Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When a Kidney Calls

I got a call yesterday that I'd been waiting on for a long time.

They just didn't say what I'd hoped.

I was driving a car full of kids (and I do mean FULL) to the local indoor pool for a swim.  Since said kids were all spending the night at my house, I was doing what I could to tire them out.  My phone started ringing, which the Bluetooth in my car picked up, but unfortunately my phone was all the way in the back of the car, so I couldn't really see who was calling - just a phone number I didn't recognize.  I had that moment of indecision - should I pick up or not? - but worried it was one of the kids' moms I answered.

"Is this Catherine?"


"This is John from the Donor Alliance. Is this a good time?"

Again - moment of indecision.  Chances were they were calling to ask if I'd make a speech or something, but my gut wasn't so sure.

"I actually have kids in the car right now.  Can I call you right back?"

"Sure.  I'll be here for the next two hours."

After getting the kids settled in the pool area, I stepped out so I could watch them through the window.

"Donor Alliance, this is Ashley."

"Ashley - I'm returning John's call."

"John in PR or John in Aftercare?"

"Oh.  I don't know."  Yup.  Speech.

"One moment and I'll check with both."

Cue elevator music.

"Hi this is John in Aftercare."

My stomach flipped.  I'd written to Brad's organ donors twice, never hearing from any of them and part of me desperately wanted to.  The other part was worried about how emotional that might be; it could be the best thing that's ever happened to me, connecting me with a living piece of Brad.  Or it could send me spiraling back down a hole I've finally climbed out of.

But before I could really dwell on either scenario, John continued.

It seemed that I'd received a letter (for those of you who don't know, you have to correspond through the Donor Alliance until both parties agree to exchange personal information, protecting the privacy of both donors and recipients.) and John was calling to warn me before he sent it to me.

The letter was from the husband of one of Brad's kidney recipients; his wife had died from an illness unrelated to the transplant.  John just wanted to let me know before I found this letter in my mailbox.

After thanking him for his sensitivity, I ended the call.  I stood there, watching the kids play in the pool through through the window, and tried to process what I was feeling before I went in and tried to act human again.  And one word kept popping into my head.

I felt cheated.

I didn't realize it up until then, but I think a part of me expected all of the people who received Brad's organs to live forever.  They weren't supposed to die because he already did.  He gave them some perfectly healthy stuff and I think I was expecting them all to outlive me.  Or something.

I don't know.  Whatever has been going through my head since that call makes absolutely no sense.  But the quickest way I can sum it up is that I feel sad.  I feel like another part of him has died (which, technically it has).  I'm disappointed.  And, once again, I wish things could be different.

As I type this, it occurs to me that this isn't all bad news.  After all, this kidney recipient just passed last year.  Which means she had seven extra years she wouldn't have had without Brad.

In my mind, those years were filled with love, laughter, family, and friends.

Brad would have liked that.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Losing It: A Widowed Mom's Thanksgiving Weekend

I lost it this weekend.

Big time.

You know the story:  Kid wants to go out for the night and needs a ride.  Mom says she's too tired because she's been running said kid all over the place the entire weekend.  Said kid starts to pout.  Mom starts crying and screaming, "I don't know if you realize this, but I'm doing this by myself" as she slams out of the room.

Okay.  Maybe you didn't know that story.  But you do now.

Ugh.  I wasn't pretty.  And it's not a new scene.  However, it happens a lot more in my head than it does in real life.

It's not my kid's fault.  Any of my kids.  And most parents - widowed or not - totally get this.  I'm tired.  I don't want to shuttle your ass anywhere else.  I already bought you new boots today.  Isn't that enough??

Kids are kids and we were all like that at one point in our lives.  Yes, they're selfish and it's our job to teach them to think of others so they'll grow up to be caring human beings someday. 

But maybe not by throwing a temper tantrum (me, not her) and slamming out of the room.

My argument was valid, though.  And let's face it - our family situation can be shitty sometimes.  But what usually  happens is that I acknowledge how hard it must be for the kids to not have a dad. 

Very rarely do they acknowledge how hard it must be for me to not have a partner in all of this.

Again, not their job.  I get it.  But as my daughter was begging me to basically spend two hours just driving her to the party and back last night, I couldn't help but bring up something I had been thinking about the entire weekend.

"You know, I'm the only one of your friends' parents who does everything.  If they're single, they're divorced which means they're driving their kids around every other weekend.  I am doing it all on my own, all of the time.  It's no one's fault - it is how it is.  But sometimes I just wish you'd remember that and cut me a little slack."

Of course, this wasn't said as calmly as I just typed it.  But my point was made by the fact that I hadn't even showered (at 4 PM), I had just spent the afternoon before getting her to lunch and the movies with her friends, and hosting several other kids the night before (for my other kids) at an epic sleepover that involved sleeping bags sliding down stairs and other Motrin-inducing moments.

I was done.

I know this wasn't my kids' fault.  I like for them to have fun.  What I miss - truly, truly from the bottom of my core - is someone in my life who will either say to the kids, "You know what?  You can stay home tonight.  Let's let Mom rest" or "Don't worry, honey.  I'll take care of it."

Is that too much to ask????

Don't answer that.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Does This Make Sense to You?

If you're reading this blog, chances are you've been stuck with the task of going through a loved one's belongings after they've passed.  And if you're reading this blog, chances are you've shaken your head once or twice at the stuff they've left behind.

