Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Pantries - In Two Parts

Last month, someone gave me the name of a "marvelous" food pantry in a neighboring, larger city where the clients get to choose their own food. I decided to check it out even though after I looked at the web site, I saw that I would not qualify for services since this pantry operates under strict Federal income guidelines - with the pension, we are about $300.00 over the amount that would entitle us to food stamps or emergency food assistance at some pantries.

When I got to the place, it reminded me of a warehouse like Sam's Club. The bread section alone looked like a bakery. There was an abundance of food and about 75 people ahead of me waiting for a turn to choose their food. I was seen earlier since I mentioned right away that my income was higher than the client requirement. The director of the pantry, an elegant, attractive woman of about 60, sympathized with me but said I would only be able to receive what they termed the limited assistance they provide to those with higher incomes. She said that at one time in her life she was in a situation very similar to mine. I asked her what she did to survive, and she replied, "Just what you are already doing, creative meal planning, scrimping, etc."

The food I would be entitled to that day included my choice of 10 items from three shelves. On these shelves were the following items: canned beef stew, chili beans, off brand chicken & rice soup, off brand tomato soup, peanut butter (no jelly) and off brand toasted oat cereal. You can imagine my dismay at this selection because this is what I get visiting my local pantry. But I went ahead and took some of the soup, beans and peanut butter. We don't eat beef so no stew - there aren't a lot of other options as we are such a beef eating country but a can of tuna would have been appreciated.

They threw in some extra items - four loaves of bread and two desserts, including 24 cupcakes decorated in a Thanksgiving theme which was very nice - half chocolate, half vanilla - we still have 4 left. They also offered me a bag of apples and carrots and even provided me with a frozen smoked turkey when they found out we don't eat beef so I didn't leave empty handed. But it was disappointing, especially looking at the massive shelves of available food and even the sign on a stack of Hamburger/Tuna Helper that said clients could take up to six! And people living in this city get to go to the pantry twice a month (those living elsewhere, once).

At the pantry I go to, I receive pretty much the same fare each time which includes: a can of tuna (sometimes), 2 boxes of mac & cheese, dried beans, rice, a box of instant potatoes, a bottle of cooking oil, pancake mix, syrup, canned spaghetti sauce, spaghetti noodles, 2-4 cans of soup, peanut butter, jelly, and a can or two of fruit and vegetables. Sometimes there is bread and meat - sometimes, not always. Every other month I can receive a box of powder laundry detergent sold at the dollar store for a dollar - this is what I buy anyway, I am so cheap. Once in awhile there will be something extra like a box of taco shells, cheese or fresh vegetables, e.g., being able to take 3 small baked potatoes. There are days after going to this pantry that I wonder why I even go. Then I feel bad for not being grateful at what I received. I thought it was me until one time I overheard a young woman saying how little had been received. "That's all?"

It's hard eating mashed potatoes without gravy or a meat accompaniment. I currently have more canned soup and peanut butter in the pantry than I want to look at (17 jars of peanut butter), along with 8 boxes of mac & cheese even though we eat a few boxes every week. There is just so much chicken noodle soup you can eat. There is definitely no variety and a terrible lack of fresh food items. And I despise lentil beans. So a lot of this stuff has just remained in the pantry. I try to come up with recipes that will use some of items and I have left some in the laundry area of my building to pass on. But it is clear that even if someone had only this selection of items to eat, that it wouldn't last more than a few meals anyway. This pantry allows you to go only once a month, so how do poor people get through the rest of the month? I've heard of pantry hopping.

Which gets me to wondering, how does this pantry in the other town have so much more and a better variety than the one in my town? Let me add, no one goes to a food pantry willingly. I want to be able to choose my own food, not be handed a box of discards or dented cans. Many times the items received are past code by a number of months. Depending on what it is I usually eat it. The church ladies at the pantry have been condescending to me, especially the older ones. There is the pervasive belief in our country that people are poor because of some deformity or flaw with them - not that an unfortunate situation or circumstance had some impact.

I cried the first few times going to the pantry. Now I don't cry but every time I enter the parking lot I say a prayer that I'll never have to go there again.

All Americans should have access to food. Despite my pension, we didn't have any available money left over for food in November. In the middle of the month I had to write two hot checks at the grocery store to make ends meet ($60.00 each). The bank paid the grocery store but charged me fees which catch up with me now this month and are putting me behind before December even arrives, and starting the whole cycle over again.

To be continued in Part Two.

Joy in the Midst of Sorrow

In the midst of life we are in death, and we find joy in the midst of sorrow.

I came across these words reading Jennifer Weiner's delightful novel, "Certain Girls." It struck a chord with me at this time. Rose Kennedy believed that God wants us to be happy. She said, "Birds sing after a storm, why shouldn't we?" I am trying to find a song even within this storm.

I read somewhere that when people are depressed and struggling they often keep their heads and faces down. When I shot this photo I was thinking about that and how even during the bleakest times, we need to keep our faces uplifted!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ask, Seek, Knock

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:8

It is so hard to ask, seek and knock yet when we do so, doors open. Then we have to have the strength to accept.

Shot of Reality

Oh my gosh! I've just spent the last hour reading countless AOL comments in regard to a piece written by a single woman in her 40s who has been out of work for two years. She wrote about feeling invisible and having no available services/resources ending up selling EVERYTHING. There were 30 pages of comments! Most were sympathetic. Many spoke about being in the same situation. A few stuck out with criticisms - take a job, any job; go back to school; why don't you volunteer?; get over your pity party... Most of the sympathetic understand that those of us unemployed would take ANY job but none are being offered us; they know that to go back to school takes money; volunteering might not be possible because it involves gas, etc.; and I won't even get into the pity party finger pointing.

I stopped reading the comments after about 15 pages. I couldn't stand anymore. There are so many others out there suffering and worried and anxious just like I am. I'm not the only one who has lost a home and pawned all my jewelry. At least I still have clothes and my books! Many who commented are my age and spoke about ageism that is alive and kicking in our country. In general, however, most people were kind and supportive and tried to encourage this woman.

I do live in kind of a cocoon. At times I do feel as though I am the only one out there having a tough time. Tonight my eyes were opened a little wider and I have a less negative image of myself. There are sure a lot of 50ish folks out there having to start over with nothing. I am not really alone. Hearing about and knowing other people's problems doesn't make me happy but it did make me more aware of what is going on beyond my own little world.

