Thursday, May 31, 2012

Long Story Short....

My sister told me a story this weekend.  A story that has many sides, all of which I understand.

To make a long story short, my sister was put in an awkward position by the mother of one her son's friends.  When the mother, Nikki, dropped her son off at my sister's house for a playdate she said, "What time do you want me to pick him up?"

"How about 5:00 PM?" my sister said.

"Sounds great," said Nikki.  "How about when I pick him up, I'll bring your son back to my house for a sleepover?"

"That would be perfect."

"I'll have to drop your son off at 9:00 AM tomorrow because my older child has to be at church.  Will that work?"

"That would be fine."

Plans confirmed, the mothers parted ways and the boys happily played the day away.  And then 5 PM rolled around and Nikki didn't come to pick up the boys for the promised sleepover.  One hour passed.  And then two.  Finally, worried, my sister called the woman's cell phone multiple times.  She sent her emails when she didn't hear from her for hours.  And, finally, she called Nikki's ex-husband (her husband from her first marriage and not the father of the little boy, but the only other number she had).  And to her surprise...he didn't sound surprised.

"She has a drinking problem," he said.  "This kind of thing happens all of the time.  Call her mother."

After getting the number for the little boy's grandmother, my sister called and spoke to a woman she had never met before and confirmed that, yes...Nikki had a drinking problem.

"She hasn't been the same since her brother, my son, died years ago," said the grandmother.  "It broke her heart and she's been grieving ever since."

To make a long story short, Nikki finally called my sister at 11:00 PM that night, confused and apologetic, after the boys had been put down for a spur-of-the-moment sleepover. My sister realized that Nikki had no recollection of the plans that had been made earlier that day and even after promising her, during that late night conversation, that she would pick up her son at 9:00 the next morning...Nikki still didn't come for the little boy until well into the afternoon.

I know, that after reading this story, you are relating to someone in it.

It could be that you're relating to my sister, who didn't get much sleep, worrying about the little boy's mother and what she should do about it.  Is it any of her business?  Should she step in?  Should she report the woman?  And to whom?  The private school that the boys attend?  Social services?  As my sister told me over the phone, "Once you ring that bell, it can't be un-rung."  And that's something to think long and hard about.

You may be relating to the boy who, my sister said, seemed to handle everything "okay" but still cried a little, worried about his mom and where she was.  The little boy my sister gently questioned over and over, "Are you okay?  Are there ever times that you're scared?  Can you talk to me?"  The little boy who shook his 8-year-old head and said, "I'm okay" through a slightly trembling mouth.

Of course you may be thinking about the ex-husband and the grandmother who are both doing what they can, but worried that one misstep on their part might cut them off from the little boy and the mother forever.  You could be relating to the support dance- you know the two step with the unexpected dip - that they have to do, just trying to keep everyone on track.

But then again, you may be relating to the mother.  The one who is so consumed by her grief, she decided (or maybe didn't decide.  It was probably less logical than a decision) to "take a night off."  Who wanted to numb herself just for a little while from the virus that is sorrow that's been eating its way from the inside out.  Who made the mistake of forgetting her life just for a little while.  And accidentally forgot about her little boy when she did.

I guess I lied.

No long story - with as many sides as there are people - can ever be made short.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day and the Widow(er)s I Know

For so many across the United States, Memorial Day means bar-be-ques and family time, beer and a day off.  Memorial Day is a day that doesn't really touch some in the way that it does others.  And that's okay.  Because we should all find joy where we can, whether it's appreciating time with family or just relaxing on a Monday. 

But for the widow(er)s I's different.

For the widow(er)s I know, it's a time of remembrance, 
thinking of what once was and will never be again.

For the widow(er)s I know, it's a time to look at pictures of people who were proud 
to do what they did, thinking of men (and women) who 
looked invincible in those photos.  And a reminder to us all that we aren't 
and that every moment should be appreciated.

For the widow(er)s I know, who may have lost a spouse another way...
it's a time of support, to show everyone who lost someone to war that they aren't alone 
and proof that no matter how our loss happened, 
compassion will always be our common bond.