I've written about my husband's pack-rat nature and I've probably been a little unfair about it.  After all, it probably made perfectly good sense to him to keep dried out pens in old check boxes and three mufflers in our garage.  If I had passed before he did, he would have probably cursed me as he got rid of all of the dishes I like to collect and the twenty pairs of black pants hanging in my closet because I can't ever seem to pass them up when I find them in a tall size.

But whomever gets the task of going through my stuff upon my demise might find some other puzzling things around my house that I wish to explain right now.

There's a blue sweatshirt that has a tattered collar and rips in the cuffs of the sleeves.  It's extremely soft on the inside and used to smell like soap and Old Spice deodorant.  Years ago I tried replacing it, but its owner was never satisfied with the newer shirts that I bought.  And then after he died, I spent many a night curled up in it, wishing its former occupant would come back and hug me one more time and I could put my head on the warm, solid shoulder that used to be in it.  You'll see it in pictures holding a newborn baby girl and lying on the floor with a fluffy dog that's with her owner now.

There's a feather bed pillow at the top of my closet that looks yellow with age and someone else probably would have thrown it out years ago.  But it was his favorite and, for some reason, I can't stand to part with it.  The feathers sometimes stick out of the casing, but it can be punched down to the perfect shape that will encase your head and cover your ears.  At least that's what he told me.

There are twelve coolers in my garage that you might think are a little excessive, but were given to us by friends and family at a wedding shower almost 20 years ago when we were moving to Florida.  They've been on picnics, carried their fair share of beer, and take up more room in the garage than necessary.  But for some reason they're necessary to me.

There's a teddy bear in my daughter's room that used to be white, but is now a light gray.  It's holding a red rose, like the one he gave me along with that teddy bear while we celebrated our first Valentine's Day together in college.

There's a metal coffee mug in the back of my kitchen cabinet that has the logo of a college I didn't go to.  It used to hold what I called "girly coffee" (which was more hot chocolate than anything) and wake its owner up when he would get in his car to go to work before anyone else in the house had stirred.

There's a torn leather chair in my office that someone else might have put in a donation pile long ago.  You'll see that chair in many of the pictures with the sweatshirt (they seemed to go hand-in-hand) and it still holds kids when they come home from school and tell me about their day.  It is bulky and worn and most women wouldn't want it in their feminine office.  But to me it fits just right.

And last...there's a note in my drawer written in tiny, neat script that says, "I'll fix this when I get a chance.  B."  It's referring to an antique wooden box given to me by my grandmother that I foolishly broke years ago and almost tossed years later...when I opened it and found the note inside after the giver of the gift and the fixer had long passed.

I know that a lot of this probably doesn't make sense.  And that's okay - it doesn't have to.  We've all marveled and wondered about why people keep the things they do and how something so trivial could possibly be important.

But it's never the thing - it's all that's attached to it.  The thing can be discarded.  But there's always a fear that getting rid of it will make us remember less.

I haven't kept everything he had, which is probably what doesn't make sense to people.  How could she get rid of all of his clothes, yet keep a briefcase that's worn beyond repair?  Why would she keep that really obnoxious football jacket she didn't even like when he was alive?  Why would someone still have an email account saved on her computer with what looks like meaningless emails?

I don't know.  But in some way, it just makes sense to me.

So there.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

If my therapist is reading this...I'll be in touch as soon as I hit "Publish."

I've gotten a lot of comments, emails, etc. about my blog yesterday.  So many of you understood what I was talking about (always a bonus when you think you're living in the Land of the Insane.  Company is always nice).

And it brought me to this question:  I'm trying to figure out why we bother dating at all? 

I think part of it is that I have heard enough success stories within my own circles, widowed and not, to keep dipping my toe in.  And I am extremely happy for those friends; they're all nice people who have found nice people and two rights never make a wrong (right?).  They've been able to put aside their own hangups and look past those little things that seem to annoy me (Yes, to my friend Wendi Sue who posted on my Facebook author page...I agree with Jerry Seinfeld and I really don't like it when they eat their peas one at a time).

But there is one word that keeps flashing in my mind when I think about the whole dating thing.


Fear that it won't work out.  Fear that it will.  Fear that I'll make the wrong decision either way.

What most people in my situation get stuck on is the idea that something will happen to the person they've fallen for and that is a very real fear.  I know I've had times when I've been dating someone, they'll tell me some ailment they have, and if it's anything bigger than a hangnail I start looking for the exit.

And we shouldn't be made to feel guilty about that.  We're not being shallow - we just know what it's like to lose someone.  And we're not anxious to do it again.

It was such a violation the first time - something was taken from us.  I mean, if you'd been burglarized...wouldn't you be a lot more cautious about locking the door?

So, the other fear is the exact opposite:  What if I'm alone for the rest of my life? 

That's the one that keeps me plugging away.  I have three children at home right now and my life is a tornado of loud, smelly, laughing, yelling activity.  But they will get older.  They will move away (no seriously...they WILL move away).

And my house will be quiet.

Will I like that?  Will I not?  Will I wish I had spent this time - before my breasts have to be rolled up into my bra (right now they just have to be shoved into the right spot)  - wishing I had been more proactive in finding a partner?

Or will I enjoy the silence and congratulate myself on having complete control over the remote?

