Saturday, December 31, 2011


Holy smokes, Batman.

2000 freakin' 12.

I don't quite know how to simply describe 2011 or simply describe what I hope 2012 to be.

I feel I've excelled.

I feel I've failed.

I feel I've laughed more.

I feel I've been disappointed more.

I feel I've grown.

I feel I've shrunk.

I feel I've exceeded my expectations.

I feel like I haven't done enough.

I I type this...I'm a bit of a split personality ;)

Or a person who hasn't quite still found a steady balance in the crazy scale of life.

But I think there's a part of me that knows deep down I liked the excitement of running side to side, just long enough to keep my balance...find that center, but not long enough to ever feel that all will always be as it is...more so a time to know that one side will sometimes lean more than the other and my center will never look the same as the last time I balanced it.


Even typed out it looks so not me.

So....2012 will be awesome.


Not what I expect.

Not always what I will have envisioned.

And more than anything... a little off-balance.

I'm excited for it...

For life in 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Dodging Bullets on New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve is my #1 most difficult holiday. More than Christmas, more than Halloween and more than Maggie’s birthday weekend (2nd weekend in December.) Saturday will mark the third without a midnight Maggie-and-Chris lip lock. It’s difficult to imagine kissing someone else on that day and at that time since her lips are the only ones I’ve kissed at that special moment since 1999. Because of tradition and love and respect, it seems like that special moment is reserved, forever and ever, just for her. But this year I was going to try it and see how it went. I’m pretty sure my intended date had no idea the significance of the place she stood because she’d have no doubt bowed out for that reason alone. But it doesn’t matter; for unrelated reasons I’m going stag…. Again.

The last two New Year’s Eves have been less than pleasant. Each time there were two gun shots right to the heart – a double tap, executioner style. The first bullet is the silence just following the “THREE! TWO! ONE!” as the group kissing-fest begins. The second is the line of sympathy hugs from friends I get right after the kissers realize “Oh, Chris, the lonely widower!” Click, click! Boom! Boom! And I’m out.

This year I was hell-bent on changing things up a bit. I was going to bring a date. (Gasp!) And I was going to kiss her right there in front of everyone right at midnight. Oh yeah. It was going to be epic. But stay with me; I had given this a lot of careful thought. Yes, I’d get some attention from those in the crowds who knew me only as half of Team Maggie-and-Chris. But my thought on all that attention is that they’d have to deal with that themselves; I can’t be held captive to other people’s emotions. Most of my brain power, however, went to pondering how I would feel. Holy cow…. The crowd. The countdown. The smell of champagne. The memories of kisses past. (A thousand tiny cuts, it seems.) Then holding not-Maggie in my arms and kissing not-Maggie’s lips. Then holding not-Maggie’s hands and (the biggie) smiling and pretending like this was the night of my life! I gotta summon poker face. Could I do it? Could I pull this off?

Here’s what I came up with after a LOT of thought: It doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter if I can “pull this off” because what matters is that I try. What are the chances that I break down into a puddle of mess right in the middle of the celebration? Not huge. Not insignificant but not huge. What are the chances that I shed a silent tear and look a little pensive for a few minutes? Pretty good, actually. What are the chances my date notices? Probably also pretty good. What does it matter her reaction? A) She could be upset which tells me a lot. B) She could even make a scene which would tell me even more. C) She could rock the tender moment by squeezing my hand, smiling and letting me work through my complex emotions while giving me gentle, silent support (and maybe even running a little social interference for me while I get my game face back on.) But no matter her reaction, I win. I win because I did it! I took a huge step forward and conquered one more first - the first New Year’s Eve kiss with a not-Maggie.

But, alas, despite all my ponderings, I’m going stag. Taking not-Maggie as a date for the night-of-all-nights is not going to happen, for unrelated reasons. So here I am facing a two-shot firing squad again. But this year I’m not going to have it. I’ve made a plan. For better or worse, I’m leaving the party just prior to midnight. I really don’t want to experience that discomfort again so by the time the ball drops, I’ll hopefully be at home with my puppies drinking a beer by myself. Actually, now that I think about it, if I make it home by midnight, I’ll have plenty of kisses at midnight - stinky-breath puppy kisses. Ah, they won’t care if I cry. Suddenly, this plan just got better!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Aging Gratefully

I am filling in for Jackie today because her computer is in the shop...but she will be back next week!

 Today is my birthday. I am 42 years old, three years older than Phil was when he died six years ago (crazy to think he would be 46 right now!). My first birthday without him I remember wishing time could just stand still. I didn't want to age without him;I didn't want to celebrate being alive with birthday songs and presents; and I didn't want to continue on a forward path that moved away from the life I loved with Phil. Overall, December 29, 2005 was not my best birthday.

Truthfully, finding a way to appreciate the opportunity to live another year took some time. I moved from being down right pissed off about my repeating birthdays to being a bit ambivalent about the passing of time to finally accepting the fact that until my number is called my job is to seize the day.

Seizing the day is a broad concept that, for me, includes both taking as many opportunities for adventures as possible, and also taking time to cuddle a baby without looking at the clock. When I am living my best life I say what I mean, and I follow those words with actions. Making the most of the time I am given is a goal that is never far from my mind, and is firmly planted in my heart, because I know that one person can make a difference. Phil taught me that. But I didn't know how huge his influence on me was, until it was too late to tell him. I try to remember that the words I use may become an enduring memory for someone I care about, and I try very hard to speak words of both praise and gratitude. I may have only one chance to utter them. Time is something I no longer take for granted.

