would never have accepted this job. I need a job with benefits because I am the sole parent and bread winner. It makes no sense to me to work a very hard, challenging, back breaking job being paid $10.00 hourly, to not receive some sort of benefits. As it stands, if I keep working this job I'll have to get my health insurance somewhere/somehow and I will mainly be working for that. Once taxes are taken out, gas, car insurance and maintenance, I'll be working for practically nothing. I'll end up being an exhausted mom, suffering physically and mentally. Leaving at 5:30 a.m. on the days I have worked has already been a strain on the boys, although we've all survived and it would become easier.

Bottom line - I am not in a position to work myself ragged. This would be a non-issue if I were married. But I'm not and at this point I have to hold out for something better for all of us. That or I really need to get back out there and start dating again so I can possibly meet a man interested in marriage. Because that ultimately is what I am beginning to believe is my only hope to a better life.

There is that saying that Jesus so loved the widows and orphans. I have not seen any evidence of that. At one point today I broke down in tears. I just need to get my footing back for a little while. I can't seem to get a grip on any smooth, even and safe surface. I just keep slipping down. I can't seem to catch a break but not for lack of trying. I thought taking this short-term CNA program would help get my foot back in the door. Or are all employers these days not offering their employees benefits? I've always thought that people work full-time for the benefits. And that employers try to provide some benefits to draw and maintain decent employees.

Maybe I've been out of the work force too long. I don't know anymore. I know that my husband received our health insurance for nothing and Sam only pays $90.00 a month for his family coverage.

I've thought two sad things today. One, that it would have been better if I had died and not my husband. He had a very high paying job and would have been able to better provide for the boys than I have. Second, fantasies of dying flitted about in my mind. What a relief to not have to worry and deal with any of this stressful crap anymore. But I don't believe my poor boys deserve anymore hardship. So it is probably better that the boys have at least one parent around. Granted, a poor parent but one attending their sporting events and making them dinner. One making sure there is health insurance coverage and looking out for their well being when no one else seems to be too concerned about their welfare.

It is hard to be optimistic because I feel I'm back at square one again. I'm a distressed mom craving an ounce of relief. I'm willing to work but not for nothing. I have to present to the Universe that my time, energy and skills are worth more than nothing. But how much more time do I have to wait for that? I think the widow has earned it.

And I'm still sick! I can't seem to kick it. And now my oldest has it and it pretty miserable. This makes me all the more aware of how much we need health insurance. Being sick drives the issue home.

Here are the options at this point -

1. Not work at this job and be able to have "free" health insurance coverage for the boys and I

2. Continue with this job but lose the health insurance from the state and basically be working just for the insurance

3. Ditch this job, keep the state insurance for the time being and keep looking for a job with better benefits

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health Insurance Insanity

This has been an anxious weekend for me. I have been working, still not 100% and worried about the employee health insurance plan. I've been told by coworkers that the amount deducted for a family insurance plan is almost $800.00 per month. I cannot believe that! The sheet I have in my employee packet says the premium amount for the cheaper plan is $363.63. Then it says (Deductions Taken With Each Payroll). When I saw this I assumed the $363.63 would be divided, with $180.00 deducted from each payroll. Could I have been wrong about this or are my coworkers incorrect? Of course, it being the weekend, no one from HR was around.

Lets say, even if I luck out and only have to pay $363.63 monthly, it doesn't kick in for 90-days. In the meantime, we'll lose the very low cost insurance coverage we're now receiving from the state. So in a way, we're getting screwed because I have gone back to work and am making more income than qualifies for the state coverage. What happens if one of us gets sick between now and mid-June? This brings me back to the terror I've already been living the past few months without insurance for the boys and I. It is a nightmare!

Say the verdict is the unthinkable $727.26 a month. I can go to a private insurance broker to obtain insurance again on my own. But I have been there and done that - and it was not good. Paying $350.00 a month to Blue Cross Blue Shield with a still large deductible that had to be met - no prescription coverage at all - no coverage for my sons' acne treatment - a co-pay for every doctor visit. I ended up paying way more monthly than the $350.00 already going out. It never seemed worth it and I always felt like I was getting robbed.

Well, I'll find out tomorrow from HR what the real scoop is. But as I've stated, I'm in for more worry whatever way it ends up. Having to get through a few months without coverage scares me beyond belief, especially since I have just gotten sick. I will be exposed to more illness at the nursing home including the Scabies I encountered today. What if I bring something home like that to the boys and then we have no insurance for treatment?

The response I heard from coworkers this weekend is that most obtain insurance from their spouse's plans. But here I am again, the middle-aged mom without a spouse. It is only me and me alone. All I care about is trying to provide for my sons' health, happiness and well being. It just seems as though women in my position with no one else to fall back on or rely on are the ones really screwed by this crappy health care system. How can we ever get ahead having to pay outrageous premiums? We get assistance when we're at the bottom of the barrel but then as soon as we start to do better, the benefits are abruptly stopped leaving us in the lurch. Can't there be some kind of grace period to cover us between the time the new insurance kicks in?

I am beginning to believe that the only way out of this kind of worrisome life is to remarry. It is almost as though that is the only way to survive these days by being able to reduce cost of living expenses by living with someone. I almost started crying at work this afternoon feeding two unresponsive residents. It is all so overwhelming at times. I am trying at this miserable job and still feeling as though I'm not going to catch a break.

I need to stop worrying. I won't know what is what until tomorrow. There is nothing I can do in the meantime but to post about my plight and hope my dire situation may have some bearing on the health reform voting going on today. Maybe the Universe will pick up on my desperate mother worry and sway the hand of one of those voting. The insurance crisis is real and serious I know for many. But maybe even more trying for only parents already stressed out of their minds. As usual, there is no one to help shoulder this load of responsibility and strain I feel. I'm willing to work but I do need affordable health insurance coverage for my family. I can't be expected to only be working to pay for the peace of mind that comes with having health insurance.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Day in the Life

Spent most of the late morning and early afternoon at H & R Block. I had to run home for the boys' social security numbers and that added 30 minutes (my error - I should have thought to have them on me). The first draft had me owing around $700.00. But redoing the numbers with another exemption brought it down to owing nothing, thank goodness, the first time since my husband's death that I am not paying the IRS in April! H & R Blocked charged me $349.00, I thought it would be less. I delayed paying them and having the taxes transmitted because the due date is still a month off. I'll wait until I receive my first paycheck next week - it will only be for a couple hundred dollars but right now I am fearful of running my small checking account balance down and overdrafting. I would rather be safe than sorry. At least I know that the damage isn't going to involve owing the IRS money that I don't have. That is a blessing.