I think we are in trouble nationally and need to address the issues of increasing employment opportunities, especially for those in my age group. Health insurance still is up in the air. The housing issue remains a mess. No one can survive adequately on minimum wage. I hope this blog increases people's awareness of those struggling as this woman's article did. Some people who are out of the loop thanked her for her honesty. What we really need is more kindness and understanding and not judgmental criticism. If you aren't walking in these shoes, you really don't know. Tonight my oldest came home from Show Choir practice complaining of being hungry, adding, "I'm always hungry." Sometimes I wake up hungry too. He settled for a leftover bowl of 4-Bean Chili (the pot of chili that never ends) over spaghetti but thankfully I replenished our cheese supply, getting a block of cheddar to grate myself and save $1.20.

My prayers are increasing and going beyond myself to the countless others both better and worse than myself who are struggling in some way. Please pray for stability, healing and prosperity for all. During this season of giving, I feel as though some are choosing to forget about the hardships still existing for so many.


Was very despondent yesterday and the weather matched my mood - dark, grey and rainy. The boys were able to have pizza when they went over to their older brother's to watch the Bear's game but I was stuck with leftover 4-Bean Chili minus any cheese which is pretty much the best part. Couldn't sleep last night. Worried about the food budget and holidays, being able to have some kind of celebration for the boys. My oldest was upset this morning, needing $1.50 for his PE bowling class which I could not give him. He was also critical of what he felt was a meager lunch (PB & J, apple, goldfish crackers and a few cookies). After they boys left for school, I was able to register at a toy drive that allows "shoppers" to purchase gifts for their children at greatly reduced prices. I saw this event last year as it was happening and made a mental note to remember it this year, if needed. Not everyone who wants to participate can do so as spots are limited so I got on the phone first thing. The line was busy but within 15 minutes I had secured an appointment. The sale is of course geared to younger kids but I was assured that there would be plenty of a selection for my boys. Anything is better than nothing.
I then had to go to the local grocery store to write a check for a small amount over some minor purchases to afford gas for both vehicles. Then I headed over to the food pantry where a very kind woman volunteer and I have gotten friendly. She said she was so stuck by my asking for a stick of deodorant for my sons the last time I was there and the fact that they didn't have any to give me that she cried. She spoke to her husband that night and both of them would like to put together small gift bags for each boy. She said it won't be much but again I am grateful for anything my sons might have to open and enjoy. In terms of what they want, it is items like body wash, shampoo, sugarless gum and mints (which have been cut from our budget), socks and underwear. Nothing extravagant. A few years ago I might have not accepted this woman's offer but I can no longer do so. I still feel incredibly ashamed to be in this condition. Our society isn't kind toward the poor, even during the hard times many of us are going through. I feel stigmatized and humbled at the same time.

The nice woman at the food pantry said she knows of another pantry operating out of a church and if I didn't mind, she would pass on my name. They actually deliver a weekly box of food to your door. I also agreed to this. We have reached such a low point that my food budget is practically non-existent and it will probably take me a month or two to recover. During which time I am forced to rely on pantry donations as difficult as it is. Today's food pantry visit was a good one because I got to choose three loaves of bread and a dessert. Sometimes there is no bread or just hard unsliced loaves of French or Italian. A red letter day to be able to leave with a loaf of light Italian, extra large loaf of white sandwich bread and a hearty grain type, which is my preference.

From the pantry I headed over to the town hall to register for yet another program. This one only gives gifts to kids 12 and under but they do provide a box of fresh food including potatoes and vegetables so it was worth it to sign up. It is also possible that a family or business will "adopt" us but that is not a guarantee. I go to a local church to pick up my box of food and they will also offer items at a garage sale of sorts - donated items of all kinds, free for the taking. We've been shopping at the Goodwill and I go to antique stores so what is the harm in browsing at the items offered? Maybe I can find a few "gently worn" items as they say for the boys or even myself.

The social worker overheard me talking about a program I've learned about that is actually a class to teach suburbanites how to be poor since so many of us have never had to face circumstances like this. She asked me about the program and I promised to provide her with the info. That is part of the problem as I see it. I've never lived in an apartment or had to search for food from pantries. There have to be others out there like me who just don't know the ins and outs of navigating the system. The social worker referred me to yet another food pantry that provides fresh food items. Talking to her, I sounded like a social worker myself. At that moment of realization part of me said to myself, "Get off your butt and look for work in your field. Stop selling yourself short. Your are a professional, you'll eventually find a social services job. And heck, now I even have personal experience in grief, loss and poverty - better equipped to assist clients." Part of the problem though, is that being in this place takes a tremendous toll on one's self-esteem. I blame myself for my situation and don't feel worthy looking for a better job. That is kind of the pattern of this cycle...

By the end of the day I felt a little better. All this running around took up the majority of my time, which is another characteristic of living under reduced circumstances. It takes extra time to figure all this stuff out. Dinner was thankfully not more 4-Bean Chili! I feel I've done what I can to try and improve the holidays but still am depressed and down about it all. I am not motivated to put up a tree and wish the holidays would just fast forward and go away. I am also reconsidering not going to the knitting group this week thinking it is not a good time to do so. It will feel like rubbing salt into a wound if I am surrounded by women chatting in gay spirits about their holiday decorations, plans, parties and trips. Maybe it would be better to start with the group at the new year. These women all know one another and I'm not sure it is the right time to enter a group that has been together in the midst of the holidays. Anyway, I've even lost some of my desire to knit which comes with my being down.

But then it becomes reinvigorated again when I think that I should whip up a holiday towel and pot holder set to give to the kind woman at the pantry. And I'll need something for my girlfriend and my son's girlfriend. But the thought of decorating and baking exhausts me. Just trying to locate available food pantries that will serve me has taken its toll and part of the joy out of this season. I always believed that the holidays were the one time of year all of us were assured of some happiness. Just another illusion that has been shattered.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A New Bunch of Hope

A few weeks ago I received an email from a woman I didn't know. I curiously read it and was surprised at the strange kinship I felt with this unknown person. The subject was about the books this woman was reading and I scratched my head thinking that this was like an update sent to a group of book club members. The thing that made it even more interesting was that the books this woman wrote about were either ones I'd read or also had an interest in reading. Then there was another strange connection. This woman added that she had been contemplating about how we need to work at making our ordinary days into ones less ordinary. I had just written a post about the same subject titled "The Sameness of Days." I was intrigued and ended up enjoying the email so much I saved it but then didn't think much more of it.