In fact, time is now something I relish in ways large and small...I love giggling with my kids, and running with good friends. I've discovered that Alaska has rain forests, and that Texas is actually huge. I've both cried, and laughed uproariously, with widowed people from all walks of life. I've witnessed both births and deaths and found them both to be an amazing honor. Over the past six years I walked on beaches on the opposite side of the earth from my home, hiked in majestic mountains, and looked over my shoulder for bears while trekking through the above mentioned rain forests. I spent New Year's Eve in New York City, and have driven alone on country roads from Ohio to Indiana. I've walked with friends through cancer, divorce, the loss of a home, and the pain of losing a baby. I have not been just an observer of life, I have rolled my sleeves up and jumped in with two feet time and time again. Because life is short. You and I know that better than most. So now I choose not to waste a single day that I could be making a difference.

President Abraham Lincoln suffered through the deaths of three of his four children, and was well known to be prone to depression. Having come through one particularly dark period, a good friend told Mr. Lincoln that he had been afraid his despair would swallow him whole. President Lincoln responded:

"I have an irrepressible desire to live until I can be assured that the world is a little better for my having lived in it."

Cheers to another year full of opportunities to improve the world, one small bit at a time.

**If you believe that Widow's Voice, and the programs of Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, have made a difference for you, we'd be honored if you would consider us for a tax-deductible, year-end donation of any amount. SSLF is a non-profit organization that creates and maintains communities for widowed people around the world. We believe in the power of shared experience to heal, to inspire, and to lead the way to a hope filled future for widowed people everywhere. Thank you for sharing your widowed journey with us all year long. Donate now in support of SSLF. We are so grateful for the many ways in which you all support our mission.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is It Just Me ....

                                                 picture from here

.... or does anyone else ever feel like moving away and starting over?
From everyone that knew them "before" .... and from all of those friends who can't seem to see you as anything but "different" ..... and it all seems to get worse as time goes on?

I have now passed the 4 year mark.
This is my life.
I am no longer married.
I am single.
I get that.

And yes, I am different than I was, but I'm pretty much accustomed to the fact that my husband is dead, has been dead for 4 years and isn't coming back.
I want to be treated the same way that they treated me 4 years ago.
I don't want to be treated with "kid gloves".
I don't want to stand out in any way.
I just want to be Janine.

But that's not what's happening.
My "couple" friends seem to feel like I'll fall apart if I find out they're doing things together, as couples.
So they do things, but they feel like they can't let me know.
I hate that.
And I don't get it.
It's been 4 years.
If I'm used the to the fact that I'm not married anymore, why aren't they?

I live in a smallish community.
Many people knew "us".
We've lived here for 20 years and have been very active.
So most people remember.
They remember Jim and they remember Jim and me.
And I guess they have certain expectations ..... or maybe they have no idea what to expect and so they go out of their way to not treat me the same.

All I know is, that after 4 years ..... I feel like I need to move away.
I need to move somewhere where no one knew "us".
No one sees me as Janine, Jim's widow.
Poor Janine.

I don't want friends to feel that they have to treat me in some special way.
I don't want friends to feel that I expect to be treated in some special way.
I'm sick to death of being "special" because I'm a widow.
And I'm ready to move forward.
Wherever that may be.

I realize that I'm the "first" person to be widowed amongst almost all of my friends.
I realize that this has all been new for them, too.
I know that they, pretty much like me, don't know what they're doing, so I can't blame them for flying blind here.
But come on!  It's been four freaking years!
Trust me ..... I know he's dead!

Is this just me?
Are these just my friends?
Or have any of you felt this way?
Have any of you actually moved to start over?
That's exactly how I feel.  I want to start over.
And while leaving here and leaving some of the memories would be sad, the possibility of a new place, new people, no memories and no expectations .... feels exciting.

For those of you who have moved to a new place .... how did it impact you?  Both negatively and positively?
Did you feel more freedom to start over as just "you" in the new place?

Or is this just a "phase" of being widowed?
And it will pass before long?

Please share your experiences with us.  Because I need a change.  And I can't believe I'm the only one.
I just want to make sure that if I do it,  I do it right.

And please ..... tell me that it's not just me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2 down, 48 to go...

Christmases without Greg, that is.

Given my long-lived female relatives, I know I can expect to see the age of 90 if not 100 years old. (Longevity seems to be a heritable trait in my family ... as does early widowhood.)

Which means 48 more Christmases to endure even with the more conservative estimate....

...and I don't want to do another single one, leave alone another 48 or more.

...and that's where my head is. Not pretty, and I know I should pull myself together because ... well ...
I didn't die ....

People who don't know me, or who don't have a basic grasp of psychology will tell me it doesn't help to keep thinking this way.

... but it does...

If there is one thing I have learnt in this mess that is widowhood: grief will always out.

Better to brood and cry and moan every so often, than to button it down, don't think those dark thoughts. ...and have it hit you full force at the most inappropriate times at a later date.

So, I'll spend a bit of time feeling sad and sorry for myself. I'll brood about having to live for so much longer without my man. I'll cry in the shower and I'll swear a lot.

But after that, I'll feel OK again and keep plodding on. I'll keep moving forward and not think about having to keep living long after my love died.

...and I won't beat myself up about not taking it all on the chin ALL the time. I'll allow myself to have a little wallow in grief and self pity every so often without feeling guilty.

So you'll excuse me while I go play some sad songs and have a little cry .... I'll feel better for it tomorrow, I promise.
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Monday, December 26, 2011

I Think I Do

from here

It’s so strange how much easier the holidays were than I expected. Don't get me wrong, it hasn't been easy, just easier than expected.  I've been feeling almost spooked by the lack of horrific pain I've felt in the last week or so leading up to Christmas.

