Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Packing and Packing

Summer Toys
Just a brief update. The move and moving is proving pretty much terrible. I would rank the process up there as one of the most stressful. I've been rather upset about it all on the pity path of "poor me, I have to do this all on my own." My therapist wants me to work on my "victim mentality" and to use my anger over moving alone by swearing as I pack boxes and trying to pack faster. So far those strategies haven't helped much but talking to a therapist has, and I really, really want to start chucking this victim mentality and move way beyond that.

So, as much as I'd like to be lazing about, my time is being spent frantically packing. I've had to go ahead and hire a mover realizing that I just can't move everything on my lonesome, especially from the second floor of an apartment complex. My youngest son can't help with any lifting anyway. I hate having to spend the money for a moving company but now that I have one, I do feel less stressed. I'm still doing all the packing on my own and some of the moving to save as much of the cost as possible.

I'm planning on using the first few weeks after the boys are in school to unpack, sort and organize a new household. That will end up being a vacation for me and that I am looking forward to. But for now I have to keep at this unpleasant chore.

Even with my best intentions of getting rid of possessions, it is amazing that I do have so much stuff! I'm not happy about owning so much. What I'm finding as I sort through everything, is that what means the most to me are those items not worth anything monetarily - photos, scrapbooks, family videos, the ceramic pots my sons made, and their trophies.

My sons both took a number of ceramics classes in high school. For some reason, all the pots, vases and bowls they made tended to be green and blue. So I've decided to use them all as the focal point for the living room of my new home. I'm going to emphasize decorating with what I most love and will try to keep things uncluttered and simple. I can't wait for the day I unpack those pots. I want them to be the first thing I see when I open the front door and look into my home. I will be sure to post a photo.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Unmotivated and Hot, so Hot!

Garden Inspiration
I long to have a garden next summer and am hoping that by that time I am rested, restored and reinvigorated enough to have the energy to create one. As of now, I am unmotivated and very, very hot. This summer's heat wave has not been a good thing in regard to moving. The apartment is often 95 degrees even with the air on and I just can't get my energy up to start going through stuff and then packing it. This move has me feeling utterly overwhelmed to the point of inaction. I just don't want to have to do anything "hard" again on my own. 

My last move, a heavy box feel on my foot and although it was probably not broken, I was unable to walk for a good two weeks. I was so bruised over my body as well from the physical carrying and lifting of boxes. I remember the physical and emotional exhaustion of that time, and quite frankly am resisting going back there. I know I am a broken record about this but doing everything on one's own 24/7 doesn't in my opinion make someone stronger - I just feel myself getting weaker and now just totally wanting to escape from the responsibility of yet another major task solo.

I wish I could leave all my possessions and belongings behind - literally not have to deal with them. But that is not practical or possible because I don't have the money to be able to buy new furnishings and such. 

I know that I should just start packing up a box - anything, anywhere, just do something. But I seem to be stalling til the last minute. I truly feel emotionally and physically drained from the experiences over the years involving my husband's illness, death and then only parenting. I need some advice on how to quickly regain some fighting spirit to get me through this move and will consult with my counselor tomorro

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hope for a Safe Landing

Summer Planter

Mood has been widely fluctuating as of late. Am glad I have started to speak with a counselor. Her take on things is that #1 Widowhood is a very lonely road, #2 Now that I've successfully raised the boys and they are both off to college, there is no one to thank me, appreciate my efforts or celebrate with me and #3 since I have more time to think, now that the focus is off getting both boys out of high school in this community, my mind can wander and go back to grief/loss/anger issues. She likened it to a door that has been closed now opening, meaning that I'd put some of the issues I need to deal with aside in lieu of concentrating on raising my sons.

I continue to just feel drained and exhausted. What is really getting me down is the prospect of moving in a few weeks - the actual physical packing and so on. I am really so sick and tired of facing all these major life transitions on my own. At the end of May I dealt with my youngest son's shoulder surgery. My close girlfriend had her ex-husband with her in the waiting room when her son had the exact same surgery back in January. She said she needed him there and wouldn't have been able to get through it on her own. Well, I can say she would have made it through because I got through it alone. She kindly offered to be there with me but then a conflict at her job arose. I insisted that she not take a day off from work. In fact, I told her that I have gotten used to being on my own. And maybe that is true that I'm used to it but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

So I'll get through the packing, hauling and moving. I have to. What needs to get done does get done. And in the meantime, I want to be more hopeful and positive about the future. To focus on new beginnings and all that. I will close by relating that I hope the future brings with it some stability. When I was married I felt content, secure and stable. Widowhood has brought with it such disparity and instability. Marriage was predictable for the most part - I knew what to expect and if something unusual came up, at least I had a partner with me to help navigate the unknown.

So I think simply by its nature, that widowhood is an erratic and unique experience. Here I am, having to make another major move during a time of intense transition (becoming an empty-nester). I am envious of married folks who haven't lost their homes and had to pack up their lives and possessions. That experience in and of itself has been a pretty damming one in my life.

Widowhood for me has been like falling off this cliff - the past years I've tried vainly to land someplace safe but I think that I've only been able to grab a temporary stronghold until that has broken loose and I've fallen again. I do so dearly hope, that this next chapter will allow me to land someplace a little more firmly so I can create a measure of peace and stability greatly desired and needed.

I am also somewhat frustrated by the huge range of emotions I feel widowhood and now this new transition have brought with it. I am trying to spin the situation positively but at the same time seem so overcome by what is coming out with the empty-nest stuff. The turmoil that goes on internally in all directions, the ups and downs of this life situation can be hard to face and manage.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


My First Car
Some weeks back I saw this car in a parking lot and snapped the photo because it is the same car I drove 25 years ago! What a hoot! Back then, as today, I was environmentally conscious and drove a tiny stick-shift compact. I stopped driving it and updated to a stick-shift sedan for safety reasons after I had my sons.

When I flipped through my photos to select one for this post, this one made me smile. Despite how trying life can be, at least I have progressed to a better car at present! I will say though, that I did love that little blue first car. I only had to fill the gas tank twice a month. And it always got me to my destination. When my husband drove it though, he got teased by other men and always told them it was his wife's car. So this photo brought back a memory that made me smile again.

This morning, the head of the social work department at a major university kindly spent about 45-minutes with me on the phone discussing my defunct degree situation. He told me that he is aware of a few other individuals in the same position and it is a lousy one, pure and simple. His suggestion is that I go back to school to obtain another counseling psychology degree but I just refuse to do that. He also strongly advised me against going back for a BA - every educational professional I have spoken to has agreed with that. It is just not worth the hassle of completing gen eds and it would be difficult being in classes when I am at a different educational/professional level than my peers.

I admitted that I truly feel like weeping over this. Here I am, finally ready and able to work in my profession and I will not be able to fully realize that potential without more education, which I thought I had obtained years ago. I do figure that I can obtain a social services job somewhere, but I will not be able to counsel clients or work independently which is my professional goal.

Tomorrow morning I have my first counseling appointment where I can bring up the empty-nest and defunct degree dilemmas. I am curious and hopeful to receive some professional guidance.

The kind department head made a very nice comment to me. As I was explaining the situation and why I'd taken time off from my career, he replied that what I had done in caring for my boys and devoting my focus and energy toward them was indeed very admirable. I need to remember that often. That what I did wasn't for naught and it has had meaning.

Maybe part of my discontent right now has to do with my desire to be out there full force and back in the saddle again. It is hard to realize that changes may take time to achieve. I didn't get into this situation overnight and certainly I can't expect to have my life up and running overnight.