The cold/flu thing I have is still with me concentrated in my sinus area and chest. I have to cough and my voice is hoarse. But I am better, on the mend I would say.

I made the boys go to the free dental clinic they had at the school, which is available to all students regardless of income. The first thing my youngest said when I picked him up from track was "I am never going to that dental clinic again." He disclosed that he was the only non-minority of the 10 kids there. He also said that he does not think my oldest went and will blow it off. The boys have not seen their dentist since last April so I thought it would be a good idea for them to go. It was at the school and I talked with the nurse about the boys being embarrassed. We'd arranged that they would see her for passes so they wouldn't have to be called out of their classes. I just figured it was worth getting done because it was free and would avoid me having to take them in the future and wait for future appointments, etc.

My son's comments upset me - I feel for him. Luckily, he does not need any work done (he got a cleaning). We are the family that had to move to the other side of the tracks. This can't have been easy for my boys. If they rode the bus to school, they would be the only non-minority kids riding. I'm not sure how to process that. Does it make our situation worse to now live in a community where we have become the minority? I have no problems or complaints about our neighbors but I do understand my sons' wariness about riding the bus. They want to avoid trouble and I suppose also want to avoid feeling embarrassed. I feel kind of crappy that I forced my sons (at least one) to go to the dental clinic. I thought it made sense, was worth it and helpful to me besides. Anyway, at least I don't have to worry about getting one of them to the dentist now. I wish I could have gone - you can bet I would have taken advantage of a free cleaning as it has been almost a year for me too.

What I keep being reminded of is that my boys have been deeply touched by my husband's death. In some good ways and in some bad. I continue to feel hurt for them that so few people have ever really stopped to think about how this experience has impacted them. That old cliche "Kids are resilient" doesn't stand muster with me. I have come to believe that kids can be very wounded too. They don't bounce back as easily as we may want to believe.

I needed to stop to pick up something for dinner when I got my youngest. He complained that he did not want to wait for me to even run into the store quickly, agreeing to eat a BLT sandwich tonight with soup since I have those items on hand. I still needed to run into the store for two small tomatoes and to get money for the laundry card. Then I had to fill my little sedan up with some gas. The mileage is great - $20.00 fills the tank and lasts a month!

My son then got annoyed with me and I had to listen to his complaints about my not having signed him up for driver's ed yet - he is 15. He was supposed to register for it at school but did not. Now it will cost me $400.00 or so to get him signed up at a local driving school. While he badgered me with the fact that I love my older son more, I was frantically thinking about the H & R Block bill due, the 4 tires I need to replace on the car, the auto insurance due in mid-April and the fact that I still need to come up with the remaining $400.00 owed my bankruptcy attorney. I was getting irritated at my son, short and snippy but at the same time felt sorry for him because he went to the dental clinic so I didn't want to bash him. But still...

We get home and I realize I have forgotten to pick up bath tissue yet again from the store. I run back out to put $10.00 on the laundry card so I can wash towels tonight, of which there have not been any clean ones in the past few days. The boys go through them like no tomorrow and I am considering hiding them and rationing them out. It is too expensive to be washing as many loads of laundry that I do weekly now and the machines here do not wash or dry particularly well. And I hate having to drag everything down to the laundry room - it is so dirty in there. I really do miss the huge, extra large capacity washer and dryer I had when I lived in my home.

So there is my day and I am tired. I am not sure if it is because I am still recovering from the flu/cold thing I had, or getting the taxes was emotionally draining or the prospect of doing laundry depresses me. But I feel drawn out and not looking forward to fixing even the simple BLT sandwiches on the menu.

I am grateful:

1. The taxes were done - not the most pleasant job to get done.
2. That I do not owe any taxes.
3. That my youngest (at least one out of the two) doesn't need any future dental work.
4. I am feeling a bit better, slowly but surely.
5. There is food for dinner, gas for the cars, electricity for the appliances.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I once asked my grief counselor if people reach a point of no return in what they can handle, when it becomes too much to bear and they just can't go on. I'm not sure how she answered, I don't recall it now.

This bout of getting sick has pushed me under the water. I am struggling to get my footing and head back up above the waves. My physical symptoms are much improved but my emotional health is suffering. I feel as though I am drowning. It is like I am only going through the motions of life right now.

I should be thrilled with my new job but it is awful. Grueling and ugly. None of the CNAs are practicing the rules of safe hygiene we learned such as washing your hands after working with a resident. Some don't wash their hands or wear gloves. I've been told to forget everything I learned about being safe in my training. If I want to get my work done on time, I'll need to take shortcuts. In our orientation we were told that there are CNAs on staff for 10 plus years who do not want to help newcomers. One of the nice young women in training with me brought that topic back up with a vengence. "Why," she asked, "would employees be unwilling to lend a hand when there are times two people are needed to transport a resident?" The nursing superviser just kind of shrugged her shoulders and said some of the employees might feel threatened. The young woman replied that that was terrible as she shook her head disapprovingly. There are some residents who weigh 400 and 500 pounds, so obviously CNAs will need to work together.

On my second day of being on the floor shadowing an experienced CNA, the male CNA I was assigned to, a mature, middle-aged man working two jobs to support three sons in college, did not want me tagging along and pushed me onto a female co-worker. I guess he thought I'd slow him down.

The writing is on the wall. I felt it the first day. I need to get a job asap in my regular, professional field of social services. That is where I belong and where I best fit in. I rode up the elevator one day with a young woman from the social services dept. and I asked her if she'd mind telling me what her background/training was. She said she had worked her way up to her job but then refused to speak with me any further.

I'm glad I didn't return to work before feeling better. As it stands now, I'll give it my best shot. I will say the days go by quickly. But a number of the CNAs don't take their breaks or lunch, working longer than 8 hours straight through and I will not do that. It is not healthy and if these aides can't get their work loads done to allow for a legitimate 30-minute lunch, then something is really wrong with the system, not the aides. And I won't pay that kind of price for a $10.00 an hour job. I don't return to work until the weekend so I hope my health and spirit is restored by then.

