Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

Isn't this bottle of bubbly cute? So appropriate for signifying the start of a new year. The past few days I have been reflecting on this year's end and the memories that stand out the greatest are so positive.

1. #1 highlight - I heard my son's original composition performed by a small orchestra at his high school graduation! How many moms get to have that as a memory? Pretty awesome!

2. Going to American Idol auditions with both sons for a mini vacation and with my oldest trying out as a contestant. Although he didn't make it past the first set of producer auditions it was fun to see how a reality show is really scripted and the time we spent together brought us closer together as a family.

3. My oldest had a great senior year of high school and I saw him perform on Chicago television, and at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield twice. Whoo hoo!

4. My youngest got accepted into the college of his choice and is having his own bang-up senior/final year.

5. My oldest made a smooth transition into college and did outstanding his first semester!

All the struggles and hardships of the past year happened and I felt them. But I feel the magic of my son's music more strongly than the painful memories. The pictures that float around in my mind are those of my tall, handsome young men at their dances or school events. Or at their jobs being polite, respectful and responsible employees. Does that mean good outshines the bad? Or that the positive has more power than the negative stuff?

As this year ends I will hold on to these memories in my heart. Funny how the difficult days I had to scramble through to come up with money for various bills have faded. At the time they seemed to overwhelm me. But I can see now that what is most important are those memories of family and love. And that even though there may have been a fair share of trying circumstances, what stands out at the end are good, happy, strong, vibrant and joyful memories. And I experienced a good share of them too!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Widow in Transition

I saw these holiday snowflakes hung up at Home Depot and want to learn how to make them. So cute! That will be my fun resolution for January 2012.

Survived the holidays 2011. A better Christmas for us than seasons past. The boys had gifts from me but in the future I'd like to be able to get them more. Our little homemade tree ended up bringing me a whole lot of happiness throughout the month. Although I wished I could have purchased some decorating items, when all is said and done, my homemade decorations stole the show.

We spent Christmas at my girlfriend's as we have since my husband's death and her divorce. She has broadened her guest list to include other divorced women. I cooked some side dishes and cherry quick bread. And enjoyed the opportunity to have more than one alcoholic drink since my sons can drive. Back to work on Monday and this made me reflect on how widowhood is a lot like the day after the holidays. I felt a bit tired and wanted to have some time to relax and reflect. Many people were off on Monday. But I was scheduled to work. Going into work Monday morning felt like widowhood - not being able to have a break and some time off - being forced to be back at it again and again. Anyway, that is sometimes how widowhood feels to me. This relentless going on and on without a chance to get off the merry-go-round and regain my balance.

I heard someone else recently describe widowhood as having the rug pulled out from under you with the rug representing how your life was. You're left standing or down on the ground without the foundation that used to be supporting you having to either get up or regain your footing and then continue waking/living.

My sons are more kind than I. They believe that most people who haven't experienced widowhood simply can't comprehend what it is like to have the rug pulled out from under you. They forgive the people who say stupid or unfeeling things. I, on the other hand, am less forgiving. But I have come to believe that unless you have lived this life, it isn't possible to fully explain to others what widowhood is really like.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to try and explain to the world what widowhood and only parenthood is like. But in my time of blogging, I'm not sure that it has been too successful a goal. I also have started to worry that my focusing on widowhood brings me more sorrow and pain than I'd be feeling if I weren't blogging on this topic. Face it, I'm a widow and my life will have issues in it related to that status. Dwelling endlessly on what I can't change brings me more misery than I want to be feeling right now. So I am looking forward to the new year where I will place less emphasis on me as widowed and more on being a widow in transition - moving on in my life, despite widowhood to devote more time and attention to myself and my own needs.

