Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Continue to struggle big time with all of the unbalance in my life. Maybe it stems from being the start of Spring and our desire to clean up house, new beginnings and fresh starts.

Widows carry a lot of stuff on their shoulders. I think about the fact that I have a senior in high school with another senior next year. That's a lot right there not to mention dealing with the finances, upkeep of home, meals, shopping, laundry, etc. I manage the lives of two adolescent males. I still have to figure out what to do with the rest of my life and then take the steps to get there. There is a career change in the works. I am still unsettled from the move from house to apartment and the grief/sadness/loss from the death of husband #1 and divorce from husband #2 sometimes reappear.

Perhaps when we are at our most busy and overwhelmed with so many life changes we need to scale back and keep life as simple as possible. I was reminded of this with my daily email from author Lissa Coffey through The other day she spoke about the book, "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. I read the book years ago.

Basically, the book sets out four principles to help us lead better lives through The Four Agreements which are:

1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don't take anything personally.
3. Don't make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.

I went to my bookshelves and after a bit of a search (the books are still somewhat disorganized from the move), located this little volume. It seems a good book to take out and reread right now.

Funny, in her weekly email from the knit club leader, she also wrote about feeling highly unbalanced as of late. I sent her an email copying in Lissa Coffey's message and suspecting she had already read The Fourth Agreement, which she had. She emailed back that now there is a book about The Fifth Agreement, which she just bought, and I am curious about checking that out after I reread about the four agreements again.

As I struggle with major life changes wrecking havoc on my soul, the knit club leader related her current struggles with angst. She is struggling with what books to read next and about taking her next classes in The Library Assistant Program. Her two kids are out of college and grown. She has a hubby. Hmmmmm... I need to put a lid on my hmmmm and remember to not make any assumptions!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Heroic Widowed Only Parent Mom

Last week began with my oldest, E., calling me hysterically from the automatic banking machine. He had deposited his cash tips totaling $140.00 and didn't receive a receipt. 18 years old. I've been told by some that I should and even could declare myself more "free" from him. That legally I am no longer even responsible for him. Are you kidding? Maybe 18-year-old males need parental input and support more than ever. I will never desert my sons. My childhood involved my siblings and I to be virtually self-sufficient. And I didn't have children to carry on that legacy. Yes, I need to guide my sons to be responsible and independent adults. But that doesn't mean shooing them out on their own upon their 18th birthdays.

My son ended up calling the bank's "Help" number. I didn't know what else to tell him. He was upset that it was outsourced and had difficulty understanding the woman he spoke with. It was not the time to tell him that I do not use these kinds of machines after hours for just the reason my son experienced. But he was assured that his deposit was credited.

Later in the week, I had the surreal experience of getting E. to two locations at the same time - his first volleyball match, which he was very pumped about since he is head team captain, and yet another band concert. Both locations were 30 minutes apart from one another. Said heroics involved a migraine (mine), negotiations with the vb coach and band director, my son changing into a tux in the van, and running down the halls of the high school to get his instrument from the band room and then to reach the stage. I will leave it at that and forgo more details.

This weekend, I had a 12:15 a.m. run to the all night pharmacy for some medication for my youngest, A. And so it goes.

I am tired and depleted. No one to share the responsibilities with or the logistics of how to figure all this stuff out. Sometimes the difficulties cancel out all the joys of parenthood. When I sink under the covers no one pats my shoulder and says, "Job well done, Mom."

I bring this all up now because I feel I haven't taken care of my own needs. The boys have always come first as it should be. But my relationships have always seemed lopsided, uneven. How can dating or seeing someone ever be fair and equal when my life is so intense and busy? The men in my life haven't had full time parenting responsibilities and have not understood the pressures always on my plate. I end up getting resentful and upset because it isn't even. Sometimes it has felt as though I have to do most of the work in my home along with my personal life.

Is there a solution to this? What do other only parents do when dating when they end up feeling like this?

I have decided to direct the focus onto myself this Spring a little more than I have in the past. I need to tend to my own home and affairs. That is just the way it is and has become. I still have never finished organizing our living environment or my finances and paperwork. It is Spring Break and the boys have promised to help me in this process. I will be more demanding of them.