Right now it just appears that there is no end to this hardship. Yes, I got a job but that means we'll lose the medical care we're getting from the state. Now I'll have to pay for it out of pocket again and that means half my salary will be going toward health insurance. My accountant charges $750.00 dollars to prepare a tax return for someone who has sold their home. I am hoping to make a payment arrangement with him in installments. Car insurance is due in mid-April for $600.00 because I put my oldest back on the policy since he needs to start driving again because I am at work. I still haven't paid the remaining payment due to my bankruptcy attorney but it appears filing is probably my only option at this point. I need to pay a $50.00 volleyball fee and get my son new volleyball shoes. He used a hot glue gun to reattach the sole on his shoe that had separated. And the little stick shift sedan I drive needs four new tires to the tune of $300.00. The broken futon my oldest sleeps on will cost $75.00 for the guy to come out and reassemble the bad parts.

The taxes, health insurance and car insurance are overwhelming me on top of my going back to work. Any one of them is enough of a worry. But all of them combined along with just the normal everyday stuff to get through - sports injuries, clothes to be washed, team uniforms to keep track of, making sure there is enough for the boys to eat... And then I'm just supposed to be positive, optimistic and grateful besides! I've reached my limit. The weight has become too much to bear. People can only hold up the burden so long before they begin to break.

Sometimes I have been criticized for bringing up the long litany of my hardships - husband died, son diagnoised with major heart ailment, parents needed help, got remarried, mother died, had to clean out parents' home, divorced, had to sell and relocate. But the reason I've brought that up is I guess to prove to myself that I've reached my personal limit. I don't have the reserves, the strength, the energy or even the hope anymore to keep going like this on my own. All that other stuff brought me down. I've never recovered or regained the energy needed to keep at it in full force. I'm depleted, just shuffling along. What is the point? IRS, go ahead and send me to jail. Creditors try to drain blood from a turnip. All I am is a defeated, tired and drained middle-aged mom who just wanted to be married and raise a happy family. And for the past six years valiantly struggled to be there for her dying Mom and her two young sons when no one else gave a damn about those two wounded souls.

What does someone like me do when you reach this point? I have no one to call, no where to go, no one to lean on during this particularly thorny period of prickles and thistles. I have to keep walking through Hell, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Yes, I've heard all that. I need to take a load off and there is no chair to sit in.

Update: I called H & R Block and am going in to meet with them tomorrow. They will prepare the filing and if it is too much I can take back my records and don't have to pay. They gave me a quote of $170.00 so I am going to try and see what happens there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On the Mend a Little Bit

I am on the mend but still not 100%. What I am finding is that while I'm ill, my mood and optimism seem to have plummeted too. So right now along with being sick, I am down and out. I am telling myself that this is okay. I need to concentrate on getting better and forget all those plans to go out and conquer the world. There is a lot of sadness though about there not being someone here to provide a little nurturing. I really believed that by this time I would have long been remarried and reestablished in a "normal" life again. I had so hoped that my sons would have had a prominent and caring male figure in their lives. Part of me cannot believe that the relationships I've entered into since my husband died ended up causing me a whole lot more pain. But why am I even thinking of this stuff? I guess being so under the weather and on my own having to battle it brings forth these thoughts and longings.

Maybe being sick causes us to feel even more vulnerable and helpless than we normally do. Everyday there is such a fight to hang in there emotionally. Now another layer is added - that of fighting to regain physical strength. I am very tired, weak and drawn out right now. Part of me wants to just stay down here in the muck and grime because I don't seem to have much energy or desire to have at it again. Some old ghosts have come to pay a visit - the ghosts of my old house, my divorce, the life I used to have. I could sure use a real person in the flesh and blood right now to drop on by - not one of these old memories. Is this what they mean by the saying "Misery Loves Company?"

Monday, March 15, 2010


I have started work as a CNA at a nursing home and had two days of orientation, followed by two of training on the floor. I was off the weekend and began getting sick throughout the day on Saturday. Flu symptoms, just feeling crappy all around. Tired, lethargic, body aches, headache, sore throat, and awful cough, plus sneezing, runny nose/stuffy nose (yes, both), watery eyes and fever. When I stand up I am dizzy and all I want to do is lie down in bed - no appetite.

I knew I would not be able to get through an 8-hour work day today, so called in Sunday night. The man I spoke to gave me a hard time about calling off during my training. When I called again this morning to speak to the scheduling supervisor, she was more considerate. I told her I did not think I could work again tomorrow and was taken off the schedule. At this point I continue to feel lousy and am worried I'll need to take off Wednesday. The cough has moved into my chest. I got some severe cold medicine and that is helping but I just don't have any energy and can't stand for long periods.

Last night was one of those where the best I could do was pick up Wedny's for my youngest (my oldest ate with his girlfriend). I just couldn't sand at the stove to prepare the meal I'd planned and it was too complicated for my youngest to cook. I'm feeling a little bit needy and wishing for some TLC. But of course, the middle-aged widow is not likely to receive much of that from her self-centered teen boys.

I have been so lucky the past years to have really not gotten ill. The scheduling supervisor said it is common for people who haven't been working to get sick a number of times in the first month they start working at a nursing home. I'm not going to apologize for getting sick. And if I am sick I am not going to work. I know my body and my limitations. It is unfortunate that I've been hit early in my employment but it does no good for me to go in and be unproductive or possibly at risk to the elderly and weak I am in contact with.

I've been out of the work loop for awhile now. And now I remember all the crap that goes on with calling off. Did the employer believe that I was sick? Should I really work even when I'm unwell? I've reached a point in my life where I don't call off to gain some free time. If I call off I am legitimately sick. I absolutely refuse to work at an extremely physical job lifting and transferring elderly when I am lightheaded and under the weather.

Something I learned from my husband's death is that I will not play stupid games anymore or jeopardize my own health by going into work when I'm sick. I won't be intimidated or scared. If I'm sick I need to take off to care for myself. Sad to have to be physically ill before I take that time.

I blogged this post in bits and pieces, having to get up to drop off some paperwork at the school for my son's volleyball team and then to pick up the youngest. My youngest told me "You shouldn't even be up blogging, go to bed!" I would rather not have gone out anywhere today but had to muster up the strength to do - that happens a lot as an only parent. Sometimes there isn't a choice. You're the only one there, sick or not.