Then I got another email the next week and put two and two together when this woman listed all the knitting projects being worked on by a large number of other women. Turns out, this kind angel in disguise is one of the two women I randomly met at the knit shop about a month ago - the one who invited me to join their group and who asked for my email address (I'd forgotten I'd given it to her).

The week of Thanksgiving I received another weekly email and again was struck by this woman's insight and thought, "I like this woman - we think in similar ways." She wrote that she was listening to the new audio book by Carolyn Myss, "Navigating Hope," which deals with finding strength under adversity. First of all, I thought this was a good book for me to check out, then I appreciated her taking the time to relate some of the author's beliefs, which were appropriate for the Thanksgiving week.

She related that Carolyn believes we all need to be more mindful of every interaction made during our day and to strive to be kind in that every action. Since this is a goal I strive for myself, I was very interested. Then she described Carolyn's belief that she is a realist vs. being either an optimist or a pessimist. And I just loved this description! Because I think so often in widowhood I have been perceived as a pessimist for admitting that my life is what it is. Now, there is a new way for me to look at myself and to view the world. I can strive for a good outcome without being overly phony and fake with my optimism, while being real about my life. I just loved this outlook! It gave me some relief and new perspective. I was so thankful for having received it that I wrote the "unknown" woman an email back thanking her after explaining that at first I hadn't known who she even was.

I really thanked her for her kindness in reaching out to someone she didn't even know. I got back an almost immediate response in which she disclosed a bit about herself. She said, at age 55 she had been feeling at a loss because of not being able to find work so she is taking the Library Assistant Training Course at the Community College and doing her best to keep her mind active and strong. Having trouble finding work myself and being interested in the LAT training besides is another commonality.

All in all, this exchange again makes me think about the seclusion and isolation I have felt in my widowhood over the years. We need friends and interactions and stimulation to keep us alive and kicking. We need to hear new thoughts and ideas, whether we agree with them or not to keep us on our toes and our minds clicking. Living with my husband provided so much of that daily stimulation. We would discuss our jobs, news items, people we knew, events in the world and so on. All that was lost in one fell swoop the day I became widowed. I do admit that over the years I have become somewhat self-centered and selfish. It is hard not to when living alone. But I hope to start changing all of that. Just this small interaction occurring within the context of these emails has broadened my world, opened my eyes and given me new insights.

I chose today's photo because of the bunch of berries it depicted. We all need group support and contact with others. Relationships of love, trust and friendship. I am going to do my best to not lose my resolve to attend this week's knitting group and to continue to broaden my group of outside contacts. I don't want to become a withered single berry on the vine.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Christmas Carol

Today my sons and I went into Chicago to see A Christmas Carol at the famed Goodman Theatre. The tickets were paid for by my brother. He and the rest of my sibs and their families have a tradition of doing something like this on this day. In the past, I've declined going due to finances. This year when my brother inquired if we would be able to attend, I just admitted I would be unable to afford the cost of the tickets and he offered to pick them up. Before, I may have declined but this year I accepted thinking about how long it has been since my sons and I have been to a show. When my husband was alive, taking in a show like this in the city with and without the boys was a regular activity in our lives. So I did this today for my sons - to give them something I can't right now.

The sold-out production was incredible! The sets and special effects alone were outstanding. Yes, this was a rare and special treat. Yet at the same time I struggled emotionally throughout the day. Taking the train into the city, I was struck by the suburban girls of our town, a group of which rode in with us for a fun day of shopping and chatting. They all held piping hot cups of Starbucks and I had to hold back my feelings of envy as I thought back to my last Starbucks, which was one year ago! The girls were Juniors and my youngest son blushed throughout the ride as they waved to him and said, hello. He did his best to hide on the train...

We are down to our last $20.00 before payday (Wednesday) and that went for the train tickets. Knowing we wouldn't have money to spend on food in Chicago I packed PB & J sandwiches, apples and some cinnamon pretzels I'd baked for breakfast and we ate on the train. My car is on empty and the van is low - the pantry is pretty bare. The next few days are going to be tough.

I haven't been into Chicago for about two years and getting into the station and being accosted by all the fancy food stalls did hit me. But the decorations in the station alone were delightful and I tried to enjoy them. No money for a cab so walking - but that is okay. It is just nice to know you have the funds available if you want to grab a cab. We met my brother at a cute restaurant and again, I felt sadness at not being able to afford even a drink for the boys. There was a huge sign advertising a new sandwich at Corner Bakery and I have to say I almost drooled over it (food has kind of become an obsession in my life as of late).

Leaving my family to hurry (run is more like it) to catch the earlier train back, I felt a bit more sadness that it is likely they are all going out to dinner together somewhere, while the boys and I returned home to leftover 4-Bean Chili over spaghetti. I had a migraine on the way home and was pretty miserable. Probably a combination of not eating enough, emotional tension and the mad dash to the station. I tried to block out the images of the intact families I saw on the train, especially all the moms chatting on their cells as to where their families are headed for their holiday vacations. I just reminded myself - "Don't compare yourself to them - you're not one of them anymore." It is good to get out and about in the world but the solitude of widowhood does also serve the purpose of insulation from the pain of life's discrepancies.

The message of A Christmas Carol is of course the timeless one that in the end, friendship, family, love, kindness and generosity are more important than wealth and money. Yet despite this message, this day was so full of contradictions and struggling with my situation. I think that for me I have dealt with my widowhood as best I can and pretty well. The real hardship for me has been the challenges I've faced being a poor one. There is the bizarre contradiction of being able to attend a show like this but then to have to use our last funds for the train tickets to get there. It sometimes feels like I have my feet in two different countries - the one of former suburban mom because I still am living in the community and that of widow living under extremely reduced circumstances.

Afterthought - I hope my depictions of financial struggle do not cause anyone discomfort. This blog is my way to honestly and openly deal with the struggles I have had to unfortunately face as a widow. We will make it through the next days, we always do. I do hope to someday in someway better convey to our society the difficulties some only parents face after being struck by tragedy. I have to keep in mind those in our nation suffering more than we are and to be thankful for the roof over our heads and the fact that we even have 4-Bean Chili to eat. There are always those suffering more than we and today I pray for them. Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol to better depict the plight of the poor during his time. I reflect on my oldest who recently bought the homeless man he passed dinner. Despite our hardship, he reached out and gave to someone more in need. Maybe that is what we all need to concentrate on during this season.