For one thing, Dave and I never made a big deal out of Christmas. We’d hit his parents’ house for Christmas day because they expected us, but we didn’t put up a tree (We gave up on a tree after the cat knocked the thing over and ate the needles) and didn’t wrap presents up for each other. We got each other gifts so frequently throughout the year, that at Christmas time, we’d usually just pick a joint gift for the house that we’d been wanting and call it done.

Because it wasn’t a special time of year for us, maybe I just didn’t feel his absence any more than I do on a normal day. I miss him every day, so this day was like all the others.  It was hard to see couples and families, but that’s always hard. It’s almost harder on ordinary days. Even couples and families who don’t want to be together often feel duty-bound to spend time together during the holidays. It’s the normal days when there’s no expectation to be together that the togetherness I see around me hits me hardest.

Dave was wonderful in many ways, but one way he was very different than me was that he didn’t need the company of many people. In fact, he was quite satisfied to be with me, and only me, every day. The thought of holiday parties or get-togethers made him very uncomfortable. Because of that, I spent holidays either alone with him, or attending an occasional party without him during the holidays. I never really thought I minded terribly, but a part of me I didn’t even know existed just soaked in all the time spent with my friends this year. The reason for that is tragic, but there it is. I can’t deny that I very much enjoyed all the socializing, even while feeling this giant hole in my life and heart where Dave used to reside. My friends saw to it that I'd be surrounded by them and their love during the holidays and this alone was the most incredible gift of all.

Also, since we don’t have kids, I didn’t have to pretend to be strong for their sake and I didn’t have to see them experiencing Christmas without their father. I can’t imagine that kind of pain. All I had to worry about was my broken heart and not theirs too, or about being strong for their sake.

Then, there's numbness. I'm pretty sure that it plays a part here. I think I'll know better in hindsight, but I'll venture to bet my mind is protecting me a little by going somewhat numb. 

I’ve also been feeling some  pride. I’ve made it 7 months. I have reached out for help and love from those who love me. I’ve begun building this new life from the rubble his death left behind. I’ve survived. I am stronger than I ever believed possible. And now, I’ve survived the holidays (well…almost) and can maybe, just maybe, see a ray of hope for next year. The chance to create new traditions and celebrate my survival of another year is there for me if I want to accept it.

I think I do.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Speaking to the Ghost of Christmas Past

The day Phil died, my world was irrevocably changed. No amount of crying, wishing, or begging could switch my new reality back to the reality of what seems like only moments ago. The first Christmas without him, I sat on the coach alone watching the kids open gifts that only I chose, purchased, wrapped, and stowed under the tree...barely able to keep from bawling all over their happiness. I swear I could hear my heart breaking again as reality slapped me in the face on what is touted as the merriest of days. I didn't believe the pain of missing him would ever lessen. I couldn't see how that was possible if Phil was still going to be dead...and unless there was some kind of amazing magic wand under the tree that could reverse my reality, Christmas seemed doomed for ever more.

What I know now is that the pain of missing Phil hasn't lessened. In fact, because the pain is part of my everyday life I have stopped watching it with a wary eye. So on occasion that powerful longing has the ability to sneak up behind me and sucker punch me in the gut...taking my breath for a moment in an unexpected swoop. But I now find this breathlessness bittersweet. Because missing him reminds me of how much I still love him. Temporarily being unable to believe that he really is dead oddly cements his memory over and over again. And each Christmas I find myself briefly visiting in my mind's eye the me that sat alone on the couch that Christmas morning in 2005, and wishing I could tell her that she will never forget the moments she is living.  In fact, she will revisit them time and time again. But not for the reason you may think.

So today, I'd like to share a few things with my Christmas 2005 self in the hope that if you find yourself sitting alone thinking that this will never get better these words may help you, too....

It's okay to cry. You won't drown, though I know you are afraid that you might. Let people love you. It really is the only thing they can do, on Christmas Day or any other day. Life could be worse. I know that is hard to hear right now, but it is true. Hold onto that. You won't forget. Even though the timber of his voice will fade, you will never forget the way he spoke to you or how his voice in your ear made you feel.

Life will keep moving whether you like it or not. And eventually you will move, too. It's okay. Phil did not take the best part of you with him when he died. No, he didn't. Don't argue with me. Forever does not apply to life, but it does apply to love. You will always love him. The holidays aren't the hardest days. Rainy days when he would have called you ten times hurt worse.

Ask for help. I know you hate appearing needy, but you can't do this alone. You need people who care. On that note, when you ask for help you give someone who loves you a gift. They want to help, but don't  know how. Help them help you.

Don't worry about always hating what has always been your favorite time of year. YOU will come back, it   just takes time. I know that patience is not one of your virtues, but this time you will have to wait it out. There is no shortcut.

This is not the end of the road for you. You have so much to do in this life, and so many opportunities to honor your love for Phil by living large. He would want that and deep down you know it. You will never be the same after losing Phil. Someday you will value this fact.

As the tears stream down your face many times today, know this: You can survive Phil's death. And you will.

The funny thing about the above list, is that even if I could have told myself all of these things, I doubt I would have believed them. But that's okay. I believe them now, for me and for you. One day you will value the tears you cry today. They are streams of love.

Merry Christmas, darling. Loved, and never forgotten.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


If I had to choose between loving you and breathing, I would use my last breath to say, "I Love You."

**Yesterday marked the 6 year anniversary of our marriage! I think theis blog from last year still sums it up. Love you, Baby!**

This Thursday will mark our 5 year wedding anniversary. As I've stated through the years, this day has always been more difficult for me than any other...including the day he was killed.

You see, I don't define Michael's life and our life together by the day he was killed, I've always defined it by our eternal love, and no day signifies that more than when we exchanged vows.

We clasped hands from the first moment, rocking into each other, looking into each others eyes in a sort of dream like gaze, exchanging words that were more than words, letters that when compiled and verbalized explained our unfaltering devotion and feelings towards each others. Verbalized our future and our present, all that we were thankful for the other teaching/allowing us to experience.