In closing, it is crummy being sick. This is when it would be the most helpful to have a loving spouse by my side. To soothe me with some TLC, to help with the boys. Our home space (I still have trouble saying apartment) is an absolute mess since I wasn't up to much over the weekend. And still I feel guilty. That is the clincher. To feel guilty for being sick. Guilty for not being able to keep up, to be unable to work. Is that one of the repercussions of widowhood? We widows with kids end up doing so much of everything on our own, 24/7. There is such a tremendous amount of responsibility resting on our shoulders. We can't afford a day off for any reason. All our organization and planning goes out the window when we fall sick. Our lives become discombobulated.

If anyone deserves some kindness, support and a break it would be for the widow who is sick. And yet because I've held myself up to some impossible standard all these years on my own I look at myself as weak because I've gotten sick. And I feel guilty besides. Guilty for wasting the hours in bed, guilty for not working when we so need this job. Widowhood sucks, getting sick sucks and the combination of the two ULTRA SUCKS!

Skipping grateful list today because I need to go back to bed and lie down.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I've done some processing since Valentine's Day when I was so painfully cognizant of all the middle-aged couples around me. At that time I would have labeled my feelings as being jealous of those couples being in love. But I wasn't really jealous that those fortunate folks had love in their lives. Rather, I was envious of them because of the stability and security they have within their marriages.

The number one thing I miss most about being married was that stability and security. To be in a long-term relationship that withstood the test of time. As my husband lay unconscious and dying, I was able to speak to the hospital staff and make known his wishes. Because I knew my husband so intimately and deeply I knew without a shadow of a doubt that what I was conveying was what he would have wanted. So that is what I see when I look at couples together. The stability and strength they have in their marriages, their commitment to one another and that they have a person to lean on in good times and bad.

I wish everyone love. We all deserve it and we all should have it in our lives. We deserve to be told that we are loved and to be nurtured and accepted by others as we nurture and accept those we love.

The definition of envy is: 1: painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage 2.: an object of envious notice or feeling

The definition of jealousy is: 1.: demanding complete devotion 2.: fearful or suspicious of a rival or competitor : feeling a spiteful envy toward someone more successful than oneself 3.: suspicious that a person one loves is not faithful 4.: Watchful, Careful

As I read these definitions I see my longings for a life joined with someone as envious, not jealousy. I am not spiteful or really angry at others who have this. And I certainly do not wish ill will or harm toward others. Rather, the softened way to view this is that I do have a painful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another and I sure do want that in my life too!

Some weeks ago I came across in one of my self-help books, the notion that envy is not the bad devil we are always led to believe. All of us have been told since we were kids not to be jealous. But this author said we should pay attention to those times when we are envious and they used the word envy instead of jealous. By tuning into ourselves when we have these feelings, we become aware of what we are really seeking and want for our lives. This concept has softened the way I was feeling around Valentine's Day. I was not bitter or mean spirited; rather I was tuned into what I really want for my life and what is now absent.

It is interesting because often when I am reading a newspaper, magazine, catalogs or even junk mail, I tear out or keep pictures of middle-aged couples together. I keep reading and hearing about creating collages of what we want to bring into our lives. So I want to start putting those pictures of happy couples walking hand-in-hand onto a poster board - all these pictures aren't doing any good sitting in piles of paperwork. These photos don't make me sad - rather they inspire me. And they raise the hope inside me that makes me aspire to having that type of committed and long-term relationship I had with my husband again, sometime in my future (hopefully sooner than later).

I will also put photos of places I want to visit because my love for travel has been solely lacking in my life these past years. And some photos of antiques because I want to get back to collecting my glassware that made me so happy just looking at it and touching it (the ex-husband got the entire collection that we built up together) and I've been collecting it again in little dribs and drabs, here and there. And I might put some pictures of libraries on there to nurture my baby dream of going to work at a library in the future. I plan on starting my poster tonight and putting it up in front of the sink where I'll see it often everyday since I can't escape those dishes or making meals for the boys and I.

Also, I am going to start stopping by the local yarn shops I love more frequently. And the bookstores. Just for some browsing and conversation with the sales clerks that know me. I'm going to hone in on trying to do more of what brings me little bits of pleasure during this tough time of transition for me, where I'm slowly but surely starting to make a little progress out of this hole I've landed in after falling so far and so hard. All small steps with the first being my poster which I'm becoming excited about starting. Who knows what other pictures may end up on it?

I am grateful:

1. That spring is definitely in the air.
2. That my oldest made the Varsity Volleyball team.
3. That I hit the motherload yesterday in the store and got some ground turkey, milk and cottage cheese all at half price. Yes, I am that woman who runs into the store every day to scout out the discounted specials - some days I go out emptyhanded but last night was worth the wait. 4. That I have the opportunity to relax tonight and watch a little t.v. while working on my dream poster.
5. That there is food in the pantry and freezer.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wanting A New Life

I'm not going to apologize for who I am or what I want anymore. All through this widowhood journey I have heard the comments, "Be strong," "You can do it" or "You HAVE to do it on your own," "You don't need a man to survive," "Why would you ever want to get married again?" and my all time favorite, "Put your big girl panties on and go plunge that overflowing toilet!"

Well, it's been six years of this and I'm sick and tired of it. I don't like plunging out toilets on my own and I don't want to. I'm lonely sleeping alone and I'm not looking forward to handling this year's taxes on my own because they will be more complicated with the house sale. I want a partner standing next to me and going with me to the accountant. A partner saying, "Okay, we'll face this bankruptcy thing together and we'll get past it, together."

I'm not going to pretend anymore that I'm strong and competent and able to live on my own. I've already proven that over the past years. I've gotten through a whole ton of hardships by myself - more than what most people have to face in a lifetime, much less on their own. IF ANYTHING, what I am coming to see and understand is that life has been a whole heck of a lot worse for me because of being alone. It's okay for me to admit that I'm not always strong and not always competent.

I do my best with someone by my side, tackling problems and even just living through life in general. I thrive as a team player and was happiest as a married mom. I have felt like a displaced person since my being on my own. It is not weak to admit what you want and need. It is positive and shows strength. If I do better overall and am happiest married, why wouldn't I want that in my life again? Why do I have to listen to these crappy comments from others telling me that I should be able to handle life on my own. Well, I don't want to anymore, quite frankly I suck at it and would be a far better and more productive parent and life citizen if I had the security and comfort of being remarried.