Poor Mom's Chili Soup for when there is nothing left in the pantry

4 Different cans of beans, don't drain (black, pinto, kidney, etc.)
1 can chicken broth
1 -2 cans chopped tomatoes (I use the ones with green chilies)
1 packet chili seasoning
1 -2 T. chocolate chips or grated chocolate

Heat, simmer and serve over rice or noodles, topped with cheese and sour cream

Makes a ton!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Blues

I am feeling that crash that sometimes comes after a big event or holiday celebration. For a day your cares and worries are put aside and then you wake up with the same issues and problems briefly forgotten and end up feeling worse!

The boys are grumpy too but went to the gym to work out and hopefully release some of their tensions. I am trying not to mope and have vowed to keep active today and do what I can - wash dishes, try out a soup recipe, knit, clean, read. It is a bit cold but a walk would probably do me a world of good right now so I'll put that on the table too.

The point being, I don't want to just despair and feel helpless. Even accomplishing the dishes and having a clean sink is something. I could lie down and do nothing and tomorrow end up with having to do the dishes anyway. Activity vs. inactivity, no matter how insignificant or mindless it seems. Distraction too - trying to keep my mind focused on other things than the normal anxieties and worries like trying the soup recipe.

The Black Friday ads really have bummed me out and bothered me this year. I didn't notice them last year or maybe with the move and school I just wasn't watching as much t.v. I just know this season, since Halloween, I have absolutely despised that TJ Maxx commercial with the carolers on the escalator. All the ads depict happy moms (mostly) looking forward to shopping for their "normal" families. I am not one of those normal moms and I am poor besides. Looking at these manufactured glimpses of what we're supposed to be has resulted in my feeling worse about myself and my situation even though I know it is all just Hollywood advertising hype and hoopla.

I know retailers are trying to get shoppers in early because of the Recession. But what happens when you are one of those struggling Americans grateful for food on the table much less gifts? I fear this will be year number three with no gifts under our tree and it is hitting me hard. I view these happy actors in the t.v. ads and think I need to feel as joyful as they are but am so consumed with the reality of my life that of course, I can't. Anyway, they are just actors (but at least they had a paying job!).

Well, enough of this. I read something a few months back that rather upset me. I don't remember where it was from, probably a magazine article or maybe on the internet. Anyway, it was for single moms with the message of how important it is for us to continue holiday traditions and to make sure we observe the holidays for our kids. As if we need that added pressure added to our plates I mused! My boys are older, but it is still difficult to be in a situation where there isn't anything left even for a modest gift or two. I have looked into a couple of holiday programs in my area but they only provide gifts for kids ages 12 and under.

These past few years have been even more difficult for single and only parents because of unemployment and the Recession. I find it hard to put on a happy, holiday, cheerful face. But I will try. There is still the possibility that our family will be chosen to be adopted by a business. And if not, I'll have to put on that game face and do the best I can under extremely limited and reduced circumstances. In the meantime, I'm going to turn off the t.v. whenever one of those fake and phony ads come on.

Healing Graces

The vase in this photo is the centerpiece from the dining table at my brother's, whom we had Thanksgiving dinner with. I liked that my sister-in-law had gone out into the yard to find branches with some remaining leaves and then added a single sprig of evergreen to the mix. Simple and elegant. Tasteful and congruent. It represented a blending of the seasons - fall and holiday that I can handle. Not like the huge urns of mums out at the shopping malls right up against the garish red and green wreaths and mistletoe.

Anyway, the dinner went well and relations with my family have improved all around. As hard as it is for me to accept this, I must take some responsibility for fostering better and more consistent contact despite the current obstacles in my life. Will we ever be the Waltons or Brady Bunch? No, but things can always be better and we can hope for improvement as well and not give up.

The boys and I visited with Sam over the weekend arriving home Wednesday night. I needed to get away for myself and Sam and I had not seen each other since mid-August. It is exceedingly difficult to maintain this relationship but we have continued to hang in there. I felt as if a huge weight was off my shoulders the few days of our visit, even though Sam worked Mon-Wed. Just being with another adult (and male besides) helps me in that way. He was off Sunday and treated the boys to a pizza buffet while he and I went to Ruby Tuesday on our own. Whenever we come back I am struck by how fast our time went. I never turned on the computer once, or accomplished much of anything. Sam and I made dinner one night together and that was fun. We always say we'll talk more than we end up doing - he remains committed to my staying here the next year and a half so my youngest can finish high school. He feels it is only fair to both the boys. Right now that seems so far away to continue to be struggling here on my own.

I am trying to develop the mindset of focusing on doing what I want to do and then doing so. I wanted to see Sam, I went for myself. So many times over the past years I have deferred my own desires for that of others. A small step but one that I will continue to try and concentrate more on. I wanted to spend the time with my family despite the estrangements of the past years. More importantly, I want to relate to everyone in my life (including myself) in a more honest and forthright manner. To being about healing and understanding and not be pointing fingers - that doesn't get anyone anywhere.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gobble, Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and please enjoy and indulge in a piece of pie instead of worrying about calories. I always have a piece (small, ok, smallish) of both pumpkin and apple and feel no regrets!

Be especially kind to others today. Remember that we have our own quirks that others have to put up with too.

I have never been able to understand why stores start opening at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving. I never was motivated to go because I was always too tired from cleaning the house and cooking and just wanted to sleep in Friday morning. They should change the early day to Saturday since I think most women are the ones going to these sales and usually women do most of the holiday cleaning and cooking too. STILL! We need to give women a break.

Well, enough of my my soapbox. You will never see me at a JC Penney at 3:00 a.m. But if that is your thing have fun and everyone, have a relaxed, hopeful and meaningful day.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Standing Tall

I don't know if it is the medication that is calming my nerves, the walks or a combination of both but I have reached some sort of level of peace within my life and circumstances. Things are still extremely challenging emotionally and financially. I struggle every month simply to put decent food on the table and have enough gas to do the limited driving I do. This month, the month of feasting and thankfulness has been the absolute worst in terms of not having enough to make it. We had car insurance bills totaling $600.00 and there goes the gas and food budget. I won't belabor our financial woes. I try to keep those separate in my blog "Plunged Into Poverty," which I don't post as much on.

Anyway, I always say to the boys, "This is it guys - we've reached the end. I can't make it anymore and we'll be eating PB & J the last week of the month." They respond, "You tell us that every month and we always make it through and have yet to have a dinner of PB & J." Still it is so hard...

Yet despite it all I am committed to finding happiness or at least contentment even within these trying circumstances. I will stand as tall as I can and try to rise above all of this.

In the end, I believe what we should all strive for is to become the best we can both inside and out. And to sneak in a little happiness besides.

