Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolve

First of all, when I typed in "New Year's Resolution Images" into Google, this picture of Speedy Gonzolas came up.  I don't know why, but I liked it, so I'm going with it.


re·solve:  to come to a determination; make up one's mind; determine

As with all of the holidays, New Year’s has snuck up on me this year.  I really don’t know if it’s because I’ve been so busy or if the holiday blues crept in without me noticing…but for some reason it just doesn’t feel like New Year’s Eve to me today.

Last night, as I was doing the dishes, I was thinking to myself, “Maybe you’re having the let-down after the holidays.  Maybe that’s what’s got you noncommittal in the celebratory category.”

But since I really wasn’t looking forward to the holidays that much to begin with…could I really have that big of a let-down when they were done?

It’s pretty bad when you’re so not invested in the holidays that you can’t even determine whether you have the holiday blues or you’re just overwhelmed with life in general.

I know much is being made about 2012 and the end of the world as we know it (now you’ll have that REM song stuck in your head for the rest of the day).  I haven’t thought much about it and I know I should.  The only thing about the end of the world that has caught my attention is Chipotle keeps running this radio advertisement, talking about the end of the world and encouraging the listeners that before that happens…they should eat more burritos.

I sure wish I’d been in on the Marketing meeting when they determined that was a good idea.  Do you think the guys over at Burger King are smacking their heads saying, “UGH!!!  Why didn’t we think of that???”

I’ve never been a big believer on New Year’s resolutions.  Frankly, I’ve always thought that if I’m not going to decide to lose 10 lbs. or organize my purse on July 20th, chances are there is nothing magical about December 31st (except that I might have had enough wine to truly think it was possible) that will make all of these promises to better myself come true.

This year is no different.  I’m not promising myself that I’ll lose the baby weight from the almost 6-year-old who’s running around my house.  I’m not deluding myself into thinking that 2012 will be the magical year that I get more organized.  I may, if pushed by others at the stroke of midnight, give into peer pressure and make the New Year’s resolution to set my alarm 15 minutes earlier every morning.

When secretly I know that just gives me 15 more minutes of snooze time.

For some reason, New Year’s “Resolution” just sounds too upbeat to me.  Blowing a horn at midnight and declaring with giddy abandon that I’m going to cut all carbs and sugar and start doing wheat grass shots daily just sounds unnatural.  And in my opinion, most New Year’s Resolutions are something along those lines:  They’re something we really don’t want to do and usually something that indicates that we’re not perfect, declared in public and often in front of people we don’t even know.

I mean, on a normal day, I wouldn’t tell a stranger that I’m 10 lbs. overweight and I can’t find the surface of my desk.  Why am I doing it now?

To me, it would make more sense to call it my “New Year’s Resolve.”  I don’t know why (because both words mean pretty much the same thing), but that just sounds more definite and more business-like.  For example:  

“This year, I resolve to go to the gym more.”

See?  I’m not happy about it, but I’m making the commitment.  Doesn’t that just sound more realistic than saying, as you slur your words over a glass of champagne at midnight tonight, “My New Year’s Resolution this year is to get fitter than I’ve ever been.  Now, where did those sausage balls go?”

Or, “This year, I resolve to be nicer to that co-worker who talks too loud and, I swear, has some sort of flatulence problem that he seems to be completely unaware of.”

Now, that’s a goal.  It just implies that you have a plan.  Like you’re not going to send him anonymous nasty emails anymore or put that chewed up gum under his desk where he’s sure to step on it.  Good for you and your resolve.  I’m proud of you.  You’re really growing.  I can tell.

I’ll be honest…I’m still working on my New Year’s Resolve.  Not that I’m implying that I’m perfect.  Far from it.  I’m just lazy.  I’ve been thinking about it all day and I’ve only come up with one thing that truly makes sense and that I feel 100% confident I can accomplish.

“This year, I resolve to make my kids do more chores around the house so I don’t have to.”

Wow.  I just realized that I took care of their resolve and mine.

Looks like I’m becoming more efficient already.  And I still have 12 hours to go.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...Widda-Style

‘Twas the night before Christmas
          And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring…
          Except for a mouse.

The stockings were hung
         By the chimney with care
But with the mouse in the house
          The widow wanted her husband there.

She'd curled up with her kerchief
      After a few nightcaps
And was trying to settle her brain
         She’d give anything for a nap.

When in her room
        There arose such a clatter
“One more problem!” She thought.
       “I swear my brain’s going to shatter!”