That is not to say that I am going to remarry just for the sake of getting remarried. It means I am not going to put myself down for what I want and it means I can go on from here seeking that. I don't have to put my head down for wanting to be a wife again. I am standing tall and proud and shouting to the Universe, "You know I can plunge the toilet myself, and go to the hardware store alone, and take out the garbage on my own too - but it is a heck of a lot easier, more tolerable and even fun doing it with a loving partner! So Universe, I'm letting you know that I don't have to be doing all this stuff on my lonesome anymore, FYI."

One of the Law of Attraction books I'm reading right now talks about how men and women are wired differently. In general, men respond to stress in physical ways working harder, doing physical tasks, being independent and courageous. Women, on the other hand thrive and require nurturing when stressed - extra cuddles, hugs, warm words of encouragement and love. That type of response is exactly what I seek and need but by living alone, I am unable to get the real support necessary to give me the strength and energy to face conflict and stress. So of course, if I'm not getting what I want and need it would translate into someone not being fulfilled and happy. I am also sick and tired of the belief that we can make ourselves happy and shouldn't rely on someone else to fulfill us. True to an extent, but not entirely. A loving partner enhances our lives, doesn't complete it. I'm looking for that enhancement right now.

All those comments about being strong and handling everything on my own have grated on me so much because they are not helpful for me to hear. For me, a comment along the lines of "Gosh I know this is so hard for you and it sucks and is hard but hang in there. I'll go with you to the accountant and be there for you. And now I'll give you a long hug." The Tough Love strategy is wasted on me - it just makes me feel worse and then guilty for not being able to measure up - or for not liking that I am living on my own and having to do all this stuff on my own.

There is also research out there pointing to how as human beings we are also wired to be interconnected. We seek out close relationships with others and they are as necessary to our survival as food, water and air. Being in a relationship allows a couple to be at their best both independently and together. Psychologist Sue Johnson says in her workbook for therapists, "Hold Me Tight": "Secure dependence is a sign of health and complements autonomy...The more securely connected we are, the more separate and different we can be." This sounds pretty good to me!

Why do I have to wear my widowhood like a badge of some kind of honor and endure this way of life any longer? I don't like it. I've never liked it. I've had to tolerate it and do the best that I could. But it is time to be honest with myself and not pretend to the world. Saying that I've struggled with widowhood is okay - I don't have to hide I don't like it and that I don't want to continue living this way. So instead of concentrating on what I don't like and don't want anymore I will flip it and devote my thoughts and attention to what I do want to bring into my life: an equal partnership, with both of us holding the reigns but with the security of knowing that one of us can take a break without crashing because the other will still be holding on tight; to share hopes, dreams, fears, hard times and happiness together as a team.

I'm not sure of the future between Sam and I. He doesn't want to get married anytime soon or to commit to that goal. It has been a serious issue between us a number of times in the past. I wanted to break off our relationship at the three month mark and then the eight month mark because of this. It is now a year since last March when he begged me to stay with him. Now we live apart and I remain steadfast in seeing my boys through their last years of high school here. Even when I was thinking about relocating to join him out-of-state, he was not firmly committed to marriage, preferring to live together for awhile. He has criticized me for wanting to get married and to not be content with what we have. But I don't want to settle anymore. It is okay for us to want what we want and be active in seeking that which will fulfill us and make our hearts sing. I don't want to belabor this issue with Sam but felt it necessary to bring up since some readers know about him.

My therapist told me to remember that there are men out there who do want to marry. Sam is not the only fish in the sea. I came across a comment by a single man joining a dating site. He admitted that he doesn't do very well on his own. Another person out there like me! And a male besides! Those of us who don't do well on our own shouldn't be going through life on our own!

I am grateful:

1. For the rain falling.
2. For the longer days of light.
3. For the shorter nights of darkness.
4. For the smell of spring.
5. For the finally melted snow.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Deserving of Joy

"People need joy quite as much as clothing. Some of them need it far more."
Margaret Collier Graham, 1906

Last week I had a very sad experience at the library. It is a treat for me to visit the library because when I lived in our home, we were out of the city limits and did not qualify for a library card unless we purchased one for about $200.00 a year. So, once we moved to the apartment, which is in the city, I obtained a FREE library card. I've gone a couple times now and have been amazed at the great DVD collection available. There isn't much down time in my life, so I've just gotten a nice selection of knitting and craft books to browse through so far.

During my last half hour library visit, I caught myself thinking about how happy being in a library makes me, along with bookstores. I love being surrounded by books. They comfort me. Maybe this goes back to my childhood when I often escaped the turmoil of my youth by reading. It probably makes sense that I have amassed a large library with 12 large overstuffed book cases surrounding my living room. I put a lot of furniture into storage when I moved but most of the books came with me. Maybe surrounding myself with books is my attempt at feeling safe and secure.

Anyway, I was happy and content in the library. Feeling a few moments of pure escapism pleasure. I felt good even just looking around at the other patrons. Then I noticed a lot of the library employees were women my age or older and my mind ran away with the fantasy that for my next career, I'll go back to the community college for a library assistant certificate. I was really having fun with that, imaging my boys in college and me happily working and content in a little suburban library.

And then it happened. This horrible voice came in and interrupted my fantasy. It growled, "You have no right to feel happy right now. Your life is a mess. You're struggling to pay your bills and feed your children. You need to feel as bad as your life is right now. And dreams of ever working in a library? Are you kidding? You don't even have a job. You need to keep your nose to the grindstone and keep pounding the pavement. You don't deserve such a frivolous job anyway!"

And just like that, my good mood and happy outlook disappeared and I was back to worrying about the bills, food and job. Then I was even upset with myself for having those few moments of contentment.

I think what happened here is that when you're down and out, it becomes very easy to see yourself in a negative way. You're already feeling desperate and lousy about your situation and society casts its disapproving eyes your way as well. You start believing that you're a rotten person for being in the position you have landed, and the next logical thought is that you're as bad as your situation. And bad people don't deserve happiness or bits of joy in their lives. Only the well-to-do housewives down the street deserve it because they aren't facing adversity.

