Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zest as an Ingredient to Life

My girlfriend and I have a tradition for each dance our kids attend. After we go for the photo sessions, usually around 4-6 p.m., we treat ourselves out to dinner. My friend who is also divorced has a hard time at these events, as do I, because we are usually the lone parents in the sea of married couples.

Tonight we met up as we usually do, grateful for a time to vent, talk and commiserate. We each had two drinks and a nice meal. Our conversation quickly moved on to other topics after we got the dance out of the way. I guess you can say that we have tried to create an enjoyable time for ourselves to counteract a trying and difficult experience. We've rewritten a recipe by adding a dash of zest and fun to an otherwise humdrum and bland dish. We end up looking forward to the end of the day which for both of us is full of errands and dealing with anxious kids. I thought about my dinner at the photo session and it helped me get through the hand shaking and meeting of other parents. A little sprinkle of courage and strength - a celebration that we made it through as single moms yet again - that we did what we needed to for our kids.

Wouldn't it be lovely to really have a little bottle of "zest" to take out and sprinkle over myself when the going gets tough?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Yin Yang

Appropriate for today's royal wedding - "There is a male yang to every female yin. As Richard Bach puts it, "You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however." Quote taken from "Love in 90 Days" by Diana Kirschner, PhD.

Tomorrow my youngest son will be attending Prom and my oldest son will do so in two weeks. Spring brings with it thoughts of love. I am feeling more optimistic about life in general and the prospect of love too. Flowers are blooming here but still no leaves on the trees. After about two weeks of constant rain, there was sun today. We are grateful for not experiencing the tornadoes that devastated the South.

More options are presenting themselves to me. My manager at work told me how pleased they are with my performance and I am perfect for what they want in the position. My oldest son is eager to be going off to college at the end of the summer. Both boys are working, my youngest was promoted to supervisor and will be earning $20.00 hourly. I will be starting my Library Asst. classes in just a month. The harsh weather is finally over and I don't have to worry about that for the next seven months. What a relief that is! My family and I are closer than we have been in a long while.

I still wish there were more free hours in my life to stop and smell those newly blooming flowers. I would like to take a short vacation and have a lunch out with my sister. But life is so busy with the end-of-year school activities. Until then, I have my knit club and my attention has been reinvigorated to pare down my possessions in anticipation of moving once my youngest finishes his senior high school year. All of us seem to be on course for moving onward and away from this location but that it okay. It is time and we are ready.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X and the Unknown Factor

What better photo to represent the letter X, one of the definitions of which is 3: an unknown quantity. Also, 1: the 24th letter of the English alphabet and 2: the roman numeral 10. I have no idea what this photo is of. Actually it looks a little scary to me. So it is a totally unknown subject to match the definition of an unknown quantity.

Hate the unknown. Just want some predictability and stability in my life. Life is an open book, life is an adventure, throw caution to the wind. I hear these phrases and think they might be good for those people needing a little excitement in their lives. But I've had enough in mine. Opening that door into the unknown has ceased to entice me. I'm not sure I want to find out anymore.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

World Place

I was reading before bed last night - Claire Cook's "Must Love Dogs" and a passage really struck me. It contained the word "world" and I knew that would be the "W" word I would post about today.

"I even missed Kevin. No, it was more that I missed the idea of a Kevin. Having a husband, even one I barely talked to, had given me a certain status, a respectability, a belonging. I had a place in the world. I knew what I'd be doing tomorrow, even if it wasn't particularly interesting."

Having a place in the world. Somehow I seem to have lost that place since my husband's death and then losing another to divorce. At least that is what it feels like to me. To be floating around in this vast world without that deep connection to another being. I feel without roots, powerless. My identity and worth was so tied up within my marriage.

It was good to read these words and gain new understanding and perspective as to how I feel and see myself. Good to see how someone else expresses these emotions and to be able to grasp the meaning at such a deep level.

Of course I know that I am important just by myself. That my life has value and meaning. I've done the best I can to raise two young boys to be productive citizens of the world. That is worth something. But when all is said and done, I realize for me the value and importance of being connected to someone within a relationship/marriage. There is no shame in admitting or needing that. It is who I am. A widow wanting out of widowhood.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I was listening to the audio of Caroline Myss, "Navigating Hope," and at one point she said that the reason people have trouble moving out of grief is that we are too stuck in our pasts. By that she means we keep wanting for our lives to be like they were before. Because that is impossible to achieve, we remain pretty miserable with our lives.

Actually, I think there is a point to this observation. I know that I wish I had my old life back. Trouble is, I am having trouble envisioning a new life. How are we supposed to do this? It is so much easier to want to restore what we had because it was known and we can see it our our minds. How do I look toward the future when I have nothing to throw my anchor into except a blank slate? My anchor is still stuck behind me because it was familiar and good. The future as an unknown is scary and treacherous.

I guess the point is that we need to have hope and faith in the unknown future. And to cast our anchors out before us blindly expecting the best.

You hear all this advice on what to do but I'm still lost. What are the steps we can take to start our future visions? If I come across any advice on this I'll provide an update, but I've been on this path awhile now and am still floundering.

Monday, April 25, 2011


My youngest son, A., asked me if I would be attending the prom photo extravaganza this Saturday, with parents taking 200 shots of their teens before the dance. There was a question in his voice as he asked me this because he knows going to these events by my lonesome is not something I like to do. He even asked if Sam could come with me so I would not be alone. I will be meeting his girlfriend's parents for the first time. I assured him that I will be nice and not do any weird widow stuff.

It is unsettling for me to go to these things always facing off with couples. Something about being the underdog... It is awkward and uncomfortable. I go because I want to be there but am so relieved when the whole hour-long thing is over. I grin and bear it.

There is such an emotionally draining aspect of always having to go in and out of situations alone, meet new people who are part of a couple, constantly have the courage or faked confidence to walk into a place without someone familiar to lean on - to feel vulnerable and alone in new situations and circumstances.