There is also the aspect of change. I recently read that human beings have a great deal of difficulty with change. We dislike it and try and avoid it much of the time in lieu of keeping the status quo. I think about all the changes made to my life because of widowhood and I can agree with hating change. Widowhood changes were forced on me. It again feels like more changes are being forced because of my sons growing up and moving off to college. Despite how difficult life has been the past few years, there is some reluctance in letting it go because of fear of the future and the unknown. Once those boys are dropped off at college in August, my life will not be familiar. I suppose that is adding to the angst of my emotions right now.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Taking Summer Stock

Grilling Season
Today I woke up with the intention of forcing myself to face the day. Groaning and moaning aren't going to accomplish anything. I am working on some financial aid matters for my youngest and even called for some information about school for me. Again, I was informed of the same bad news - my master's degree is essentially worthless and if I want to practice as a licensed counselor in Illinois, I'll have to get another master's in psych/counseling. The school I talked to today quoted me a cost of 60 grand for their 2-year program, which is of course out of the question at this point. I will have to attend a state school for financial reasons if I do decide to go back.

The reality of this news is just crushing me. I knew about this a few years back but was able to keep it away some distance by concentrating on parenting my sons. Now that I'll be facing the job market this issue needs to be confronted head-on. I can't keep it at bay any longer. My career goal is to be able to have my own practice in the areas of grief/elder care. But to accomplish that I'll have to get training/education. 

The empty-nest transition I'm looking at dead in the eye would be easier I think if I had a career or job to hang on to. But I'm hitting this empty-nest life without one, along with moving to a new community. I don't have a partner/husband/guy friend to help fill the soon-to-be free hours with time and attention either. I'm starting to feel scared and empty.

This is all becoming a bit more for me to bear on my lonesome. I called my health insurance plan this a.m. to see if I have mental counseling coverage and my plan allows for UNLIMITED coverage. So I got a local referral so I can start talking to someone about all these changes to my life. I will post about any revelations related to longer-term widowhood and the transitions that result.

Interestingly, I am becoming very teary-eyed of late. I feel as though I am emotionally regressing. I have strong feelings of anger about my husband's death, which you'd think after 8 years would have lessened. Now that I don't have the boys to think about so much, my mind is going back to the bad stuff. I feel such sadness and loss that my husband isn't here to share in the boys' academic successes. And I am also upset and cross about feeling so tired and worn down. I think the real RX is a vacation STAT!

But anyway, I'll update about any new developments to mood and outlook.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cumulative Effects

This is going to be a crappy post - be forewarned - you don't have to read if you're looking for positive stuff. That's just not in me today. Over the years I've gotten a fair share of criticism that these posts are far too negative. So I feel guilty for blogging. And then I feel a need to explain myself. Which I don't really think is necessary. I mean this is my blog, my posts, my thoughts. I should be able to do whatever I want with this. But I guess I do want to clarify that for the most part I try and put on a good game face - most of the time. There are still times like this though when like the photo of the tree, I just feel so broken, down and out - dispirited and lonely. Sick and tired of holding up the fort for the boys and I, weary of the day-to-day doing it all on my own...

Then the tide shifts and I'm back at it with more confidence and strength. Though the point is, I think that people do break down from the load. They snap and tumble. There seems to be this belief (false) that widows need to keep strong and at it. Whenever I break and fall it is like I have failed and people aren't sympathetic - sometimes even other widows. "Too bad," I say. This is the nature of extended widowhood. All the crap about becoming stronger because you have to do everything on your own. Years ago I used to respond to that silly phrase "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" with the exact opposite - "What doesn't make you stronger does indeed kill you." Or maybe I should say instead of killing you, weakens you. 

 Widowhood can be a very wearying life because of the emotional and physical intensity involved. It is taxing. I have nothing positive to say about the widowhood experience. Hence, since I'm blogging about long-term widowhood, my posts tend to have a negative vibe. This has begun to really bother me. Maybe it is better to stop posting - I've struggled with this on and off since I've been posting. But I will leave that contemplation for another time.

Here in greater Chicago suburbia, we were hit with a violent storm last Sunday that knocked out power for many for days - til Thursday! Our community fire works and 4th of July parade and celebrations were all cancelled, which was sad. Then there was the excessive heat - a record of 3, 100-degree days in a row for this area. The heat was hellish. It made me think about extremes. Since widowhood, I have just hated anything that is extreme - frigid cold that is 40 degrees below zero; 12 inch snow storms and in summer crazy storms and hideous heat. 

I just want life to be smooth sailing without the extremes - day after day of predictable 70 degree weather with no rain and only sun.

Someone recently reminded me that real life isn't like this - for most of us, it involves dealing with major bumps along the road. Upon thinking about this I believe for me, that I don't do well handling significant stress (bumps in the road) on my own. In school I always preferred working in a group vs. on my own. The same for marriage or being in a relationship. Even in high school/college, I did not like being alone and sought out relationships.

When last Sunday's storm hit, I thought it was a tornado and I was frightened. Part of me inside said, "Oh no, I have to deal with this alone - I don't want to do this alone - I want someone here beside me helping me figure out what to do. I want and need someone to provide mutual comfort and support."

I think a lot of this current state of mind comes from my starting to become even more freaked out by both my sons going off to college. The realization that I will really be living alone, on my own, in a home completely alone for most of the year is really dawning on me. All these years I've been so focused on my boys and getting them raised on my own - that was my main job and occupation. And I realize now that for the most part I won't have that daily focus anymore. I've been alone in parenthood the past years but now I'm going to be really, really alone. This transition is disconcerting to me. 

I read recently that some people "hide" behind their marriages. Perhaps I'm guilty of hiding behind my parenting. It did become a focus and source of my energy to go on after my husband's death. I've put pretty much all of my focus and energy into it. So I am realizing that there isn't a lot of substance remaining in terms of a job or friends or new partner. Of course I am aware that now I will have the freedom and energy to devote time to myself - meet new friends, maybe travel a bit, have fun, be a little selfish, explore job options. And that is exciting and good. 

But bottom line, there is still loss involved in this new phase of my life. And along with "extremes," I'm not up for more loss. My personal insight into that comment about everyone having to face stress in life and bumps along the road, is that of course that is true. But maybe the difference between facing the bumps or "extremes" as I am feeling them is that life can be easier faced with the love, support and hands of others be they partners, family or friends. Facing life endlessly alone isn't healthy or productive. Widows hopefully can call on others for some support and help. But there is still a gap - like those 10 minutes of experiencing 90-per-mile winds alone.

Well, I could go on and on in this vein because it is one of those things that doesn't really have an immediate resolution. It is what it sadly is.

The heat wave broke late last night and it is about 83 degrees right now. Yeah! As it is in nature, the storm passes and normalcy is restored. I've vented and released some of the fear and sadness I'm experiencing about this new phase of my life. I just remembered something the weather people kept referring to over the week - "cumulative effects of the heat." Our bodies keep increasing the effects of the heat over time leading to more stress and strain on our systems. The same could be likened to widowhood and its cumulative effects as well.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Creating Intimacy

Two by Two

When I was married, I never felt alone. I had an adult partner to talk to, interact and sleep with. My husband was a companion and helpmate, a co-parent. Since his death I have realized that in order to have emotional interactions with others, I have to make the effort to create intimacy. It just isn't there like it was when I lived with a married partner. I have also since realized the great necessity we all have for emotional intimacy. I believe it is a deep human need and truly important for our emotional well being, health and survival.

It is hard to always have to create what we need. It becomes a job, an effort. I have been reflecting on these feelings since an encounter with a fellow widow, a mom my age of two daughters, both in college. We have been trying to get together for about a year now. She has been widowed five years to my eight. I was really looking forward to talking to her, especially about her empty-nest experiences and feelings.