Of course, this whole train of thought and its premise are nonsense. If anyone needs and deserves some happiness and diversion it would be those who are suffering or going through a hard time, like me. It is just interesting to see how easy it is to get swept down into the mire and to stay there because of thoughts like these. Those who are suffering have so many challenges to face including this one - the ability to see oneself as having value and worth, deserving of some happiness, leisure and fun even while wading through the muck of despair.

I am grateful:

1. For the smell and sounds of spring in the air.
2. For rain instead of snow.
3. That my flat tire on the second car only needed to be inflated, not changed, hopefully buying me a few more weeks until I am more able to afford new tires.
4. That I caught a break at the eye doctor when they sold me a box of contacts for my son even though he needed a new exam and their policy required the exam for me to get the contacts - because they don't accept any insurance and right now I can't afford the exam charge. This will hold us until I can find a new place to go that is more affordable for eye care.
5. For highlighter pens in bright colors way beyond that initial yellow.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Positivity vs. Grief - Can the two Co-exist?

It seems everything I read or hear these days is connected to the positive thinking movement. Interestingly enough, even books I've had for years mention it before The Law of Attraction band wagon took off.

Yesterday, I read that neuroscience is discovering actual proof that we can permanently change our brains through a positive mindset. Scientists are able to actually see and measure the emotional regions of our brains that process joy, happiness and love, as well as depression, mourning, anxiety, OCD, etc. Apparently, even pessimists like me can be taught to become more optimistic.

This is all pretty amazing with the main point being that our emotions and feeling do get transmitted out into the world and we do have some control over what we project. Because what we send out, comes back to us. I like the example of a bummed out, dejected person with shoulders slumped, downcast eyes and scowling smile. Obviously, anyone encountering that person will react accordingly and probably not very favorably. Likewise, someone with a genuine smile and upbeat demeanor will fare better. This person might receive better customer service at a store, have someone give them a break or bend the rules, and so on throughout the day. These experiences will build on themselves - the better they are and the more of them will increase the likelihood of upbeat person staying in a good mood. Dejected person will probably stay down and out because their experiences will be downers.

I am intrigued by all of this and I have made a valiant effort to try and remain as positive as I can through these trying times. Keeping a gratitude list is usually one of the first strategies suggested. Surrounding yourself with happy, fun, optimistic people is another. Trying to fit in as many activities that bring you joy into your life as possible is another suggestion. So I do try and do all these things in an effort to attract more positives back into my life. The jury is still out on how successful this has been.

What concerns me about the logic of this theory and the books that are out there promoting it, is that there doesn't seem to be any comprehension or acknowledgment toward those people who really may be suffering seriously from grief/loss, depression, addiction, life changes such as poverty, etc. These books and even the theory seem to fit best for those people who are leading pretty ordinary, manageable lives. One book made a brief passing comment on this by admitting that yes, no one can be upbeat and super positive 24/7 and that when times are tough they have to be acknowledged. The goal then becomes how to walk through and face the challenges, as well as to try and learn from them.

I think there needs to be a book written for those of us out here dealing with many life complications that realistically paint a complicated and negative picture. "The Law of the Attraction for Those Grieving, Suffering and Dealing with Major Loss" might be one for starters. I guess what bothers me the most is the wiping the slate clean type of attitude I get from these books and the theory itself - that we can't and shouldn't be negative EVER. That grieving and worrying are bad because they transmit toxic, negative energy that will return to us threefold! This is just at such odds with my beliefs about counseling that center on staying with your emotions whatever they are and working through them. There has to be a balance between positive and negative emotions. If we as human beings have the capacity to feel pain, grief and sorrow how can they just be wiped away? Do the proponents of The Law of Attraction believe that those of us deeply grieving have to just shut those emotions off? Or do they believe that we should not grieve as deep or much? Maybe it is impossible to follow this theory period while someone is immersed in deep sorrow or anxiety. I don't know - I really wish I could call Wayne Deyer up and ask him some of these perplexing and vexing questions.

In the meantime, I guess I'll try my best to continue to be grateful, remain positive and upbeat when I can and do my best to smile and keep my shoulders up when out and about in public.

I Am Grateful:

1. That the birds are back - I heard birds singing again for the first time yesterday!
2. That no severe winter-type weather is predicted from here on in - yeah!
3. That all of us have had decent clothes and outerwear to get through the winter months.
4. That no one got the flu this winter - thank you Universe!
5. For the cheery songs of the birds.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Burdens Bearing Down

I have contemplated filing for bankruptcy for some time now but have kept putting it off because of fear. Fear and dread that it will end up actually making my future life far more difficult. What I am most concerned about is not being able to rent another apartment. I have done some checking around and the complexes in this area do not rent to those who have filed bankruptcy, including the place I am currently residing. Does anyone know if my current complex can evict me if I file for bankruptcy? My lease is up in September - does the leasing agent run another credit report on me at that time or are leases just renewed automatically if you desire to continue it? I am not late with my rent and have never been behind if that makes a difference.

If I don't file for bankruptcy, then I have to figure out how I will pay for my substantial and past due debt. Some of my debt is with Consumer Credit Counseling but I have one credit card company (Macy's) that has been very difficult to work with. They wanted very high monthly payments that I couldn't swing being unemployed. What if they now sue me? How do I pay a $5,000.00 credit card bill if I don't have the extra money to do so. I suppose they could garnish my future wages but is there a limit how much they can take out each check? Does a judge decide that if Macy's sues me and I have to go to court?

I am just so frightened because of my sole responsibility for the boys. I have no one to fall back on or rely on. It is my reality. I could care less if I had to live in one room in a boarding house but I have to think of the boys -getting them through high school and then college. My stomach is in knots about all this.

I recently read an article that was printed in a local paper depicting the plight of suburban families on the brink of losing everything after a job loss. I know that there are many of us out there, victims of divorce, death of a spouse, unemployment who have fallen on hard times. This is what bugs me - if that is the reality here, where are they all going after a foreclosure? Why are these apartment complexes denying rent to those forced to declare bankruptcy because of legitimate hardship? If I get kicked out/evicted I don't know where I will go - I have no where to go.

It is almost impossible for me to remain cheerful and optimistic as I face these questions everyday on my own. I know there have to be others out there like me in my community (well-educated professionals hard hit by the Recession) but they are hidden. Widowhood is isolating but so is being down on your luck and struggling financially.