The Winking Owl wine is not that good but I have had a glass and feel the effects of mellowness. I haven't given up yet - a good belly laugh would be nice. Have to work on that. But I'm not afraid anymore to look for happiness and to even be happy. I'm not going to put it on hold anymore until my circumstances have improved. That's a huge shift for me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Early Bah Humbug

Is it just me or are others bothered by the Christmas decorations that are suddenly appearing? I want to enjoy turkeys and Pilgrims another week before having to think about trees, candy canes and Old Saint Nick. At the shopping centers there are holiday decorations right beside pots of fall mums and wreaths of leaves and gourds. Somehow, the bright greens and reds clash with the muted autumn colors.

I don't like disparity. And I like it even less since my husband died. I cringe at clashing colors and I want one holiday to be officially over before starting the next. A few days before Halloween the local hardware store actually had some inflatable snowmen out - talk about me having the heebie jeebies. Yesterday I heard the radio station that plays all Christmas music on the air. Years ago, they didn't start broadcasting the exclusive holiday music until Thanksgiving. Why is everything being moved up sooner?

It almost seems like we are shortchanging Thanksgiving and diminishing its meaning by rushing in the holiday season. What I learned from my husband's death was that it is important to savor the moments we have in our life and not try to hurry onto the next exciting event. Or maybe it also stems from the fact that when you're caring for someone very sick, life becomes so crazy and jumbled up that clarity and unity not disruption are longed for. I passed a home with Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations both up. Maybe if I ever live in a home again and have the opportunity to decorate my yard I'll put up a Thanksgiving display and keep it up through Christmas. That might give people some pause as to my meaning - it would be a protest of premature celebrations.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wine Tasting

I haven't been much of a drinker the past seven years. Not that I don't enjoy a mixed drink before dinner or a glass of wine with dinner. And there were fun times when I got a bit tipsy during a night on the town with the girls. It is just that when my husband died, I became worried about being the sole provider for the boys and concerned about possible DUIs so I limited my drinking when I was out to only one and always with food. Then of course, I wasn't socializing that much anyway.

I suppose I could have indulged at home but I always felt that I needed to have as many of my wits about me caring for the boys 24/7. The last couple of days, however, I've had a craving for a glass of wine in the evening. Maybe it is that the days are getting shorter and colder. Or that I want to feel a bit more relaxed and mellow even beyond what my anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds are providing.

So I took the big step and picked up a bottle of my favorite red, Cabernet Sauvignon at ALDI for the big cost of $2.99 a bottle. NEVER in my life have I purchased such a cheap bottle of wine but I see a lot of people buying it and there is a cute winking owl on the label which is the name brand.

Got home all excited about trying my cheap bottle of wine with my cheap comfort food dinner. This is what I always make when I need a comfort food dinner: mix a can of cream of chicken soup, 1/3 cup sour cream, cooked frozen vegetables and chopped cooked turkey or chicken in a baking pan. Top with prepared Stove Top Dressing and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. There is never any left when I make this and the cost = about $3.50 total, only about $1.25 per person!

But after all the big build up, I couldn't find my cork screw! So the taste test is delayed until tomorrow when I can run to the dollar store for a new one. I will provide a rating.

I suppose the other insight from this post has to do with how much widowhood changes us. Habits we used to engage in regularly vanish from our lives. Widowhood truly impacts and influences us in so many ways at so many levels. My wine drinking habits, just a minor example - sometimes it blows my mind how my widowhood has so deeply affected me. Finally, buying this inexpensive bottle of wine is something I did for myself - a small measure of self-nurturing and care.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I received an email a few weeks ago from a woman I didn't recall knowing but I enjoyed it because it was all about the books she was reading and a number of them were ones I was interested in as well! Then the next week another email came and this one contained information about a weekly knitting group made up of about 30-40 women who rotate in and out. The email gave a description of the projects each woman who had attended the group that week had been working on. It dawned on me then that the email was from one of the women I randomly met at the knitting store I frequent and struck up a conversation with a few weeks back. She invited me to join the knitting group and asked for my email.

I haven't gone to a meeting yet because of football season and now they won't be meeting until after Thanksgiving but I am definitely going to attend the first week in December. There are two older widows in the group but still a connection and other women who although don't share my widowhood do face mid-life changes. It is not going to be easy to just show up and present myself to a group of strangers but the thing about knitting is that you can listen to others while keeping your hands busy and looking occupied. It was very nice that someone who doesn't know me took the time to add me to her email list and contact me.

I've written before about how widowhood has isolated me and that I have lost friendships I used to have because of my circumstances. Here is an opportunity to get back in a group and from there who knows where it will lead? I always believe that first steps result in others.

All of this reflection on friends made me consider the fact that sometimes I haven't been a good friend. I have two close girlfriends, both divorced and one has left me a phone voice mail message and another on Facebook, neither of which I've responded to. Widowhood sometimes robs me of my time management abilities. An issue comes up and I forget about the message. I use my circumstances as an excuse at times to not put the effort in I need to.

Friendship is a two way street as are relationships. They require give and take and the attention of both parties. I rationalize that because my divorced friends have lives a bit easier, they should do more of the "work." I realize that this is not the best attitude to take here. Yes, I have a stressful and tough life right now but that doesn't give me the excuse to totally throw in the towel. I may not be able to do as much as my girlfriends but I can do what I can. So I sent my girlfriend an email telling her I was thinking of her and wishing her well with the new man she is seeing. She wrote back and seemed very pleased that I'd thought of her and suggested we get together soon to talk. That will be something to look forward to.

I hate to say that I look at socializing as another job in among the many that are already crowding my plate. But I have to look at it as a job that will result in more good than negative and worth the extra effort I put into it. I do get so irritated that widows seem to have more than their share of jobs and that even non-jobs like maintaining friendships somehow become more tedious than they were before non-widowhood. I wish it were all easier and not so complicated all of the time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Passing on the Path

"It's a beautiful day for a walk in the woods," the grandmotherly type woman said to me as we passed on the path, she with her family, me on my own. I replied that it was a bit chilly and blustery.

These past months of walking have resulted in me talking to those I pass. There was once a middle-aged guy who was sitting next to me in the picnic area eating a lunch of Popeye's Chicken while I knit. We chatted a while. I always make eye contact with everyone and smile. A lot of people walk their dogs. I remember my husband informing me when we rode the bike trails together that the rule of courtesy is to always acknowledge a fellow traveler on the path.