This woman was at a recent graduation party I attended and I made a point to set up a "date." She invited me to her home for a pizza dinner. Now her sister overheard us making our plans and "invited" herself to join us. The woman looked about as distressed as I felt with this development - we had wanted an opportunity to talk and relate privately about our lives with someone on our same page. She assured me that she would take care of her sister so we could meet alone.

When I showed up at her home I was actually angry and bitter to see the sister there. I felt irritated and resentful. It took a few moments for me to compose myself and go with the flow so I had a decent evening. Then to top it off, the widow's mom showed up as well! But by that time I was resigned to the situation. Fellow widow and I didn't get the opportunity to share and support one another. The conversation flowing was more general than I hoped. Widow's youngest daughter was there too and we talked a lot about her Freshman year experience.

But what I had really hoped for was some time to let my hair down with another widow and compare notes so to speak. This didn't happen and it made me sad because it is difficult to arrange intimate encounters - they don't occur every day and it seemed that an opportunity had been lost to uplift two widows in need.

This other widow has a very close and supportive family and that was sure evident. I thought that her family was actually kind of intrusive and I had to control myself from speaking my mind. What would I have said? Probably something along the line of people needing to be more considerate of a widow's need to vent with someone who shares her circumstances. I also would have said something about how married people have a built-in intimacy factor, even if they aren't particularly close. Just living with another adult under the same roof    provides some level of intimacy. My divorced girlfriend has become so aware of this that it is difficult for her to be in social situations where the wives put down their hubbies. She actually has to leave if this happens.

This whole situation just soured me. We'd all just been together at the graduation party so this was supposed to be a time of private healing for fellow widow and I. Instead, it was just another group event without the one-on-one intimacy I crave and miss in my current life. There was definitely irritation at the sister who is married and invited herself to join us - a sort of mean reaction by me against this woman for not being able to get past what she needed (selfishness).

As I left for the evening, fellow widow whispered to me that we'd go out to dinner next time alone. Hopefully we can manage to get together sooner than the year it took last time.

On the Road

Where am I going?

I am beginning to feel a bit anxious about the upcoming empty-nest aspect of my life soon approaching. The articles I have found online do indicate that widowed empty-nesters may have a more difficult time adjusting than those who are coupled.

I realize how much of my life energy I have poured into raising my sons the past years. That focus is what kept me going through some pretty challenging times. But now that that focus is lessened, I do feel empty and kind of without a purpose. It doesn't help that I'm not employed and still don't have a place to call my future home, although I am working on that.

So, I need to find a job and then figure out what to do with my career - go back to school for yet another degree? Why not? I'll have lots of free time to research and write papers.

Then I need to revamp my social life which is sadly lifeless at this point. I will have to relearn how to take care of my needs and wants for a change. I'm actually wondering if that is even possible at this point - I've been such a caregiver of others all my life.

Those tasks now seem rather daunting to me. And they are on top of still managing all the little details of life on my own.

I'm extremely tired and weary. The only-parenting took a toll out of me - much more than the grief of my husband's death.

It appears that this next chapter will continue to include some bumps in the road. I'm trying to feel excited and energized about free time and less financial strain. But while I can see some of the pluses, I also realize that they come with even more loss - both of my boys at college and me really ALONE. It is a joyful time in celebrating my sons' successes, yet bittersweet because it is a time of adjustment and change - YET AGAIN! I just feel that widowhood has been this endless journey of adjustment and change and what I need and long for is a period of predictable stability and sameness. Without the loneliness and being alone too.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Country View

Peace in the Country

I have been busy the past few weeks looking after my youngest who had surgery on his shoulder May 30th. My older son and I have also been hitting the highway in my search for a new home in the country. Relocating to a rural setting, which has been my dream the past three years is turning out not to be such an enjoyable experience. I think this is because I have such a short deadline in which to find a place to live, as my current lease expires at the end of July and I have given notice. I am also experiencing first hand that old reality that when you need something you can't find it, whereas when you don't need it, there it is! Over the past year when I couldn't move yet, I found numerous great opportunities. Now it seems that well is dry and I feel a bit discouraged.  

Got to keep the faith and all that. Being able to move out of suburban Chicago sprawl and into a more laid-back and relaxed location has been the dream I've held on to the past three years since having to sell and move from my home. That dream kept me going during some pretty trying times so I've got to hold on now that I really am ready and able to move. But this weekend I am taking a break from the stress and fatigue of travel and house hunting to hang around and cook a nice meal, catch up on the ever constant laundry cycle and so on.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What Really Matters

"The _________ Scholarship is awarded to three students. The students selected for this award have exhibited the following traits; integrity, loyalty to friends, responsibility, industriousness, competitive involvement in school activities, sincerity and honesty. This year's recipients will receive a scholarship which will be paid to the university of their choice. This year's recipients are:
1. __________
2. __________
3. My younger son!"

I was surprised at the Senior Honors Assembly when my son received this award. I had attended the function, thinking he was going to receive a plaque for community involvement. It turns out that will be sent to him. And as it turns out, this award is far, far better because it involves a substantial monetary amount that will alleviate my freaking out over the cost of college textbooks for both Freshman year semesters and then some!

In a way, this award is a fitting symbol of our journey up to this point. It really signifies what has been most important to me in raising my sons on my own. Not that these traits wouldn't have been important had my husband remained alive. It is that since his death, I have realized how much more of value these traits are.

When I related these traits to someone who knows my son, he nodded and agreed that they are an accurate description of him.


To know that my son, as well as my eldest, have learned and incorporated these traits into their beliefs and actions makes me truly proud. Because these are traits that I have tried to live my life by. Widowhood has been a great challenge for me. I joke that I have not been a particularly successful widow. But joking aside, to reach this point with the knowledge that despite all the hardships and difficulties, there is some success, brings a measure of comfort.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Bit of Comfort and Peace

It is hard for me to believe that my oldest has successfully completed his first year of college! He just got his second semester grades - all As except for a C+ in English. His professor was very difficult - she failed him on one paper for using the wrong font and another because he only turned in 4 1/2 pages instead of 5. I told him it wouldn't be a full college experience without having a tough professor. He'll be telling stories about her 10 years from now!

When I dropped him off last August I didn't really know how he would do academically. He was a lack luster high schooler. I hoped for the best and he exceeded my expectations. There were plenty of kids on his dorm floor that flunked out first semester. One guy he told me, NEVER attended any of his classes! So I am proud and relieved! It all worked out. And it did go quickly looking back.

My youngest has just two days of official school left. I was called on Wednesday by the school and invited to the Senior Honors Assembly because my son will be receiving an award. The school told me not to tell him because they want the kids to be surprised but he suspects he will be getting something. He is in a very strange, moody spell. I know he isn't happy that he has to have surgery on his shoulder the end of this month but it is not an option. Anyway, he told me he doesn't want me to attend the honors assembly because "high school is stupid." And now he doesn't want to even walk in his graduation although he will be receiving a special tassel. I suspect the award is for community involvement and citizenship - when the guidance office called, they didn't know what the kids were getting. They just got a list of the student names. Now he is telling me that he did a lot of his high school activities to help bolster his college applications so because his efforts weren't entirely unselfish, he shouldn't be getting an award.

Right now my son is participating in the American Cancer Relay for Life. Yes, it is because his Dad died of cancer. My oldest son, has been a big participant in this event too. And yes, my son is a regular blood donor as was his father. But the way I look at it, he is up and doing something - not sitting on his bottom like other kids. Last year there wasn't an award given for community involvement. I am proud and honored my son will be receiving it this year and only wish he wasn't in so much of a weird, end-of-senior-year-funk.

Raising two boys through late childhood and their teenage years on my own has sure had its trying moments! I keep trying to believe when all is said and done, that what I'll remember the most will be the good times and not the bad. That 10 years from now, hopefully what I'll most recall is the award my son received and not his demand that I not see him receive it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I have some spare time waiting for laundry so will post about a topic that usually makes me happy - my sons. I'll be picking up my college boy soon. It is hard to believe that he has finished his first year of college! If you had told me two years ago that we'd be able to get him to college at a state school instead of the local community college I would not have believed you. But we did it! And he has done so well!