Thanks for reading. At least for the time being we have a roof over our heads. I never thought I'd be grateful for living in an apartment but I have come to be grateful for this residence.

I am grateful:

1. For the melting snow.
2. For the shining sun.
3. For the warmer temperatures.
4. For the apartment that shelters us.
5. For the people kind enough and interested to read this.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Bonbon" Eating Widow Replies

I got that question again yesterday - "What do you do with your day/time?" from someone failing to see that my days aren't really ones that I spend leisurely. Before widowhood, I was not a complainer, especially about parenthood or work. There may have been times when I had a trying day and might have been a bit mopey. But I never griped about or wished away my chores or duties. Since widowhood, I feel as though most of my days are spent just trying to get through the grind and make it into bed and I feel so drained, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. The best way I can describe it is like living with a low-grade fever that never goes away. The fatigue is constant, dull and aching but not enough to warrant a visit to the hospital. You learn to live with it.

I have never discussed this before but I think it bears some recognition. For those of us caring for our ill spouses, there were the years before their deaths that wrecked havoc with our lives. By this I mean that the three years of my husband's illness left me fatigued and weary even before I got smacked into the sphere of widowhood. People coping with severe illness of their loved ones are already existing in a surreal life, even years before having to deal with death, loss and grief. There are hospitalizations, numerous medical visits, medical treatments and so on. The family has to manage the illness along with continuing to live in the "regular" world. Life goes on without you and around you while you continue to care for kids, buy groceries, work and deal with a major illness.

Looking back, the hardest aspect of all of this was the surreal world of the hospital. And someone with a serious illness spends much time there with it transitioning to full time at the end. I found hospitals to be their own, separate worlds. There is a different time and feel to them. As soon as you enter one, the outside world is gone. In those last three wearying months when my husband was hospitalized full-time, I spent my days at the hospital. There I was dealing with life and death decisions, sometimes without warning. Thoughts about severe static on the the landline phone, needing to call a repairman and the laundry backing up ceased to exist while conferring with the medical staff. I would be existing in this strange new world of hospital life that would evaporate as soon as I left the building and grounds. Then I was back in the real world full of traffic jams and groceries to buy.

Three years of trying to balance two completely different worlds while parenting two grade school boys, maintaining a part-time job effectively and be there for my husband as a partner, friend and wife. I was already fatigued and drained when my husband died with no vacation or break before stepping off the cliff and crashing into widowhood land. And then there is the tiredness that has come with only parenting and being on my own, lonely, sad and afraid. Can't leave out the grief work involved and the utter exhaustion it entails.

So in reply to the query of what do I do with my free time all day, here is a brief picture of my life the last week or so. After getting two reluctant and slow-moving teens out the door and driving them to school, I've come home to grocery shop, then gone cold calling to apply at nursing homes. I've gone to some career counseling appointments, gotten my son track shoes and shorts, done a whole lot of miscellaneous running around for my son in the talent competition including a costume rental, taken my oldest to the doctor and dermatologist, the youngest to the doctor, gone to Walmart for prescriptions, made dinners every night, cleaned, picked up after two pretty sloppy boys, done laundry, filled the gas tank, gone to a couple school functions, registered the boys for summer baseball and umpire training, bickered at length in person and on the phone with the bed store that sold me my fouton which broke a few weeks after installation and they have rufursed to repair, dealt with the hassle of a leaking bathroom shower and the rigamaroll of its repair, assisted the boys with homework and studying, gone through and organized financial paperwork for taxes (am still considering filing bankruptcy), and dug through all my old receipts to locate the one for the fouton.

There have been a few off-times of watching television and blogging. A little reading before bed if I'm not too tired. Some reading while waiting at dr. appts., no knitting or exercise, both of which would probably do me a great deal of good. I try to blog after I've put in dinner and am waiting for it to cook so I don't spend time on it during the day when there is already too much to do.

Maybe on paper what I've done the past week doesn't look that time consuming or challenging. But all I can say is that by the end of each day I am bone tired. Perhaps it has to do with the underlying and built up fatigue of my husband's illness for so many years along with the mental exhaustion that occurs because I have had to handle everything on my own with no one by my side to share the load or help me with making decisions. Lets add a pinch of lonliness and dash of anxiety but we'll hold the physical and emotional comfort and support that comes from being in a nurturing partnership.

Part of me may have hesitated in really going out whole hog in seeking work because I am fearful of what my life will become when I do start working a regular job. I'm already out of time and tired. Things are just going to become more challenging to plan and handle!

It is all based on perspective. If you've never had to parent on your own I don't think it is possible to really comprehend the extent of the experience. I am just so tired, even on a good day when I've been rested (but I still suffer from many nights of not sleeping well). So I suppose I move, think, act and do on a slower basis than others. I'm just not quick on the draw anymore, my reflexes have slowed down. I can blame being tired but also I suppose I am less optimistic and cheerful overall. I do try to remain hopeful and upbeat but deep down there is a downtrodden piece of my soul within that I'm not sure will ever be erridicated.

What has been the point of these words? To convey the extent of my experience - it is bigger than what might be initially seen or imagined. It goes down pretty deep with many layers, some holdouts from the past.

In addition to the actual physical tasks that need to be accomplished on a daily basis such as getting groceries and filling the gas tank, there are the ones that people can't see and probably don't even know exist - the mental juggling that comes from planning in advance, anticipiating complications, figuring out contingency options and handling the problems that come up, in part from being widowed and an only parent! Try that on for size. Then handling the job of two as one, another reality that takes some new skills and practice to accomplish. There is tremendous mental exhaustion to accompany the physical fatigue. To be the sole worrier about your childrens' welfare, as well as being the sole provider and then the only one caring for the family residence and handling EVERYTHING is not an easy load to shoulder.

To those who question and criticize what I accomplish, handle and do with my "free" days and time, what I want to say if give me a freaking break.

I am grateful:

1. That January and February have passed.
2. That I don't have to anticipate bad, snowy weather for another 7-8 months.
3. That I did receive flowers this month - the rose bouquet from my son's winning the competition - I suppose getting flowers any way you can counts - although I didn't win the vase in the raffle at the antique shop.
4. For a bed to sleep in.
5. For leftovers on the nights it is too busy to cook.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ron Howard Saves the Day!