One of my divorced girlfriends leaves her two kids, the ages of my sons, to fend for themselves over the weekends as she is with her boyfriend, out dancing, going for a drink, etc. I don't approve. She, I suppose is disapproving of my not getting out much socially. We represent two ends of the spectrum. Maybe it is impossible for only/single parents to lead balanced lives. It will just end up being lopsided, falling more on one side than the other. Parents constantly bemoan the fact that there aren't enough hours in the days. For only parents, there truly aren't. Nor is there enough steam in the engine to sometimes accomplish what needs to get done in the most productive manner.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Drove to the ethnic grocery store where I can get good deals on fruit and bakery items. Ahead of me in the parking lot, a pile of paper was churning around in the air in front of the stop sign. Immediately I felt a connection with the mess of paper, which I related to the turmoil going on inside myself and the need for it to STOP. At that point I also realized that the reason for my mood plunge may be the fact that I've had to switch meds because I lost my insurance through the state plan. Reason being that my oldest turned 18 and as such, is no longer considered a minor under my care. So my income was recalculated and I did not qualify for coverage, although both my sons will continue to be covered until they turn 19.

Now this is all crazy. Because how are kids at the tender age of 19 supposed to be able to support themselves and provide themselves with insurance, especially if they are in school full time? I can also attest to the fact that at my income level health insurance is almost impossible to afford. Working in retail and at a restaurant, I can also relate that these establishments keep a tight lid on employee hours specifically to keep them from qualifying for insurance benefits. That is why I am so eager to get a better job and to possibly remarry.

I did scramble and was able to obtain health insurance coverage for myself through my pension plan at the tune of $187.00 a month, which is actually pretty reasonable. Although the coverage is effective as of March 1, I still have not received an insurance card. It would cost me over $800.00 a month to cover my sons under a family plan.

I ran out of medication and found that the anti-depressant would cost over $100.00 to refill and the blood pressure pills about $84.00. So my doctor prescribed new meds under the $4.00 medication list from Walmart. Only problem, anti-depressants take a number of weeks to kick in. So now I do feel a drop in mood and my mental stability. And it doesn't help that I'm experiencing a huge bout of PMS this month too.

Stability. That is really what I long for at this point. A stable life and a stable mood. Widowhood can be chaotic and unstable. I want an easier and more predictable life. Not one where I have to scramble for insurance coverage and then deal with the ups and downs of changing medications. I know I sound like a broken record but I see widowhood and only parenting as a see saw. When there is a partner on the other seat, the see saw can be balanced. But with only one rider, the see saw is impossible to balance.

That blowing around garbage was a good visual metaphor for how I feel right now. Make the instability STOP please. Let me feel and live on an even keel. Please send me some balance. With balance comes peace, hope and contentment. It is just so hard to keep balancing everything by myself.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Looked into attending a lecture/appearance by Joyce Carol Oates at the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago next Thursday but it is booked. She will be speaking about her latest memoir dealing with her grief after the death of her husband. I know this book has been in the recent news. I read a little about it and her reasons for publishing it, in part, she says to educate the public on grief.

My own feelings are mixed about purchasing the book. It is another one dealing with that "first year" time frame. Been there, done that. Seems like most grief books cover the first year and I am so past that now, yet still daily affected by the death of my husband. Why are there no books out there covering the grief years for those of us longer-term widows? Why is widowhood looked at constantly from that single year period? For me at least, the first year was such a blur it was like it didn't even exist anyway.

Have just finished the classic Edith Wharton novel, "The House of Mirth." Why I even read this I don't know except that it is a classic. Surely, a book about the social silliness of the New York upper class at the turn of the century doesn't have a lot of meaning today. Or maybe it does - I'll have to consider that.

But the story is about a society girl tumbling into poverty. One section at the end, really caught my eye. Lily has just bumped into a poor young women she helped with medical care when she still was wealthy. Here are her comments on that woman, Nettie:

"The poor little working-girl who had found strength to gather up the fragments of her life, and build herself a shelter with them, seemed to Lily to have reached the central truth of existence. It was a meagre enough life, on the grim edge of poverty, with scant margin for possibilities of sickness or mischance, but it had the frail audacious permanence of a bird's nest built on the edge of a cliff - a mere wisp of leaves and straw, yet so put together that the lives entrusted to it may hang safely over the abyss.

Yes - it had taken two to build the nest; the man's faith as well as the woman's courage. Lily remembered Nettie's words: "I knew he knew about me." (her past with another man). Her husband's faith in her had made her renewal possible - it is so easy for a woman to become what the man she loves believes her to be!"