I thought of the word unity and how for me it means togetherness and joining two or more into a supportive unit. When I looked the word up in the dictionary I was surprised to see that it means the state of being one. And here I am, alone and one, wanting to be part of a unit.

Remember all the "United We Stand" slogans that were bantered around after 9/11? There was such an emphasis on joining together and becoming unified. The emphasis is on a group acting as a unified front and therefore, the unit is stronger than the individual. I do feel that two are stronger than one. That there is a weakness in standing on my own two feet all the time. Of course I am a strong woman, who has done her best over the years to get on by myself and raise two boys on my own. But on Saturday I will be severely reminded that a lone duck on a pond is more at risk, less safe than those ducks within the safety of a group.

People think that facing challenges makes us stronger. That we grow used to our circumstances and more accepting or tolerant of them. Swimming in that pond on Saturday I will be the stray duck on the outskirts of the flock left behind as the others swim off together without a glance behind them, secure, safe and together in unity.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Throwing in the Towel

Sometimes you have to just throw in the towel. I am thinking of the resolutions I had at the start of the year. I remember they seemed so simple and easy to achieve - to try and keep the sink clear of dirty dishes, to go through, organize and recycle my large stash of old magazines, to get through my backlogged unread emails now numbering in the 1000s.

Well, I gave it a good attempt, I really did. I tried doing dishes at night but was too tired. Then started to do them in the morning. Only then life sped up with show choir and college applications and the dishes started piling up again.

In January I made a huge effort at deleting all my old emails and within a weekend had gotten rid of 1000. But then the same old same old - no time for the computer unless to research or blog.

As for the magazines, my efforts there lasted about a day or two.

So in making the decision to throw in the towel, I have been using paper plates and cups which can at least be recycled. Last week during one of my numerous pharmacy runs to Walmart I found plastic storage containers that look like actual woven baskets and purchased enough for the bookshelf holding the magazines and now they are all in hiding and the shelf looks so much more neat and tidy.

As for the emails, well I'll try and see if I can devote some more time to that since the taxes and college financial aid apps are now completed. I know I have the option of just doing a massive delete job instead of going through them and maybe I should throw in the towel there too!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Shopping Story

Why do we have so many unsettling incidents at the check out line of the grocery store? Is it because when we are there we're usually stressed, hurried and out of sorts? I usually try my best to be on my best behavior at the grocery store. Meaning I'll give up my spot to a person with fewer groceries or a harried parent. I try to make nice uplifting compliments. But sometimes I do get upset when I'm behind a person taking forever or there is a price check delay. One checker actually sneered at the half-price items in my cart and haughtily told me she would never buy "at code" products for her family! I didn't get upset. Just replied that as long as I use or freeze an item by its at code date there is no problem with it. Then I avoid her line whenever I see her at the store.

My sister passed on this story to me some weeks ago. It was late Saturday afternoon and she was at a big local chain tired and irritable. The woman she was behind was taking forever with a cart filled with $200.00 of groceries. "And then she brought out a fist load of coupons!" my sister added. She observed that the woman was about 60 and looked as though she wanted to talk to someone. "As if that weren't enough, after the groceries were run up the woman gave the checker an assortment of cloth bags of her own with detailed and specific instructions to pack all the cold and frozen items together!" By this time my sister was not amused. But she decided to not give into her irritation and instead be more sympathetic.

She overheard the woman explain the need for the specific packing because when she gets home she is too tired to bring all the bags in and just gets the cold things in first. My sister felt an affinity and connection with this woman's admission because face it, we're all pretty tired. She thought the woman's packing idea was a good one and perhaps she should do it too.

I related that it is such a hassle for me to lug in groceries up to a second floor apartment that if the boys aren't home to help me, I too, just bring in the perishable items. Sometimes by the end of the week, my car looks like I'm living in it. It is actually pretty embarrassing. But there are times too, that I'm just too tired to make multiple trips to and fro from the car.

So I guess this rendition is a hope for us to be nicer in grocery stores. My sister said she felt so much better adopting a kind attitude vs. one that was critical. And I feel for all of us out there leaving canned goods in the car longer than necessary simply because we're too drained to bring them in. Just going to the grocery store is tiring enough for me, much less bringing them in and putting them away. Did I tell you that sometimes the groceries just stay in their bags on the floor until they are used...?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reality and Fantasy

Here is my giant knitted door carrot. A perfect image for this post which is about reality and fantasy, as a carrot is real but my giant carrot created from fantasy.

I've been having a hard time lately dealing with my reality. I just don't want my life as it is. Of course I know I can't get my old life back. So then I concentrate on a new and better life. I'm doing everything I can to not accept my life as it currently is. I'm going to need some help and direction in getting through this mind set. I'm hoping the audio by Caroline Myss, "Navigating Hope - How to Turn Life's Challenges into a Journey of Transformation" will help me.

This afternoon before heading out to see my son's volleyball game, for the heck of it, I goggled inexpensive real estate in the college town my son will be moving to in August. I saw the most adorable charming and cozy cottage for under $45,000! I immediately pictured myself gardening outside and filling the inside rooms with my antiques, books and knitting. My mind continued to race ahead. I could probably find work as a library technician in a college town - heck I could even go back to school for my PhD. I enjoyed this little flight into fancy. It was actually giving me a lift!

As I drove to one of the wealthy suburban communities next to mine, I thought about how I am so ready to move from here. It is costly for one thing, and after my youngest finishes high school there is no reason to really stay. In fact, staying is painful in many ways. I arrived at the high school, which is actually so big it resembles a community college campus. I missed a few minutes of the game because I had to park so far away after figuring out which building housed the gym - as there were a number of athletic buildings, I finally tracked down the school bus that drove our team and asked the bus driver for directions.

Just more fuel to leave this area. It is congested and everything is so massive and pretentious. It would be relaxing and like a vacation to live in a smaller community and college town.