This has all been coming down since last spring and my oldest son's graduation from college. Did I already brag that he has a 3.7 GPA his first college semester? And in May my youngest will be graduating and gearing up to start his college career. Right now, I need to be focusing on moving and creating my new life because next August I will be a widow empty-nester. Talk about emotions flying around the upcoming months! But I am also very excited because moving will allow me to live in a more affordable community and to go back to school to update my defunct Master's degree. Hopefully, a year of study will be all that I need to launch myself back into the professional sphere of social services and that will be huge in my life - to feel useful and productive in the work force again.

So as I contemplate all of this I am debating the start of a totally new blog, though I will not delete this one. It would begin Jan. 1st. It is hard for me to say goodbye to things because one gets used to them, but I am now seeing the benefits of beginning new projects, of moving to new locations, or starting over with a clean slate and all that. But whether I post under a new blog or keep this one because it is simpler, in 2012 I resolve to be more positive and to identify less as a widow and more as a woman finally able to move into a new, exciting and hopeful future.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Ninth Day of Christmas

My little tree is really turning out nicely. I waited until my oldest came home from college to decorate it as a family affair but he was totally uninterested and was even putting up ornaments upside down, ha ha. He did do very well with his grades though - his lowest grade was a Bt, with the rest As and an A-. My number nine ornament is a snow icicle - so quick and simple to crochet it is almost a crime. Anyway, went to Pier 1 with my youngest tonight to help him pick out a few stocking stuffers for his girlfriend. I looked with longing at some of the ornaments which were reasonably priced at $2.99. But I have to say there is something pretty cool at having a tree decorated completely with ornaments you've crafted yourself. The Pier 1 ornaments were sure darn cute but so are mine. And I think that even my sons feel some pride with our homespun tree.

Now that the tree is up and decorated for the most part I am glad I embarked on my knitted/crochet ornament project. It did help to keep me occupied and focused during this somewhat trying time of year and for that I am thankful. Having the tree up and looking so charming is instilling a bit of the holiday spirit and for it being the longest and darkest day of the year, that is something. And better late than never with just 4 days til the big day.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Eighth Day of Christmas

Little mittens for the tree in lime and bright blue, favorite colors of mine.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Peace, Joy and Hope

My girlfriend sent me a text mid-afternoon asking if I wanted to go to an evening Christmas service tonight. I wasn't feeling up to it - just kind of depressed and feeling holiday bluesy. But I know that when I do get out and about that I end up feeling better so I agree to go. I am so glad I did. The music and service were powerful and wondrous.

The pastor spoke about the fragility of life. Widows know all about that. So on one hand, we're heads up on cherishing life and our loved ones. On the other hand, we also get the hard reality of how our lives can be altered in an instant. And at least in my case, that has left me at times, scared and paranoid. I guess you could call our first hand knowledge of death a blessing and a curse.

But I was glad the pastor spoke of this. There seems to be so much frantic rushing around right now. People out in their cars talking on cell phones, speeding to get to a store and reviewing their shopping lists are not paying attention to what this season is really about.

I was really struck by the pastor's mention of love - how God is so loving... And he added that that's pretty much the message here - being loved (by God), and then spreading joy and love to others. I felt somewhat ashamed comparing myself to God tonight. And how as a human, I fall way short at times of being more loving. Widowhood has resulted in some bitterness in my spirit. And I think the day-to-day grind and financial struggles sometimes overpower my desire to be a better person.

But I felt revitalized and hopeful by the words I heard tonight. The pastor spoke about how at this time of year we start reviewing the old year and planning for the one ahead. I was inspired to focus on the promise of what lies ahead and to be more mindful of this season's message which is love. And this can be translated to whatever religion or beliefs one has - that at our core, love is the force that drives us. And as I have come to believe since my husband's death - the reason we are all here in the first place.

Love + Kindness + Acceptance +Tolerance + Understanding + Compassion + Forgiveness = Peace, Joy and Hope!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Seventh Day of Christmas

Partridges for my tree.

There is a story about these little birds. I wanted to whip up my ornament project quickly and preferred flat patterns to those that needed to be sewn and stuffed. And I really wanted birds on my tree. But couldn't find any patterns in my large stash of patterns and books. Nor any online.