With the go-go-go of the past couple of months, it feels good to sit here and reminisce about a moment that lives on in me forever, and through those that for a brief period in time, saw the union of two souls connected beyond measure.

I miss looking into his eyes, kissing his lips, knowing that that moment in time all was as it should be. But the angst of separation is still overpowered by that which surpasses all the physical, something that words haven't been created for, yet we exchanged them that evening. The knowing...the absolute knowledge that we will spend eternity together, even if briefly in two different realms.

One of the last letters Michael and I exchanged, I told him there were no words created for just how much I love I created one. I called it: loveinity.

I loveinity you baby (and am so in lonveinity with you)...Happy Anniversary, My Love.

Friday, December 23, 2011


I'll start today with a few toasts to the holidays! Cheers! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! and drum roll please.....Death still Sucks!

Two more days til Christmas, and as usual....I'm not ready yet. I still have a shopping list, I've still not wrapped my gifts, and I haven't watched all the movies I want to see or drank all the eggnog in the fridge. BUT, I'm working on it! Carl, on the other hand, is done with his shopping and has only two gifts left to wrap....he's incredible! I'm not threatened though...this is how I roll at Christmas, and while everyone is nestled all snug in their beds, I'll be up wrapping gifts and watching "Scrooged" until 2 am. It's a tradition developed as an only parent - squeezing in the shopping, wrapping, etc while the little guy sleeps, and doing it all by myself.

This year is so different, it makes my head spin. Carl has done some of my shopping, and I've been able to do some shopping by myself too. Carl took G shopping for me - he did it last year too, and it was so nice not to have to ask someone to take him (note to friends and family of widowed folks - take your widowed friend's kids shopping for them - it has to be done, and it is a difficult thing to ask for).

Grayson is on a different plane himself this year. His differences are mostly about age. He is old enough now to want to buy gifts himself and not just let me pick things out. Today, G and I will do some shopping. He's very excited to buy gifts for Carl and K, and has a couple ideas for his grandma too. I'm looking forward to some one on one time with G. We don't get as much of that as we used to, and we really enjoy the time when we get it. We'll head out with Christmas carols blasting in the car, stop for something fattening and caffeine-loaded at Starbucks, and hit it hard at the shops. My mom calls trips like this "combat shopping". I agree with this naming - we plan to take no prisoners!

I re-read some previous year's Christmas posts from myself and others, and the difference is amazing. Although it doesn't seem like it can be possible, each year is a bit easier than the last. Overall, this Christmas my head is relatively quiet and my heart is pretty darn full. Death still sucks. Daniel still isn't here. But we ARE still here, and we are making the most of it. So to all of you my lovely widowed friends - from one of us who is a bit further along this trail. I'm holding a light up for you. It does get easier.

Cheers! Death sucks indeed, but life can still be good. My new year's wish for all of us is PEACE. Even if it only comes to you in fleeting moments, enjoy it when it does.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sticky Toffee

Guest blogger Wendy Diez is filling in for Jackie today...thanks Wendy!

Picture from here
I’m on my way to pick up the kids at preschool and decide to stop at Panera to grab a decaf with extra, extra cream and no sugar.  I wait in line thinking about all that I have accomplished in my kid-free two and a half hours when I hear the woman in front of me order a Sticky Toffee cookie.   I’m transported back in time.

I’m in England five years ago with my dad, stepmom, stepsister and Chris.  We’ve just spent a week in Ireland and are finishing up our vacation with a three day stay in London.  We are eating a traditional English meal at a pub and after our dinner, our waiter asks if we would like dessert.  He lists the options and ends with, “And then there is the Sticky Toffee,” with a typically British accent that makes the dessert sound much grander than it actually is.  The delivery is so convincing though that, don’t you know, five minutes later we are all enjoying several servings of this delicious concoction and cracking ourselves up by repeating to each other over and over again, in our pretend accents, the words: Sticky Toffee.  

“Would you like some Sticky Toffee?”  Cue uproarious laughter.
“Why, yes, sir, I will have some Sticky Toffee!” One of us coughs out a chuckle
“Would you be so kind as to bring me some more Sticky Toffee?”  Giggling erupts through Sticky Toffee-stained teeth.
“Have you heard about our world famous Sticky Toffee?”  Someone actually snorts.

The pints of beer we consumed earlier in the evening only intensified how hilarious we thought we were.
This was our running joke for the rest of the trip.  A few weeks after we returned, my dad, stepmom and stepsister came over to look at the pictures from the trip and Chris surprised everyone with homemade Sticky Toffee.  He was a fantastic cook and his version rivaled the original one.  And again, we amused ourselves by sitting around repeating the words “Sticky Toffee” to each other.

After a few weeks, as can happen with inside jokes, the Sticky Toffee references came less often and eventually, we dropped it altogether.  Only on rare occasions would it randomly come up when our Ireland/England trip was referenced.  And then, I completely forgot about it.  Until the woman in front of me at Panera orders a Sticky Toffee cookie.  

Now all I can think about is that trip and how my husband was a saint to agree to take one crabby, old man, one sweet but slow old lady and one thankfully normal stepsister on a vacation with his wife of just one year.  As an extremely experienced traveler, Chris took on the responsibility of planning the entire trip from the towns we would visit to the places we would stay to the sites we would see.  He was the only one brave enough to drive a car through the unpredictable terrain of Ireland all on the wrong side of the road.  He tolerated complaining, cancelled plans, unexpected delays and way too much family together time.  I won’t say he did it all with a smile on his face because anyone who knew him, knew that he liked things to be a certain way.  He liked to be in control of his time and didn’t normally have patience for people that slowed him down. 