I will purposely omit the story about his going to Volleyball Nationals in Kansas City for a week in March and only having a loaf of bread and package of cold cuts to eat along with some Ramen Noodles...

But anyway, when your kids leave home you end up hoping for the best - that they will be good citizens, law abiding, fair, honest, decent and so on. Not to mention hard working. My son became very concerned about his grades and GPA. In part, because he is paying for a large share of his schooling. He worked productively and was one of only about 7 students to get a job at the college Athletic Center for next year. He will be working in the equipment room and the head of the center told him that he interviewed the best out of the applicants. By the way, about 150 students applied for the Athletic Center jobs!

I asked him about his music composing because he has been so gifted at that. He told me that he has branched off in a new direction doing DJ stuff on the computer. He learned how to play the piano in three weeks and just got an A on his piano final. In his Vocal Jury, his professor came to him afterward which is not the norm, to tell him how well the jury all felt he had done. His music adviser heard his DJ compositions and told him to try selling them online now for commercial use. She said it is pretty amazing that he has only been involved in that type of composing since starting college, and has come up with some very top notch pieces. She further told him that music is a very tough business to be in but she believes that he truly has the talent to continue successfully in the field. So he is very fired up about continuing his music major.

My son worked as many hours as he could during all his school breaks and will continue at his local job here at home. But he can start at the Athletic Center early over the summer and is eager for that to begin. They love him there - he worked out every day and practiced for the volleyball team two nights a week so he already knows a lot of people there.

Although he would love to join a fraternity, he feels it might be too much to do so with his campus job and being on the volley ball team. Oh, I forgot to add, that they only took 9 team members to Nationals - as a Freshman that was a pretty exciting opportunity.

My son is happy to have a break from studying and is happy to see his friends from high school. But I told him that after a week he will probably want to go back to school! Haha.

My youngest has his shoulder surgery scheduled for May 30th. He only has 8 more days left of school and is so ready to be at college. He plans on becoming a Dorm Resident Adviser. He has done well academically the last years of high school and will be studying Business Marketing and Advertising. There is also interest in teaching like his dad so he might pursue that as well.

ALL of us are ready to find a new place to live out in the country. It would be ideal if we can get a place halfway between both of the boys' colleges. I will be looking at two places when I pick up my son. At this point we have only two more months left on my lease and time is of the essence to find a new home. It is becoming an exciting time of transition for all of us. Moving away is actually a good thing for all of us right now. It is symbolic of us going forward and reaching toward new directions. Moving also gives us a fresh, new start and that is something positive for my family as well.

Here is to the future and new beginnings - and to my sons continuing to open their wings - and to me flying forward!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring Update

So here is an update on the past few weeks. Speaking of updates, I notice that since I've been gone, there have been some to Blogger. Change is hard for me, especially computer-related ones. So I'm a bit down about losing what has been familiar to me for a number of years. But I do get that change is good and out with the old, in with the new and all that too. But anyway...:

Survived taxes. Have never completed a return on my own EVER! But due to lack of funds to pay H&R Block this year had to buckle down and complete six! Three Federal (the boys and I) and three State. It was a scary and tough ordeal. On Friday the 13th, received tax info. in the mail that required me to basically redo the returns. And end up paying taxes along with the boys. Unexpected and nerve racking. All in all it took me about a week and eight trips to two libraries for forms. My youngest did make a point of telling me that he was impressed with my ability to face the job. And in the end, I have to say that I learned a lot. But I will gladly hand back the job to H&R Block next year. I can see why they are in business. Doing the taxes on your own can be confusing and I'm worried of errors.

Survived Prom with my youngest. Survived my oldest needing money to pay off some of his college balance so he could register for next year's classes. Survived a lot of medical visits and consultations, physical therapy and MRI with my youngest concerning an internal left shoulder tear. Surgery has now been recommended.

My youngest has only a few weeks left of school before graduation. He has basically checked out of high school and can't wait for college to begin. But we still have to work out the surgery...

Sitting in the physical therapist's waiting room I overhear the secretary make reminder appointment calls. I get a pang hearing that most of the calls involve someone on the other end taking a message and assisting the patient. Most of the people coming into the office are with someone to assist them as well. Especially the older people. I miss not having someone to lean on and am just very, very tired. I think it is a reflection of where I am in this journey. Getting the younger son out of high school and off to college. It has been a long road. It has been more difficult than easy. It has been lonely and challenging.

I want to whoop it up and celebrate. But I still am facing moving and finding a new place to live. Also, need to seek employment once I'm settled. And try to make a new life for myself with both boys away at college. It is a period of adjustment and change. As if there hasn't been enough of that already over the past years!

I'm trying to listen to my inner soul and being. What it is telling me now is to take a big long rest and vacation as soon as I have the means to do so. And to laugh and smile more while worrying and frowning less. Not there yet.

Having reached this point of my journey I have a new respect for myself. I kind of don't care what anyone thinks about me or my flaws or decisions I've made over the past years. Raising two young boys to adulthood along with all the other challenges that have presented themselves over the years on my own is an accomplishment and I should be holding my head up high. There is no one waiting for me at home when I return from the doctor's office - or to take a message to remind me of an appointment. I don't totally buy into the belief that doing things on one's own leads to strength and power. Yes, of course, some. But on the other hand, it also leads to exhaustion and severe stress. Let's not forget that.

At the post prom party old photos of all the Seniors were up on the walls including Kindergarten and 5th grade photos. Seeing my son's 5th grade photo, I was struck by the realization that when that photo had been taken, his dad had been deceased almost a year. That hit a nerve with me. That he was nine when his dad died and will turn 18 in a few weeks. Nine years that I've been sole nurturer, parent, care taker, bread winner, role model, disciplinarian. No wonder I need that vacation STAT!!! And I'm not afraid to admit that either!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where is the Forest?

Having trouble seeing the forest through the trees right now. Didn't mean to worry anyone. Thank you for all of your kind and caring concern.

I'm just really, really tired - emotionally exhausted and drained. Like everything from the past years has all caught up with me. It is hard to explain. People don't seem to understand and I don't want to post negativity. Really, I've reached the point where I want to put a lot of my past behind and focus on the future.

But times are a bit rough right now. Trying to stay on the path and plug on through. In actuality, only have about a month and a half until relocating/moving.

I'll try to convey what is inside me - maybe others have been there. I think some of it has to do with long-term widowhood. The nitty-gritty of having to always face the little normal aspects of life alone. And then having to face the more turbulent aspects of life also alone.

Worrying about tax filings, paying the rent, keeping the cars running and maintained, washing the laundry, signing field trip permission forms, cooking, cleaning, managing the other bills including college fees...

The other night my youngest woke me up for comfort after a nightmare. Then my oldest frequently calls me from college for advice or support. I'm happy to be there for my boys but at the same time there is a part of me that longs for a supportive adult to comfort me after one of my frequent nightmares.

My youngest is facing shoulder surgery and a part of me kind of crumbled with this development. Dealing with insurance, physical therapy, doctor referrals, etc. on my own, yet again. I worry about making a wrong decision and not having someone to consult with on a personal level. That is what I mean about the emotional tiredness.

Since being widowed the merry-go-round has just never ceased. And for whatever reason I've reached a point where the endless spinning around has made me dizzier than usual.

In terms of posting about all this I've figured what is the point? It is what it is. Right now I'm just a bit low and drained and hopefully life will swing up again and I'll feel more alive.