For those of you who think you don't know someone who has been affected by war, think hard.  Because in this day and age - with grandparents who might still be living, parents whose friends might have served, and friends whose husbands have put their lives on the line - I would think that is almost impossible.  And that's why we should always be a comfort.

To the widow(er)s we know.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The End of School and the Weepy Mom

I'm turning into one of those moms, those weepy, sappy moms.  And I'm not the only one.  Yesterday, as I watched my daughter's kindergarten graduation, trying to swallow the lump in my throat that I didn't have with the other two, I looked over at another mom whose eyes were watering, too.  She said, "I don't know what's wrong with me!  I have 4 kids and I've just been a mess this year!"

I knew what she meant.

I didn't used to be this way.  I was the mom who happily put her kids on the bus in the morning and enjoyed a few hours of freedom.  Who secretly dreaded the beginning of summer because that meant 2 months of "Mom!  I'm bored!"  Who, when asked by a school secretary after she dropped her middle child off at kindergarten for the first time, "Are you so sad to see him go?" replied, "I'm a single mom so any steps towards my child's independence...I'm on board."

And I am.  Or was.  Until yesterday.

I feel like this a milestone year.  My oldest will be starting middle school in the fall which is a huge transition and I just can't believe I'm old enough to have a daughter no longer in elementary school (although if you ask me, I will swear I'm 28 and that she is gifted and was accelerated).  My son will be going into 3rd grade which means he'll be switching schools (in our neighborhood, K-2nd go to one school and 3rd-5th to another) and going to the big kid school.  And my youngest, my baby, will be starting 1st grade and going to school full-time for the first time.

If you had asked me at the beginning of this school year (or even in the middle) I would have told you that I couldn't wait for next year.  All three kids in school, full-time, 5 days a week - I haven't had that much freedom in 10 years.  I won't have to work around complicated schedules to get work done, go to networking events that I've wanted to participate in for years, or struggle to find time to get a haircut.  On paper, this should be an exciting time for me.  But right now, when I think about putting all 3 of my kids on a bus in the fall, only one feeling washes over me.


In two months, I will officially have "me" time, something that I've always wanted, but I guess since it always seemed so far away, never thought I would have.  As any mother knows, it's taken forever to get to this point and it was also here in the blink of an eye.  All of those years of living my life in 2 hour increments because someone had to be picked up or dropped off for half-day preschool or kindergarten.  All of these years of feeling guilty when I worked and feeling guilty when I didn't are pretty much over.  And those years of curling up with a little person in the morning after I'd put her siblings on a bus, just so we could have a little time to be lazy and watch a movie...


This revelation comes at an emotional time for me anyway.  I'm closing in on 5 years of my husband being gone and, for me, nothing makes me think about change more than the growth and development of our kids, mainly because it's a reminder of the passage of time.  How much he has missed and how much we have missed him.  I know that he's been gone for 5 years, but it's not the "5 years" part that's hard.  It's all of the changes we've been through.  Three weeks after he died, I was putting his oldest daughter on the bus for 1st grade.  And now she's in middle school.  Middle school.  And he hasn't been here for any of it.

I know that this transition is something I will probably think about and deal with all summer.  And then, when the time comes, I'll put them all on the bus to their various locations, wave good-bye, and go into my quiet house.  As with all things in life, I will get used to this change.


Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Breeding Negativity: The Effects of a Facebook "Friend"

Change is in the air and it mainly seems to be happening on everyone’s Facebook pages.  Every day I log in, I see more and more people posting something along the lines of, “I need to weed out my friends.  There are too many people on my list who either don’t know or don’t understand me.”  And I have one thing to say about that.


Yesterday, Mike and I were sitting out on the back porch, enjoying the weather, when he checked his phone and said, "Huh.  I just got a friend request from someone I don't even recognize who says she's friends with someone I don't recognize."  And what did he do?

He friended her.

It's become almost a reflex, this whole friending business.  I've done my best to keep my list small and, when I receive a friend request, only accept it if I see other people on their list that I recognize.  But let's be honest.  I don't know that person and chances are I don't really know the person that I "recognize."  My friend list has grown to almost 500 people and I'm betting that I've only actually met half of them face-to-face.  In the past year, I've become really self-conscious about what I've put out there (and it's the stuff that I never think anyone could find fault with that someone posts something negative about.  Surprises me every time).