And yet, he did it.  He embarked on this adventure because he knew I wanted to do the trip this way.  He did it because he knew it would make me happy.  He did it because he wanted to see Ireland and England with me even if it included some tag along travelers.  He did it because he loved me that much.

I could hug that woman in front me at Panera who ordered the Sticky Toffee cookie.  She just reminded me how lucky I was to have experienced that kind of love. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Date By Any Other Name ....

                                                   picture from here

(Post pre-explanation & warning:  I wrote this post for my personal blog .... on Sunday, the 18th, the 4th year date of Jim's death.  This date, this year, was no easier for me than the previous 3.  I still cried.  I still wished that I were the one who was not left behind.  I am still crying, and I think I may forever be wishing. And yet .... this date, this year, also held more than tears for me.  It held hope.  And reminders.  And so I wrote about both.  For some of you .... the hope will be too hard to read.  You are not there.   You're not even in the same state as "hope".  And I get that.  But push past the hope.  Because one day .... maybe not any day relatively soon, but one day ..... you will catch a glimpse of hope.  Only a small glimpse at first, but then .... a bigger glimpse.  And it will be the one thing, maybe the only thing that day, that helps you put one foot in front of the other.  Just one.  One glimpse.  One step.  One hope.)

... would still bring tears.

That's the basic meaning behind Shakespeare's "rose quote", you know.

So we can call today Sunday.
We can call it December 18th.
We can call it One Week Before Christmas.
We can call it the 4 Year Mark (because I refuse to use the word "anniversary" for something so sad) of Jim's death.
We can call it a Day of Remembrance.

We can call it my Sister's birthday.
We can call it my Brother's birthday.
We can call it my step-Dad's birthday.
And we can call it my friend Gail's birthday.

Because this day is all of that.

But it doesn't matter what we call it.
It matters that it exists.
And it matters WHY it exists for me .... and for my children.

We pretty much hate that it exists outside of being a wonderfully fun birthday for so many of our loved ones.

But ..... we also know that it is MORE than just that day.
So much more.
And its existence DOES matter .... in so many ways.

Because .... it is another day.

Another day to wake up and remember how very blessed we were to have Jim as long as we had him.
Another day to wake up and think of something that he once said, or did, that we hadn't thought of in a while.
Another day for us to love him.  :)

Another day for us to feel the huge gaping hole he left here, to be certain.
Another day to cry another tear.  I used to think I'd eventually run out of those days because I'd most certainly run out of tears one day.
Not so much.

It's another day to cry one (or two) less tears.

It's another day to go over our plans for Christmas .... and re-check my list(s).
It's another day to hang out with my children while they're not feeling the stress of needing to study.
It's another day to sit with them and watch the movie "Elf" for the 57th time.

It's another day for every one of you to tell your spouse, if you are so blessed, that you love him/her.  And that you always will.
It's another day for every one of you to tell your parents, if you are so blessed, that you love them.  And that you always will.

It's another day to start over, to get over a perceived injustice, to ask for forgiveness, to let go of some anger that's harming only you.
It's another day for you to be the bigger person ..... without even telling anyone.

It's another day to quietly help someone who needs your help.
It's another day to smile at a complete stranger and say, "Have a great day." and/or "Merry Christmas."

It's another day to talk a walk ..... in the cold, in the wet, in the clingy humidity ...... and be thankful for the sounds you hear while blessed enough to walk.

It's another day to look back at how very far you've come/grown/traveled/survived over the past several years.
It's a day to be proud of yourself .... and know that your loved one is just as proud of you.

It's a day to admit that all of the days that have come before have not always been pretty, or graceful, or loving, or even desired.
But they have ..... been.


It's so much more than the limits you might give it.
It's full of more capabilities than you could EVER dream.

It's a day that just might hold a miracle.  Or two.

A baby will be born on this day.
And that, to me, is the most awesome miracle of all that could change this day.

And yes, someone will most certainly die on this day.
And more tears will be shed.
And the cycle of grieving will begin its relentless journey in someone else's heart.

And quietly, softly, miraculously ..... sometimes invisibly ......
(Begin His journey in someone's heart).

And this day will become ..... more.
And limitless.
And lovely.
Even in its pain and grief.

Once the day has become "more" ..... once you have become "more" ..... you will find that there is more love, more beauty, more ...... MORE in this one, single day, .... than you could have ever dreamed or imagined.

I am happy on this day.
I am thankful on this day.
I am loved on this day.
I am strong on this day.

And I am So. Much. More. .... on this day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Things I don't miss about Christmas

Warning – my brand of humour follows. I think I’m funny. You may disagree.
I feel short-changed.

For years, we would debate about whose family home we would spend Christmas in.
.... my parent’s home with their clean, relatively modern furniture, good food, great company and pleasant atmosphere
... or with his large, loud, argumentative family at the farm.

Now I loved my dearly departed parents-in-law, but they lived in one of the filthiest homes I have ever entered (see above).

And I say that with love.

They lived on a cattle farm in Queensland. Hot, humid Queensland. The house was packed to the rafters with “stuff” (think Hoarders but organised into piles of stuff and without actual rubbish).
There were no fly screens on the windows, so the heat-and-humidity-loving flies, dung beetles, spiders, large moths, frogs, mice and *snakes* also enjoyed sharing their home with them. Dust and fly-spots covered everything. And the very first time I ate a meal there, I was sitting under the fluoro light at the tiny kitchen table and a dung beetle fell onto my plate.

One Christmas, when I mentioned that a pervasive odour was making me feel ill, they lovingly and laughingly blamed this on the fact that I was pregnant and feeling morning sickness.
Until they found the dead cat under the water tank.

