Monday, February 28, 2011

Stupid Ice Storm!

So in the end it all comes down to this. A blog constantly complaining about the trials and tribulations of being a widowed, middle-aged mom. I am on a freaking merry-go-round and just can't seem to get off. Round and round she goes...

This morning awakened to an ice storm from last night and can't get the vehicles scraped off. My car doors were stuck shut and I asked the nice young dad from downstairs for his muscle strength since the boys had already left for school. He got one of the doors opened but I looked at my ice covered windows and came back in for a cup of tea and a blogging gripe session before heading out to do the job. I don't want to. It will probably take me a half hour in the cold and then I'm off to work. I'm already tired and it is only Monday morning. How can someone be tired on Monday morning? I'm tired and drained every day!

I know that I've been posting more positive posts of late, but then an ice storm comes and it just blasts me back 10 steps. Everyone here is sick of winter. When they announced the winter storm advisory last night my youngest groaned out loud.

I wish I had the personality to turn this around with a more positive spin. Thinking/saying that having to go out and scrape a thick layer of ice off my vehicle to get to my "temporary low level job" makes me feel alive because I'm using my muscles and exerting myself in the fresh air. But I'm not that person in the first place and after a number of years of widowhood I haven't become stronger doing everything on my own, just more tired and depleted.

It is not the grief and loss that gets to you in the end - it is the living and doing and coping and struggling on one's own that does you in. At least that is my opinion on this widowhood road. Far more hardships than pleasures and somehow always having the scale tip downward seems a darn shame. Widowhood life is just so unbalanced. There needs to be more "evenkeeledness." But how can there ever be more balance when one is always behind, running to catch up, low on rest, sleep and relaxation and always doing the work of two? It's a no win situation if you ask me. And then throw in a freaking ice storm when it is almost impossible to just keep up when life is "normal" and I'm ready to throw in the towel or should I say ice scraper!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

V-Day Joke On Me!

In part, this was a better Valentine's Day because with working now, there was a little money for some V-Day treats, purchased the day after for half-price of course, but none-the-less treats for the boys. And it is nice to have a bit of spending money to afford seasonal luxuries once in a while.

At the grocery store sifting through the bags of left over candy, I came across this amazing card by the Palmer candy company and immediately got it for me. Because I thought I had found an actual card made for a person to give to themselves! After all, the front of the card had the words, "To Me..." on it. I liked that the card had a cat on it and then inside there was a ball of yarn. I will admit I was a little confused because there was a "To/From" inside. But I didn't let that deter me from buying myself the card.

I thought it was a brilliant idea. Perfect for people like me - a middle-aged widow not receiving many gifts throughout the year. I have posted about this topic a number of times. How widowhood finds you lacking in the gift department. So why not have a line of cards and gifts we single people can give to ourselves on special days? I remained excited that an actual big company out there had figured all this out and would lead/pave the way for other companies like Hallmark to follow.

I was so happy about this card I brought it with me to a concert my son performed at this week to show my girlfriend during intermission. She is a teacher and just laughed when she saw my card. She reminisced that one of her young students gave her this same card many years ago! She had to kindly explain to me that I had misread the card wording so to speak. I had put the emphasis on the word "To." But if you put the emphasis on the word "Me," there is a whole different meaning! So the card ended up not being one for someone to give to themselves after all.

Well, this is all pretty funny to me in retrospect now. I am still glad I got myself the card because I think this is a darn good idea that someone out there should latch onto - gifts and cards that can be purchased for individuals to give to themselves. Who else is going to tell us we're great, fabulous or fantastic unless it is us when we're experiencing the single life. It felt so empowering for me to get myself an actual Valentine for myself (even the day after) with a positive sentiment on it.

I know that in actuality, there are more people together than there are singles so this isn't probably a profitable idea. And that some would say, just go buy yourself a gift, that it doesn't need to say specific words for it to be meaningful. But there was something special about finding (or thinking I'd found) an actual Valentine to give to myself from myself that was fun while it lasted!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Valentine's Day Observations

I think I better post about Valentine's Day before the month of February is over. For the first time in many years, I did not feel the sense of pain and longing this day usually brings. Instead, I felt more of a universal focus of love rather than an emphasis on romantic relationships.