There’s no doubt about it.  Facebook has completely changed how we all communicate with each other and while most of those changes are positive – I can keep track of friends and family members I unfortunately don’t get to see often – some are on the negative side.  And I don’t think people realize how much it affects them.  One minute you're so excited, posting something about a nice guy you just went on a date with and the next you're getting blasted by someone you don't really know who really has no clue about your life and situation.  And that would ruin anyone's day.

It's easy to be judgmental about people you don't know.  It's easy to make a comment to a profile picture you don't really have a history with.  It's easy to be negative and roll your eyes at a status update when you've never even been in the same room with the person who is making it.

And it's easy to be hurt by it.

I know that there are some people out there who like that aspect of Facebook and Twitter.  They post their political or religious beliefs in a way that begs for discussion and thrive on the 30 comments that follow.  But most people aren't like that.  I believe that most people post things about their day or what's going on in their lives just waiting for an "LOL" or "That's awesome."  

And then are struck down when a virtual stranger says, "What were you thinking?" or "I would never do something like that."

The truth is, I do my best to let what happens on the Widow Chick Facebook page roll off my back.  I ask questions and post blogs, hoping that it will inspire communication in the widow community.  I don't expect everyone to agree with me.  While most people are "friendly" in that group, I haven't "friended" everyone and they join on their own:  It's an open page for anyone to see and take part in.

But my personal page...that's different.  It's personal.  It seems like everyone forgot what their mothers taught them about "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all."  On my personal page, I don't post things there for discussion.  I post things about my life.  Those people should be my friends, just as the people on your own personal page should be yours.  It's not a page for everyone to see.  It's a closed page so that I can keep track of the people I care about.  And for people who care about me enough to want to know what's going on in my life.

It's crazy how much power we've put into this whole "friending" business.  I was just talking to a friend of mine (yes, a real-life friend) about how she was thinking about unfriending someone.  But she was worried about how to do it in a way that wouldn't offend.  Because when you "unfriend" someone these're really making a statement.

I've had some people disappear from my personal page.  And do you know how I know that?  Because one day I'll be looking at the number of friends I have and it will be one less.  The sad thing is, because there are so many people on the list that I only kind of know or don't really know at all...I don't know who it was.  And that's terrible.  Because in "real life"...if I lose a friend, I know who it is and why.

I'm just coming to terms with how much this whole social media thing affects me and how easy it is to let the negativity of a stranger creep its way into my life.  It's something we should all be aware of.  I'm sure someone somewhere is performing some sort of study on social media and how it affects our outlook on the world around us.  And if they aren't, they should be.  We're giving it so much power, allowing it to take over our lives.  Not one person out there needs to be bombarded with negativity on a regular basis.

Because negativity only breeds negativity.  And then we're the ones ruining someone else's day.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Send to Grief Camp or Not? That is the Question....

This has been an issue that's been weighing on me for a while.  Mainly because I feel like, when it comes to my children and their grief process...I think I've been doing a pretty good job as a mom.  We've counseled when we needed to, talked openly about what happened and how that's affected our lives, and honestly grown together into a family that I never thought we'd be ('cause we're missing one), but ultimately I'm proud of.

But now I'm facing a dilemma.

Both of my older children have attended a grief camp out here in Colorado called Camp Comfort.  I know that there are programs like it all over the country and from our experience...I can't say enough about it.  They accept kids 6-12 and for 2 days, each child has their own counselor who will be with them the entire time.  You kid wants to horseback ride?  Fine.  The counselor will take them.  Swim?  They'll get them suited up and in the pool.  Crafts?  They're standing by with the glue.

Camp Comfort allows the kids to play, but they also have activities to help the kids deal with their grief.  They can make memory jars or dolls that look like the person they've lost.  They bring pictures so they can talk about their loved one.  And if they don't feel like participating in those activities...that's okay.  Their counselor will bring them over to do something else.