This on top of the looong trip to get there in the summer heat. The trip would normally take 3 hours ... but at Christmas, it was often more like 4 or 5 hours due to the traffic on the single highway heading north from the city. ...this was done with babies and small children who needed regular feeding and changing. Or the memorable trip home one night that included no less than 5 stops by the side of a busy highway so my toilet-training daughter could pee.

...and then of course, there were his siblings who like nothing better than a good, loud argument at each and every gathering.

So you may get why I spent the lead up to Christmas every year trying to persuade my ever-loving husband that, as we were a family now, Christmas should be spent at OUR house and the travelling north could wait until New Years. After all, they were on farm time and never really cared what day it was anyway so celebrating a week later was not a ridiculous concept.

...and I finally won that one in 2009.

We got exactly one single Christmas as a family in our home. One single Christmas where the kids weren’t given something like a trampoline from Santa, then told that we were leaving an hour later so they wouldn’t get to use it for a few days.

One single cool, peaceful, quiet, clean, comfortable family Christmas at our home with our kids.

...and this year, I’d like nothing more than to pack up my darling husband, kids, a week’s worth of food, clean towels, bedding and presents and spend 6 hours on the highway in order to have a corned meat sandwich in 40 degree heat in a dusty, fly-ridden, snake-infested house with a bunch of crazy, argumentative in-laws.

Just so long as we ALL got to be there....

True story.

Monday, December 19, 2011


From here

I've been haunted by anxiety lately. Everything feels so unsettled right now. Someone extremely close to my heart is facing a scary health problem. I'm forging ahead in this new life, not knowing what I'm doing or where I'm going. The holidays are looming.

I wake up several times a night with a racing heart and mind. My thoughts immediately go to trying to control. By controlling my inner world, I guess, I'm controlling something. I can't control the outer world, so at least I can control my thoughts. But the thoughts are out of control and useless, anyway. They try to predict the future and change the past. Both completely fruitless and frustrating.

My dreams are fleeting and hard to remember upon waking. I remember some parts of a dream I had a few nights ago. Dave was alive again, but suddenly collapsed. We were in the middle of nowhere and I was running to find help, screaming for someone, anyone, to help me help him. I don't remember how the dream ended.

Last night, though, I dreamed of the ocean. Every time I dream of the ocean, it's a peaceful, happy dream. Every single time. This time, I was fully dressed but standing knee deep in some gorgeous tropical waters. The water felt so perfect and looked so inviting that as a wave pressed up against the side of me, I just let myself fall into the water and smiled with pleasure. The water enveloped me and I felt free of anxiety while I floated in the vast blueness of it.

I want to feel free of anxiety like I did in that dream. I want to feel that in my waking hours. I long to feel that way again.

The way it feels to be able to let go and relax fully. I don't think I've felt that in more than 6 months. Except in my dreams.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Open Wound

Sad Man

I wish I could report days of happiness and joy. But I can't.

I feel like I am walking around with an open wound. It's been like this throughout the whole holiday season. This year feels worst than the past two years. Why am I crying so much?

I suppose I can answer my own question.

Michael loved Christmas. He loved Christmas not because he had so many wonderful childhood memories, more because of all the magic and wonder it stood for. Michael always yearned for the good life. His life growing up was not easy. His mother worked two jobs to meet the needs of her two young boys. She was not a widow, but a woman forced to meet all of her children's needs due to a father who walked away.

I yearned to give Michael everything he wanted. He deserved it all. What did Michael want most? Me.

I gave Michael my heart completely. I held nothing back. I brought him into my life, into my home, into my family, then began planning for our life together. Just as those plans began to materialize Michael was diagnosed with cancer. It was a sobering wake up call. I learned that while my love would last the test of time, our time together would not.

I won't lie. I did my share of anticipatory grieving, yet I kept this in check. I would not be short changed out of any possible time of loving him, holding him and celebrating him. Take all of this...his love for Christmas, reminders everywhere I look and listen, and...tears. Lots of tears.

I'm a mess and I know it. I'm a mess and my boyfriend knows it. I'm a mess, and still, I am loved. I've decided not to run from it. I have never, ever, run from anything that appears scary or uncomfortable. I tend to be a "face it head on" type of guy. So if a song brings on emotion, I am allowing myself to sob as I sing. If my boyfriend's love and attention reminds me of what I lost, then the tears are again welcome.

I've decided to accept that I have this open wound. At the same time I have decided to accept that I have someone beside me willing, and wanting, to help me heal that wound. Abel is not expecting to completely fill the wound that I carry, and I don't necessarily want it completely filled. I think I want to feel both loved and fulfilled, yet with room to always acknowledge the place that only Michael occupies.

Open wound. Healing every day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

With You

"I like people with depth, I like people with emotion, I like people with a strong mind, an interesting mind, a twisted mind, and also someone that can make me smile." - Abbey Lee Kershaw

I'm stubborn. I'm sarcastic. I say things like I see them. I bottle up my emotions. I'm a fireball.


He was laid back. He laughed at my sarcasm. He'd correct me when I was wrong. He made me express my emotions. He cooled me down when things got hot.


Michael was most definitely not the same as me. He was the opposite. He was perfect for someone like me; The person that has a filter issue but loves to be challenged, corrected, educated.


Michael made me grow. He makes me grow.


It's not easy not having him here...The person that I didn't need to explain things too, but the person that challenged me to challenge myself. My ways. My words. My life.


I keep that going. I motivate myself to remember that he made me want to be and be a better person.


I still am me. The person he fell in love with.


But still the person that makes mistakes. Says the wrong things. Sticks to my guns when everyone says let them go.


I'm the person that knows that I will grow. I will be me. I will become a better me.


I miss you, baby. The person I was with you.