My close girlfriend and I had dinner at the restaurant I work at, which featured a special three-course meal and exchanged small gifts. I had to go to Target to purchase a set of sheets and passed by the card section. There was no longing or sadness as I looked at the large crowd surrounding the cards. What I did find of interest was that there was only one card to "My Boyfriend," although there were so many to "My spouse or better half." It just provided me with more evidence of how much our society recognizes couples and excludes or puts down singles.

The day approached and ended with me feeling happy and glad that there is a day recognizing love in all its forms and that is what I tried to keep in my heart during that time. I sent messages of good will to the people buying cards for their spouses and felt gratefulness for the love of my sons, the friendship and love of my girlfriend. Love has far more meaning and goes so much more beyond the limited boundaries of romantic/couple love our society elevates.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Table For One

Was busier than normal at work today so didn't get out as early as I usually do. Rushed to the store for the "Friday Family" $5.00 dinner special, which tonight was fish and chips. Added some coleslaw, then off to the dry cleaners to pick up my son's show choir outfit as they leave tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. to perform in Wisconsin. My youngest called me en route to ask when I'd be home as he was very hungry. Ditto for the oldest boy.

Started dinner as soon as I was in the door, which only consisted of heating the oven to 450 and getting the fish and chips on a baking tray and putting them in. But the half hour baking time turned out to be too much for my sons to wait for. The youngest got picked up for a trip to the mall and then my oldest flew off to a 4-H meeting. When did he join 4-H? He is in too many activities as it is!

So I'm left with a pan of cooked fish and chips that will no doubt end up soggy by the time the boys get home. And I'm on my own again, tired with a sink full of dirty dishes, laundry to get done since my son needs some things washed for the show choir performance (his special undershirt that the boys need since they wear sequined shirts which are itchy).

I have my own fish and chips dinner - but a Jenny Craig version. Just feeling a bit down and out that it is another Friday night on my lonesome. I can't even imagine going out for dinner or on a date right now. I'm tired and have to work again tomorrow. On the bright side I hope Dateline is on and I can knit and/or read. But I never was prepared for evenings like this. I always thought that once the boys were this age and off and about with their friends, my husband and I would have the freedom to catch a movie or show together. This wasn't supposed to be the plan. Gosh, even making a quick dinner together and playing a game of cards with my husband would be preferable to the silence that permeates my home space and brings on a touch of sadness right now.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Gleet" Expectations

Great day Sat. We all went downstate for my oldest son's first show choir competition. The group placed first in their division and my youngest and I shared some quality private time. The competition was held near my old university so my youngest and I visited the campus and I got the boys some t-shirts. The show choir had lunch at the famous college eatery known for their bread and subs. My youngest and I got lunch there too and even took some bread home, which is the tradition of alumni when visiting.

The show choir was gone from 5:00 a.m. and didn't get home until 3:00 a.m. because the charter bus got stuck in a snowbank. My youngest and I only stayed for the first performance. On the way home, we stopped at an antique mall which was a real treat for me since I haven't gone to one in so long.

My youngest shared a lot with me about how hard it has been for him to follow in his brother's footsteps. He told me that he wants to forge his own identity but at school everyone expects him to be like his brother, etc. The teachers constantly compare the two. I gained a much better understanding of my youngest son's feelings and perspective.

He had me in stitches with his commentary on the show choir performance. One of the things he admitted was that he doesn't think the group is all that good. But then he clarified that by stating that perhaps watching the Fox show "Glee" has ruined it for him (and maybe others) because he expects my son's group to sound like the Glee group. I laughed and told my son that the Glee kids are professional actors and older, which he knows anyway. But I found his observation very funny and told him I'd include it in my blog. I asked him what I could title this post and it was his suggestion with the creative play-on-words "Gleet" Expectations.

Driving around downstate Illinois with my little family together, visiting my old college campus, spending time with my youngest, watching a quality musical performance that resulted in 1st place, having a great lunch and then to top it off, visiting an antique mall! It was a good day and I felt happy! There seem to be more days now that are happier rather than sad, and I feel a page has turned in my life and the wheels are finally spinning forward!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Hardest Part of Being a Widow Update

I once wrote a post titled "The Hardest Part of Being A Widow," which for me involves attending the numerous athletic, music and school activities of my sons' on my own. Last night was the 14th District Wide Band or Orchestra concert I attended on my own but this time there wasn't any moping or feeling sorry for myself. There was a huge sense of pride at my son and for myself as well.