There is also a part of me that feels horrible about my being so emotionally drained - and I suppose tired of the 10 or so years I've been only parenting. I think about the Octo Mom with 14 little ones and here I'm having trouble or complaining?

But again it is what it is. I'm feeling what I feel and dealing with life as I'm experiencing it. For a long time I thought that the worst part of widowhood was going to all those school events on my lonesome. I want to change that now to the worst part being handling EVERYTHING on one's own for year after long year. For me personally, I do better as a team player and don't enjoy all this solo flying.

So now all of the bad stuff is out and hopefully life will become more stable with a clearer picture of the forest and the trees.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring is Sprung

Today I had to go to the doctor so I could get a refill on my blood pressure medication. The office would not refill my prescription without a visit. I was not happy about the $20.00 co-pay. Gosh, finances are so tight that a mere 20 bucks having to be spent is cause alone for my blood pressure to rise!

I noticed these blooming flowers driving into the medical complex parking lot and vowed to snap a photo on my way out. Here the past two weeks we have been having a strange heat wave. Today it hit 87 degrees and everything is blooming a good month or two ahead of schedule. None of us have ever seen such an early spring. In fact, up until this year, there has never even been a day hitting 70 in March and we have now had a week of them.

It was good I had to see the doctor because my blood pressure continues to be high and cause for concern. So I got a new prescription. Considering that high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks run in my family this is probably a prudent measure. The doctor does not believe my exercising more or trying to lose weight will have much of an impact but I am vowing to try to improve more in these areas. Even though my sons are older, I still need to be around for them as long as I can. I need to make more of an effort taking care of myself and being healthy mentally and emotionally. The doctor does believe that stress is a factor along with my genetics.

I wonder if I weren't widowed would I not be dealing with this issue? I know for sure that I wouldn't be experiencing this level of stress in my life, nor would I have had the amount of stress I've experienced since my husband's death. Higher stress and widowhood might be correlated for some of us.

Anyway, despite the gloomy prognosis, I tried to see a bit of beauty in the day and to pay attention to it. For me, these pretty red blooms did the trick.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patty's Day

I am very, very tired of late. My youngest told me the other day that I need to snap out of my funk. Kind of just drifting and going through the motions. In four months we will be gone from this location and I have started to panic at all that needs to get accomplished by then. Having moved from a large home three years ago, I am aware of all that is entailed with a major relocation. Doing it all on my own again... Packing, sorting, tossing, physically moving furniture and boxes, the emotions involved with discarding the old...

Spring has sprung early. I should be relieved that Old Man Winter is gone for another season but am almost too weary to rejoice in the warm weather. I also seem to suffer from PMS-related depression so mid-month my anxiety increases and my mood plummets.

This is where I am - not particularly a good place but where I am for the now. I have been reflecting on and trying to prepare mindfully for the strength I will need to really embrace four months from now when both boys will be at college and I'll be a widowed empty-nester. The reality of this part of my life and I think widowhood in general, is that widows have to constantly reinvent themselves and forge new paths in their lives. That is very tiring to face over and over, yet alone have to live through.

Eight years of raising my sons on my own after almost three years of care giving to a sick and dying husband. It all catches up with you. To move past this period of my life is long overdue. It is fitting and necessary to be physically moving from this location as it will represent a new beginning and options for me and my family. Leaving the area is the best prescription for us.

But in the meantime, I still have to live and get through the upcoming days and months. Hope a little St. Patrick's Day luck will come our way and to everyone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Communications 100

Ready to see more green.

My college son received the highest midterm exam grade, a 98%, out of all three of the communication classes his professor teaches. Considering that my son only made average grades in high school, his doing so well in college, is indeed a pleasure. I've been thinking about communication over the winter, sparked in part by two commercials that have been airing. Both are for cell phone minutes.

In viewing these commercials, I've been struck by the disparity that can sometimes exist in our great country. Many times. there are contradictions in certain beliefs vs. behaviors. I think this disparity can come up during periods of grief and widowhood and end up making difficult situations more so. But for now I will focus on the topic of communication.

Both commercials feature teens. In the first, an adolescent male about age 16 is sitting on the steps of his home talking to his girlfriend. His apparent father is reading the paper in a wing chair at the bottom of the stairs. The son does not realize his dad is there. He and his girlfriend are arguing over who is the better listener. He goes so far as to sing a song he made up for his girlfriend, which in and of itself is hilarious. In a monotone he sings, "Kristen, you are such a good listener." The expression on his father's face if priceless.

Now the second commercial involves another teen couple arguing only this time the girl is telling her boyfriend she is going to give him the silent treatment. This is because her cell phone plan offers enough minutes for her to be able to be on the phone without needing to talk.

Two different commercials and two entirely different views on communication. One advocates the importance of communication and listening, while the other portrays the very real action of people who supposedly care for one another, not speaking as a form of punishment. Whenever I see the silent treatment commercial I want to scream because giving anyone the silent treatment is insulting, immature, nonproductive and hardly a good way of communicating. But we all know people who resort to the silent treatment and we may even have engaged in it ourselves.

Two very divergent ways of looking at communication in our society. I want the teens in the silent treatment commercial to hang out with Kristen and her boyfriend who are at least doing their best to model respectful communication by really listening to each other!

I once read a definition that made an impact with me. It was that the definition of a mature individual as one who can be angry, upset or disappointed with someone but still love them. This would imply that even if we are at odds with a loved one that we have the strength to separate that issue away from our love for them and not end up giving them the silent treatment.

It makes me sad to see the silent treatment being portrayed in a commercial involving teens as an appropriate way of communication. I am also dismayed that so often we end up almost hating our loved ones and certainly treat them in less than kind and loving ways. Why is our society so adversarial? Why is it okay to treat people horribly by being mean, nasty or not even speaking with them?

We all need to listen more, speak less, and offer way less in regard to advice and our personal opinions.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Show Me the Kindness

Photo Caption: Winter Thaw - Finally, Hopefully!

My thoughts have been on kindness the past week. My college boy posts an inspirational weekly quote on Facebook and a recent one was a reminder to be kind to one another. When I saw this I was pretty blown away. Knowing a bit about human development, it is rather rare to have a 19-year-old displaying the level of emotional maturity as my son. Seems to me most college freshman are using Facebook as a social outlet period. For my son to try and use it beyond that to enlighten and do some good in the world makes me downright proud.

I think that most people would consider themselves kind individuals. I mean, who has the courage or self-insight to admit they are unkind? To be unkind isn't flattering and to be kind is one of those basic, take-it-for-granted characteristics we all want more of in our lives. But I really don't find that people are kind. Over the past years I have seen way more selfishness or self-serving behavior vs. kindness. Probably exhibited by people who in the next instant would rate themselves highly on the kindness scale!

I did some research because this subject is perplexing to me and found an explanation of sorts as to why many people aren't kind. As a society, our country does not value kindness and instead values materalism, success and so on more highly. Getting ahead, dog-eat dog, being competitive and winning are all actions in direct contrast to kindness - a more gentle, refined approach and one that sometimes involves not "winning" or being the best.

Everyday I see evidence of unkindness. One example, people passing me and giving me the finger because I'm not driving over the limit. Sometimes I read comments to a news item or event and am amazed at how most are self-rightous, ignorant and rude. For example, there was a news story about folks receivng government assistance and the resulting comments downgrading and insulting these citizens was appalling. Only a few comments were kindhearted, positive and encouraging to these people in need of help. Even on a subject as trivial as the t.v. show "The Bacheolor." This season is controversial with viewers despising the bacheolor and one of the female contestant's, Courtney. To read such negative and meanspirited comments from people who have never met these media-created celebrities is scary to me. How do people get off on attacking and criticizing others, including people they don't even know? When did this become acceptable? Is this how people feel better about themselves? By putting others down? Something is really off kilter here.