But as much as I enjoyed dreaming about the little 1940s small town cottage, I'm not sure that is the answer either in terms of my trying to accept the here and now. To find contentment and happiness in the present and not look forward to attaining it in the future. Still, I think about my door carrot and don't think there is anything wrong with flights of whimsy that make you smile at times. Such a hard concept to balance, our reality vs. our dreams.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Although tonight at Knit Club I was named "Queen of the Unusual Scarf," and you can see my latest creation to the right, I am going to post on the Q word quality - but queen would sure be a lot easier and shorter.

Quality. The word is all over the place. I see it in ads for nursing homes promising residents "quality care." If a product doesn't have the words "Satisfaction Guaranteed" on it, the words "Quality Guaranteed" are there. "Salon quality at an everyday price." "The quality of life."

It's that last statement that gets to me - quality of life. What happens when your life situation changes for the worse and you go down in life quality? How are we supposed to cope and manage with this? I bring this up because I am still struggling to put the pieces of my life back together and to get back on track. It is not an easy process or quick.

I think about just the mid-aged people out there who have lost jobs and haven't found anything going on a year or more at this point. What is going to happen to these people working in retail or restaurants after they've held management or professional jobs? I know from my experience that working in a non-professional capacity is wrecking havoc on my life right now. I try to be grateful I'm working at all, and I am because it means since December that I have been able to fully feed my family without resorting to the food banks (which I hope to never visit again). But it is still a part of my life that bothers me - the boredom and lack of challenge especially. It does make me feel somewhat diminished personally to have a master's degree but having difficulty finding suitable work. Although I know I join the ranks of 1,000s.

So that aspect of my life does lower the overall quality of my life along with the loss of a husband/partner and being an only parent the past 8 years.

In this society we learn as children to strive for the best we can afford and to move/trade up be it with a job, education degree, house, car, furniture etc. We don't learn much about recovering after a fall. I guess that is not supposed to happen. I never thought everything that has happened to me would occur - an educated, attractive, middle-class, very nice mom/person. I assumed my life would just keep moving up the ladder as I'd been told it would as a child.

The quality of my life is not what I want it to be right now. I'm tired. I don't get enough free time or recreation or sleep. I worry too much. I don't like living or sleeping alone. I want to garden again, laugh and smile more, feel lighthearted instead of always dragged down.

So many aspects of my life to better and work on. Changes seem to come so gradually. I am starting my Library Technical Assistant Program in May. I have to do something to move forward into the professional arena of life again. Simply starting the program will do a lot to restore my confidence and faith in the future. I need to feel that the work I do is of value and importance to the world, something beyond the realm of showing guests to their tables at the restaurant.

Quality in part means excellence and superiority. I can't settle or stand for certain things in my life right now. I have to improve the quality of my life. I have to restore some excellence and status. I suppose I've reached my personal limit. I want a better and easier and happier life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Depression and OCD run in my family. So does high blood pressure and strokes. So when life got too stressful with my worry over feeding and clothing my family, I sought medical advice - early Fall. I was prescribed an anti-anxiety med, one for depression and then two for high blood pressure. I did it for my sons. I need to be around for them through college. Having to deal with a mother disabled because of a stroke is not in the cards.

I know there are some people out there who seem to think I'm taking an easy way out. But I want to educate those not in the know that it isn't the case. Taking an anti-depressant doesn't make me automatically happy or high. I still feel my emotions, the sadness, worry and pain. I just have the ability to not hyperventilate and cry hysterically. The medication helps keep my emotions in check but it doesn't magically make everything better. These drugs aren't taken for recreation. They are being taken to keep my heart pumping normally and to help me get through my days on a more even keel.

I was doing pretty well on my own before my divorce and having to sell my home. Those two events seemed to do me in - the grief I felt was overwhelming and actually included internal physical pain. It's funny to live in a society that has medications to really assist people in need with their emotional issues. Yet at the same time there continues to be stigma toward the people taking medications - as though something is wrong with us because we can't handle life on our own.

For me, the benefits of trying to take care of and manage my emotional health are worth any of the stigma that is directed my way. I have an obligation to be there for my sons, in as healthy a way as possible. I don't feel I have a choice at this point.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I am not optimistic by nature. From the time I've been a little girl, I've tended toward the serious, gloom and doom side. I do focus on the negatives of life. Just the other day, I got the boys and I Qdoba for dinner - we had free coupons that expired that night and it was after a volleyball game, so it was late - 8:00 p.m. Of course, I ordered the small Nachos and didn't get any chips to go with them! Then for some strange reason, they've stopped sending me the Values advertising supplement that used to come every Wednesday in the mail. It is full of the store ads and coupons for fast food places which come in handy with the boys. I didn't request they stop my delivery. I talked with the postman and he told me to call the company putting out the ads. I did so but only got voice mail - left a message asking for the ads to be sent again, but after two weeks haven't gotten it yet.

Anyway, my youngest told me last week that I am the most negative person he knows. I wasn't upset, although this was while I was driving him to Build-A-Bear, a 20-mile round trip and felt he could have saved the comment for another time. I've been thinking about his statement. His interactions have been with me as an only parent, first grieving the loss of his father, then grieving my divorce and then the loss of my home. A lot of years with a lot of sadness and strain.

For a while now, I've been toying with the idea of really trying to be more positive in my life. To try and turn the negatives into positives and all that. I was going to even make this a new year resolution and give it a go for a month. But I've changed my mind. Pain, sorrow and hardship are part of the human condition. By pretending to make negatives into positives, I'm not honoring who I am or how I'm feeling. And I want to be as authentic as possible.

Here's the deal. We live in this society that doesn't want to feel any pain. We try to avoid it at all cost and put down people who can't seem to be more positive despite their problems. Well, right not life is hard in certain ways and I'm not going to gloss over that. My life is getting better but it is a slow climb from all the loss. This period of my life is just what it is. Some challenging years as an only parent following the death of my husband, loss of home and financial instability. And you know, that is okay. It can be kind of crummy right now. I don't have to make excuses for how I feel about my life or feel bad on top of all else because I can't muster up the strength to always be optimistic and cheerful 24/7.