In a way, these walks have helped my social isolation. My social skills feel rusty much of the time. Yes, I talk the odd few words with store clerks and hellos to people I know at school affairs. But long, deep, heart felt one-on-ones are few and far between. Sometimes I think that I am losing my conversational ability. I know in the end, these brief encounters don't make up for the significant connections we humans need to have with others. But they count for something.

It is also the same way with hugs. Hugs are nice and meaningful in and of themselves. But what I really miss is the sense of connection I had with my husband, another human being. When I hugged him there was something almost sacred because of our commitment to one another, our being married and the fact that we knew each other so well. A hug among those who love deeply or are dear friends has more meaning than getting a massage to simply feel someone touching you.

I miss the physical contact and the intimate conversations. Brief hugs in greeting and brief nods of hello along the wooded path are only fill-ins for the deeper intimacy I hope someday to find again. I feel sad knowing that in the meantime there is something greater out there that I have experienced and to realize that there is nothing that can take the place of it. I won't pretend that my hellos on the path are more than they are or that I long for something more sacred. I guess it is like longing for a steak and having to settle for chicken. There remains a sense of unrest and lack of fulfillment.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Moving Beyond the Path

We had a week of unusually warm weather and it was lovely. Today we were struck again with reality, it was a typical November day in the Chicago suburbs - chilly, damp, grey, rain, blustery. But I went out and took my walk anyway. I luckily dodged the rain. I have been walking now since late August, almost every day. Just a half-hour. I've mapped the route out in the small forest preserve/park I go to near where I live so I know how many times I need to go around for 30 minutes. This walk has become something I look forward to greatly and now that I've started taking photos, there is even a more positive result.

I don't think the walk is doing that much in terms of exercise but it does have an impact on my overall mood. I like that I make time for myself and that I have kept up a goal for some months now. I'm not sure what will happen when the snow and real cold arrive, since I'm not a fan of winter. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Today as I walked I thought about how knitting gives me a sense of power and control by being able to create a piece of work on my terms. Walking gives me a sense of control too.

When I was newly widowed I met a woman whose husband had been shot by a disgruntled co-worker at his job. She had two boys about the ages of mine when her husband died. She was retired and had remarried, active in her church and with her grandchildren. She related that soon after her husband's death she would wake early and go walking around her home while her sons were still asleep. It was the only time she could do so. She said that the walks were what ended up saving her.

I am grateful for the walks I have been taking. The steps around the path seem to give me courage to go on ahead. I sense that these walks are the beginning to my taking more steps in other directions - to a new job, meeting new people, getting out more socially. Tonight that hits home because now that football is over, the boys are each out with their friends and here I am, alone. It is time for me to take the steps to move beyond the wooded path and see where it leads me.

Frustration Tolerance

Life is made up of all these minor annoyances during our days: water heaters break, rude sales clerks, having to wait in endless lines, people who cut us off on the road and then give us the finger... In regard to that last one, can we please all grow up and just stop that? Can I call for "No one giving anyone the finger day" for one day a year? It is so rude and unnecessary. Anyway, you get my point.

This past week I've dealt with my share of frustrations. I'm trying to get my oldest son a new acne prescription that requires this pretty confusing and complicated registration process. We tried getting it for him in the spring and I eventually gave up. After a month of endless interactions with the drug company, the doctor and Walmart pharmacy I couldn't take it anymore. I figured it was no longer my job to try and figure it all out when the other professionals couldn't get it together and do so.

- We have a new doctor and are going through the same craziness. I spent one whole day earlier this week on the phone with the drug company and the doctor and made two trips to Walmart as well, hating that I used the gas for nothing. I also had to get a new prescription from the doctor which the drug company says wasn't needed but Walmart required so that was another trip to the doctor and Walmart. What I am told by the drug company is that my son is inactive in the system and needs to be reactivated. The doctor's office then calls the drug company and/or goes on line to register my son and are told he is reactivated and all systems are go. Then Walmart can't fill the order and we go through the whole process again.

- In the meantime, I took in my prescription for my anti-anxiety pills and the order couldn't be filled because the doctor hadn't put in a quantity. So I had to wait about a week for the refill because the doctor is only in the office a few days a week. I made it through but noticed that I was having trouble sleeping again not taking the pills and as my frustration increased with my son's prescription not getting filled I started wanting a pill to take to help calm my nerves.

- Wednesday night, 9:00 p.m., my oldest announces that he needs to wear black pants and a black shirt to play in a Veteran's Day assembly the next day. Thanks for the heads up! Thankfully, I try and wash his "good" clothes immediately after they are worn and hang them up so they were ready to go in the closet. Had they not have been, I'd had to stay up throwing in a load of laundry, just my favorite task to do at 10 p.m.!

- My oldest tells me that the oil light has been on in the van for a number of days and he needs an oil change. I become somewhat frantic worried that the van's engine has been burned out because of this. I speak sharply to my son and have to come up with $20.00 we don't have for an oil change, although I used a coupon and that helped save some money. In the end, the car guys said the oil was fine and it turns out my son noticed the oil light coming on when he started the van. It was never on when he was driving but it worried him. So, again, we could have made it through a couple more weeks without this extra expense. But he feels more secure driving now and we don't need another oil change until February. But talk about needing an anti-anxiety pill (Klonopin)! I truly thought we were headed for even more car repair bills.

- My youngest asked for my help with a craft project for school (extra credit for Chemistry). Go figure, crafts in Chemistry. I went to JoAnn's for felt, glue and pipe cleaners. Again, this former craft queen cringes having to spend any extra money for crafts right now. In fact, after the project was completed I went back to JoAnn's, which is next to Walmart anyway, to return two unused pieces of felt and a small bottle of tacky glue. I got back $1.26 but worth it to me. Those dollars and even pennies add up when you're living under reduced circumstances as we are. The sad part of this story, however, is that after significant effort helping with this silly project, my son failed to tell me that the animal we had to make out of felt needed to be stuffed. While working on the project there was even a bag of stuffing out on the chair beside us! As a result, my son only received 20 points out of 30. I know it is not my fault and all, it was just disappointing to learn of this oversight!

- I am leaving the best for last following my oldest son's statement to me that he is out of deodorant. I was in bed ready to go to sleep, when my youngest came in and threw a pair of jeans on top of me, saying, "Here is a contribution to Goodwill." I replied, "That was very rude of you to throw those on me like that." He stomped out of the room with a reply of "You're rude!" Yes, the fun of parenting adolescent males!