A few years ago, going through my divorce, which remains the most painful experience of my life, I made a conscious effort to be more kind. I saw life as a series of decisions or reactions all of which I have control over. So when responding, I'd make a conscious effort to choose a kind action. Sometimes I failed, even knowing I was being less than stellar. But I think by being conscious of my desire to be more kind, I ended up responding far more kindly than if I hadn't been making an effort to do so.

Although I haven't held that same level of kindness consciousness in recent months, it still is in the back of my mind. And I'd say that my son reminded me of the need to be more aware of this in my day-to-day life. I would say that most of us, even those of us making this a priority, can always be more kind in our interactions. We just need to make it more of a priority. Thinking back on this, I actually believe that one New Year's my sole resolution for that year was to simply "Be Kind." For those people who already feel they are kind enough, I say show me the kindness. What do you do, say and how do you act to promote kindness in this world?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Eyes to the Sun

Photo Caption: "Eyes to the sun, even when it is setting."

For those of you interested in the quiz I mention in today's earlier post, it is the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, which measures an individual's character out of 24 strengths. It is very interesting and I have learned some new personal insights taking it. You can find it and a whole bunch of other similar tests at "Authentic Happiness," Dr. Martin Seligman's site. He is the Director of Positive Psychology at the Univ. of Penn.

Anyway, I went back to look up my results on the test and after my top strength, "Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence," my second is "Love of Learning." Again, this is a trait I have held since childhood and it probably explains the strong need I've had for my sons to finish out their schooling here in this top notch school district and high school. This result says that I love school, learning, reading, and visiting museums. I have always placed a huge value on formal education but I also believe that there are opportunities for self-insight and growth every day no matter where we are. We don't have to be in a classroom to learn.

Rounding out my results, I have great "Curiosity and Interest in the World," and love to explore and discover. I do have a strong level of "Gratitude" and take nothing for granted. I show my appreciation. Lastly, I live with "Honesty, Integrity and Genuiness." I live my life in a genuine and authentic manner. I am down to earth, without pretense; a "real" person.

Looking over these strengths I would say that being down to earth, living honestly and authentically is right on mark. I value that I am a very honest person and stress to my sons to always be honest and true to themselves. I am proud that I am down to earth and genuine.

I used to be a much more forgiving person. But since widowhood that quality has suffered. Also, since widowhood my self-motivation seems to have weakened. But now is not the time to focus on weaknesses.

If anyone takes this character test and wants to share their results/insights, please comment. I believe we can learn from one another.

Hoping For More Sun

Photo Caption: "Trying to still see a glimmer of sun."

I am providing an update here because I don't want to leave anyone who is following in the dark. I still hope that my words and experiences have some value being put out there, even though my life has been difficult since widowhood. I took a gamble to try and make it through another year in the area even though I knew it would be very hard and maybe even impossible financially. But I gambled so my son could finish out his senior high school year. I did try and find a family for him to stay with here while I moved last summer and fall. But that option just didn't fully materialize. To now look back and try to punish myself by saying I should have done things differently isn't helpful and adds to my misery. I continue to believe as I always passionately have, that people make the best decisions they can at the time, based on their experiences and the choices at hand.

When you are living life to the barest bone, one unexpected or unplanned event can just send you to your knees. The saying that people are only one paycheck away from disaster is true and probably now more true in this unstable economy.

The past week has been emotionally trying. I know myself. When the situation calls for helping others I am able to rise to the occassion. But when I need to pick myself up, I don't do such a good job. I tend to be immobile and shocked into inactivity when I am under extreme stress and worry. I am not able to focus. I dwell on the negatives and am plunged into this pit of dark thoughts, hopelessness and despair. Whereas some faced with hardship propel themselves into a whirlwind of activity, I am not even able to hold a crochet hook in my hand. I become this zombie like creature.

After existing in this state the later part of the week, on Sunday I broke down and called my girlfriend asking her if we could meet for tea or a walk. She scolded me for not calling her immediately when I lost my job and felt I needed two glasses of wine, her treat - forget the tea. She was kind to me, which is what I really think we most need when we're facing difficulties. She told me that in her opinion, I HAD made it and gotten my sons through high school. And she reminded me that as long as she has known me, since my oldest was five, that I have always reached out and helped others. When you're down and out, it is good to hear positives about youself because right now I sure am not seeing myself in a good light. And we need to be reminded of the complete person we are. All of us have strengths and weaknesses. Living through a bad situation doesn't reduce us only to our less desirable characteristics.

I took this personality quiz recently that figured out one's life strengths. I was a little surprised to see that my top strength was seeing and seeking out life's beauty. Now I am not an optimistic person and since childhood have seen the glass half-empty. But I guess seeking out beauty is something different. And since childhood I have always looked for beauty - every day. In puddles in the parking lot, in a store window display, in the cut or color of a woman's coat. Whenever I am out and about in the world, I take pictures with my phone and those photos have included puddles, window displays, clothing and the sun on a recent walk peeking out from the trees. I open a JJill clothing catalog and the photo arrangement of a set of sweaters, highlighting the rainbow of colors, captivates me. I find beauty in the the ordinary and it surrounds me even now. So that is what I am going to try and focus on - my strengths - the little things that do serve to empower me. Be they written words in a novel, the touch and feel of a hank of pure wool yarn or the surprises that greet one taking a late-winter walk as the sun sets and snow melts.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ripple Effect

My son's Valentine gift arrived in the mail yesterday. I am surprised the decorative rock was not damaged as he used one of those padded envelopes. I found the card and gift very touching and they certainly arrived on a day when I needed some cheering up and hope.

On Monday, the restaurant I work at was closed. It was unexpected. I worked that day cleaning the interior and packing. Also, on Tuesday. That helped - being with some of the others I have known the past year. We were able to commiserate and talk to each other. The mood was sad and co-workers were upset. I am surprised at how quickly it takes to dismantle a business. By Tuesday the signs outside the building were gone. I thought of the people I have met and gotten to know - the weekly regulars. How there was no warning and no chance to say goodbye. Even for this piddly little low-level job I felt a sense of loss. This job provided us with groceries for the past year and gave me a sense of direction and purpose for getting up each morning. I was supposed to start serving, which would have given me extra coming in via tips, which were pretty good - some servers were making $500.00 weekly. I would have been happy with anything!

I think about the ripple effect. How so many people will end up being influenced by the close of this restaurant. The ones hardest hit will be the hourly employees and this in turn will impact families having to struggle even more. Despite what news reports state, I don't think we're out of the woods yet economically as a country. Businesses are still failing, people are still out of work, others continue to lose their homes.

Although I fared pretty well Monday and Tuesday, yesterday was a bit of a crash. I had been told that I could "transfer" to another location but met with one of the other managers who told me there aren't any slots open. Another woman my age (server) was also told that there is no guarantee she will receive any hours at a new location. Some co-workers reported that the local businesses and restaurants said business is slow and they aren't doing any hiring now. Then I started to catastrophesize (sp?), as I do when under extreme pressure and fear.

It is a horrible downward spiral - I become immobilized and anticipate the worse - we will become homeless, I'll have no food for my son/sons, we won't be able to drive (no gas or $ for car insurance). "Tsk, tsk'" people wag their fingers. Put on your brave face and smile and start pounding the pavement again. I don't feel inspired, I feel defeated, broken and unable to stand. I was just trying to last a couple more months before I could move. To have to rise up yet again and pull it together...

I am still waiting to hear if they can use me at another location. I think I qualify for unemployment, although it is a very small amount. I am realizing that I am not a strong person in the face of adversity/stress. I do so much better with a partner. In all the years of marriage, I never acted, felt, responded, thought etc. like I do now - empty, exhausted, hopeless and weak. Sometimes I hate this person I have become in widowhood.