I have no answer here, as is often the case.  But the one thing I hate about this situation is that it is all so based in fear.  That never gets anyone anywhere.  The problem is that at this age, I've experienced so much - some good, some bad - that I'm trying to do everything I can to find the good again without experiencing the bad.

And I should really know by now that that's not possible.

The problem is that almost everything in life is so damn unexpected - both the good and the bad.  I didn't expect my husband to die just like I didn't really expect to meet him in the first place.  I didn't expect to be on my own, just as I didn't expect to like it as much as I do now.  I didn't expect to come home one day and to a completely pristine house because my kids cleaned the whole thing while I was gone.  Which is good because that never happened.

Just wanted to see if you were still reading.

Is the secret to happiness to let go of all of your expectations? 

But then won't you just be expecting something to happen because you've given up your expectations?

(If my therapist is reading this...I'll be in touch as soon as I hit "Publish.")

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I'm the Relationship Vulture: If you have a flaw, I'll circle until I find it.

I couldn't sleep last night because I had so many great ideas about how to write this blog.  I really should have gotten up and done it because now I can't remember one damn thing.

Oh, well.  We'll just wing it today.

As with most things in the last 8+ years, I feel like I'm going backwards.  I wrote about that a lot in my book - in fact, that was the main reason I felt so "mediocre."  I kept thinking that I was grieving backwards and mourning my husband in the wrong order.  I lived life at a break-neck pace in the beginning, only to crash months later.  I threw parties and emmersed myself in my friendships and then isolated myself later in my dimly lit basement where I cranked out a book.

And I dated early...which brings me to where I am today.  Not wanting to date at all.

There are moments when I let myself remember what it's like to be part of a relationship - to hold hands walking through the mall, to ask someone what they think about what's on TV, to have that blind acceptance of someone else because you know they feel the same way about you.

Yes.  I miss that.

But it's the getting there that I can't do.  Years ago, after Brad died, I was so determined to find someone else and settle down again that I was open to just about anything.  Now, eight years later, alone and somewhat jaded (I'll be the first to admit it), I'm not open to anyone.  I don't know when it happened.  It just did.

Well, that's not entirely true.  When I look back I can see the progression.  I was married to a good man and I lost him.  I had a relationship after that that hurt me deeply which was yet another loss.  Both of those experiences left me scared.  And being scared forced me into a life in Singleville.  And being single became something I cling to.

In other words:  all those years ago I was scared to be alone.  Now I'm scared to be attached.

So, here's what happens.  With every man I encounter, I pick them apart to the point where there's nothing left.  I'm the relationship vulture.  If you have a flaw, I'll circle until I find it.  I'm not mean about it - it's all in my head.  But if they have any of the qualities of the men that haven't worked out since my husband died...I'm outta there.

And what if they don't have one?  Well, that's the pickle I'm in now.

I went on a date last week (my mother's going to read this and say, "What?  And you didn't tell me?") and it was lovely.  He showed up with rose (who does that anymore?), took me to see a jazz band (points for creativity), and we went out for a bite to eat where he suggested we order just about every fried item on the appetizer menu (I hope he's still around when I'm PMSing -that could come in handy).

Up until that point, I'd already been testing him.  Oh, yes.  Me and my wicked ways.  I'm widowed.  I have three kids. I work.  Which makes me unresponsive, unavailable, and usually has any man saying after a week, "You know what?  It doesn't seem like you have time for this."

Not this one (so far).  I get text messages that tell me how much he admires me for taking all of this on my own.  That he doesn't want to push, but he would be really happy to see me when I can make it work.  That he understands if I don't call when I say I will because I have so much going on.

Well, shit.  Now what do I do?

Here's the sad part - the part where the girl finds a nice guy and realizes that being single has nothing really to do with the men out there.  It's entirely her doing and she has to decide if being with someone else is worth the risk.  She has to decide if the fear that she's allowed to take over her life (in many areas) is what's going to be her companion.  If it will keep her safe.

I don't know.

I had a consultation with an author yesterday who is working on a memoir about the abuse she suffered when she was first married in the 1960s.  She never remarried and she said, "I never wanted anyone to have control over my life again."

And I found myself nodding along to everything she was saying.  I've never been abused, but I am a control freak and allowing someone else to influence my life is a very scary prospect right now.

But I listened to this woman, who is now in her 70s, tell me she's been alone since then.  And that got me to thinking.

Do I want the next memoir I write to be about all the fear that's kept me from living? 

I don't think so.
I mean...who would read THAT?

17 Things To Expect When You Start Dating Someone Who Has Been Single For A While

Being single awards us certain privileges like not having to consider a partner in decision making and taking up literally all the space on the bed at night. There are 17 things you should consider when you start dating someone who has been alone for a while.

1. They might do things without letting you know

At first at least. Being single for an extended period of time gets you into the habit of acting alone. As your relationship develops, so will your partnership with them.

2. They’ll likely want to move slowly

It’s not that they don’t like you. They’re just not in a rush to be married to you.

3. Their friends might be overprotective

But that’ll wear off with time. They’re just not used to seeing their friend be with someone else.

4. They might not let you do things for them

Again, don’t take it personally. Single people are used to taking care of themselves. They’re not used to having someone look out for them.

5. They might be a little stubborn at first

Don’t worry, it’ll fade. Much like doing things without letting you know, this is how a single person operates. But eventually, your partnership will materialize.

6. They’ll want to be left alone sometimes

Especially at first. They’re probably not going to be head over heels for you the second your first date starts. They might still be nervous, but not exactly eager to jump into anything too serious too fast.