The concert includes all the kids in the district (600) involved in either band or orchestra (separate concerts) from 4th-12th grades. Each level plays a couple songs on their own and then they all join together for a finale. The point is to show the parents and kids, especially the younger ones, where they'll end up if they continue all the way through.

I remember the first one I attended when my oldest was a beginning sax player and being blown away hearing the top high school band. Last night my son played in that top band. I heard the reaction of some of the parents around me with younger children and it was the same I had 8 years ago - awe at the quality and talent of the kids playing and hope that one day our own children would be part of that group. There were actually intakes of breath after the top band performed.

Almost a magical twist of fate that yesterday my son received his acceptance letter from the #1 college of his choice known for its excellent program in criminal justice as well as its music program (the two areas of study he has chosen). There weren't any tears in my eyes at the concert, just a huge surge of pride as I saw my tall, handsome son in his tux. I looked at the youngest kids imagining his own progression (as well as mine) through the past years. We did it! We made it! I successfully raised the boys into fine young caring men and they grew into mature teens on their own merits besides. It hasn't been easy. In fact, I would venture to say at times it has been hell and torture but last night, the bad stuff took a back seat to the joy and happiness I felt.

My husband never saw one of these concerts. When my sons were younger and he was still alive, he was in the hospital at the times these concerts occurred. I marveled a little that I was the sole parent of the boys attending these mega concerts all these years. And felt sadness that my husband had missed them...

An older gentleman asked me where the concert was as he entered the high school. I directed him to the gym adding that it was the 14th and final concert I would be attending! He smiled and replied, "That's what you think," and I assume he meant that there will be more concerts in college or with future grandchildren.

In the past, I have looked around me at all the intact families surrounding me on the bleachers and have just felt sadness, resentment, envy and pain that I have been alone holding up the household and being an only parent. But there was none of that last night. It was a celebration of how far we have come and the pure and simple fact that in the end we made it.

The finale was Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and all I could think of was how significant this was too - they used to end with "Let's Go Band." There was joy last night in my soul and spirit. So if there is any silver lining to the road of widowhood, it would be for me, the knowledge that I did survive in the end and that the boys became good decent young men. Young men my husband would be tremendously proud of. Maybe even better men in some ways because of the trials they have faced.

I have griped about these district music concerts for years - once in a pretty bad snow storm we got stuck in the snow trying to get to the concert. But last night it was bittersweet that it was the last one I would ever attend with a son performing. Endings are bittersweet but I see on the horizon so much awaiting my son as he starts his college years, with my youngest ready to take those steps in another year.

I wish that there had been a magic ball in which I could have looked into so many years ago. To where I would have seen the happy and successful outcome that finally arrived. But I wouldn't have believed it anyway.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Widowhood + Parenthood = Crazyhood

Have been running around in circles the past week. Just so much going on with the boys and no free time. Wanted to post about Valentine's Day and some other topics. Hoped to have a few moments to myself but surprise, surprise, tonight is a band concert I didn't know about until this afternoon! Good news though! My oldest was just accepted into the number one college of his choice so we are celebrating the news. I am going to the concert because it will be one of the last I'll attend as a high school parent. Blogging can wait another day until tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Winter/Widow Weariness

I read in the paper today that in each of the past four years Chicago has gotten over 50 inches of snow and each has been a colder than usual winter besides. I just know that the past four winters have been so tough to endure. One winter I got tennis elbow that lasted six months from constantly having to scrape off the vehicles - I thought it was something worse. How silly to get tennis elbow having not played any tennis in the dead of winter!

For me the winters represent the worst of my losses. At least during the warmer months I can walk and get out and about more freely. If I could label my grief as a month it would definitely be January with February a close second.

On a more positive note, one of the servers at my job has become friendly with me and we've discussed taking some kind of exercise class together. I am also planning to take archery lessons that start in March and wanted to take fencing but the class meets Wed. nights and I do not want to miss my knit club. Maybe I can take fencing at another time in the future.

I guess like grief, winter is an event that has to be trudged through. I wish it were easier. But coping all these past winters hasn't made this one any easier to face. The passage of time might make some things easier but I don't think it magically makes everything better. Winter makes me feel as though I've taken 10 steps backward. And I never seem to feel warm enough under the covers alone...