The hardest part of the past few days was driving home on Monday and Tuesday knowing there was no one at home to talk to about all this. That is what I miss the most - having a person who has got your back and your best interests at heart when you face a setback.

I am more resolved than ever to upgrade my social services qualifications so I can work with the under-privileged, those hurting and under-served. Having been there, I will never be one of those "tsk, tsking" with disapproval. I also know that when I am out of the woods and on my feet again, I will kiss the ground every day I wake up and say a prayer of thanks. I just have to get there and it looks like the road is still a bit longer - I haven't been given a shortcut for these final, couple months. It sucks, it is hard and I am just plain tired of this life. Widowhood in and of itself under the best of circumstances is a challenge.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Waiting Out the Days

In just six months, my youngest will be on the campus of his college for Freshman Orientation Week! Wow! When I look ahead to that milestone, I can see that time is rolling forward to our new beginning. Yet all the same, time seems to be progressing so dreadfully slowly.

You would think that after everything, these last few months would be a breeze to get through. But I am finding that not the case. It is getting harder for me to wait out these final days. My girlfriend, a teacher, agrees with me on this. She says the hardest weeks for her to get through are the four-day ones, when they should be easier.

As usual, am feeling the winter blues when the "greyness" of winter makes me want to scream! But I am so grateful that essentially this has been a very mild winter season, certainly the most mild that I recall in the past 10 years. Bad PMS again this week. I need to anticipate this better and realize that my low mood and motivation come at this time of the month. Once it passes, I am like a new person, again ready to take on the world.

Why do we so often feel the need to beat ourselves up for being human? This was a weekend where I had plans to be more productive but just wasn't. I am often alone at home with my youngest out and about doing all the social activities Senior high schoolers are involved with. It is a bit depressing for me as I contemplate the life changes being a widowed-empty-nester will bring. My energy level is so sapped I only read, clean, cook, organize or knit halfheartedly. But really, is this so bad? So I spend a couple days moping about in pjs doing not much of anything. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, this little rest will be restoring in and of itself.

Tomorrow I will try to get out for a walk. Celebrity Apprentice starts, which my son and I will eagerly watch together. I will put more effort into my actions knowing that the work week starts anew and luckily, my hours are being increased at my request. That might help with keeping me preoccupied and active as I wait out these final days of winter and those leading up to my move and new life. Right now I am in a holding pattern. I've put off looking at communities to move to until it is Spring but I think once I am actively involved in the process it will help with the passing of time. This is a limbo period, yet my soul is itching to get going and I want it all now. Enough waiting! Yet somehow when we were little we all made it through the long agony of waiting for Santa to arrive. And even as an adult I have made it through months of anticipation and waiting - for my weddings, college graduations, the birth of my sons.

Only those times I wasn't on my own. I had caring partners by my side to help distract me and support me emotionally. It seems that the days are longer, waiting out the days now as a widow.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vday 2012

Vday text from son at college:

""Happy vday mom! Love you! Thanks for bein an awesome mom and pushin my ass to get me where I am today! Sent you somethin in the mail you should get it in a few days! Xoxo"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Being Served

My close girlfriend, a divorced mom, got upset with the guy she is seeing. He is not working right now and complained about their "arrangement" of dining out every week. They have had an agreement where they alternate between paying but he indicated that even every other week for him is sometimes too hard to manage financially.

So my girlfriend decided to "model"an alternate date idea, which was picking up a frozen pizza and a movie rental. But then she also discussed with me, her real disappointment over this entire situation. As she put it, her strong desire for going out to eat weekly comes from her need to be served. To have someone wait on her, provide some doting, be the recipient of attention.

I understand this all too well. Living alone, being alone, raising children alone - there isn't a whole lot of "being served" in that equation. As single or only parents, there is the necessity of looking out for others and over time, that becomes draining. Especially because we don't live in an environment that provides for an equal balance of nurturing and being nurtured.

There is something wonderful and restoring about being pampered and looked after. Even just for a dinner. To have the opportunity to let go of the reins and hand them off to someone else who assures you that you are in their able and competent hands - so you can breathe a sigh of relief and relax a little.

Buying little treats for oneself is nice, but it doesn't take the place of having someone look out for you and your interests.

I think my girlfriend needs to have a heart-to-heart with her guyfriend about how she feels in regard to wanting to be served. And instead of "modeling," she can make verbal suggestions for date ideas in lieu of eating out so much. But I do understand where she is coming from. Many years ago I knew of a church that sponsored weekly dinners for single moms and their children. These dinners were free and involved china, cloth napkins and most importantly of all, the opportunity for the women to be waited on and served. Before the dinners, the moms would meet for an hour-long group meeting to vent and share parenting ideas while the kids met for their own session, which also included games and socializing with other kids from single families.

I don't know if this group still meets and I wish I had had a chance to attend some of those dinners. It is a wonderful idea and one that I won't forget. I hope that if I am ever in a capacity to work or volunteer with single/only parents, that I can suggest and perhaps implement this concept. In the meantime I'll talk with my girlfriend more about this. And I'll remember that being served doesn't just mean being waited on when going out to dine. It can mean anything from having someone remember you unexpectedly or having someone assist you when you're in a jam. My girlfriend's guy is very much a handyman and has been fixing a lot of my friend's broken household fixtures. Surely his repairing her doorbell and clothes dryer warrants a glass of wine over a pizza popped into the oven. I know in my book it would.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


A Little Tooth
By Thomas Lux

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It's all

over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It's dusk. Your daughter's tall.

My son's poetry teacher handed out this poem on curriculum night and I fell in love with it. But I also laughed out loud reading the title, because I have been having nightmares about losing my teeth and thought a poem about teeth was kind of an eerie coincidence. I told the teacher how much I liked it because it described so succinctly, the passage of time and a child growing up - so appropriate to be handing out to the parents of seniors on their way to graduation and college. Wow! The power of words to convey meaning and emotion. It is why I blog and read as much as I can. And it is why I am trying to "talk" less and listen more.

I am struck by the beauty of poetry as an art form - I've kind of lost sight of that in recent years. How many of us really read much after we are out of school? I am inspired to try and read more poetry and fill my life with more art and beauty.

I love the description here, "flyblown," although the definition means tainted or spoiled. Also, the the words "rue nothing," or having no regrets.

Poems speak to us because we can identify with the words and connect to their meaning. Maybe this poem speaks to me so strongly because of the last two lines. If I change the "you" to "I," I can certainly say that I too, rue nothing and that I did, I loved, and my feet are sore, in fact very, very sore right now.

Curriculum Night

Attended my last high school curriculum night last week. Most parents of seniors don't go and even my son was surprised I was going. But I felt it was only appropriate to do so as it marks the end of a long, enduring journey.

During the night as I toured my son's last semester's classes and met his teachers, I heard over and over how special the high school, community, parents and students are and how honored the teachers and principal feel to be a part of the school. I've been hearing the same thing every curriculum night for the past five years. And indeed, I truly believe as well, that our community and the high school are unusually rare, special and valuable. It is the reason I have stayed in the community - so my sons would be able to remain members of this special place despite their dad's death - and that they would complete their entire pre-college education here.

Attending the night confirmed for me that the decisions I've made to stay here were the right ones for our family. Many years ago, when the boys were just starting school and a few years before my husband became ill, we considered moving to a more rural community. In fact, we were going to bid on two houses but offers had already been made on them. At that point, we made the decision to stay put, despite our longing for the rural life because of the great school system in our community. Just a year later my husband was diagnosed and I remember feeling grateful that we hadn't moved. If we had, I would still be a newcomer in the community and my parents would not have been able to watch my sons when I went to the hospital for months on end. I wound up thinking that fate had intervened and made it impossible for us to get one of the houses we wanted. That we weren't meant to move at that time because of my husband's impending illness.