I try not to wallow. I do my best to look for the good in everyday. But it is still okay to say that this is a tough time for me right now. That things could be better and that I wish they were. Sometimes to just be coping with the situation at hand is optimism in and of itself. And in closing, it isn't funny to come home with a bowl of uneatable Nachos and it not being worth it to drive back to the Qdoba the next town over.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I said "No" this week. On Wednesday, my day off, I spent the ENTIRE day taking care of taxes (mine and the boys'). There were complications. My H & R Block guy had to reschedule the next appointment after me because we needed more time. Thursday I was supposed to go to a volunteer church activity with my girl friend but I didn't want to go. I was tired from the tax ordeal and kept looking around my home space in dismay. I just can't seem to rustle up the time to tend to home duties. Now why would I be volunteering my valuable time to give to others when I can't even take care of my own needs?

On that same note I told Sam I couldn't come to see him over the weekend. When I go to see him it is a break and fun but I come home to everything I left undone and it creates a lot of stress. So he is going to come for Easter.

Everything takes so much time - laundry, housework, cooking, cleaning. I have told myself that I have to focus on taking care of the home front first and foremost. No more running away for play time. That is a hard one, because of course we need free time and enjoyment. But I need to get some aspects of my life together and squared away and as a widowed mom, the only way that is going to happen is if I do concentrate on work for the time being. The playing can come later.

I don't often say "No." But I have to in order to preserve my sanity and move onward. There is that double standard thing going on though. When I assert myself and stick up for myself I'm often criticized and told I'm not organized or strong enough - that something is deficient with me. I won't play the game anymore. Thursday and Friday were so busy at work. I was tired both days. After work on Friday I went to my absolutely most favorite place in the world to go - Walmart - to pick up my son's prescription for acne medication. Every month I go through some major conflict getting this script filled and yesterday was no different. I ended up spending two hours in the Walmart (I will spare you the details). I hadn't had lunch and was starving. I considered buying a candy bar or something. I didn't get home until after 5:00. So for those out there constantly pointing a finger at me, I put up my hands and say, a big "NO more."

Friday, April 15, 2011


Widowhood has robbed me of leisure time. One of the major leisure activities to go by the wayside has been movies. Since my husband's death I've maybe watched a total of 25 movies over eight years, including rentals and made-for-tv ones. I've gone to the show exactly twice in eight years. Before widowhood, movies were a regular part of my life. My husband and I would stay up most Saturday nights to view a rental and we went to the show as much as we could for a date.

I had this tradition of seeing all the Oscar nominated movies for Best Picture in the weeks leading up to the Oscars. My husband would sometimes let me steal away on a week night so I could see a movie while he watched the boys. The year of his death was the last time I ever undertook my Oscar viewing.

My boys are very active in sports so I suppose I've traded movies for watching numerous wrestling matches, baseball games, volleyball tournaments and football nights in the stands. My entertainment has also included musical performances of band, orchestra and show choir. And some plays and dance recitals thrown in for good measure.

So it's not as though I'm just sitting home alone not doing or seeing anything interesting. But it is still sobering to realize how much is really lost as a result of such a life change and widowhood. There just aren't enough hours in the day and I don't have two to spare sitting down watching a video.

It is Friday night, that night known for going out to catch a new movie or rent a new release. My tide is turning. One boy will be off to college next year with the other on his way the year after. My life will then free up and I'll have some spare time for myself to watch movies if I so desire.

But I've written these posts and observations to depict how demanding life can be for only parents. How something so many people take for granted, Friday pizza and a movie, might not be a part of everyone's life. So many losses, they all add up. If someone had told me at the onset of my widowhood that I would no longer be watching any movies, I wouldn't have believed them.

I think that when you live with someone or are dating, it is just a natural part of the situation to go out and do things, and seeing a movie is a pretty basic activity. When you're on your own there isn't the motivation to get out sometimes even to the Redbox. Not to mention the tiredness from day-to-day life - I'm not sure I'd even be able to stay up for the duration of a movie!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Of course I have to write about love today. Following are a couple quotes from Jane Green's "Dune Road" that I found relevant to me.

"Love is about companionship. It's about having someone by your side as you enter your golden years."

"She has been trying to tell herself that she isn't missing Adam, she is missing someone. Someone to help, someone who will ensure she won't have to do everything, absolutely everything in her life all by herself."

"Loving requires acts of love. It requires thinking of your spouse, doing things for them to make them happy. It requires acting in loving ways, even when you are tired, or bogged down with work, or so stressed you are waking up every night with a jaw sore from grinding your teeth."

"They forgot to love each other. they expected love to continue, without putting any work into it..."

"She just doesn't think she has the energy to start again, not to mention traumatizing the children even more."

"She has become more selfish, she knows, since living on her own with the kids. She is used to having everything done her way, is used to her stuff being her own..."

"It is so nice to have someone tell her son to behave, so nice to not be the only one dealing with the kids, attempting to teach them manners, reprimanding them. It is so nice not to be the bad cop all the time."

These statements capture a lot of how I feel about my life as a widow and only parent. Tonight I sat on the bleachers for a volleyball game and was behind two couples I've known since the boys were four and five. One of the husbands put his hand on the small of his wife's back and rubbed it in a circle. The moment lasted just a minute. Did this women even really notice his gesture? Then the wife of the other couple leaned on her husband for support as she got up. Another moment that lasted just an instant but which I saw with such intensity and clarity. I thought of how my husband and I should have been part of that group of couples, would have been if he were still alive. I would have most likely needed his support getting down the steep risers but as it is, I clomp clumsily down on my own.

I had love in my life and support and an involved co-partner and parent. We were really a good team together and good parents to the the boys. We had a good life. We were good citizens and people.