Eventually I ended up going to Half-Price Books not really expecting to find anything. But there was a very artistic crochet book with patterns for children. And this one was an applique for the pockets on a girl's dress. So I got the book for $6.00 and adapted the pattern.

Which just goes to show that not everything can be found on the internet. Although I did find some patterns that could have worked out but they were for sale and I was hoping to find free patterns. But the book is very cute and I'm sure I will use it or be inspired by it in the future.

What is taking up most of my time with these ornaments is the making up and detail work at the end. The actual knitting or crocheting is very quick for me. That is the part I really love. Not all the finishing. I'm a little behind schedule with making 12 of 12 patterns. I waited til my son returned from college to put up our tree. We'll do that tomorrow and put on the ornaments I do have done - there are over 100. Then during the week I'll finish the last 24 ornaments and we can put them up then.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Humdrums

Let me start off first by saying that my oldest has done very well his first semester in college - receiving all As and Bs, which for him, as an average student in high school, is a great achievement. He needs a ride home for winter break and I arranged to take a day off from work to get him. This is because if I worked I wouldn't be able to leave to start the 4-hour drive there until about 3:30. It gets dark now around 4 p.m. and the prospect of so many hours on the road by myself in the dark among cornfields wasn't cutting it. Here is one of those times I wish my husband was around as my helpmate as he loved long-distance driving. And we'd probably make the trip together which would help with the tedium.

This trip we will also be driving home one of the guys on my son's dorm floor because both of his parents work and the kids have to be checked out by 6 p.m. Here is where my Scrooge-like feelings start coming out. I, the widowed, "poor" mom is taking work off and will be driving home a kid from a two-parent home, both with jobs. Why is this family not making arrangements to pick the kid up on Saturday morning or leaving after work, like I've done a number of times, and driving in the dark, like I did?

My son's roommate, who lives 30-minutes away had gotten rides home all semester. He has two parents at home. I would like my son to be the recipient of the generosity of another family for a change.

Then there is a woman I know who for the past 7 years has attended Christmas with my girlfriend and I. She is friends with my girlfriend and I have to sit through a huge ceremony of them opening up their gifts to each other. This woman is older and retired - she is extremely generous to my girlfriend giving her items that total a couple hundred dollars. All these years, I have given this woman a little token gift - homemade breads, goodies and knitted items. She always takes these items eagerly, especially the food. But last year, she re-gifted one of my knitted items back to my girlfriend! My girlfriend and I got a huge laugh about it over wine when we were on our own, but I have to admit that my feelings were slightly hurt. I am feeling so Scrooge-like this year that I don't want to give any cookies or goodies to this woman.

Now, if it were me as this older lady, I would be a little more kind and considerate. After 7 years of get-togethers, I would anticipate her being there and bring a little token gift. This year, I am going to excuse myself from the grand gift exchange between my friend and this lady. I really am not up to oohing and aahing. I've been a good sport about it for years so I'll join the kids in another room and spare myself more feelings of resentment or bitterness.

I'm tired of giving and giving and not getting anything back. They say it is better to give than to receive but like all the other platitudes I've heard in the past years, I find this is not entirely true. Sure, it is wonderful to give, but it is also fun to receive. And it sure isn't fun when you're not receiving anything.

I think I've hit my own personal wall in regard to widowhood. I, personally, cannot take it anymore. I need/want to be part of a team again sharing the driving and exchanging gifts rather than only giving them out. Eight years of this and I am tapped out.