So staying here was for my sons but it also became kind of a promise to my husband to stay the course and make it for the sake of our sons because it was what we had both determined was the best learning environment for them.

I did it! We all made it! This IS a special community and my sons were privileged to live here through college. I will never regret my efforts to focus on keeping them in this school district. This educational foundation will set the tone and pattern for the rest of their lives.

Over the weekend, I ran into a mom who was once a closer friend. My oldest son was in Kindergarten with her youngest son. Her family even attended my second wedding and the boys had a garage band together in middle school. Her family has moved into a rental after losing their home so we talked a bit about that and I told her about my desire to move. Then I asked her about her son. He is not in college, worked a seasonal job at Target but is not employed now although he has a few band gigs. Her daughter, a few years older, works at a retail store but isn't in college.

Now I know kids bloom at different points and that college is not for everyone. But I called my oldest son immediately after chatting with this woman to tell him that I am proud of him and to thank him for being in college and doing so well. Then I came home and thanked my younger son for doing so well in school and told him I am proud of his plans for college. Perhaps my two sons represent the truest sign that the sacrifices made to remain in this community were worth it.

A lot of times on life's journey, we choose a path and hope for the best. And sometimes we don't get the satisfaction of knowing that a certain course was the best or right one for a long time. It is not to say that had we moved, my sons would have turned out to be delinquents. But after a parental death, there is so much turmoil, and fear of the unknown, it seemed only logical for me to remain in the community for the social and educational stability it offered my sons. Coming to the end of this phase and seeing that the results are so positive make it easier for me to leave this area with a lighter heart and more hope for the future. It is hard to move in the middle of a chapter and that is probably why I have been so resistant to relocate before. But now I truly have reached the end of a book with a very satisfying conclusion to the plot. And I can move on with a clear conscience, my head held up high and pride besides.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The last day of a typically snowy, wintry month. Only today it hit 56 degrees. What a heat wave in the middle of winter! My husband used to always say spring really began on February 15th. He was a big conservationist and believed in climate change, which my son says replaced the old term "Global Warming." But I wish I could have proved him wrong about his own personal spring theory. Because the past eight years since his death, the winters have been especially harsh. So this winter has really been a big blessing for me. One less obstacle to deal with in widowhood land.

On top of everyday life, being a widow in winter brings on the ever cold bed that once was so much warmer when shared with a partner. There is the rash of holidays starting with the early Thanksgiving and ending with Valentine's Day. For me in the Midwest there is the added car maintenance and worry about driving in hazardous weather. The days are so long, overcast and dark. Well, enough description, you get the idea - I am depressing myself!

We use certain days as markers in our lives. I have always used Valentine's Day not to mark the end of winter, as my husband did, but to symbolize that the end is near. In recent years, I have come to believe that if I can make it to Feb. 15th, the worst is over and I'll survive the final month to spring.

My husband and I used to always write down the first day we noticed that the grass was really green. It would usually fall around March 21st. I would mark the date on a post it note, then put it up on the fridge and throughout the next winter glance at that date with hope. I kept the last post it note from the spring before my husband died up on the fridge until we moved from our home. And then I took it down and put it with paperwork to be saved, though where it is now, I haven't a clue. But when I move, unpack and eventually come across that note, I will put it back up on my new fridge.

In the meantime, just 14 days til V-Day, which I no longer look at so much as a romantic holiday. But it is still okay to look at it as a beacon of light shining through the winter gloom and illuminating the green of March!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Think Spring!

It is hard to not long for Spring when we keep having plentiful days of above 30 degree weather. What a blessing this Winter has been compared to those of past years. There has only been limited snow and cold. I have come to dislike the Winter months because of the added burdens they bring to an only parent or one living alone without a full-grown adult in the household. These months of dark and cold are usually accompanied by mild depression as well.

It has been easier for me to just keep plugging/plodding away the past few weeks - to aim toward getting through what I consider the harshest month, January. I don't want to air my feelings of worry or anxiety. What good does that do except for the initial venting? So it is not to say that all is hunky dory in my neck of the woods (remember that old figure of speech?). But that I'm not out of the woods yet.

The number one thing I have determined that will bring some ease into my life is being free to move from this area to one of more affordability. And I can't do that just yet, so for now it is continuing to hang in there.

I remain focused on supporting my younger son through his final semester of high school. My plans to attend grad school for career updating have to be put on hold for a few more months. I wasn't aware of how costly it is to apply for grad school and get transcripts sent from the five colleges I attended. But that is okay. The focus here is finishing what I was bound and determined to do - enable both boys to graduate from their hometown high school and get admitted into decent colleges of their choice.

In just a few months, I will get back to the college application process for myself but I still have to work on the financial aid stuff for my sons and that takes priority right now. If this results in my having to start school a semester later than planned, I'll just take a bit of time off for myself, which isn't such a bad idea in the first place.

My regular nightmare (both asleep and awake) is a fear of losing my teeth. I've just come across an interpretation of that dream. It is closely tied with our basic, most primal needs for survival and the nightmare comes out when we are extremely stressed and fearful. The fact that I have this nightmare frequently reminds me that despite the month of January being a bit more mild, my life is still stressful. I think for many widows, a stressed life is pretty much the norm. And maybe when you stop and think about it, most of us lead stressed out lives, widowed or not. But of course, there are additional challenges faced by widows on top of everything else.

My oldest son sent me a text today saying that he had a good idea for a tattoo for me. I sent him a text back, curious as to what his idea was. He replied that I should get either the image of a Superwoman or just the word Superwoman. He then related that he had just written his fourth English paper of the semester and wrote it about me. As he said, "I called you Superwoman in my paper since you had to do so much stuff for us, so I think it would be a pretty appropriate tattoo haha."

It will be interesting to read his paper, which I asked him to email me. In the meantime, I'll stay the course and imagine myself, Superwoman cape and all, emerging with a flourish into the sunny Spring!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Light at the End of the Tunnel

My emotions were stirred up taking my oldest to the train station for his trip back to college for second semester. One semester, his first, already completed successfully! How quickly it went. Now he has started the new term, and for my youngest, it is his final semester of high school! Woo hoo!

If we could get through the first semester, then it makes sense that this second one will be gotten through too.

I decided to not drive my son back to school when his roommate called him mid-week to inquire when we'd be leaving. Another buddy also called with the same question. I asked my son how these boys would be getting back to school if I didn't drive. My son replied that they'd take the train. I felt somewhat upset that these young men were assuming I would be driving them all when they come from two-parent homes and can well afford the $70.00 gas price it would cost for the trip. I thought about the 8 long hours on the road, 4 on my own, in the cold January night. If the two-parent families weren't driving their sons back, heck no would I be driving them all back myself! It felt good to assert myself and put my widow foot down.

This start of second semester is a very significant moment for us as a family. It represents the final hurdle in the long and trying journey of an only parent focusing on getting her kids out of high school and onto their college careers. This is the turn in the road my eyes have been on the past 8 years. It means I can finally move to a more affordable location because I won't have to stay in this upper-middle-class suburb where my sons have been raised and where I wanted them to see their educations completed, pre-school through high school.

It is almost seen through! Almost over! Almost time for me to have an opportunity to go back to school for career updating; to not be so stressed about money (paying the rent); to maybe have the time and energy to devote to establishing new friendships; to maybe being able to take a weekend trip somewhere. Yippee! I can almost feel and taste my new life and all the good stuff lying ahead. How I wish we didn't have this final semester to go. I'd love to just be able to jump over, like a game piece, the next few months... But if I envision the next few months as a game board, then I can visualize each day completed as a step closer to May. Way back in August, I started the game and now am halfway there. The end of this chapter is in sight.