Away to the window
       She flew like a flash
“One more problem,” she thought sadly.
       “But I don’t have enough cash!”

The moon on the breast
        Of the new fallen snow
Reminded her to get up early
        So she could give it a blow.

She wiped her eyes with her sleeve
       So that the tears would clear
Figured the noise was the mouse
        And she knew it was near.

As it scurried she knew
       It was lively and quick
And with a scream she ran
      To her bed in a jiff.

“More problems!”  She cried
       And felt quickly the strain
Of the bill she’d receive
         When the exterminator came.

“Away Fear!  Away Sorrow!
        Go Crises and Grief!
Out Sadness!  Out Depression!
        It’s Happiness I seek!

To the top of the world…
         I want to do it all!
Widowhood’s been a storm
        And I’m tired of this squall!”

She gathered her courage
       Gave her floor a try
Went to the window
       And looked up at the sky.

She gazed up above
       And somehow she knew
For the first time she believed it
       She knew it was true

Her eyes started twinkling
      She began to regroup
There were no guarantees
       Nothing’s foolproof.

She drew in her head
       And turned swiftly around
She knew it was time
       To try and rebound.

She dressed in her robe
      Slid slippers on her feet
Smiled for the first time that year
       You could see all of her teeth!

A weight had been lifted
       It felt, from her back
For the first time that year
        She was on the right track.

Her eyes, how they twinkled!
       Her giggle sounded merry!
For the first time that year,
       Life didn’t seem as scary.

Life was a gift
      Tied up with a bow
Her husband would want her happy
       This she should know.

Her hope, she held tight
       Finally she could breathe
That silly old mouse
       Didn’t know he’d released…

Someone new, someone sure
     Not a Nervous Nelly
The burning was gone
     From the pit of her belly.

She saw the mouse in the corner
     Hiding behind a shelf
And she started to laugh
     She couldn’t help herself.

She winked at him
     For he had nothing to dread
This little mouse
     Had actually cleared her head.

She spoke not a word
     So he wouldn’t go berserk
Walked to the front door
     And gave it a jerk.

The mouse turned around
     And twitched his nose
“Go on,” said the widow
      “Out you go.”

He rushed out the door
      Into snow like crystal
“I did it!”  She said
       Her expression quite wistful.

“I can do this,” she thought
      As the mouse scurried out of sight.
“Christmas will be hard…

But I can see the light.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Possessed Cats, Tacky Jewelry, & Finding the True Meaning of Christmas

‘Tis the season for gift giving.  ‘Tis the season for gift receiving.  And ‘tis the season for everyone to return what they got for something they really wanted.

Sad, but true.

All it takes is one good dose of the holiday spirit to make you want one really good dose of…well…spirits.  And this is especially true for those who have experienced some sort of life-altering event.

I had no idea that one dead husband would change how I shop so drastically.  I mean…he was just one person, right?  The obvious change would be that I don’t have a present from him under the tree and I don’t have to go out shopping for something that I have no idea how it works…but I’m sure he’ll love.

My husband was an amazing Santa Claus for me.  I mean, one year he actually bought me a car.  Yes…a car.  Sure, it was a minivan and not a Lexus…but given how much he hated minivans, I would have been less surprised if he had bought the Lexus.

I’ll never forget that Christmas morning.  My oldest daughter was about 2 ½ and I was “out-to-here” pregnant with my son.  Bending over to get her in and out of her car seat in my Volvo was getting inconvenient, due to the 20 lb. pot roast that was now attached to my abdomen and I had been begging my husband to buy us a new minivan.

“We can’t afford it,” was his standard answer.  “Besides…I love that Volvo.”

Well, sure.  Since you don’t drive it every day and have to get a squirming (and getting heavier by the day) toddler out of a backseat that’s basically sitting on the ground…I’m sure it’s a blast for you to take out on the weekends when I ask you to go buy that one gallon of milk.

On that Christmas morning, we had opened all of the presents and then suddenly my husband said to my 2-year-old, “Wait!  There’s one more present hiding behind the Christmas tree!  Will you get that for Mommy?”

“That’s not wery nice,” she said to him and she gave him a stern look as she crawled behind the tree to retrieve a rumpled looking gift bag. 

I opened the bag and found a jewelry box inside.  Now, my husband loved to buy jewelry and very rarely did he do it on the cheap.  I was surprised at his thoughtfulness as I opened the box and found….

The ugliest necklace I had ever seen in my life.

Encrusted in diamonds and in a shape that I can only describe as an expanded “V” and something that an 80s Star Trek fan might wear, I immediately nailed a smile on my face as I wondered, “What in the hell am I going to do with this??”