So now I tiredly get through the days on my own. But I continue to hope and dream of love. That it will touch my life again. That I'll be able to live with a partner in the future who will enrich my life and that both of us can grow and become better people because of our togetherness. That I'll be able to lean on someone going down the bleachers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Knitting is a part of me. It brings me great joy, an activity I love with all my heart. I've been a life-long knitter since high school. But there have been periods of greater intensity than others. I would say that my knitting really increased after the death of my husband. We used to co-coach our sons' travel baseball and soccer teams. The boys were on the same teams together and I can remember seeing my little family all together out on the field, Daddy coaching second base, me in the dugout keeping score, A. pitching and E. catching. It was the happiest time for me as a mother, all of us involved in a sport we loved.

After my husband died, I stopped being a part of the coaching team and my sons were put on separate teams. A. had been playing up to be with his brother since he was four years old, but parents complained that he was taking a spot away from another child the age of E. So I became the baseball mom intent on letting my boys continue to play travel ball because it would have been what their Dad wanted. Two boys on two different travel teams, only one mom. I was the only single parent with even one child participating in travel ball. It really is a sport where two parents come in handy.

Tournaments can last all day and be two hours from home. There I was sitting alone in stands watching one of the boys (I'd trade off going to their games equally). With time on my hands and feeling alone and vulnerable I turned to bringing my knitting along. I always had something to do and keep me occupied. And it took away some of the discomfort of being a new widow and on my own. I started to knit more gifts. In fact, the thank you notes I sent out after my husband died were hand tied with leaves I had knitted. They were just beautiful as I recall and matched the design of the cards picturing leaves.

Now I feel almost naked when I don't have my knitting with me and I always have some kind of quick and simple project to grab as I go off on my day. Joining the knit club has resulted in me knitting even more - I am inspired by the creativity around me and have created one new scarf or cowl a week since joining the club at the start of the year.

When I started dating and had to come up with an online dating site profile I asked the boys if it was too nerdy or old-fashioned to put down knitting as a hobby. My sons told me I had to do it because it really is who I am. And so I did. And the men I've become involved with received blankets, scarves, felted slippers, kitchen items, rugs, hats, and even felted baskets as gifts. I have knitted gifts for my sons' girlfriends, my girlfriends. sister and her daughter. I even knit darling little purses for my brother's little girls.

Now I am knitting a scarf of bright colored flowers in the yarns pictured in this post. It is an Easter gift for me so I can wear something new to church without having to spend the money on a new outfit. Tonight at knit club I made the smaller flowers, which were unbelievably simple to create.

Knitting is my treasure, my escape, my opportunity to be creative and giving as well. The health benefits are as good as actually meditating. I can knit with my eyes closed and knit amazingly fast (as noted by the other knit club members) and I have to say that gives me a sense of pride. Watching t.v. is never a total wash out since I am always knitting something. There is also the sense of control and wonder of being able to create something out of basically nothing.

Here is to my love of knitting and the pure joy it gives me even in times of despair. I always joke that I hope my Heaven is being able to live in a combined knit/book store. But for now I have to remember that I hold the power in my own two hands to create works of love, creativity and art. And besides that a skill that makes me feel good and talented. And lifts my mood. If I ever get around to writing a book it WILL NOT be about grief but a knitting book complete with my own patterns. Although as my son suspects, there might be a widow heroine, or maybe not. Knitting and grief shouldn't always be tied together as they often are in fiction. Knitting should be tied with hope and happiness.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I made the conscious decision to start referring to myself privately as "Jewel." Kind of changing my name so to speak. This came about because of a situation I was having with a friend, said friend saying negative comments about the feelings I was having about certain things. It was also brought on by a couple books I've been reading by Claire Cook, who I just randomly discovered and is wonderful. Please check her out if you are not familiar with her. She wrote the book "Must Love Dogs," which was made into a movie. Her topics are about mid-life women empowering themselves and standing tall.

So after being bashed by this friend I just kind of had it. I thought about past relationships and patterns with them. I do have a history of being around people who don't treat me with respect. A number of romantic relationships have been with commitment fearing men. Well, no more I said. I deserve to be in healthy relationships where I'm treated respectfully and my opinion matters. In romantic relationships I do deserve to be courted (given small tokens, cards, flowers and so on).

I was lucky to have not had to deal with all of this stuff during my 12-year marriage. But now back out there as a single person it is a relevant aspect of my life. I have the choice to end relationships that aren't healthy or giving me what I want. I love a passage in Claire Cook's book "The Wildwater Walking Club," where the main character decides not to give men a second chance if they don't call here when they say they will. "Grow up" she tells them. That inspired me.

Only parenthood and widowhood is grueling. I really do the best I can. But it is hard. And I don't deserve to hear negativity about me for no reason other than the insecurities or immaturity of others. I don't have time for that anymore. I deserve better.

I can treat myself as a jewel and expect to be treated equally that way by others. And of course I need to look at other people as being their own jewels as well. Sunday night the boys and I watched Celebrity Apprentice, a family tradition. The Atlanta Housewife contestant bashed sweet Latoya Jackson by calling her a "ghost,' "old," and riding on the coattails of her family name. I was pretty shocked. It was very mean and immature. Who is this Atlanta housewife anyway? I've never even heard of her until this show. To resort to putting people down based on their appearance is so childish. Latoya was so gracious and dignified. I would not have been able to restrain myself and most likely would have hurled an insult back. But LaToya did not do so and believe me she just blew me away with her ability to stand up to such an attack on her person.

Ellen DeGeneres ends each of her shows with the words. "Be kind to one another." So here is a reminder for that and for all of us to look deeper within, especially when we're angry or upset with one another. A jewel wouldn't be insulting another jewel now would they - both are beautiful and precious!