It is supposed to warm up over the weekend and for that I am extremely grateful. And I will try and post about another topic rather than how much I hate winter! But I guess the point of this whole reflection is that widowhood like winter doesn't get easier as the season progresses and maybe in some cases it actually gets more wearisome. Another misnomer I want to clear up as I think the general impression out there is that time heals all wounds and so on. Why people really believe this sometimes baffles me. But enough on this for now. It is currently 4 below zero without wind chill...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spring Fever

It is currently one degree outside with windchill factor to be 30 below tonight. I am just so, so, so cold and tired. I want to bury myself under the covers and stay buried. Enough is enough of Old Man Winter. Although the Oreos may be pushing the limit here with their early February arrival, seeing them on the shelf brought me a bit of hope and cheer.

Monday, February 7, 2011


As much fun and joy this picture depicts of snow, I am finding myself sick of the cold and winter. About this time of year I start to feel more vulnerable. I think part of it is related to the weather and the constant concern over winter driving and adverse weather conditions. I also just found out that although my sons will be eligible for health insurance from our state (I still have to pay a premium), I am no longer eligible and I am worried sick about being able to find affordable coverage between now and the end of the month.

I keep thinking of Obama's State of the Union Address when he talked about health care. I didn't know I was being cut from my coverage at that time and now that I am aware, I have become one of those citizens facing what is in my opinion one of the worst issues plaguing our country right now - not having affordable health care available to everyone who wants/needs it.

Just another hardship to try and figure out and deal with and quite frankly along with the weather I am sick and tired of coping with all of life alone. I have come to believe that it is nearly impossible for some of us to survive on our own (one salary) and that is part of the reason I am so eager for remarriage. Not only do I want to share life with a partner for romance and companionship, but it seems to be an almost economic necessity to exist in our society right now. Marriage would improve my economic/financial life as sad as a reason as that is to get married. But I'm trying to be practical here and realistic.

Anyway, that is what has been on my mind of late - more worry and hating the snow. The one bright spot is going to hear my son in a dress rehearsal concert for show choir tonight and he has a solo. It is tough going back out into the cold, dark night but at least the auditorium will be warm and alive with the spirit and energy of young people, much like those depicted in the snow picture above! I'm hoping some of that liveliness rubs off on me!


Although it was snowing when I left for the concert and I groaned a loud GROAN because it snowed yesterday too and I am so tired of scraping off the vehicles, it was worth attending. Couldn't believe how these kids get through a nonstop performance of 25 minutes singing and dancing to 6 songs with costume changes during! My son's solo was amazing. His band director was at the concert and congratulated him after. He said he wanted to speak to my son about college sometime this week. Then the director and I walked down the hallway together while my son got his costume and helped clear the stage. I related a little about the state talent contest, mentioning that my son had composed and performed a new song. I said I'm not sure where to go with promoting/supporting my son because it seems as though his work is becoming more complex and sophisticated. The band director agreed. When I added that my son seems to have something special, he agreed with that too. That is what he wants to also address with my son - where he can go from here.

The past few weeks my son has been complaining that he joined the group - the dance routines are fast-paced and difficult. He is working a lot of hours on the weekends and this is another responsibility. I was in show choir for two years in college and loved it. Seeing my son perform tonight I was reassured that it is a good activity for him to be involved in. Despite his complaints, he is one of the strongest dancers in the group and I feel that being in this group rounds out his musical experience. He plays guitar, is the section leader on sax for the top band, composes the music and lyrics to his own songs - he has not yet performed in a choir so this is good experience, as well as all the dancing.

I stopped at Starbucks on the way home to treat my son to a coffee drink. We were given a gift card from Sam and on Sunday I treated my youngest to a strawberry drink. I got a box of Joy tea which is a rarity since it is usually sold out by now. So Sam's gift treated us all. I noticed a bunch of sandwiches on the counter and remarked how good they looked. The manager told me they were free for the taking since they were going out of code soon. I told him my sons would be thrilled with a $5.75 sandwich for their lunches tomorrow and ended up with 4 sandwiches and a yogurt parfait, which I'll snag.

So the evening ended up turning out to be a big success despite the falling snow. After our latest blizzard anything is tolerable so I imagine that we'll make it through the rest of the season okay having survived such a bad storm last week!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Big and Little Annoyances

Every day there seem to be so many petty annoyances to deal with! I seem to feel them more as a widow. This has been bothering me the past few weeks. For example, I go to Walgreen's for desperately needed eyeglass cleaner and they don't have any on the shelf! None! How can this be I think? I buy the kind that comes in the spray bottle because it lasts longer and is more cost effective. I leave the store refusing to get the little packets because of the cost resigned to the fact that I'll have to use dish soap for a couple more days until I return to the store or another Walgreen's. As I leave the store I notice the new Snickers peanut butter candy bars and decide to treat the boys and I to one. I give the boys theirs after dinner. I take mine and notice that it is a defective package. This candy bar comes in two squares but my package has only one.