But I matter what, you will always be here. You will always stand by my side, but make me work, reflect, and remember that there's room to improve.


And I will.


And I'll smile knowing so.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Parties: Third Time's The Charm

Somewhere between suffering that terrible first Christmas party alone and “Whoo hoo! It’s a Christmas party!” was my last weekend. This is the third holiday party season without my Angel holding my hand (and likely suggesting I wear a different shirt.) I had been dreading the holiday parties but my anticipation of misery far exceeded reality. I was both surprised and relieved.

Last Friday was Maggie’s 36th birthday. In our previous life together, we would have celebrated her birthday by throwing a tremendous party here at our house on Saturday night.

You can’t imagine the festivities and the joyousness (read: drunkenness and debauchery.)

A couple hundred friends from multiple social circles would join together for a night of raucousness, gluttony and full-on drinky drinky. Maggie would spend days preparing this absolute ridiculous spread of cheeses, dips, meats, sweets, cracker-these and basil-thats. There were servicing dishes, pastry dishes, hot dishes and cutting boards filled with gastronomical adventures that people would inhale, praise and ask about for years following (“Hey, Maggie, what was the name of that cheese with the blah-ditty blah blah?” Amazingly, she’d always remember.)

And there was cake.

The party would always rage until way past 3AM.

The next-day cleanup was really a next week process. Not surprisingly, it typically took more than a few weeks to get the smell of beer and food out of the house. But it was fun.

You can’t imagine the huge smile that beautiful woman wore as she floated around the friend-packed room. It was her heaven. And to see her that happy was mine. Perfect.

So here I sit, nearly three years after her Angel Day. Two parties have sprung up out of the absence of ours, both hosted by close friends. Neither party is related; there’s no mention of our party, or even a mention of Maggie and really there shouldn’t be. They are just regular ol’ Christmas parties. The huge group of people has divided, too, and a large group of those who used to attend our parties don’t come to either of the new parties. But I am always invited to both – one on Friday night and one on Saturday.

Last year, my attendance at both of these parties was torturous. Here they were, all these folks who just two years ago were at our house at our party celebrating Maggie’s birthday. Now, here they were, laughing like no one is missing, all happy with their living spouse and happy future. Then there’s me. I hated pretty much every minute. But I put on my party face and smiled until I felt the tears about to break through. I’d dash quickly off to the bathroom or a bedroom and let them rain down until I had control again. Then I’d put my party face back on and pretend it was a happy holiday season. After all, what’s not to be happy about?

But this year was different. I dreaded both parties (I even finally decided to attend one at 10:15PM that night!) But this year the tears didn’t come. Not once did I excuse myself or cover up my watery eyes. Yes, I missed my Maggie but it wasn’t terrible or overpowering. It wasn’t unbearable. It just was the same ol’ everyday pain. In fact, I actually kinda enjoyed seeing some of the ol’ friends again. It had been a while since I’d seen some of them. A year, in fact.

The third time’s the charm. That’s how the saying goes, right?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

why Christmas concerts suck

Image from here....

I have been working really hard at being upbeat and positive this Christmas. I consciously remind myself of the wonderful things in my life - amazing kids, great friends, a rewarding job, an amazing community, etc. I don't want to whine. I certainly don't wish to have others internally groan and roll their eyes if I talk about how lame the holidays are as an only parent or a widow. I keep beating myself over the head with intentions of positivity and quotes about gratitude. I very often feel that I have reached the lauded grieving stage of "acceptance".
But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel myself thinking, "This sh*t blows."
I had one of these moments yesterday as I raced to my kid's Christmas concert at school. Parking was terrible and as I ran down the road I could see pairs of other parents converging on the school together.
Inside the gym, I grinned maniacally at my kids trying to instill the feelings of "Mom, is so proud!" "You're doing great!"
Briar stared back woodenly dressed in a floral apron whilst limply holding a large spoon. He was surrounded by numerous other five year olds who sang about Christmas baking and cookies for Santa. His look implied that he was truly annoyed to be forced on-stage with all the tres eager little girls singing their hearts out and shell-shocked little boys who mouthed the words quietly. Jeff would have laughed hysterically at the expression.
Liv looked so tiny sandwiched between two enormous classmates. Her little mouth framed each word perfectly and I felt that I could hear her voice clear above all others in the gymnasium. My eyes started to well thinking about the pride Jeff would have felt watching her long and gangling little arms act out the required motions to the obscure carol her class sang.
All around me parents stood together giggling at their children's antics and video taping the show for later viewing. Some held hands and others took turns holding babies or getting cups of hot chocolate from the treat table for each other.
I know there were other "single" parents in the crowd....but at that moment, I could only see all the lovey Hallmark card families....And it made me want to spontaneously cry and spit on them.
I was afraid the kids would witness my melt down so I attempted to distract myself by getting Briar to smile. As I watched him stare back at me with a look that imparted his immense displeasure, I covertly administered bunny ears to the father standing against the wall beside me. I stuck out my tongue. I pretended to pick my nose. Nothing worked and I worried that he possibly was looking around and noticing, as I had, all the perfect sets of parents filling so many of the seats.
When time came for me to deek out the side door and head to work, I waved to Liv and mouthed "I love you the whole pie".
As I ran up the hill back to my car, I had tears streaming down my face. It broke my heart to be the only parent witnessing my kiddos triumphs and insecurities. I hated, in that moment, those Christmas joy-filled parents and all that their togetherness represented.
I realize that, to my children, this is the life that they lead. That this is the one that Briar has really ever known and, that to Liv, it is now normal. But I felt angered and horrifically saddened by this.
I don't want to be the ONLY one who loves them ferociously. I am sick of being the one who has to think up stories to bolster Briar's belief of Santa when he comes home from kindergarten saying that a bigger kid told him that the man in the red suit is all a lie. I feel the injustice of having to decide on my own whether "re-belief" is the stance to take or not on my own. I don't want to attend this shit alone.
And amid all this un-advanced grief, I know that I need to just accept that this is how life is now. That no amount of railing against Jeff's death will fix it. But right now, I just want to cry and stomp my feet instead. Maybe tomorrow I will choose to force myself into positivity again....But right now, this shit sucks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Can I Ensure That December ....