I'd say this is a fair share of little inconveniences and frustrations that happen to all of us. I think, however, that there are then the "bigger" ones looming in our lives. We have to balance between the day-to-day annoyances that pop up as well as the ongoing difficulties going on in our lives. In my case, the need for a new job and the job search, dealing with grave financial limitations, needing to get my sedan fixed but not having the extra funds to do so. We're short this month because of the $600.00 in car insurance that was due.

I dealt with frustrations pretty well when I was married - the smaller ones were easier to brush off and forget about and with my husband, we were always able to come together with solutions for the more major challenges. Now on my own, I don't do to well under the pressure of the little stuff combined with the big stuff. There seems to be something always to worry about and the small stuff is harder to just ignore.

At least I've figured out the best times to go to Walmart without having to wait in line with another 13 people! Yes, 13 people have been in front of me, more than once! Don't hit Walmart after work, between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. or on weekend. And I learned how to get my photos off my phone onto the computer and then to my blog (all by myself, I'll add!). Yeah, non-techie Mom!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Moonlit Walk

Took my walk a little later than I normally do and was surprised by how early it got dark. Saw the lights twinkling in people's homes and imagined couples and families greeting one another with something warm and cozy on the stove. My walk was quiet, sad and reflective. I cut it short because I started to get spooked out as the moon rose higher and the night got darker - I didn't feel safe out in the woods by myself.

It is not that I feel lonely. Just that I feel alone. Looking back now on my months of blogging and 400 some entries, I would say that the reason I do so is to be heard. To tell someone my story, my feelings, fears, hopes and dreams. There aren't many people in my life who really listen or care and I guess in the end, that is what I am most seeking. To have interactions with people who want to listen, who care, who are interested and to whom I matter. Many days I feel that if I simply disappeared, the only ones affected would be my two sons. And I want to matter to someone else. I want to feel the connection again that I had with my husband. I also want to help another human being feel important, nurtured and loved. To know with certainty that there is someone in the world to come home to who'll be waiting with open arms of acceptance.

Seven years ago I would never have imagined the intensity of feeling alone or how draining that aspect of widowhood is. To want something more in terms of a personal relationship but to have it elude you can be a hard reality to accept at times.

Tonight both my sons are at home as football is over and they are playing a sports video game together that my youngest bought with his job earnings today. They haven't had an operating game system in a year and have missed it. Today's purchase was a used 360. They are happy with the novelty of the game and it is peaceful and quiet. And I get time to myself on the computer. There is a pizza and some cake for dinner, along with ice cream. I am indulging in a rare glass of wine. I am trying to be mellow and to think ahead to a time when I will be able to talk in person with someone who cares about my story and will listen without judgment.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sameness of Days

I think most of our days are ordinary and filled with the dull job of simply living ordinary lives. Special days like Christmas, birthdays, births, death, the radiant changing leaves and blossoming flowers only come once a year. I used to want Christmas to be all year long because people are in better moods but then I realized that if we had the holidays all year, they would no longer be special. These events become special because they are rare and we need to really treasure them as such when we are living through them.

It is up to us to find contentment (the word I'd rather use than happiness) in our day-to-day lives. Some years back, before widowhood, I read the suggestion to find joy while doing the dishes. I totally scoffed at the notion. Then in grad school I had a wise professor who used to always say that the best part of life was in the process, not the end result. The process or what we are going through ends up being ultimately more valuable. She was referring to our education vs. the degree and again I couldn't really understand what she meant.

I do get it now. Maybe having been widowed and now as someone who has lived up to middle age. But I see that it has to do with valuing all of our days and not just the ones off in the future that we think are most special - weddings, graduations, school dances, vacations. Our lives are made up of a whole lot more ordinary days than special ones. Filled with a lot more drudgery like doing dishes than going off on the town.

How does all this relate to widowhood and life? I guess I'm just trying to do the best I can even under strife and difficulty to be more fully present in the here and now. To appreciate every day and to make the smallest moments count.


There is a tree I see on my path during my nature walks. It has caught my eye because it is a broken tree, cracked in half. Yet at the sight of the break, new shoots have sprouted and grown.

I see this tree as a metaphor or symbol of widowhood. I was struck down and became broken. Yet had to go on with new sprouts that emerged and took root from my brokenness.

What always strikes me is how fragile, new and young these shoots look against the strong main trunk of the tree. That has gotten me to thinking about how fragile we all are in our positions. Yet why is there sometimes this assumption that our loss and losses have made us stronger? You hear it in the phrases "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger" and "God doesn't give us more than we can handle."

In my opinion, grief and loss hasn't toughened me up or made me stronger. Most days, I feel like these new tree shoots - fragile, weak, tentative, growing. Definitely not who I was once before.

I'm humbly amazed passing by this tree. Looking at these new shoots which are now their own branches coming from a tree struck down and fallen, yet still reaching for the sky. And I'm reminded of how fragile life can be, how fragile we can be. There is a necessity for us to be kind, compassionate and nurturing to ourselves. These poor shoots came up on their own taking root out in nature and surviving. There is a need for us to nurture ourselves through the growth that comes after loss. To see ourselves as fragile and new, not strong and hardy. We've been struck down and are still fragile as we continue to live on past our loss.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nature Walks

Find Beauty in the Mundane and Joy in the Ordinary!

Be surprised by the hidden colors waiting for your glance of wonder and delight!

I have started taking photos on my daily nature walks. Those daily half-hour walks are helping keep me sane! Thank goodness the weather will be mild next week.

Yeah for me! I've figured out how to use my camera phone but did need help from my youngest in getting these photos onto the blog. But some technical progress!

Round and Round She Goes

I wish it were all easier. I feel as though I don't fit in anywhere. I'm not finding entry level jobs, nor higher level jobs. Where are the ones that would fit me right now? Those in the middle? I'm apparently not qualified enough for the more professional jobs and yet when I see who is working at the entry level ones, it is clear that I don't fit in there at all. I applied for two positions at the local grocery store. No interest in me, even with my Big Box Store experience. When I shopped there the other day, there were three middle-aged cashiers gabbing, waiting on no one and the one at my register didn't start waiting on me until they stopped chatting. I just stood there waiting to see how long it would take and didn't say a word. So here is who is working there and someone like me who jumped on taking care of customers gets passed over. Very frustrating!

A couple of weeks after my husband died, I was in the grocery store reaching for some pears. And a quite elderly woman's hand brushed against mine. She had come to the store from the retirement home and I remember thinking to myself, I am sure this woman is a widow. And yet, here am I a widow also, at age 44, probably 40 years her junior. That is the first time I referred to myself as Widow in the Middle. I wasn't an widow as she was but nor was I a widow with little babies, a young widow.