Now I can take this as a positive message from the Universe and a fun one at that, telling me that I shouldn't be eating this candy bar in the first place, but I decide I really want what I paid for so I put the candy aside along with the mental note that I need to bring it back to the store for an exchange. Another item on the to do list along with the necessity of not losing a receipt.

I'm at the grocery store and forget the pickles again! So I rush into another store on the way home because we're having turkey burgers for dinner and have already gone too many times without the pickles on top all of us favor.

My son is on a highly regulated acne medication that has ended up being a nightmare to start and then get refills for. The poor doctor has to constantly input data into a computer program and it is confusing to everyone, including the pharmacy at Walmart. This last month, it took two weeks to get the prescription refilled meaning I'm at Walmart so much everyone in the pharmacy knows me. Then I have to end up calling the doctor, going into the doctor's office, returning to Walmart, spending long sessions on the phone with the drug company... Enough to make me want to tear my hair out with frustration!

I can't find the utility bill...

I struggle to come up with a quick and easy dinner idea...

I'm bone tired but my youngest needs help with his Economics project...

I know that when I was married and sharing life with a partner this kind of thing never bothered me the way it does now. I suppose that was because sometimes it was my husband forgetting the pickles. Or that there was someone at home to come home to and complain/commiserate with about the prescription debacle!

Every day all of these little annoyances pile up. Which got me to thinking. What if I just didn't let them bother me? What if I just laughed at them and found them amusing! Because in the end it is the big things that matter the most, like the winter storm we've just encountered. All these other events are annoyances to be sure. But they are just annoyances in the grand scheme of things.

So that is my focus for the month of February (it is a short month after all). To try and let the little things roll off my shoulders a bit more easily. To laugh about the candy bar. To shake my head in wonder that the one item needed from the drug store is sold out. We all encounter these events, I'm not the only one experiencing them. The storm is big news. That is the kind of event that deserves more of my attention, worry and detail. Not the fact that I keep forgetting to buy pickles because I can't seem to get into the habit of carrying a list of needed items in my purse!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day, Sort Of

Yesterday morning, I went into work but no one had called to tell me I had been taken off the schedule on account of the blizzard on its way. I didn't mind going in and turning back because it allowed me to stop for groceries before the worst of the storm hit. I would say we got about 16 inches of snow but the real kicker was the thunder and lightening that accompanied the storm!

The boys have a snow day today and tomorrow off from school and I am off both days as well. Everything is pretty much shut down around here. Most people are plowed in their driveways and can't get out yet. I heard that Macy's in downtown Chicago was going to try and open for business this afternoon but I want to shout "Why?" Who is thinking about shopping at a major department store after a storm like this? What is so important that it can't be waited to be purchased until the roads clear?

A news person told everyone that was staying home from work today to stay inside and enjoy their families and all I can say to that is a huge "AMEN!" It is so sad that it takes a major storm to give people an opportunity to have a bit of time off and to spend some of it with their families being grateful that they are all safe and sound from the raging elements outside.

I was gleeful at the prospect of three whole days off. But my glee has turned a little bit sour at this point. The boys are off sledding and bowling while I am catching up on laundry and dirty dishes. It makes me realize how much I desperately need a day off - really off from any family and domestic duties. I don't begrudge my sons the fun of a real snow day when they can go out and sled and hang out with friends at the bowling alley. That is part of what a snow day is all about. But I do feel a bit bad that in order for me to claim a real snow day that I'll have to bite the bullet and just stop taking care of all the household chores that seem to mount up no matter what size home you live in! I thought living in a smaller space would mean less to do but it seems as though I'm just as busy as always.

I am reading Edith Wharton's "The House of Mirth" and can't wait for a moment to dive into it again. Am also knitting a very long scarf (over 160 inches long - it is kind of a joke) and want to just sit down and read and knit. The reasons I go off to Sam's once in awhile is because it seems as though the only times I can end up reading, baking or knitting are when I'm away from my home. Because as long as I am here, I'll find more than enough to do and no knitting, reading, or baking will ever get done!

So we all survived another major Midwestern/Chicagoland storm without too much stress or strain!