“Take it out of the box and try it on,” he said excitedly. 

“Um.  Okay.”

And as I lifted the necklace off of the holder, I felt something on the back of the board it was affixed to.

It was a key.  To my new minivan.

God, I miss that man and his cruel surprises.  (As he said for years after that, “You should have seen your face when you opened that necklace!”  Which turned out to be fake, thank God.)

I never knew what to get him for Christmas because everything he wanted involved a tool that he would be better off shopping for himself (or had already bought during the year, claiming that we needed to fix a $50 problem with a $500 tool).  But I was very sneaky about getting him something that would make him happy at Christmas.

I would buy at least one very complicated toy to put together for one of the kids.  And then hide the directions.

Oh, he loved a good project!  He could lie on the floor for hours on Christmas Eve as my parents and I watched him construct some sort of toy that looked so simple at Wal-Mart…but in reality came in 2,000 pieces, 5 of which were missing.

The first year he was gone, I realized that it was now my dad and I who would have to put the toys together.  And even though my dad is a good sport…I didn’t know if I had what I needed in my wine budget to get him through putting together a child’s tool bench.

Even the simple toys I got seemed to be complicated.  My oldest daughter wanted one of those “Fur Real” cats that, to be quite honest, reminded me of one of the animals in “Pet Cemetery.”  I didn’t realize that the damn thing was motion activated.  So when I hid all of the kids’ presents in my basement that year, it would scare the shit out of me when it meowed as I walked past, looking for Christmas decorations.  I tried and I tried to figure out how to turn the darn thing off, worried that the kids would find their Christmas stash thanks to this demon cat…but I could never find the switch.

“Let’s take out the batteries,” my dad said on Christmas Eve, worried that the meowing would wake the kids in the middle of the night as we set out the presents.

“Okay,” I said, turning the cat over and over, looking for where they went in.  “But I can’t find them.”

“Let me look at it,” he said, and I left him to deal with that problem while I started in on the other presents.

A little while later, I was still hearing loud meowing coming from the other room, so I decided to go in and see what kind of progress he was making.  And when I walked in, I saw something that I will never forget (although I wish I could).

My dad was sitting in my recliner with the cat turned upside down, drawn up close to his face, and his eyes fixated in the cat’s behind.

“I think they must be in here,” he said, with no idea how disturbing this whole scene was.

“Dad…if the batteries are up that cat’s behind…there is something wrong with the manufacturer of that toy and I want nothing to do with it.”

It all worked out eventually.  The cat stopped yowling, but it never stopped giving me the creeps, staring at me with its glass eyes and its head following me when I walked around the room.  The kids had a great Christmas, completely oblivious to how much our holidays would be forever changed without the clever man who loved surprises.

But my point is…I had memorable Christmases with him.  And I’ve had memorable Christmases without him.  It will never be the same…but that’s how life works.

My love of laughter didn’t die with him.

Memories have still been created since he’s been gone.

Finding joy in unexpected moments is something I’ll never grow tired of.

And those were the gifts I’ve been giving and receiving all along.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's December. Now All of the Decorations That Have Been Up Since June Finally Make Sense

Well, here we are.  December is here.  Some of us are looking forward to the holidays.  Some of us would rather fast forward through the holidays.  And some of us are still hungover from Thanksgiving.

I am a bizarre mixture of all three.

I know I’m not the only one who has noticed that it seems like the Christmas season starts earlier each year.  One day I was taking down my flags from the 4th of July and the next (and I mean literally the next…as in July 5th)…Hobby Lobby had their Christmas ornaments out and blinking Christmas trees on display that seemed to mock me as I walked in to buy pinwheels for my summer potted plants.

I know that all of these stores think that they are doing us all a huge favor by inducing holiday madness 6 months early.  But in truth, I think they’re diluting the whole thing.  My kids don’t get excited for Christmas when they’re running around in shorts and flip-flops.   And so by the time the holiday season actually rolls around, they’re kind of like, “Oh, great.  Another Santa.  Been there, done that.”

Nordstrom gained a life-long customer in me when they posted a sign this fall, explaining their holiday decorating policies:

Even though they can be a little pricey, it’s worth it to me to pay $20 for a pair of socks, just so I don’t have to walk through tinsel in June to get to them.

I actually had a neighbor put up and turn on their Christmas lights at the beginning of October.  The first night it happened, I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt.

“Well, I guess it makes sense to put them up now before it really starts snowing.  They probably just have them on to test them out.”