Now I don't even know where I fit in. Certainly no longer in this community of intact families. I have sadly learned that a community doesn't make a home no matter how quaint and pretty it is if you're lonely and have no one to share life with. I've stayed here for the boys and high school but at this point am ready to relocate. Living here is a hindrance for me. I understand now why people say it can be a good thing to move and start over fresh in a new location.

I have never disclosed the real reason I plunged into a deep depression at the end of the summer. I found out that my Master's degree qualifications to sit for counseling licensing in my state were changed about two years ago. They increased the number of hours in the Master's program and I don't have enough to sit for the license. So in a way, my MA is worthless at least from the perspective of being a licensed professional counselor in Illinois. This absolutely devastated me.

Now my mood is more stable and the dust has settled. I will have to use my Master's in Psych/Counseling as a launching point into a new career. I suppose I can find a social services job in the field but with all the managed care requirements for payment, they want licensed professionals. I doubt I'll find work as a counselor since I am not license eligible. Very distressing.

Having gone to all these financial aid meetings for my son going on to college, I am considering going back to school myself for some job retraining. A program just at the community college level - maybe the Library Aide or something in health care management. I don't know what else to do to progress so I can make somewhat of a decent living for myself and my sons.

What also upset me in the past months is the disconnect I have felt with Sam - we haven't seen one another since mid-August and a main issue between us is his inability to commit to some sort of exclusive relationship status. I am tired of that and want more. I deserve better. Widowhood is hard enough than to be dealing with a guyfriend not on the same page in regard to what the definition of a relationship is. I haven't given up on Sam because he still means something to me but I am discouraged.

I've already experienced a lot of ambiguity these past few years and to be in an "undefined" relationship, without work, on my own stumbling along here makes me long for some part of my life that is defined, known and predictable. I know none of us really know where we will be tomorrow. Nothing is ever a given. But I want to know that I have a decent job/career, a kind man in my life who loves and respects me and our relationship and I want to know that I'm headed out of this pit of uncertainty. I want to laugh more and feel joy (real joy) in my heart again. I want to have a man buy be a cup of tea or glass of wine and be interested in what I have to say (truly). I want to be of value to an employer again and to have my financial burdens eased.

All these steps I'm taking just to keep on living and going on and yet I only seem to be turning around in circles.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Husbands and Scarves

I subscribe to a couple daily crafting email newsletters that offer free patterns and I enjoy receiving them and browsing the creative possibilities. The other day, the following message from the editor was this: "Nothing makes me feel more comfortable, cozy and safe than a knit garment (Sorry, Husband)." I'd like to rewrite that comment to: "Nothing makes ME feel more comfortable, cozy and safe than a husband (Sorry, Scarf!)."

Well, what can you say to that comment? I suppose it is meant as a cute little joke and the married women can all smile and nod together. I've knit myself a really nice soft multi-toned scarf in autumn colors, a great rib pattern and last week knit the one for my oldest son's girlfriend. As much as I dearly love knitting and the products that I end up from just a ball of yarn and two sticks (I still am amazed at this), there is no comparison to a warn blooded decent guy sleeping next to me in bed. That is what makes me feel comfortable, cozy and safe. Forget the scarves! Oh, well! To have both the husband and the scarf, now that would really be comfort, coziness and safety!

I solved my dilemma about not having a project with me when having to wait at events by taking the time to come up with a simple project to keep in my purse. Now I'll never have to feel envious of other moms knitting away because I've been too busy or rushed to grab my project before "running" out the door. This is a simple k1, p1 rib in a lovely shade of Kiwi wool that I'll add flowers to in bright colors of orange, pink and red. So a little bit of planning solved that issue. And since putting it in my purse, I've yet had an opportunity to work on it - but I know it is there and I'll keep it with me all winter if need be, since it can also be worn in early spring if it takes that long to complete!

There is a Lion Brand scarf pattern that I have seen that is super long and I'm kind of motivated to craft it as a sign to the Universe to send that great, decent guy over my way. The scarf is so long it can be shared between two people. How cute! There is another cute pattern I've seen of a sweater knit for two people to wear at once and I've always thought that if I remarry that would be fun to wear but I have my doubts that a guy would go for my sense of creativity and humor. I've had the nice wedding at the hotel and the big church extravaganza. Next time I'd love something fun and very different - Vegas wearing the sweater and scarf for two!

Monday, November 1, 2010

3 x 10 = 30

I am making the effort to try and stay focused and more positive this month, now that my gloomy month of annual anniversaries has passed. Although today is the anniversary of my husband's funeral and the 7th was his memorial service.

1. I need to be more proactive in finding some kind of new job. I've been out there pounding the pavement but nothing has come through. I'll take a store sales job just to bring in some extra funds for the holidays right now.

2. I am still dealing or trying to deal with the aftermath of moving and all the storage shed crap. So many boxes, bags, totes and baskets of stuff to go through. Recipe for disaster - moving from large five bedroom home into small two bedroom apartment. On the bright side, I figure I am doing what would need to be done when moving into a retirement home, so I am accomplishing all of this a few years ahead of time and saving my sons the aggravation besides of having to face it!

So on that note I am trying to give/donate 10 things a day away this month. And throw away/recycle 10 things as well. And to get through 10 of my craft magazines daily since they seem to take over the bookshelves. I'd like to tear out any patterns that inspire me and file them, then pass on the other patterns to others who may use them.

10 x 3 = 30. 30 x 7 = 210. 210 x 4 -= 840. Wouldn't that be great to have reduced my "stuff" by that number by the end of the month! What a gift to start Christmas with and the new year/new life!

3. I'd like to knit/crochet some Christmas ornaments so the boys and I can decorate a small tree this year. And to keep costs down I'd like to occupy my hands by creating my own decorations. We'll see how that goes. I need to come up with some kind of theme and so far nothing is hitting me. Snowflakes with blue baubles? Birds and hearts? Felted apples? Old-fashioned toys? Whatever it ends up being it'll need to be quick and easy and I need to be able to use whatever stash yarn I have on hand. Maybe something really different like a hot pink themed tree? It would also be fun to make an ornament a day from now through the end of the month in between my searching to throw stuff away. Ha, ha!

Well, we'll see how these goals go. They are what I'm aiming for. If a day goes by where I don't reach quota I won't knock myself. Any progress in these areas is progress.