There again is what I have strongly come to believe. It is easier with a partner, it is easier when you're happily married, two are better than one.

I am sinking under the tiredness of life on my own. Now that my oldest is graduating, in the end, should I remarry or live with someone again, I will still say that I raised the boys on my own - on my own.

I don't know how to act or think any more. Yes, I am working and starting to socialize more. But the women in my knit club seem so remote to me. Two are widowed but much older than I, with grown children. The others are all married and as they share and talk about the details of their lives, husbands doing the taxes, going on cruises, dealing with their houses (I'm the only apartment dweller out the group of 50), I just can't relate and feel left out - as I usually do.

I am not sure at this point how to even act in a romantic relationship and what is realistic for me to expect from a partner. I only know that I am feeling unfulfilled in certain ways with Sam who lives 250 miles away. Do we even have a relationship? He expects me to drive out to be him with on weekends and can't come to see me because of his retail management job not granting him two days off in a row. But I'm tired of this and don't feel emotionally supported. I'm supposed to be content with this arrangement for the next year while waiting for my younger son to finish high school? What are we anyway? He still is gun shy about remarriage. I don't want to be in a relationship that I can't even define and exists at a standstill because of distance and lack of contact.

My job is so boring and also frustrating, after work today, I picked up the summer community college course directory to sign up for the Library Assistant Program which starts at the end of May. I have to do something, anything to move myself into some sort of professional environment.

I feel in limbo and at odds with life and my feelings right now. I don't want this life anymore. Somehow I have to muster up the strength to bring change to my situation. But as Lily reflects, it is difficult when one doesn't feel there is someone on your side supporting and even holding you up at times. Lily in the end fails and can't do it on her own. Why aren't there any books out there relating this life and the trials affecting poor, tired, only-parent widows about ready to fall off the cliff because their nests are blowing away...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Yarn

There is a fragrance by Clinique called "Happy" and indeed, when you smell it, the scent is about as close to what I would describe as happiness in a bottle. Also, a fragrance called "Red," and again, if there is a way to bottle the smell of a color, this one sure does fit. I wear it every February as it is more of a winter fragrance in my opinion.

I came across an inexpensive bulky skein of yarn from the Deborah Norville line at JoAnn Fabrics. I believe it was on sale and was only $3.00 or so. The color was called "Spring" and seeing and touching the candy cane/Easter egg hues made me immediately think of spring. So I got a couple skeins and started playing around with different patterns to make a spring inspired scarf.

The pattern I settled on if from the book "One Skein Wonders," called "Jan's Sensational Scarf." It can be worked in virtually any yarn on size 15 needles. The pattern is K1, "K1, Yarn Over, Knit Two Together," K1, repeating the center section. The scarf in the photo was made with 14 stitches. I whipped it up in a little over an hour and wore it to Knit Club. Then at the club I started a more narrow one to give to my sister with just 11 stitches. Almost got it finished last night. I got a lot of compliments on the yarn and the scarf last night. I must say it is nice to hear kind words of any sort.

I look forward to finishing the scarf tonight and sending it to my sister tomorrow after work. This is to replace the winter cowl I made her for winter wear and which she has received many compliments on. When times get tough or my mood gets low, I need to remember the power I have to spread cheer and hope. Even in the worst of times I can dig up a couple dollars or root through my yarn stash and create an item that cuts through the gloom and late spring snow and cold. When I wore the scarf yesterday evening, there was a sense of pride at having created my own accessory and the fun of having done so with such an aptly inspired yarn for this time of year, when everyone's mood is craving brighter colors, lighter clothing, plants/flowers and sunnier skies.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Finally in the Air

After a harsh winter of longing for and dreaming of Spring, this fair season has finally arrived and I am sick (physically) and downhearted when I wish I was jumping for joy! I got ill last year around this time too and I wonder if it has something to do with focusing all my energies on getting through the winter months and once they are over my body can relax and give into fatigue. Just a nasty cold this time, when last year I think it was Mono. Still...

I don't want the rest of my life to go on this way. To struggle and battle with winter only to have it end and be so spent I can't even seem to look forward to the warmer months ahead. Too melodramatic here? I don't think so. I know fellow blogger and widow Beth will understand this, although I'm not sure others would. It's kind of like a feeling of spinning my wheels. So I made it through another rough winter - guess what? Another one awaits and another one after that and then another...