I forgot to warn my mother about it before she came over to my house one evening and since she suffers from Post Traumatic Holiday Disorder, I really should have been more conscientious.

“Catherine,” she said, trying to catch her breath.  “Someone has their Christmas lights on!  What day is it?  Did I lose holiday time again???  Did I black out???”

I, for one, do not turn on my Christmas lights until the first of December.  Last night, I was outside freezing my Christmas giblets off trying to get them up when I realized that half of them didn’t work (of course).  So I got into my Christmas sleigh (also known as my Honda Odyssey) and ran to Target for some plain, white non-blinking Christmas lights.

No luck.

They had racing lights.  They had icicle lights.  They had racing icicle lights.  Colored icicles, LEDs, pearl lights, and lights in the shape of a fishing net.  Twinkle lights, timed lights, and lights that will actually get up out of your bushes and do the cha-cha. 

But not one set of plain, white lights.

I’ve now realized that I’m completely antiquated when it comes to Christmas decorations.  My kids have complained that I’m too boring, refusing to buy the lights that race and make my house look like a giant helicopter pad.  I have never bought anything that blows up, projects, or plays “Jingle Bells” when you walk past it.

What really made me realize that I’m out-of-touch, Christmasly, is when I saw this lovely decoration at (where else?)  Wal-mart the other day and wondered about the demographic out there who buys it:

‘Cause nothing says “Merry Christmas” like Santa taking a holiday s*%t.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Top 10 Things I'm Thankful For This Year: Herman Cain, the End of "Twilight" and Matching Socks....

'Tis the time of the year for Thanksgiving.  And even when times are hard and sometimes it seems like there's nothing to be thankful for..I am hoping to provide you with inspiration and hope for the holiday season.

This year, I am thankful...

10.  That Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries did not procreate.

9.  That I am not Dovahkiin Tom Kellermaryer's  kindergarten teacher.  (That's right, folks.  The parents named him after a character in a video game so that they could get free video games for life.  For crying out loud...have some pride.  My kid's not named Bud Light for nothing.)

8.  That on August 23, 2011 after taking a load of laundry out of the dryer...all of my socks matched.  It was 5:03 PM.  I'll never forget it.

7.  That Herman Cain has given Saturday Night Live something to work with.

6.  That Twilight has finally hit dawn.

5.  That producers are finally talking about The Real Housewives of Fargo.  (Incidentally...if that doesn't sell, DIY is talking about picking it up for Disaster House.)

4.  That Kate Middleton might be pregnant.  (And personally I hope that means she starts craving Twinkies by the case.)

3.  That pepper spray apparently now comes in large pressurized canisters so that you can spray people just for the hell of it.

2.  That Al Roker is starting to hit his breaking point.  Could be sunny and 70 with zero humidity in New York and he still looks pissed.  (By the way...Willard Scott is sounding slightly annoyed about reporting the birthdays of 102-year-olds who are 30 years younger than he is.  "Al gets the weather...and I get...SMUCKERS?  WTF?")

1.  And the number one thing I'm grateful for...

anyone who had the patience to read through this list of news and non-news.


love to you all

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Whew. Another Birthday Behind Us. We Made It.


We made it.

Another birthday has come and gone.

We spent the weekend in a way that I thought you would enjoy:  Eating junk food, watching movies, and visiting you up in the mountains.

It's strange how I've come to think of your birthday as almost my Widow New Year.  Even though other milestones have happened since the anniversary of your death, I always think of your birthday as the beginning of the next year of milestones.

And now we've celebrated our 5th birthday without you.

Hard to believe, isn't it?

So much has changed.

She's so beautiful and independent.  Today when we threw rocks in the stream, she broke off from the two younger ones, ready to do her own thing.  I guess that's something I should start preparing myself for.  Creative, smart, and never one to give in to the girl drama at school...I know you'd be pretty damn proud of her.

He's so smart...half the time I don't even understand the questions he's asking so I'm completely ill-prepared to give him the answer (Google-ing has become an every night activity).  I know he wishes he had the parent around who would help him take things apart to see how they work...rather than the one who sighs with impatience at the mess he's created.  Sweet, mellow, and the kid who has most of the moms at school saying to their sons, "Ask him over for a play date"...I have a feeling part of his brilliance later in life will be quietly creating trouble and not getting caught.  Just like his dad.

And her.  The one you got to know the least.  Fierce.  Funny.  Fiercely funny.  Her personality matches that wild head of hair and she insisted that she wear her pink cowgirl boots today.  She's in ballet now, but I have a feeling that it won't be too long before she discovers that she can't be contained in a light pink leotard and tights.  She's already passed all of her requirements for school this year and spends a lot of her time socializing and making a little mischief.  Sound familiar?

