Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Ghost of Halloweens Past

So, I was talking to my neighbor at the bus stop (where I get all of my good gossip) and she was asking about our Halloween plans.  Frankly, I love talking to this neighbor because she is constantly telling me what a magical single parent I am to be able to keep 3 kids on the straight and narrow.

"I don't know how you do it!" She says.  "I can barely manage with one let alone three!"

The kids and I don't go down to the bus stop every day.  But when I start questioning my parenting skills, I go for a little pick-me-up.

This morning she asked about my plans and I told her, "I've got to get some work done.  But I'll be in and out all day trying to make it to the kids' Halloween parties."

"I don't know how you do that all on your own," she said.

I thought about that for a minute and then told her, "Well, I always have."

It's true.  Even when my husband was alive, very rarely would he be home for all of the Halloween merriment because he was constantly traveling for work.  We were one of those dreaded houses that just put a bowl of candy on the front porch while I took the kids trick-or-treating on my own, just praying that our pumpkins would all be in one piece when we got back and not the victims of disgruntled teenager pumpkin violence.

One year in particular will probably be my favorite Halloween memory as an adult - and somehow, even though he wasn't with us, my husband is a big part of that memory.  He was gone (of course), leaving me with a 10 month old, 2 year old, and 5 year old to get ready for Halloween.  Because our neighborhood is not really trick-or-treat friendly (especially for little people with short legs), my sister had decided that we should meet up near downtown Denver for a trick-or-treat street.

"It will be easy," she said.  "All of the stores on the block will hand out candy so all we have to do is take the kids up and down one block and be done with it.  Simple."

For some reason it didn't occur to me that this might be hard, given the fact that we live way out in the 'burbs and that we would need to get to the festivities right when they started so that I could make the long trek back home and get all of the kids to bed on time.  And, having lived in Colorado for most of my life, I really should have thought about the fact that it might be a little hard to get everyone ready for 20 degree weather, then put them in the car for a 1 hour drive, figure out a way to parallel park, load people into strollers, and meet my sister and her husband with their two kids at our appointed time.

Rookie mistake.

At 4:30 PM I eyed my kids and mentally put together my plan of attack.  I pointed to my oldest daughter and said, "Head upstairs and put on long underwear, sweats, and then your costume.  I'll do your face paint in a minute."

She trotted off while I put the baby on the floor and proceeded to make her into a mini-version of the Michelin man with 2 layers of clothes under her Blues Clues costume.  She squirmed and started to whimper in discomfort as I stood up and ran to the kitchen to make her a bottle.

"Ready!" said my oldest, waddling down the stairs in her fairy costume, stretched to the max over all of the layers.

"Okay, go sit in the recliner over there and push it back.  I'm going to give you the baby and you're going to feed her while I get your brother ready."

She happily sat herself in the chair and I handed her the baby and the bottle while I put the required number of layers on my son.  My husband, by now relaxing in a hotel room in Virginia, of course called in the middle of this chaos (do they have the best timing or what?) and the conversation consisted of me saying, "Hi.  I love you.  We miss you.  Actually I'm really annoyed that you're not here.  Gotta go.  Bye."  Click

By the time I got the kids loaded up, they were all sweating and cranky.  I slowly made my way downtown through the traffic with the air conditioner on high even though it was freezing cold outside.  We finally made it to where we needed to be, got everyone unstrapped and loaded into strollers, and then spent all of 20 minutes trick-or-treating before all of the kids were too tired and just wanted to go home.

That Halloween, I was irritated, exhausted, tired, and annoyed.  Now when I look back on it, I can't help but laugh at how we all must have looked - like the Griswalds on Halloween, trying to make the perfect memory, thinking in the moment that we were falling short, but ultimately making the most perfect memory.

And what does that have to do with how much I miss my husband on Halloween?  I mean he wasn't even there!

Well.  I'll tell you.  It's strange how you can miss someone, just the fact of them, even if they weren't physically there to make that memory with you.

Because you still remember missing them at the time.