Monday, April 11, 2011


I decided to post about intimacy today because it has been on my mind recently. Although I live with my two sons, go to work, have a few friends including a long-distance guyfriend and have been attending a weekly knitting club made up of 50 members, I still feel such an emptiness in the intimacy department.

I am a different person since my husband died. I am far more negative, less optimistic/hopeful and complain more than is probably healthy. I wasn't like this when I was married. Being married and the intimacy I felt within my marriage made me feel safe, loved and protected. There weren't that many reasons to feel negative or complain.

Since my husband's death I have not been able to feel the happiness and security I felt as a married mother and wife. There is such an unfilled void.

I was talking with another widow about 15 years my senior at the knit club. Her children are grown and her husband (it was a remarriage) was ill for four years after a stroke before his death last year. She told me that she has filled her life with people and activities - 3 knitting clubs, 2 gardening clubs, a book club, three cruises in the past 12 months, one of which was a gift from her children and to top it off she is extremely active in local politics. Yet, despite all this, she found herself not going out for three days over the winter and feeling frantic for a personal connection. She was worried that she was monopolizing the cashier's time by talking to her at the check out.

There is an intimacy that comes from living with a romantic partner that cannot be captured by a sibling, child, friend or grocery clerk. Personal interaction is needed on all levels of course but a husband's love can't be duplicated by a non-husband.

I took my youngest, A., to another Build-A-Bear yesterday so he could get a Panda dressed in a tux. The bear is holding a note that says, "It would be unpandabearable if you did not attend Prom with me, Love, Magic Oreo (the name of the bear). I just thought the bear was too cute for words dressed in the little outfit. Usually I put my nose up at these kind of things (the clothes are all made in China, tsk, tsk) but I'm letting my son have the pleasure of asking his nice, beautiful and smart girlfriend to the Prom with this gesture. He is in cahoots with his girlfriend's mom. They are going to put the bear somewhere in her house while she is out so it will be a surprise when she comes home and finds it.

This bear and the thoughtful gesture behind it seem to symbolize intimacy. A gift given in love, trying to please another, finding joy in the gesture itself, giving something meaningful to the other (she likes Panda bears apparently).

People tell widows they have to make the best of their situations and be grateful for all they do have in their lives. Yes, that is true. But somethings in life are truly not interchangeable. If you don't have intimacy in your life it can't be replaced with something else. Intimacy is built from trust, love, time, acceptance, friendship, compatibility, support, forgiveness - a whole combination of characteristics and values. And a very tall order to fill indeed.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


A Hectic, Hard, Hurry-Up kind of week. But it seems like I write about those subjects all the time so I decided to go with a different H word for the Blogging A-Z challenge - Hope.

There was a lot going on with volleyball throughout the week, then a huge show choir performance last night. One of the vb games was at the school my late husband taught at. So I asked my youngest son to go with me as a tribute to him, not just to see his older brother play. A. didn't really want to go but felt I would freak out if he didn't. He warned me not to do anything weird while at the game. We walked past Daddy's classroom and looked in the window, watched the game and I said a quick prayer to my husband hoping he was watching his oldest boy from above proudly even though they lost both games. It was emotional for me because my husband and I took the kids to a number of volleyball games there since he often went to school activities to support his students - and it was always cheap entertainment for us. Never did we suspect that one day our oldest would be captain of his volleyball team. At 6' he is one of the shortest members.

After the game it was late and we had to drive 30 minutes back home and get dinner going. I had hoped for a more meaningful experience but as always, life just scuttles on.

I was involved in making raffle baskets for the fund raiser for the show choir. This was a week where one night I fell asleep in my clothes, with all the lights on, having not brushed my teeth or washed my face. I Hate those nights.

Today my oldest was off to a vb tournament, which I did not attend because of the distance away. My youngest was working at the track meet at school but not running because his foot hurts. I thought I finally had some time to myself to clean our Home. That is all I wanted to do. Straighten up and establish some order to our living space since it looks pretty trashed from the past week. I had gone out to buy drain cleaner and was out doing other errands - no milk or tea in the house, when my youngest called for a ride home. I was in the car Heading Home and just turned around to the school. "Hurry up," he demanded. But when I got to the school he was no where to be seen. Typical. Then my son was famished from working outside a couple hours and we got him a Polish sausage meal with drink and fries from a cheap local mom & pop place - the meal was just $3.50.

Although all I wanted to do was go home and unclog one of the bathroom drains, my son begged me to take him to the mall so he could purchase a Build-A-Bear animal for his girlfriend. He will give it to her in some scheme asking her to Prom. I despise the mall. When we got there I couldn't find the Build-A-Bear and we walked the entire mall looking to see if it had moved. I saw the name of a store that sounded like it had potential - Furry Friends or something like that which turned out to be an actual pet store. Finally I asked a mall security guard and was told Build-A-Bear is no longer there. So that was a wasted excursion.

Which leaves me to the point of this post. A pretty draining week all in all. But when I finally got home I cleaned off the dining room table and put out a green pitcher I got from Goodwill for a dollar and filled it with some sprigs of spring flowers I picked up on sale at JoAnn's. Despite the Hardships and Hassles, I have to try and see the Hope out there. It was a tough week, but they all seem to be tough and tiring and no doubt will for another year or so. I really have to make a point of focusing on Hope rather than the difficulties.

This week my oldest played more volleyball than I can keep track of - he performed in a wonderful show choir event - and we had an opportunity to be at my Husband's school because my oldest was playing there. I got milk at the grocery store but forgot the tea. But I did manage to clean off the dining room table and it looks nice with the flowers on it. And that is Hope. And tomorrow I'll do more cleaning after I run out for a box of tea.

Friday, April 8, 2011


In these times of economic hardship and worry, I have come to believe that every once in awhile we need to go for that gourmet treat be it a $1.99 cupcake or $6.00 glass of premium wine. Savor these splurges because we are worth being treated with TLC, especially when our moods and/or pocket books are at their most depleted.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


What do I fear? What have I always feared from childhood on? Being alone, unmarried especially, being rejected; having a lack of stability in my life. As I thought about this I came to the realization that I am living my deepest fears. I am alone. And while I don't really mind being alone, what I really mind is the unmarried label. I want and need to belong to someone, to be a part of a team. I was rejected by my second husband and that event shattered me to my core because it so closely followed the death of my husband.