Like I said, both of my older children have experienced Camp and loved it, mainly because they had a weekend to do what every kid dreams of doing.  I get the feeling with my two older children (because they were 5 and 3 when my husband died), that it was actually less about the grief activities and more about the fact that they got to do so many fun things.  I sent them both when they were old enough because I wanted them to be around other kids and talk to people other than me about what they were feeling.  And the weekend was a success.  For both of them.

Well, now my youngest is 6 and she wants to go.  Again...I think it is less about the loss of her dad and more about the fun activities.  And that's okay.  My problem is that I feel like my youngest is one of those children who might do I say this?...susceptible to other people's grief.  That is...she may not be grieving now, but once she gets around others whose grief is more fresh and raw...she may feel like she should be behaving the same way.  Whether the actual grief is there or not.

Believe me...I'm not ignoring her grief or trying to gloss over what could someday be a problem.  I realize that since she lost him so young (she was only 1), her grief may happen later or in ways that I'm not expecting.  But I do think that sending her right now could send us into a regression we might not have otherwise.

What do you think?

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Contagious Diseases, Flying With Kids, and Other Ramblings

(Don't change the channel.  Yes, I changed the look of the blog.  The birds were starting to depress me.  I don't know why.)

Whew.  What a weekend.

I spent all of last week completely stressed out about a virus that was running rampant throughout my house.  Normally, I'm not one of those moms who worry so much about illnesses.  I don't douse my children in hand sanitizer, preferring instead to build up their little immune systems.  I would rather they not put anything into their mouths that is not supposed to be edible, but sometimes they do and who am I to judge?  And I don't quarantine them every time they come into contact with someone who has a cough (I used to do that when I was a mother of one, but no mother of three does that because she knows that if her child doesn't pick up that cough from the kid down the street, chances are they'll pick it up from McDonald's.  It's better to contract a virus from someone you know, don't you think?  Friendlier that way).

Anyway, I was stressed because we were scheduled to fly to Austin to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday.  And since she specifically said no presents, I was worried about giving her the gift that keeps on giving - some sort of respiratory infection - courtesy of my children.  Not only was I worried it would probably kill her, I felt sure it would make me the least popular grandchild.

It didn't occur to me until we were on our way to the airport that I had never done this before.  I have taken my kids on short overnight road trips, but I had never flown with all three children by myself.  As we all know, flying today isn't what it used to be and I had a slight panic attack as we entered the parking garage, thinking about getting all of the kids through security (yes, that was us in front of you in line, all three kids wailing and shoeless even though they didn't need to be, a fact that I didn't know until we approached the metal detector which always goes off, thanks to my bra manufacturer).  My son just about missed the train to get to Concourse C, something I thought was unintentional, but now I'm wondering if it was a foiled escape attempt.  And the fight for the window seat started early, with tears (from them) and threats (from me) that made me wish we were flying cargo which would make for one less argument.

But we made it on the plane (yes, that was us coughing behind you in row 22 and pulling the shade up and down because the person who had won the right to be in that seat was on a power trip and raising and lowering at will in order to piss off the less fortunate siblings) where, of course, the man in front of me strongly hinted that he wanted a scalp massage by reclining as far as he possibly could and then stretching his entire body so that the seat went back a couple of inches more.

(This is a side note, but why does that always happen to me?  I'm always the tallest woman on the plane and I noticed, when I looked around, that not one other person had reclined except the man in front of me.  The reclining of others brings out my inner bitch and forces me to knee the back of the seat just when I think you're starting to fall asleep and allow my tray table to fall and bounce several times during the flight.  I don't like the person I become when you recline.  And I'm sure you like it less.)

We finally made it to Austin and after getting off the plane, saw the smiling faces of my parents who had driven a few days earlier and picked us up at the airport.  We were there for less than 48 hours and tried our best to catch up with as many people as we could.  I loved hanging out with family members I never get to see and catching up with my grandmother, something I don't do as often as I should.

It's crazy to see how much we've all changed.  All of us cousins who were once wild teenagers are all settled and (yikes!) driving minivans.  Our attention was divided between the conversations we wanted to have with each other and trying to find various children who had wandered off to find reptiles to take home or mud to jump in.  And, to the surprise of my uncle, we bid each other goodnight both nights by 9:30 PM, and then stayed awake all night, not because of raucous partying...but because our children talk, snore, and sometimes beat us to a pulp in their sleep.