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, October 29, 2012

Saturday Night Widows: The Story of One of Our Own

 You all know that I love to pass on books that have an impact on me and I never write about something unless I think it's worth spending your hard-earned money on.  I know we all have our own taste when it comes to "widow reads" - some like the more self-help approach while I, along with a few others, appreciate a good story.  This is why, in the last few years, I have only written about a few books (Two Chai Day, When You're Falling, Dive) because I don't like passing on something that hasn't impacted me in a positive way.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a woman, Becky Aikman, who is no stranger to the writing process, but who is new to our bank of "widow lit."  In the email she said, "My new book, Saturday Night Widows, is being released by Random House on January 22. Advance copies have just come in from the printer, and I would be delighted if you would let me share one with you and tell me what you think."

And of course I only had one response:  "Heck, yeah.  The sooner the better."

Now, usually, when I'm writing about a book, I like to pull a few quotes from it.  And while I read Becky's book, I underlined and dog-eared pages so that I could include them in my blog.

But then I liked the book so much, I loaned it to my mom who is still reading it.

Becky Aikman is like so many of us - not willing to take her widowhood lying down, she decided that there must be a better way to work through the grieving process than sitting around with a group of people, drinking bad coffee and comparing horror stories.  In a bold move, she gathered a small group of women she didn't know to get together once a month to  Through the course of a year, this group of women who, in the beginning, had very little in common other than the fact that they were widows, dove out of their comfort zones and back into the pool of life.  

What will appeal to so many is the personalities in the group and how different each of their experiences are:  Becky's husband passed away from a long illness while Denise's husband died suddenly in her home right in front of her.  Marcia's husband died of cancer while Tara's estranged husband died from alcoholism.  Leslie was shocked when her husband took his own life and Dawn was left with two young children to raise after her husband died in an ATV accident during a weekend with friends.

Yup.  When it comes to widowhood, these women cover a lot of bases.

But what I love most about this book is her approach.  A writer by trade, Becky took her widowhood on as the ultimate research project.  In the beginning, she participated in studies about grief and interviewed experts, trying to figure out why we do what we do and how we might be able to do it better.  As I type that, it sounds like it could make for some dry material, but she writes in a way that is so perfectly interwoven in her story that it doesn't come across as clinical.  And as I was reading the book, over 5 years into my own widowhood, I had several "ah ha!" moments that either confirmed that what I was doing to get through my grief was right on track - or that there were a few things that I could do differently.

I read this book over a particularly rough weekend - the end of my 3 1/2 year relationship, the most serious relationship I've had since my husband died.  And what was interesting was that, while I related to Becky's story as a widow, it actually helped me with my break-up.  One of the lessons she learned (and I'm paraphrasing here - again, Mom still has the book) was something that I really think pulled the kids and me through:

If you're having a sad moment, don't dwell too much.  
Immediately try to replace it with a happy one.

I took that advice to heart and as I told the kids about the change that we were about to experience, watching their faces fall and tears well up in their eyes, I stood up and said, "Get dressed.  We're going on a hike."

In the sunshine and in the presence of just each other, the kids and I talked about this transition but not in the way we might have if we had just stayed home and wallowed in our sadness.  We were happy.  We were together.  And even though this is a rough transition, I believe it was easier because we made the effort to be happy.  While I will never forget how hard that weekend was, the memory I actually have is following my kids on a trail through a canyon, breathing in the pine-scented air, and watching them help each other over a rocky path.

So, Becky - you may not have meant for this book to be "self-help."  But in telling your story, it certainly helped me.

GREAT NEWS!!!  Becky's publisher has offered 10 free advance copies of her book "Saturday Night Widows" for the next 10 people who sign up for any Widda Getaway!  Email to book your trip and receive your free copy!

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, October 22, 2012

Flying Solo

Years ago, when I started writing this blog, I swore I would do it honestly.  I would write about my life as a widow - the ups, downs, changes, and what I learned from it all.  And in those early years, people related to those posts because they were raw at the beginning of my journey.

Now that I'm past the 5 year mark, I find that less people can relate to what I have to say.  In the beginning throes of grief, so many of the fundamental elements are the same for us all.  And as we move further away from that dreaded day, our lives expand, becoming more complicated and, therefore, more our own and less for everyone else.

But I still write.  Mainly because I can't help it.  I've given up on the idea that people read it and use it as sort of a diary.  Because this blog has been a map of my life and I need it more than anyone else.

Last week I ended a 3 and a half year relationship.  It wasn't without drama, but it was for the simple fact that it wasn't working.  No one did anything wrong and neither party was a bad person.  It just happened.