I am taking the day off from work. I had a rough day at work on Saturday when I was coming down with this and no doubt got sick at work in the first place. Long gone are the days when I would go into work sick. Now if I'm sick I'm staying home. In fact, one of the servers was ill with similar symptoms and she should have stayed home. But she is about 25 and when I was her age, I worked in sickness and health too.

Speaking of work, it is a tiring and rather thankless job. It reminds me so much of cashiering at the Big Box Store. I have resolved to start taking classes for the Library Assistant Program next term. I would have started them in January but that month became too crazy with the memorial service for my father and my son's talent competition in Springfield. I think knowing that I am DOING something to get myself out of these low or entry level type jobs will improve my mood considerably. But I also have to cut myself some slack knowing that I'm not the only professional out there working in retail or at a restaurant simply because of the economy and so on. But actually engaging in some type of action is a great motivator.

So these are my petty thoughts and worries at this point. I am disturbed with world events - the earthquake, our bombing of Libya. There have also been reported increased sightings of UFOs worldwide - that to me is very scary. And yet we drag ourselves out of bed and continue to face the days. At least now, there will be more sun than clouds.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Asking For Help

I am humbled and saddened by the news going on in Japan. What brought tears to my eyes today was the msnbc headline appearing over the images of the earthquake's destruction that Japan had asked for help from America and then Obama's reply that America would do what we can. It made me think about this macro issue in micro terms. Here is one great country asking for help and another offering its assistance.

If I could turn back the clock a few years, I would have asked for more help - more help in caring for the kids, seeking advice, requesting support and trying to get some personal "me" time. But I didn't. I was raised in a family where we were expected and had to rely on ourselves - no one ever requested help or gave it. We were considered weak and inept if we couldn't do it alone.

Of course, I see how silly that belief system is now. And all my trying to do it by myself has resulted in nothing but creating a somewhat bitter, overtired, stressed only parent. I'm making an attempt to call people when I need to talk things over and to verbalize my needs more. But it is not a process that happens overnight. Old habits, especially the ones learned in childhood are hard to break.

Anyway, if two great countries can model this behavior, we as individuals should be able to do so too. It is okay to admit we can't do it on our own and I hope more people out there are willing to lend a hand when someone asks for help after disaster strikes their life. In a perfect world no one would have to ask and help would just come because it is needed. But I've learned that is not how it works. Sometimes if you don't take the steps of asking, help won't be delivered.

A disaster like this shakes us all up. Makes us realize the fragility of our lives. My prayers go out to the people of two great nations, one in need and one giving. How quickly can the giver turn out to be the one in need in the future.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Signs of Spring and March

Throughout my life, even as a child, I have disliked the month of March. It has been my least favorite month. Here around Chicago and in the Midwest, March is a gloomy, grey, cold, dreary, ugly time period. There is still the potential for snowstorms/blizzards (my brother was born in one in mid-March), and then there will be the odd spring-like day of sun and warmth. To me, it is a bizarre month because it is not quite spring and not quite winter and I don't like things to not be something more specific!

But through widowhood, I have come to appreciate this month and January has replaced it as the one I most dread (because of the constant scraping and worry about snow, plus extreme cold). March has become a beacon for me - a goal to look forward to when January hits. "If I can just hold out to March, spring will be right around the corner and the worst of it will be over." I know now that if it snows, the snow will soon melt and I have been hearing the birds again whose chirps and twittering have been absent all winter.

And this may be a new record for me - the woman who loses half a dozen gloves a season - only three missing gloves this year! I have a stash of those gloves you can buy in inexpensive pairs at Target (usually snapped up at the end of the season for next to nothing just for this reason).

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Three for Three

My son's show choir group took their third first place trophy for their division, ending their competitive season on Saturday with a huge amount of pride and success. Their competitions are over, now they'll just be performing some local shows and at school.

What a whirl wind show choir ended up being! But I would say it was one of the most positive experiences my son had in his high school career. And to think, early in the season that he wanted to quit because he was having trouble mastering the dance steps! The judges kept writing in their comments that my son's solo should be longer, so it was expanded for the last competition.