7. There may be a point where they pull away

Give them time and space. They are probably just realizing how serious it’s getting.

8. They might question your feelings

They’ll probably want to get into your head. They’re used to being able to figure things out on their own with themselves. Now they feel like they have to figure you out too.

9. They might be headstrong initially

They’re not likely to ask for or accept help. They’ll let go of their tight grip eventually.

10. They have their guard up

But like everything else listed here, they’ll let it down eventually. Especially if you’re patient.

11. They might not be too trusting at first

And besides, why would they trust you fully after a few dates? Be patient and it’ll come.

12. They’ll seem strong

But don’t be intimidated. It’s just a protective shell. They’ll come out eventually.

13. They might be reserved

A lot of these apply to me before I found myself happily in a relationship but this one. I’m outgoing on a date. Maybe too outgoing. But not everyone is like that. In general.

14. They may not show any vulnerability

Their weaknesses may be hidden. They’ll likely feel weak once those vulnerabilities are out in the open. Make sure you’re there to protect your new partner.

15. They don’t need you

And they may never. But in time, they’ll want you, and that’s what you want.

16. They’re likely afraid

Afraid of being hurt, of being in love, and of being loved. They may be afraid of being hurt again.

17. Being alone is their comfort zone

So be sure to take care not to charge into their comfort zone uninvited.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I Can Take Anything Anybody Calls Me so Long as it's Not True

I stole that line.  I stole it from Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.  But since I suspect that manuscript was in some ways stolen from her...I think it's okay.

But that's another blog.

I spent three years in a relationship where I was basically manipulated and sometimes verbally abused.  I could say a lot more about it, but I won't.  I really should, but I won't.

When this other person wasn't getting his way, he would call me many things...one of which was selfish; which I think we all are to a certain extent (and if we aren't, maybe we should be).  And of all the names he called me...that was the one that never really hit my soul.

You know why?

Well, after reading that quote, I do.

Because it wasn't true.

It's funny.  Being selfish is probably one of my biggest fears.  Which is probably why I'm not.  And I know I'm not.  I'm a good friend.  I will help you pick up all of your pieces if you let me. I give what I can (but I am learning to save a little)

This person would say this to me, push my buttons and make me prove it wasn't true. For years I couldn't figure out why it didn't hurt me when he said it - maybe I was just too cold?   Maybe I was so selfish I didn't even see it? 

Or maybe it didn't hurt me because it wasn't true.

I guess some people might think this blog is self-serving.

It's not.

I'm just proud of myself for knowing who I was before I knew it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What Was She THINKING?

I posted an article earlier this week (I think.  What day is it???) that struck a chord with so many. And it really was a great piece. If you missed it, check out 10 Contradictory and Bull-shitty Scraps of Advice Given to Widows. It really details so well the contrary opinions we get so often - and usually by the same person.

But, be careful.  People in glass houses shouldn't throw bad advice or judgments or in any way make those of us in the widow community feel bad about the decisions they make.

Do you think I can fit that on a bumper sticker?

While that article does point out a very specific problem, it mainly points to those people outside of our circle who have no idea what it's like to be us.

But...what about those of us who do?

I'm guilty of it (but less so now than I used to be).  I wasn't very vocal about it, but there have been times during my widowhood when I've silently judged a fellow griever and questioned the decisions he or she has made.  And I've probably done it for the same reason as the rest of the world, widowed or not, and that is to make myself feel better about my own questionable decisions.

After all...aren't most decisions questionable?  That's why they are decisions.  If there was a hard and fast rule to living any life, we wouldn't have to make any.

Huh.  I had no idea I was going to say that before I typed it.

Anyway,  I've found that usually when people give unwanted advice or feel that their opinions are so right they have to be heard, it's usually in an area where they feel insecure about what's going on in their own lives.

People in unhappy relationships can't wait to tell you if you should or should not be dating.

People who hate their jobs can't wait to give you professional advice.

People who have juvenile delinquents for kids are the first to tell you how to parent.

You get my drift.


So, I'm going to take a guess and say that where we widows suffer the most judgment is in the world of relationships.  And I'm betting that most of the judgment we feel is actually from others in The Widowhood, especially when we've decided to bravely accept a new person into our lives.  We can sympathize with others when it comes to changing jobs or moving or the hardships of single parenting.

But if one of us starts dating or - gasp - gets remarried...you never know what people are going to say.

Oh, sure. Most people will publicly announce that they're happy and maybe some of them are. But many don't understand, don't want to understand, or...okay, I'm just going to say it...are jealous of someone else who's found happiness again.

I feel like I can say that because I've been on both sides of that coin.

I've had friends who have been widowed a lot less longer than I have who have married or have been in long-term relationships longer than the failed one I attempted a couple of years ago.  And while 95% of me is happy for them...the other 5% is wailing, "Why not ME?" 

On the other hand, while I was in the previously stated failed relationship, I had several people in the widowed community tell me I couldn't possibly understand what they were going through because I had a boyfriend.

Really?  One doesn't cancel out the other, people.

I know that because while I was in a relationship that didn't diminish how much I missed my husband.  And I have heard from MANY of you who have bravely wandered this path into New Relaionshipdom who email me and tell me how much you still miss your late spouse.