Sometimes I overcome my fears. My losses have resulted in my being far less consumed by petty annoyances. Many times I say, "What the heck" and go out on a limb to say or do what I really want to - because I have nothing to lose. But other days, l am stuck in my fears, afraid to meet someone new, or go somewhere by myself.

Oftentimes I reflect that I really need to lose this defeated attitude. Having already encountered my deepest fears and to have lived beyond them, one would think that I would have long outgrown them.

To get what I most long for - stability, love and partnership will require me to face fear again and become vulnerable. It is a risk getting hurt when there has already been so much hurt and pain. To start over. Many times it is easier to just stay with the status quo and let life remain as it is. But then I realize I shouldn't be complaining about my life because I'm not doing much to change it. And I don't want to complain and I want my life to change. So the only option is to face the fear and risk the possibility of pain because there is always the potential for more. I'll keep my eyes and heart on the hope for a prize instead of expecting defeat.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Easy Street

I'm sick of hardship. There are times I fully admit to the Universe that I want an easier life and I want it now! I've had my share of learning from grief, loss and difficulties. Seems to me that we can learn from kind and gentle experiences too.

We already live in a society that focuses on making the details in our life less cumbersome. All the fast food places, instant copies, Nice & Easy Hair Color, frozen dinners, to name just a few examples of so many.

I've started to use plastic cutlery and paper plates in an effort to cut down on the dishes piling up in the sink. I've even played the Lotto twice when the winning amount was way up there for the heck of it - someone will win and if I don't get a ticket it won't be me.

Bring on the easy life. I've worked hard all my life. In school, at home, in my marriages, with my children, on the jobs.

Tonight at Knit Club I struggled with a difficult pattern and after a few hours of work realized I would have to start over. All my work was for nothing. I lamented about this and how it tied in with the theme of what I wanted to post on as I drove home. Funny, but I thought about what photo I'd use for this post and low and behold ended up passing the street sign I used in this photo. I laughed about this coincidence - or was it really a coincidence? Wish everything would come to me as easily as this photo did to me today.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I have adopted the JC Penney slogan, "Every Day Matters" as one of my mantras. Every day does matter. Even the days when we are grieving, or consumed with pain, worry and frustration. There are times when I haven't thought my days have mattered. When I've been on my own, single and these past few years when we've had to cope with financial instability.

But I've come to believe that this is a very wrong attitude. It isn't right to put my life on hold because everything isn't all rosy right now.

Times are hard for me. But at the end of my life, I hope this blip on the radar screen of life will have passed. And I don't want to look back and see this past stretch of years as ones that I wasted by not treating myself with kindness, compassion, years devoid of small pleasures and happiness.

Each day I wake up and look at and then repeat the words, "Every day matters." Each day is a new beginning. One that we can start over if we've wrecked our diets or need to make some amends. I can greet each day as a gift and a chance to grow myself and nourish others. And to love.

When we're dealing with grief and loss it can be very easy to say life doesn't matter and to put our lives on hold thinking we'll start living again when things improve. I won't do that anymore. I'm doing my best to make each day, every day the best it can be. To make them count. To make them matter because they do matter. And maybe they matter the most when times are hardest.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Clean Slate

It is finally Spring, the season of fresh starts and new beginnings. I am trying to be more authentic to my needs and feelings and expressing them in an open and honest way. So far I'm not having the best of success.

For whatever reason I seem to have hit a wall of exhaustion physically and emotionally. My girlfriend and I talked about this after church yesterday. I think it has to do with cumulative stress as an only parent. She agrees that there is great stress from never seeming to finish or complete what needs to get done. In our cases, there is always left over laundry and dishes in the sink. We've both kind of given up on having tidy and organized households but the fact is, our incomplete tasks are always there starting at us in our faces, mocking us, telling us we're not good enough because we can't seem to get it together.

Then there is the lack of a helpmate/tag team buddy reminding you of what you've forgotten or need to do, filling in for you when you can't, providing moral and physical support...

We both have kids of high school age yet there is a demand to still coordinate their schedules, keep track of who goes where when, to make meals, try to get to the mail. clean, shop, do laundry and so on.

For me at least, I don't sleep well alone and probably haven't had a good night's sleep since my husband died. That has to catch up with you over time.

And the constant requirement of having to make all the decisions all the time by yourself. I'm a better team player and don't like ruling the roost. Enough said with that.

Both of us have Seniors in high school and that in and of itself makes for a stressful year.

When I admit I am drained or tired or need help the typical response I receive is that I haven't organized my life well enough. I hear that other women have to remake their lives after the death of a spouse and why can't I seem to get it together?

Then I'm given the line about having the boys do more. Well, for two adolescent boys very active and popular at school, I think they are putting forth a decent effort. Both have tough part-time jobs and now buy all their own clothing and necessities. They work very hard at school and their jobs, and the jobs involve physical labor. One is in the final months of his Senior year and has numerous social activities to attend. He gets to attend those - he has earned it.

And I hear that I should cut back on my attendance at the kids' school events. But why should I? To me that is punishing the widow and the fatherless kids even more. The intact parents are all in attendance. I want to see my kids perform or compete, and if I'm not there no one is there for them personally cheering them on. But when I explain this reasoning, I'm told I'm playing the widow card and I should have stopped playing that years ago.

I defend myself. I am a widowed only parent. My stating the facts of my life simply and honestly doesn't make me a whiner. It is what it is. It explains why I act and think certain ways I do.