Last night my son wanted to watch the new Ron Howard produced program called "Parenthood." He had heard it was good. I don't watch much t.v. but decided to view it with him and was pleasantly surprised. The storyline centers around a close California family with four adult children, now raising their own kids. The oldest daughter has just moved back home with her parents to get back on her feet after a divorce with her musician, drug using and dealing husband. She has two teenagers, a boy and girl. The daughter is smoking cigarettes and pot. The son wants to go back home to live with his dad. Another son, also with two kids is kicked off his son's little league team as the coach for badgering an umpire who called out his son. The son, age 8 is experiencing learning and social problems - the school suspects he has Asperger's, a high-functioning form of Autism. There is sibling rivalry between the two adult daughters, one of whom is the golden girl high-powered attorney. But it appears that her marriage may not be as strong as she thought it was. The younger brother is portrayed as the commitment phobe. His girlfriend wants to have a baby, NOW, but he is not ready. Then the bomb is dropped at the end of the hour. Turns out he has already fathered a little boy but did not know until now!

Great real stuff. Thank goodness for reality and not hiding the crumbs under the rug! Middle-aged dating after divorce is one of the topics humorously brought up, along with the grandfather being told off with, "I'm not raising my kids the way you raised me." When the teenage daughter asks her mom why they have to move back with the grandparents, the mom replies, "Because we've run out of money." Just gotta love that! Now it would be great if one of the four adult kids had been widowed or maybe widowhood is reflected between the grandparents in some way. But at this point it is a minor criticism because this is such a refreshing and modern take on life today and I felt they did a very good job at it. I guess divorce is simpler to portray because it is more common for mid-lifers and easier to relate to.

So, maybe there is hope for Hollywood after all! Thank you Ron Howard for having the courage to portray a real family with real issues and real lives. I really believed this was an honest-to- good family that could actually exist! I have to admit feeling a tinge of envy while viewing this hour, though. These kids had the support of family to fall back on and that is not something I can rely on. My widowhood has been a very singualr road.

I am grateful:

1. For the springlike weather.
2. For having medical insurance (I'll devote a post to this topic in the near future).
3. For being able to take my sons to doctor appointments.
4. For being able to get my sons Rx acne medication and not pay through the nose.
5. For being offered a job (I'll post on that too).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Partridge Family Revisited

I was a "Brady Bunch" and "Partridge Family" fanatic as a tween and teen. Absolutely loved those t.v. shows and still do. I actually wanted to name one of my sons Brady but my husband refused, although I know of quite a few boys named Brady or Braden.

Both shows were in the news recently. Evidently there is a feud going on between Maureen McCormick and Eve Plumb (Marcia and Jan Brady). And today some of the Partridge Family cast reunited on the Today Morning Show.

This got me to reflect on the programs and I recall that the Partridges lost their father to death, although I'm not sure the details were ever related - just a kind of hazy hint that was the reason why this family was out singing songs to earn a living - the dad had died. The same kind of haziness was in The Brady Bunch. This was a blended family because the prior spouses had died. But again, no details, nothing specific and in all the following shows, nothing mentioned about these characters previous lives.

Now I know that this was a convenient plot line for Hollywood to launch off these programs. Back then divorce was still rather unacceptable. I remember when a couple of women in our subdivision got divorced and moved in together. People used to drive by their house to point and stare. Looking back, what pioneers these poor 1970s housewives became, paving the way for less stigma toward divorced woman forced to start wearing pants and work outside the home. (Girls were not even allowed to wear pants to school in our town until 1974 unless it was terribly cold and snowy!)

So these shows were created from a situation involving the deaths of parents and spouses because that was easier than having the characters be divorced. Convenient but sad. I think that even as a kid I had some interest in the Partridge's old life. What did the dad do? How did he die? Maybe back then such a show could never be envisioned. Maybe it still can't be. Almost 40 years have passed and we still don't feel comfortable talking about or even acknowledging death beyond a nod.

What I find even more extraordinary is that as the feminism movement really started to swell and women were becoming more independent, Hollywood could not portray a widowed mother surviving on her own. They had to add a creepy band manager to the cast to be around for Shirley Partridge to lean on.

Today I propose a new and updated Partridge Family. Based on my own experiences I can provide the pilot story line and even some additional plots for future episodes.

Keith Partridge returns to his childhood home with his five children, all of whom are the same ages as when the original series aired. He has lost his wife to breast cancer (we'll be specific here and not leave the audience guessing). Keith is a physical and emotional mess, overcome with grief. He needs the help of his mother to care for the kids. We see him hiding bottles of Vodka around the house and he starts smoking again. There are days he is incapable of getting up out of bed.

The two older kids in high school start acting out, fighting and skipping school because they didn't want to move from their hometown to live with their grandmother. The younger kids are all experiencing nightmares and miss their mother terribly. In one episode the police have to be called because a fight breaks out between a drunken Keith and the two teens. In another episode, Shirley goes to the younger kids' school to meet with teachers and staff. We can go two ways here - either have grandmother be sympathetic or not able to handle her son's grief - the "get over it" mentality which causes friction between mother and son.

As the shows continue, Kelsey Grammer will join the cast as the family therapist. Each week's episode will open with a counseling session involving some conflict or issue involving the family which will be elaborated on during the hour (too much stuff going on for a 30-minute show). At the end of each episode, the family will meet with Kelsey and discuss their progress, or lack of progress if we want to be honest.

I see a lot of potential for this Partridge Family Reunion. But hey, there would have been a lot of potential 36 years ago if someone had written a Brady Bunch episode where the Brady boys and Brady girls each end up in a showdown between the parents, shouting "You can't tell me what to do because you're not my real mom/dad!" And then when the parents respond,"But your parents are dead and now we all have to get along and move forward," the kids all break down, unleashing all the emotions they've had to hide. Alice will come in with cookies and lemonade and lead the family in an impromptu healing session where order will be restored without missing a beat. See, it could have been done, even in that wimpy example. Even some acknowledgment would have been better than nothing.

I am grateful:

1. For blasts from the past that allow me to remember my wacky 1970s.
2. That next month is April.
3. For the Easter wreath I saw on a house today, the first one of the season.
4. For the promise of spring.
5. That short, shag haircuts for women have never come back in style.