The difference is that the people who have stayed solidly single feel more comfortable with admitting it than those who have embarked on a new relationship.  Their grief is usually held silently, afraid of the judgments of widowed  and non, and they'd rather be perceived as someone who has "moved on" to the rest of the world rather than someone who is still "stuck" on someone else, even though they're with someone new. 

Some of the bravest people I know are those who put their lives right out there in public and take whatever criticism comes their way.  Those bloggers and leaders in the widow community who have worked so hard to just be happy, whether it's through work or a relationship or both, have put up with a lot of judgment, mainly from the communities they've tried to serve. 

Do you know what I wish for?  (Other than the winning PowerBall ticket.)

I wish that every person on the planet would just admit they don't know what in the hell they're doing.  Because do any of us really?  I don't.  While I've had "what was she thinking" flash through my brain many times these last eight years when I hear about another person's life decisions, I've come to realize that whomever it is that I'm judging probably doesn't know what they're thinking either - and they really don't need my input.

I was scared to death when I moved, even though I tried to assure everyone I knew exactly what I was doing.  I'm scared to be single, scared to be in a relationship.  I started a new job and was scared that I wouldn't be able to carry the burden of work and parenting all on my own, but if you had asked me when I started I would have said, "I'm so excited."

Any decision we make has a 50/50 chance of working out.  And I can guarantee you that as you're judging someone else for the choices they're making, no one is being harder on themselves than the person in question.

I mean, do you really think that a widow getting ready to walk down the aisle isn't thinking to herself just a little bit, "I hope I'm doing the right thing"?

She doesn't know that what she's doing is 100% right.

And guess what?

Neither do you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why Would You EVER Mention Your Spouse's Name on a Date?

Oh c'mon.

Don't you know better?

That guy (or girl) doesn't want to hear about it.  All of your past experiences?  Your life?  

He doesn't want to hear about how your husband stood by you while you studied and worked for a degree.  She doesn't want to hear about that moment when your children were born.

He could care less about the moment you met.

She doesn't like it when you mention your wife.  At all.

Why would you ever consider sharing your life with 
someone who doesn't care about...your life?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kathie Lee Gifford is Already Looking Happy at Work? Guess She Didn't Love Her Husband Enough.

I bet that title made a few of you want to reach through your computer screen and smack me.


This morning I was taking a break from work and turned on the Today Show and there was Kathie Lee, bouncing around with Hoda.  I did a little bit of a double-take and thought, "She's back at work already?"

I was one of the many widows who cringed when I heard that her husband, Frank Gifford, had passed away - not necessarily because I'm a huge fan of hers, but because I hate hearing that anyone is about to go through what I've been through.

It has made me less sympathetic for the dead and more concerned for the living.

Anyway, I was thinking that anyone who hasn't experienced the loss of a spouse might be watching her, thinking, "Wow.  She got over that fast."

I can assure you...she didn't.

I was watching her on screen, going through the motions of her normal life and for a moment I could feel where she is and where I've been; attempting to get back to normal, functioning so perfectly that no one would ever guess her  inner turmoil.

But there's a problem with that - and the problem is everyone else's.  It's the same problem we all run into when we date, move, keep working, or move forward in any way at our own pace.

Other people think we're not as heartbroken about our spouse's death as we should be.

And if that's what you're thinking, I feel it's my duty to say on behalf of the widow community....


If Kathie Lee is like the rest of the country (and I know she's not, but let's pretend she is) her office could have given her three days bereavement leave before they expected her back at work.  She could have just decided that a routine of any kind was better than staying at home with her own morbid thoughts as company.  She might have needed to just get out and be with people.  She could have adopted the old "fake it 'til you make it" motto that has gotten me through a few rough spots.

None of that has anything to do with how much she loved her husband or how she's actually feeling.

She could show up on the red carpet tomorrow on the arm of a new man.  That could be because he's a friend.  It could be because he's a lover.  It could be because he makes her feel secure in this new horrible world she's in.  It could be because he gives her something to look forward to and makes her week a little more bearable.  She might need the companionship.  She might just want someone to hug her when she needs it.

None of that has anything to do with how much she loved her husband or how she's actually feeling.

Kathie Lee could tell you tomorrow the entire story of her husband's death without shedding a tear.  She could tell you the most intimate details about his last moments.  She could someday stand stoically at her daughter's wedding or give a speech in front of thousands about who her husband was with dry eyes and a smile on her face.

None of that has anything to do with how much she loved her husband or how she's actually feeling.

Many of us who have traveled this path have been judged for how we've coped and and the pace at which we've progressed.  We're either stuck or insensitive - there is very little room in the public's opinion for the grey area that is reality.  And the reality is this.

No matter your experiences you have no idea what someone else is truly going through.

Even though I'm a widow, I can't imagine what is actually going through Kathie Lee's mind as she goes through the motions at work, grocery shopping, or out to dinner with friends.

But I can assure you, as you judge her for pasting that smile on her face mere days after losing her husband...

...that smile has nothing to do with how much she loved her husband or how she's actually feeling.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Does It Get Easier?

I don't know about some of you who are further down the line like I am...but sometimes I feel like I'm doing a disservice to the newbies when I tell them it gets easier.

I don't mean to and it's not like I'm lying - I think the problem is that "easier" isn't the right word.

And I don't know what is.

Let's see...the synonyms for "easier" are the following:

calmer (Uh...no.  That doesn't apply.)
relaxed (Are you kidding me?)
comfortable (Never.)
simpler, uncomplicated, effortless and unproblematic (There's laughing in my head right now.)