It happened.

I'm wondering if that's the hardest kind of break-up - the kind where you can't say that someone else was horrible.  The kind that you have to admit the basics aren't there. What I am starting to understand about that kind of parting is that it makes it harder to explain to other people when both sides of the relationship are basically good in their own way.  Just maybe not good together.

So here I am...over 5 years since my husband died.  And for over half that time I've been in this relationship in which I've invested not only my heart but my precious time and visions for the future.  The other party asked at one point, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

And I had no answer.

I spent the beginning of my widowhood afraid of being alone.  Insecure with myself, my baggage, and what I thought I didn't have to offer I needed someone to tell me that, yes, I was worth something.  That I was dynamic and down-to-earth at the same time.  To give me worth when, for some reason, I felt like I had none. 

It's strange to say that becoming a widow probably made me feel as abandoned as someone else might feel going through a divorce.  But it's true.

So now what?  Here I am, single for the first time since 2009.  The kids have lost the only father figure they really remember because they were so young when my husband died.  There have been tears and hearts broken that I hope will mend.  There are things around the house that I don't know how to fix that I was once dependent on my husband for, then a boyfriend, and now...who?

I guess that would be me.

If there's one thing I know about myself at this point is that I can be alone. Yes, I was in a relationship for a while, but I was alone before that.  If I don't know how to fix it, I know who to call.  I know where the plunger is.  I know how to start a lawn mower.

These are all vast improvements from my early widow years.

All I can think is that with every heartbreak - whether it's from death or the loss of a relationship - there is something to be learned.

It could be what we want.

It could be what we miss.

Then again, it might just be what we find out about ourselves through the barrel rolls of life.

Monday, October 8, 2012

2013 Widda Getaways!

When we go through something so traumatic, it can be hard to remember to take care of ourselves.  But this is your chance!  Give yourself something to look forward to after the holidays.  Still not sure?  Here are some things that attendees from previous retreat weekend have had to say:

“I met amazing women who could identify and relate in surprising ways.  I felt connected and support in many spiritual and emotional ways.”

“I was nervous about coming here to meet up with unfamiliar people….From the first moment I felt comfortable with everyone.  Being able to just sit and talk for hours like we’ve been friends forever was amazing!”   

With each trip we will be asking for a refundable deposit at least 30 days before the trip in order to get a better idea of how many people are coming.  We will have a minimum number and if that number is not met, your deposit is refunded back to you.  The reason we are doing this is to give you the best travel experience possible.

Click on each title below for more information:

February 22-24, 2013
(Deposit must be made by January 1st to guarantee space.

Wondering if these getaway weekends are any fun?  Well, many of the attendees from past weekends are joining us in Vegas, so I think the answer would be YES!  These weekends are designed for you to have time alone if you would like to or hang out with the group if you feel like it - it's YOUR time so you should enjoy it!


June 6 - 9, 2013

I'm really excited about this weekend because I LOVE this hotel.  It's in the perfect location so that we can spa, shop, go to great restaurants...all within walking distance!  

June is a GREAT time of year to be in Denver (and if you're living in a humid climate - you just can't beat the weather).  

Take care of yourself for once and join us for a weekend and relax and have a glass of wine.  You won't believe how much better you'll feel being around other people who understand what you're going through.  You'll leave this weekend relaxed and rejuvenated and with new friends who "get it"!

October 2013

It's no secret - you all know that I love to relax with a glass of wine.  (And it's no secret that I know a lot of you do, too!!)  Here's our chance to do it together!  Melanie Pahl with Distinct Destinations is an EXPERT at putting together wine and food trips.  She is customizing this trip just for us and it's sure to be a success.

Picture this:  It's fall and you're already dreading the upcoming holiday season.  But wait!  You were smart enough to book a trip that will allow you to get away before the madness starts!  You'll come back from a long, relaxing weekend ready for what the holidays are about to throw at you.  And even better!  You'll have new friends you can talk to who will understand what it's like to tackle those tough months.

Join us!  It's the best thing you will do for yourself!

DON'T FORGET!  I still have a few early copies of Saturday Night Widows - your copy is FREE if you sign up for any one of the Widda Getaways!  Just email 

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.