By the time we got home last night after our second flight in less than 48-hours (where I continually held the fact that it was Mother's Day over my kids' heads, hoping to guilt them into good behavior.  Yeah.  Didn't work), we were completely exhausted.  I put in a load of laundry that had already started to melt and mildew in my suitcase.  The kids took out the "fun stuff" in their backpacks and got ready for school the next day.  And in a blink the weekend was over.

But never forgotten.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cracking the World Wide Open

I’ve been thinking of a blog for a while that I’m hoping I’ll be able to write next month about how well I’m doing.  I say “hoping” because mid-June begins my month of hell with a cluster of difficult dates like we all seem to have.  I’m “hoping” to write that blog about how, after 5 years, I keep doing better and better than the year before (which I am) and I’m hoping that this is the year that will be a turning point, the year that I will be able to acknowledge those dates without the nervous breakdown I seem to have during that 30 days every year.  We’ll see if I’m able to write that blog in a few weeks.  

Here’s hoping.

I do feel like I’m doing better.  I feel like life has given me a lot to look forward to and be grateful for and that I have created things to be grateful for and look forward to.  

But this morning I was talking to a couple, both of them nurses and the parents of my daughter’s friend, about my husband’s organ donation and, of course, out-of-the-blue, I began to cry a little.  I was trying to give them a few tips on how to handle the family, should they ever find themselves in a situation where they’re helping with a possible organ donation.  As we all know, there are times when we can tell these stories like robots, recounting them like they’ve happened to someone else.  And then there are times when we can’t help but have one detail strike us expectantly.  And then the tears will fall.

The couple was gracious enough to cry with me.

 Yesterday I played hooky for a little while, feeling a little bogged down by all of the things I’m trying to accomplish.  And nothing feels better than, when you have a lot going on, turning off your computer and doing something completely unproductive and frivolous.  So that’s what I did.
I started watching LarryCrowne yesterday afternoon, a movie I wasn’t all that particularly interested in seeing, but was on at the right time so I thought I would give it a go.  And after the beginning, when Larry loses his job and looks so completely devastated, I almost turned it off.  Because being the empathetic person that I am, I can’t help but feel like I’m taking a physical blow when I’m witnessing someone else go through something difficult, whatever it might be.  And I wasn’t sure if the movie was falling under the category of “frivolous”…something that I really needed yesterday afternoon.

I’m glad I stuck with it.  There were parts that were a little silly and a little hard to believe, but Tom Hanks made it all worth it.  His facial expressions and unassuming demeanor throughout the movie made it all worthwhile.  And when it ended, I sat there and tried to figure out why the movie affected me so much.

And then it came to me.

After all of the terrible things had happened to him – his layoff, his fear of losing his home – Larry Crowne treated the world like it was a whole new place for him.  He went back to college and thrived, something he would have never done before he lost his job.  He met up with a new “gang” of friends because he decided to buy a scooter to save gas money, something he would have never done before he lost his job.  And as the movie went on, Larry Crowne became a new person and – dare I say? – happier for losing his job.

He was forced into a new life and when he was, it was like he just opened himself up to everything.  When someone suggested he go riding with a group of scooter enthusiasts, you could see the look on his face that said, “What?  Who me?” and then “Why not?”  He hopped on the bike and began tooling around with a group of strangers who would become his friends.  It was like once he lost everything…he was open to everything.

And that was something I could really relate to.

I’ve had so many overwhelming moments since my husband died.  Too many to count.  But I’ve also had moments of deep courage and unshakeable faith in myself and what I can do.

Too many to count.

There are so many things I would have never known about myself and never known what I was capable of until my world cracked wide open, that afternoon in July when he died.  It was like when I was left with what I felt like was nothing, I had no choice but to create something.  And then I created much more than I ever thought I could.

So thank you, Larry Crowne, for reminding me that the moments that sometimes feel like the end are actually the beginning of something else that we may not have even thought of yet.  Thanks for reminding us that Devastation also travels with its counterpart:  Opportunity.  Thanks for reminding us that, sometimes, when life feels like it has cracked wide open…

…it may be because it’s making room for something else to grow.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.