Okay, so all of you newcomers are right.  It doesn't get easier.

But there are a lot of us out there functioning and many are doing it quite well.  So, what's the deal?

Every once in a while, I come across an article or a quote in a book that perfectly describes something that I've experienced better than I could ever articulate.  I love it when that happens.  I feel like hugging the writer and saying, "YES.  Thank you so much for putting into words what I couldn't!"  

But it's hard when the right word doesn't even seem to exist.

I think most of us who have been hanging out in the Widowhood will often use the word "adapt" when it comes to describing where we might be years after the initial crumbling of our former worlds.  And when I look up the synonyms for that (sorry about the impromptu vocab lesson), the following words come up:

alter (Okay.  I'm trying.)
adjust (Working on it.)
change (And HOW.)
rework (Don't rush me.)
fit (Hmmmmm...now there's a thinker.)

I've been trying to think of an analogy that might fit this situation, but most are pretty inadequate.  I've been thinking about the summer I sprained my ankle and was in one of those boots for a few weeks.  Yes, the boot made my foot feel better, but I had to change the way I walked and that caused me some lower back pain.

The injury was there.  And while I tried to fix it the pain moved to another location.

I know that's kind of a dumb way to think about the pain of grief, but it does sometimes seem like the moment we fix one injury, another comes up in its place; as soon as we get used to sleeping in a bed alone we get invited to a wedding and have no "plus one" and that sends us over the edge once again.  The focus shifts from what we previously thought was so hard to the challenge that's before us.

And that's not easy.


It does make me wonder if those of us who have learned to be adaptable are the ones who are able to say it gets "easier."  And I actually don't think that you're either adaptable or you're not - I think that it depends on the situation.  

There have been times in my life when I've fought so hard to hold on to my past that it would be impossible for me to change.  And then there are times when I've closed my eyes and jumped, hoping that it will all work out.

And it does.  One way or the other. 

I guess the bottom line is the idea of widowhood getting "easier" in any way totally depends on the person.  We all know that all of our timelines are different, our situations are different, and our coping methods are completely individual.  

I know that, in the beginning, when someone would tell me that it gets easier, I wanted to know the exact date, time, and cause of death of the person's spouse so that I could compare notes with my own situation.  

"Okay...so her husband died two years before mine...in an accident...so in exactly six months, four days, and three hours things should be getting easier."

Doesn't work like that.

And the truth is, that what "easier" means to someone could be completely different from your definition:  She could mean that she actually took a shower that morning and remembered to put on matching shoes while you're thinking she means that she is now remarried, got a promotion at work, and is training for a marathon.

I can assure you, that this journey is never "easy" for anyone...I don't care how far out you are or what your current life situation is.  Life will never be "simpler, uncomplicated, and effortless."

But then again...it never was.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Where the Hell are you Going?

Do you ever have one of those moments that jolts you awake...even though you're not sleeping?

I do.

I love it when that happens.  There's just something that clicks in my head and lets me knows that it's something important and I suddenly feel awake.

And both the feeling of something important happening and feeling truly awake are kind of rare occurrences.

I enjoy my laziness and my sleep.  Especially at the same time.

Anyway, I was sitting with my family the other night, enjoying the Lyle Lovett concert at Red Rocks (I don't care what your musical tastes are...that man is a song-writing genius) when he introduced his fiddle player and asked him to play a song on his own.

Luke Bulla took over the microphone and in a voice as clear as a bell began to sing while strumming his fiddle.  For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the song, but one line made me sit up straighter. And it went something like....

I won't know where I'm going until I know where I've been.

And I don't think one sentence could have summed up this summer for me better than that.

Here's the hard part.  You have to embrace your past in order to get on with the future.  But sometimes the past is like the person you're trying to save in the deep end of the pool:  You can either allow it to take you both down or you can smack it in the face and take control in order to save you both.

Okay.  That was a weird analogy.  I just came up with it.  So roll with me.

I didn't realize until recently what a strangle-hold my past has had on me.  How paralyzed I was.  How it took making major changes, personally and professionally, to find the release I needed.

But you can't completely escape your past.  I know that and I don't want to.  It's just a matter of deciding how much power I'm going to allow it to have.

Am I going to sink or swim?


It's been eight years.  And I know exactly what's happened to me.  I can tell you the story of how my husband died.  I can tell you how the kids and I have survived. 

I see it now and I understand it more.  And I get it.  I really can't know where I'm going until I know where I've been.  And that takes perspective.  And in many ways...it has nothing to do with widowhood.
I can see my past as a mother and I can appreciate where that experience is sending me.

I can see who I've dated and can understand their places (not too many places, Mom) in my life.

I can see all of the memories I thought were so unimportant when they happened as the pieces of my life that I should appreciate the most.

Because those memories aren't just my past.  

They're where I've been.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What the...?

I get a lot more traffic on this blog when I'm unhappy.

I get it.  That's why I have a subscription to US Weekly.  It's not that I want to see people fail...it's just that I want to feel like a real person when shit hits the fan.  And celebrity shit seems bigger than mine; therefore I feel better that my shit doesn't warrant a cover story in US Weekly.


I'm happy.  So, if you don't like that, just stop reading now.  I'm not going to dig down to that deep unhappy place to appease the masses. Not to say I won't be unhappy again.  So, stay tuned for later posts if that's what you're looking for.