And me?  How am I doing?

Well, this year was easier than last.  There was less fear of your birthday looming before me and not as many tears.  I think I've spent more time recently looking ahead than glancing behind.  Life has had its hiccups, as life does, but they haven't derailed me as they would have in the past.

Going to the cemetery on your birthday will never be something I get used to and every year I wish we weren't doing it.  I brought you your usual beer and the kids stared at me and laughed as I toasted your headstone, took a sip, and then poured the rest on you. 

It makes me feel good that they are learning that grieving in an unconventional way is sometimes the best way to go.

As I took the pictures today, I couldn't help but wonder what was the point.

But then I realized I wanted to pretend, just for a second, that I was coming home to show you pictures of the kids and let you in on what we're up to.

And I guess in a way that's what I'm doing.

But in my heart I hope that you're always with us.

And that you already know.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dealing With the Mother of All Milestones: My Grief...It Is A-Changin'....

So, I feel like there is plenty of gloom and doom on widow blogs and, usually, as milestones approach, I’m one of those widows who’s gloomin’ and doomin’.

But not this year.

I always think it’s important to write about the things that we’re all trying to overcome because it usually makes at least one person out there sigh with relief and think, “Thank God it’s not just me.”

But as milestones approach, I know that some widows out there read these blogs with a little apprehension because they’re only a year out and the person writing is 10 years out, still talking about how hard Mondays are because that’s the day of the week her husband died.  And it worries the “newbies” because they’re still just trying to remember to put on deodorant in the morning and they live in fear that they'll still be that way in a decade.

I’ve never hidden the fact that my husband’s birthday is usually the hardest day of the year for me.  I have been known to go completely crazy, cry, yell, wallow, break up with perfectly nice people, and generally go around the bend for a good month before it happens.  November 19th is right before the holidays get into full swing and usually by the time it’s done…I am in no mood for eating turkey, being thankful, or yuletiding a few weeks later.

Last year was more of the same.  I dreaded it, feared it, and generally just wanted it to go away.  I have spent the last 4 of my husband’s birthdays, creating a “Daddy Day” for my kids, taking them out of school for a day of junk food and frivolous activities…with a trip to the cemetery up in the mountains where he’s buried thrown in for good measure.  Of anything I have done, trying to raise my kids in theWiddahood…this is what I’m most proud of.  Daddy’s birthday is nothing to dread (for them) and something to look forward to.  Sure, they don’t have a dad like everyone else…but everyone else doesn’t get to have a Daddy Day.

So for one day out of the year…we can one-up the rest of the “normal” world.

I usually spend the day holding back tears and trying to curb my crankiness while they run around on a sugar high and thank God for a Dad who gets them out of school one day out of the year.

But this year has been different.

It’s the 5th birthday he’s been gone…and I don’t feel all of the crankiness.  I’m not feeling the usual build up.  It may be hard that day…but I can honestly say that I feel pretty good right now.  What has been most interesting to me this year is that I now know that my kids really do understand the significance of that day.  Before I was trying to do so many things to distract them while also trying to commemorate the day (we do all of the things their dad enjoyed doing) and I really didn’t think they completely understood what it all meant.

Silly, Mom.  We’re getting older and we’re not as clueless as we might seem.

My son has a birthday party on Saturday in the middle of the day.  And at one point, he really considered not going.

“Am I going to miss Daddy Day?”  He asked.

“No,” I said.  “We’ll just go get pizza, let our balloons go, and maybe go to the movies that night when the party is done.  The girls and I won’t do anything without you.”

“But what about going to the mountains?”  He asked, looking concerned.

“Oh sweetie, we won’t have time to do that on Saturday since the party is in the middle of the day.”

Long pause.

“Do you want to go on Sunday?”  I asked.


I was pretty damn proud of us all that moment.  That I had created a day that we can spend together doing something as a family…my husband would have loved that.  And that, 4 years later, beyond the pizza, the bowling, the movies, or whatever else we might do…that the most important thing about Daddy Day to his 7-year-old son is that we go and visit him…even if it means missing out on a birthday party.

On my husband’s 39th birthday, our 5th without him…I can honestly say that life is good.

That the kids are thriving.

That every time one of them accidentally lets a balloon go when we leave Red Robin…there are no tears because it means it’s going to Dad.

That even though he died when they were just babies…they seem determined that he will never be forgotten.