In my experience, widows don't win whatever they do. We're not supposed to complain, or compare ourselves to intact couples. Instead of being recognized for doing the best we can under trying and stressful conditions, we're criticized for not doing enough or doing it poorly. And in that regard we do end up being compared to others, which isn't fair. I can't admit or ask for help. When I do I'm weak and not with it. I'm criticized for bring up my widowhood or defending my children who've had more than their share of heartache.

I'm trying to keep The Four Agreements in my mind here. I should stand tall and hold my head up because I am being honest with myself and doing the best I can. Blast the people who criticize - I shouldn't take things too personally. But I'm not going to back down and give in and say everything is all right and yes, I need to get my life in better order and stop playing the widow card. It is a new season and I'm going to stand tall and state my truth and feelings as I see fit. I can do it sincerely and without anger. I don't want to pretend anymore because it makes other people more comfortable. If I can't do something anymore because it is too hard for me that is the reality.

These are the seeds I want to be planting now. Seeds of honesty, openness, realism and truth as I see it, not how others see it or want it to be. I deserve to live a life of truth and to be able to express what is in my life without being put down, insulted or made to feel I'm not doing well enough. Because truth be told, I truly am doing the best I can and most days go above and beyond. Too bad that is seldom acknowledged or praised.

As hard as it is I will try to overlook how others view me and sing some praises to myself for a change. Yeah me! Happy Spring. This is the season for watering my seeds and having them grow into real flowers - strong, honest, resilient and beautiful to boot. There aren't going to be any fake, phony or artificial flowers around this Spring. I don't have the patience of desire for them in my life anymore.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bear Scout Oath

I have joined the blogging A to Z challenge where each day you compose a post starting with the letters of the alphabet and today's is "B." This continues through the month of April with Sundays off. I thought it would be a fun thing to do. But back to the bears.

In an effort to pare down my life, I've been selling or giving away a lot of my books. The ones from the boys when they were younger has been kind of hard. They aren't readers but that didn't stop me from filling the book shelves with Scholastic paperbacks, picture books of dinosaurs, animals, the human body, as well as sport figure autobiographies. So many of these books were untouched. At the time they were purchased my husband was ill and there wasn't much time for reading before bed.

So now as I empty the shelves (or try to), I read these books before going to the used book store to sell them. I suppose this is a weird grief reaction but I cannot let them go to waste. It is almost some kind of defiant statement by me saying I won't let the three years of my husband's fatal illness end up robbing me of the books I was supposed to read to the boys. Even though now I'm reading them myself.

But you can learn a lot from books for the younger set. I especially enjoyed The Hardy Boys series because it was dated and brought me a sense of nostalgia. Did you know that the series started being written way back in the 1930s? Mrs. Hardy always makes a chocolate cake for the boys to eat at lunch - that is a hoot!

"The Berenstain Bear Scouts and the Sinister Smoke Ring," sets out The Bear Scout Oath which is as follows:

"A Bear Scout...

1. Is as honest as the day is long.
2. Admits when he or she is wrong.
3. Respects the creatures of creation.
4. Views TV in moderation.
5. Is never cruel, rude, or mean.
6. Plays the game fair and clean.
7. Does his best at school [life].
8. Following the golden rule, always respects the rights of others, including even sisters' and brothers'."

As I read this oath, I figured it was pretty applicable to me now as an adult - really for all of us. If we all made an effort to follow these guidelines, a lot of the conflict we feel, cause and participate in wouldn't exist.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Angela's Ashes

Just finished Frank McCort's memoir, Angela's Ashes. I have had this book on my shelf for years and avoided reading it because I knew it would be sad. There was already so much sadness going on in my life already, I didn't want to bring more in. But in March, I always try to read a few books by Irish authors. And I'd read a quick one by Maeve Binchey so decided before the month ended I'd finally pick up Angela's Ashes. I finished it in two-three days. And now wish I had someone to discuss it with. It is yes a sad book, but very impacting. So you forgive the sadness.

What would I want to discuss? The role of the Catholic church in the lives of its followers; the funny parts of the book; how angry I was at Frank's father for his alcoholism; the anger I felt at Frank's family for knowingly treating he and his family poorly; the relationship between ignorance and poverty. That would just be a start. I will definitely have to get the sequel "'Tis" as soon as I am able, because now I am on pins and needles wanting to know what happens next. And I had forgotten that this memoir was made into a movie so I can look forward to seeing that too.

I guess the tie in here to widowhood is how much I miss having someone to talk to, really talk to about books, life, my feelings, dreams, fears, etc. You can't have much of a meaningful conversation with the grocery check-out clerk. Both of my husbands filled this role, and I will have to say that my second husband and I talked much more at length and at a deeper level than my first husband and I did. He also asked me to always relate the plots of the books I was reading and I appreciated his interest. To have someone ask you to fully relate the plot of the book you've finished and to really be interested in your rendition of it!

I brought up my desire to discuss this book while I was at my knit club and someone shot back with, "Join a book club." Boy, I've heard that one a lot over the years. But I guess what I'm missing here is not so much the need to discuss a book, but the deeper need for intimacy with another person.

At the volleyball tournament tonight as I sat alone in the stands, I looked at the couples around me. They seemed so familiar with one another. To know someone so well as to have them be predictable - that is a good thing. I imagined these couples going home tonight and into their beds and then making love with one another. Each of them so familiar with one another that the curves and creases of their known bodies bring them comfort, safety and a sense of security. As well as excitement.

This October I would have been married to husband #1 for 20 years and we would have shared the intimacy I felt radiate from the couples on the stands with me. I have never been excited about the prospect of dating again because it will be fun to get to know someone and all the stuff about the glow of new love. The first time husband #1 and I had sex I remember saying to him, "Oh, just let's do it to get it over with. After this first time it will start getting way better."

Talking about Angela's Ashes would lead to more deeper conversation. I hope someday to have the level of intimacy I shared with both my husbands. I hope to feel that familiarity that comes from really knowing someone and accepting them, flaws and all. And in fact loving them for their flaws.