"I was just thinking of you," said the voicemail recording.  "I know this is a really hard time for you.  Just call me when you get a chance."


Today is July 16th.  Years ago (maybe even last year) I was detailing how agonizing this date was for me.  This was the day of the accident.  Tomorrow would be the full day at the hospital.  The next would be the day he died.

Eight years ago.

And I almost forgot.

It's here, I know it is.  But somehow it doesn't hurt quite as much.  It's not crippling.  It's here and I can give it a slight nod as it passes...and not fall down, gripping its ankles like a person life forgot as I did before.

It's here.

And I'm happy.


To quote my children:  "Whaaaa...?"

I know.  I feel the same way.

If someone had told my shaky, nauseous self last year that this anniversary was going to pass with barely a tremor, I would have said, "Girl, you're crazy."

Actually, it probably would have been more like, "Shut the f--- up and hand me a bucket."

But that's where I am.  No bucket.  No shakes. No nauseous.  I'm living a whole new life I didn't even know was out there.  It has nothing to do with finding a new relationship.  I'm alone and I like it.  The kids are the same; driving me crazy one minute and endearing the next.  I've stopped waiting for my life to begin and for the first time in eight years I actually feel like I'm living it.

I'm in it.

Monday, July 6, 2015

I Don't Know What to Say

I don't know how to start this blog.  I guess I should just start by telling the truth.

I am so happy.

For months I wondered what this would feel like.  My stuff is in a new place.  My kids are still trying to figure out where everything is.  My cat looks at me, completely bewildered, wondering where in the hell she is.

She's home.


I've gone back and forth on the whole moving thing for a long time.  Let's see...Brad died almost exactly eight years ago...so seven and a half years ago I thought about moving.  And I didn't and I was right.

Until I did.  And I was right then, too.

This is just like everything else we've been through on this road; what's hard for you is a speed bump to someone else and a small twist in the road to someone else might derail you.

It's personal.

In this new house, I don't see the spot where my husband said goodbye for the last time.  I don't see where the Christmas tree has been for the last twelve years, eight of them without him.  I don't see the work bench he built.  I don't walk the lawn wondering if he likes the way I'm mowing it.

It wasn't easy.  These last few weeks have been like, yet again, ripping off a band-aid.  As I cleaned the kids' rooms, I shared a silent memory in each one and shut the door quietly as if kissing each one goodbye: the border Brad pasted to Haley's room when she was five; the border I painted in Michael's when he was a baby; Sarah...she came home from the hospital to that house. 

I looked around my room and remembered for the last time that morning my husband said goodbye.

 I loved that house for being a home...and I hated it for trapping me. 

It was simultaneously a source of comfort and pain.


And now?

Here I am.  I'm typing this in a new room.  Kids are laughing outside.  I'm surrounded by boxes.  I have a glass of red wine next to me.  I don't like the color of this room, but I can change it because it's mine. 

It's mine.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Run With Me

For weeks now, I've been trying not to make eye contact with it.  I was sure that if I just looked the other way it would leave me alone.

And it worked, for the most part.  Sometimes at night I could feel it trying to stare me down, but I would just roll over and think of something else.  And that would make it go away.

Until today.

My kids left for camp today and will be gone for two weeks.  And while a part of me has been looking forward to it, my heart, which is the biggest part of me (okay, maybe not the biggest, but the biggest part that doesn't get exponentially bigger due to my love of Doritos) has been dreading it.

This morning, my kids said goodbye to the house they've grown up in, celebrated in, lost a father in, and called home for better or for worse.  After a balloon release in the driveway, both for Father's Day and to say goodbye, I watched as my oldest cried in the driveway, my son silently went to his bedroom for a good cry, and my youngest sat on the stairs staring into space.

For a few weeks, I wasn't sure if they got it, actually.  I'd been dreading today because I knew what was coming and even though we've been talking about the fact that we'll be moving while they're at camp...I wasn't sure if they realized the finality of leaving today.

Well, they did.

As they cried, I felt like the worst mother in the world, asking them to not only leave me for two weeks, but to also leave the home they've grown up in forever...all on Father's Day which - let's face it - totally blows.  I know that this moment would have been hard no matter what the circumstances were and I wish I could have avoided it somehow.  I've often thought that my ideal scenario would be to move and keep this house as almost a shrine to our past; someplace we could come back to when we needed to feel grounded.

But for some reason my bank didn't agree with that idea.


Night before last I took the kids to see the movie Inside Out and it really couldn't have come at a better time.  It's creative, funny, and such an amazing movie but the best part about it was the message that we can't live without all of our emotions.  They have to coexist in some way otherwise they just don't work at all.

Usually with every happy memory, a sad one comes with it.  It works the other way, too.  When I think of how depressing my husband's funeral was, it comes with the memory of sitting around with all of our friends, laughing and sharing stories.  Even the dumb things I've done (which are plentiful) come with an eye roll on my part, a little smile and a, "I can't believe I did that."

And now, with this huge transition upon us, I can cry because I'm leaving this house...and smile when I think of what's ahead.  

I can't move forward without leaving.   And that makes me incredibly happy and sad all at once.


So, now I'm moving forward.

When I was a kid, I liked nothing more than to run down a good hill.  Remember when you used to do that?  Your legs would start going so fast, you weren't sure if the rest of your body could keep up.  You couldn't stop...you were already in motion.  