"They" are also fond of saying that only we ourselves control our destiny and our happiness. Yes, there is truth to that. But there is also truth that in marriage both members of the couple do focus on their partner at times. I know when I was married that I made efforts to please my husband and to bring him pleasure. He did the same for me and it was lovely to experience the give and take a relationship brings. There isn't too much give or take in my life as a widow and I'm sick of it. I'm through with widowhood and ready to hang this life up. That is my focus for next year - to leave this widowhood life behind - to start sharing it with a partner and leave this lifestyle in the dust, where it can join Scrooge.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Sixth Day of Christmas

Feeling a bit down today, in contrast to this smiling snowman fella. It gets dark so early and most days are overcast. I dread the cold and upcoming snow, although am grateful none has really fallen yet and that it will be a warm week with rain even. This is a tough time of year for some of us. It takes tremendous emotional energy to get through certain time periods like the holidays. It is hard to describe to the non-widowed. Moving alone through the holidays can bring on a whole new set of feelings of loss and vulnerability.

I think for me, the key will be going back to school and becoming involved in establishing myself in a new career. Part of my angst I find comes from feeling so out of it in regard to career and not having anything to ground me and keep me focused. I so wish I was already back to school. Gosh, another holiday season to get through again. How I long for the day when it isn't like this. When I'm feeling productive and eager to start the day instead of down and out, willing the days to be over.

For now, it is just marking the long, dark, cold days...

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Fifth Day of Christmas

I made 12 of these bells last night and it was fun but got a bit tiring. Next year I think I should plan a project like this earlier, e.g., making one ornament a week, not trying to make a bunch in December. But I'm afraid I know how that goes. Good plans and intentions don't seem to be high priority when they are 12 months away.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oh oh

Was going to post my picture of today's knit/crochet project but can't get computer/blogger to cooperate. This causes a bit alarm. What will I do next year when I'm really all alone and the computer acts up? My youngest has already predicted that I will be calling him at his dorm asking him how to turn on the computer. Now he was just being sarcastic with that but things will come up and I have to be prepared to have a list of people to call/contact if I need help. Just another item to put on the widowed to do list, as if there isn't an overload of projects on it already.

I'll try reposting tomorrow. I've gotten used to having a photo with every post. I should add that my 12 days of Christmas ornaments project is working! It is allowing me to concentrate and focus on a task that is taking my mind off negative thoughts during this holiday season. I will start up a new craft project/goal at the new year with the same idea in mind. So that is good.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The First Day of Christmas

In an effort to "delight" in the joy of this holiday season, I am challenging myself to create 12 crocheted or knitted tree ornaments for each of the first 12 days of December from my yarn stash. So today, I have 12 crocheted stars as a start. I've already been working on this so have gotten a head start. Anyway, it is my hope that this handiwork will keep my mind and hands occupied. It is our fourth Christmas of living under reduced circumstances and boy am I tired of it. There is no extra money left for discretionary spending and come the holidays it is another burden for an only mom's heart to bear. Next year will be better when I've moved to more affordable housing but next year is still next year and there is still this year to get through.

I'll do my best to put up a tree and have a few gifts for the boys. Somehow we'll manage. But I have to say that I'm not into the holidays this year. The decorations and lights aren't doing much to lift my spirits. I drove through our pretty, quaint, historical downtown last night and noticed that the city reduced the number of lampposts and trees they decorated. Yet I also noticed some houses had two trees inside them. I think back to my years before widowhood when I was gun ho into the holidays. One year I had four trees in my home - one in the family room, the living room, the master bedroom and a small one in the kitchen! Our house had a big picture window in the front and when I put a tree in the master bedroom window, which was over the picture window, it looked like one giant tree.

There have to be people out there who are celebrating very simply this year. But I don't hear of anyone or know anyone. I wish there were more stories or articles out there with advice on coping with the holidays under reduced circumstances. I heard that the average American will be spending about $700.00 on gifts this year. Wow! Maybe someone can interview me, the mom spending $70.00!

As tough as it is, getting through this one last difficult Christmas, I don't want to be all gloomy and doomy about it, It is what it is. Just like my widowhood situation. I'm a widow. Money is tight. Life is challenging. There are times that I don't think I can take it anymore. But all in all, December lasts just one month. And the first day of the month is already over. Only 30 more to go!