On Friday morning, the t.v. reporter covering the show choir competition which was highlighted in the news, approached my son and told him that hearing him sing his solo gave her goose bumps. Talk about compliments! I don't know about my son but I sure felt 10 feet high!

I'm hoping that the pace of my life slows down a bit now and that our lives become less focused on one child and more "normal" if there can ever be a normal for us.

My youngest son started referring to himself as "Bronze Boy" and to his brother as "Golden Boy," no doubt in part to all the attention my oldest was receiving because of show choir. But on Friday night he received three personal bests at his track meet and his 4x4 relay team won first. He was a team MVP and given a track t-shirt. He texted me with this news and I told him that now we would have to elevate his name to "Silver Boy!" But seriously, I hope the end of show choir competition brings with it less comparison between my two boys and less tension as well between them, with me in the middle trying to keep the peace.

I did not go out on Friday night, realizing I just could not do so. I would have had a miserable time and I was far too tired and depleted to have enjoyed myself. I needed the rest to attend the show choir competition the next day, which turned out to be long but exciting. I feel asleep early in the evening and was so out of it when my sister called at 10 p.m., I looked at the caller id and could not even recognize her number, which she has had for years and I have memorized. I didn't take the call!

Today, my best girlfriend and I went to church and then lunch together afterward. The sermon was about how we need to praise God in our lives when times are hard, and not just offer praise when things are going our way. A special prayer was said for single parents and I cried during that - heck, I cried through a whole lot of the service. Despite having to leave my dishes in the sink (yet again), I was grateful to attend church and hear the wonderful and inspiring words of this pastor.

Now I am going to tackle the dishes that didn't run away while I was at the show choir competition or church!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Recharging/Replanting Needed

I feel like I can't win. I complain that I don't have a social life, yet am too tired to participate in one. I've been invited out for drinks and dancing tomorrow night with my new friends from the complex, but now want to just stay home and watch Dateline. It is the end of the week and as usual, so much going on between work, show choir, school, dr. visits, picking up prescriptions, making dinner, doing laundry...

My son will be performing on local t.v. tomorrow and has to be at school no later than 5:45. I am at the dry cleaner every other day to make sure his multiple show choir costumes are clean and pressed! Then on Sat. the group will be performing locally. I plan on being at the contest all day and am looking forward to it. But again, I'll have to see my son off early in the a.m., etc.

The nice people who have invited me to join them tomorrow are not currently raising children and some do not work. Still, I feel so guilty for not wanting to go out with them. Well, I'll rephrase that. I'd like to join them but I'm so tired and not in the mood for a crowded bar/restaurant type place with loud conversation, drinking and dancing.

I hate that widowhood brings with it all this new stuff to worry about. When I was married, on Friday night it was a given that my husband and I would just be at home relaxing with the kids. It was happy, comfortable family time. We let down our hair and just were ourselves. Now I have concern that I'll be offending these people and can't understand why it is so hard for me to do what I want to do which is to stay home and relax after a hectic week.

I guess the right way to define it is that widowhood has made my life so much more complicated as illustrated by just his one example. I am trying to make a valiant effort to only do things that I want to do and if my heart isn't in an activity I'm not going to force myself. As lovely as it would be to go out and socialize, I'm not a machine or robot. My battery has run down and recharging is needed. Yet I still struggle with that internal voice that tells me I have to be superwoman and make new friends and get out there and do the Friday night social thing... Many women struggle to say "no." Widowhood doesn't make that trait disappear, although I sure wish it had given me more strength to not care so much about what others think and pay more attention to my own feelings. I have found that widowhood has made me more sensitive to the opinions of others. I am constantly justifying my actions and thoughts. You'd think that the hardships I've faced would have toughened me up a bit. Funny that it hasn't worked out that way. I can already feel myself wavering and considering going just for one drink or just for an hour...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Ice Melts

The ice eventually melted and all day there were sparkles in the tops of trees shining off the sunlight. I tried to capture some of the magic but didn't come close. So I suppose a lesson here is that life goes on and even in the aftermath of a storm, there can be unexpected beauty.

Flo commented that it is okay for us to have some self-pity every once in a while and I want to say a "here here" to that sentiment. We live in this society where it is looked down on to mope or complain. But I read somewhere that in actuality, it is rather healthy to do so on occasion - doesn't make us weaker but actually stronger because we are trying to comfort ourselves (when there isn't anyone else around to do so).