The only question was...would you be able to catch up with yourself or would you end up losing your balance and rolling down the hill until things evened out?

Life is motion and sometimes it moves so fast it's hard to keep up.  But there is always a leveling out, whether you're able to run the whole way or you find yourself rolling to the bottom.  Either way, you usually find yourself lying in the grass, gazing up at the sky, and catching your breath for a moment.

And then you run back up the hill and try again.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Join Me in the Land of Denial, Won't You?

I am so tired right now.  If you suddenly see


you'll know I did a face plant into my keyboard.


I hate moving.  I've always hated it.  In fact, after moving into this house twelve years ago I told Brad that he was going to have to bury me in the backyard of this house like a pet parakeet because I never ever wanted to move again.

Damn it.  He beat me to the punch.  But because he didn't mind moving I actually buried him someplace other than the backyard.

This move is just plain hard.  It's bad enough to pack boxes, but this one is pretty heavy emotionally, too (I wonder if my moving company is going to charge me the extra weight for that???  Better ask).  So in the last few weeks, I have done a pre-move, if you will.  

Into the land of Denial.

Denial is a tricky one because I can't decide if it's actually all that bad for you.  Sure, things can resurface later, but that could happen anyway.  At least this way I have a little extra time to ignore what's actually going on.

One moment I'll be thinking, "My God.  I can't believe I'm going to be leaving this house in just a few weeks."  And then I'll do an about-face and think, "You're moving into your own space!  This will be fun!"

(My denial voice sounds very much like a middle-aged cheerleader on crack.)

One moment I'll think, "We've been on this street for twelve years!  Almost the kids' entire lives!" and then I'll stop myself and think, "I wonder if the next block I move to will have a tall, buff man living across the street who likes to do all of his outdoor work (including snow blowing) shirtless."

And that snaps me out of my funk.

Something that I read a while ago in Becky Aikman's Saturday Night Widows has stuck with me.  When researching grief, someone told her that when she starts remembering sad moments, she should immediately do something that makes her happy, thereby replacing her sadness with joy.

Now, come on.  That sounds a little denial-ish to me.

So, right now I'm just going to do what I need to do to get through these next few weeks.  I could be selling my soul to the grief devil who will visit me around July 15th and not leave me alone until after the holidays.  But at this point I'm willing to give it a try.

I'll let you know how it goes.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sometimes I Have To

Sometimes I have to remind myself to ignore the last word of the phrase "doing things alone" and encourage myself to just keep doing things.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that most of the people who give me advice have no idea what it's like to ask, "What do you think we should do?" to the empty side of a bed.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to let go of what was so that I can embrace what could be.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that it's okay to be sad...just like I have to remind myself that it's okay to be happy.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am the smartest person living my life that I know.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Can I Choose to be Happy?

I'm going to throw a quote out there that some of you will embrace and some of you will shun.  Much like the mindset "you can choose to be happy," this one implies that a lot of how we go through life is more in our control than we think.

"We have a tendency to confuse the stability of our mindsets with the stability of the world.  We hold something still with our heads, believing we know it, but it's changing regardless of how we perceive it.  If you can notice things changing, you'll be less gutted by change.  And whether or not you feel gutted by the change won't alter the outcome - it's still happening.  

Stress is a function of the views we take of events, not of the events themselves."
~Ellen Langer~

So, I have a feeling I had many of you up until that last part.  And that's okay.  I mean, I think the death of a loved one is stressful no matter how you look at it.  Even if you didn't like the person, that comes with certain feelings that must be dealt with.  I guess it's possible to have so much self-awareness that you can talk yourself out of death stress (can I trademark that phrase?  Hell, if Taylor Swift can try to trademark "shake it off" surely I can do it).

I've just haven't met the person who can do it.

But I do think that this can apply to many other things in life.  As a personal example, I read this quote in O Magazine just this week when my anxiety over moving had reached its peak (at least I hope that was the peak).  And it made me realize that I could either stress about this, or change my way of thinking to make this more of an exciting change.  I could worry about it or embrace it.

The fact is that whether I move or not, a decision will need to be made.  And I need to preserve my sanity while I make it.

I've been trying this even before I read this article.  When I traveled a couple of weeks ago (which many of you know was a little scary for me), in the weeks leading up to the trip I would remind myself that this was exciting!  Yes, I had to face some fears, but I was going to meet new people, see new things, and generally live life.  That helped me so much leading up to the trip.

And then I medicated myself to get on the plane.

Whatever works.


Yesterday was such a weird day.  It started when I was making my daughter's lunch for school and my television went on all on its own.  While working in my basement office, I looked up and saw a huge gray cat watching me through the window (which scared the shit out of me).  I later got in my car and the radio played the song that always makes me smile and think of my husband.  And just after I said, "Brad?  Are you here?" my phone pinged and I got an email from my realtor saying that he had a buyer very interested in the house.

So, I took that as a yes.

The night before, I'd had a mini-meltdown at the end of which I said out loud, "I feel so alone.  I wish you were here."  And I'd like to believe he granted me that wish.

And last night, as I lay in my bed reading, I put my book across my chest and stared up at the ceiling.

"I think you're here," I whispered.  "But I wish you were really here.  I miss you."

I picked up what I had been using as my bookmark - the program to my kids' choir concert this week - and stopped moving when I read the cover that I hadn't noticed before.

Okay, Brad.  I can do that.