                                                                 photo from here

.... is a month to remember?

Truth be told, it wasn't all that difficult.
All I did was agree to have surgery today.

And then, to make it even MORE memorable .... I agreed to have my middle son's wisdom teeth extracted.

Yes, as in .... today, the 14th of December ..... both procedures.
I guess that's one way to ring in the "death day" of my husband (which really isn't until Sunday, the 18th).

No, this might not be the smartest move, but it's all about timing.
I need to have sinus surgery.
I've spent way too many years not being able to breathe properly.
My deductible has been met.
The year is almost over and the adding up of the deductible will begin again.

My son's wisdom teeth have started to cause him problems.
He leaves for the Marines in less than 4 weeks.
We have time for him to have this done and heal before he leaves.

It's all in the timing.
And mostly ..... the timing of anything in December pretty much stinks.
The fact that both of these procedures were scheduled on the same day is just .... what it is.
We didn't plan it.
I'd rather not be out cold, having surgery while my son is also out cold.

But .... it is what it is.
I cannot be in two places at once.
I cannot be two parents.
I cannot be where I want to be.
And that stinks.

So one of my daughters will be with my son.
And some one who loves me very much will be with me.
No, it's not the same.

But life isn't always about being the same.
Or getting what we want.
Or good timing.

But it can be about making the most out of what we do get.
So I'm thankful that one of my daughters was able to come home and play "nurse".
And I'm thankful that I have someone in my life who cares enough to deal with me and the aftermath of a broken and re-formed septum.  Ugh.

My life has not gone the way I had planned .... the way I had hoped.
But I am learning to readjust my ideas of timing.
Some days I'm a very slow learner.
Some days I do more kicking and screaming than learning.

But I hope those days are becoming fewer.
Because, for better or worse, this is my life.
And is spite of what I planned .... I have been blessed.
I am blessed.

And the next time I write to you .... I'll have the four year mark behind me.
And hopefully, I'll be breathing easier.
In more ways than one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

That look.


You know the one.

The one that your spouse would give you and you'd feel that strong connection like a bolt to your heart.

I miss getting that look.

That very first shy grin when we met ... and instantly, we both felt that zing of one soul recognising another.

The glowing face that was a result of just looking at me. Greg would just beam at me in greeting. Every Single Morning and Evening.

The glance and smile to share that private joke perfectly, without a word being spoken.

The look that said “I know what you are thinking”. We always knew what the other person was thinking. Even down to which obscure Python quote was perfect for the moment.

The look of the Only Other Person who is as proud of the kids as you are. The Only Other person who can rejoice at the first successful potty mission, and the only other person who could possibly be as proud of their achievements on their report cards (cough – working at ... and topping... an entire year above level at maths and reading age levels double their actual ages - cough).

The looking for each other. Seeking where the other was at a party (Australian parties are often affairs where the men collectively inhabit the bbq area, beer in hand while the women are chatting in the kitchen, or dancing on the patio, wine in hand.) We’d always glance over at each other and telepathically sense whether the other was having fun or whether it was time to leave.

The eyebrow wiggle that said ... well... you can guess the rest of that sentence....

The point is I miss that look that made me feel loved and safe and accepted and known.

The look that let me know I was home.

* Of course I don't actually have a decent picture of 'that look' ... we didn't take so many photos in the days before digital cameras. But this pic was snapped at a wedding shortly after we were smooching and so there is still some remaining traces of 'that look' on our faces.....
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Monday, December 12, 2011


from here

Time is healing me, I suppose, but it's also taking me further and further away from Dave. Each day that passes is more time without the love, comfort and stability he so freely gave me. As the days pile up, I'm going more and more crazy for the comfort a loving spouse can bring. It's been so long since he's told me he loves me, wrapped his arms around me, made love to me, cuddled me. It's withdrawal and it seems to get worse as time goes on.

Of course it does. People aren't meant to go so long without those things. We're biologically programmed to need physical touch. And I don't mean the physical touch I can get from the massage therapist. I mean touch with mutual love involved. Most of us aren't meant to be alone. It's not a state we seek. We seek out another. We seek love and companionship.

It's been so long since I had that and so far the need for it has just grown. It's so frustrating that this desperate need corresponds to a time when I am without that kind of love. It has been taken from me.

I keep thinking of a scene from the movie Things We Lost in the Fire. Halle Berry's character's husband has just died and her husband's best friend comforts her. She asks him to get in bed with her and hold her exactly the way her husband held her just so she can fall asleep.

All my married girlfriends can rest assured that I'm not going to ask their husbands for that kind of a favor, but I can so relate to her need for that brand of comfort. It's not logical or conscious. It's brain stem stuff. There is no out-thinking it. It just is. And it seems to intensify as time stretches on.

I'm jealous of Halle's character in that scene, but I also imagine that in real life, it would still feel hollow and empty to have a simulation snuggle. There's no love, just need. Desperate need for comfort and being held. Maybe it's a short term fix, but in the long run, the loved one is still gone and maybe afterward it would feel even worse. The minute that person's no longer holding you, you have to face reality again. Face day to day life without a partner. Face the fact that they held you close, not out of romantic, mutual love, but out of a desire to ease your pain for a moment. It's a fake.

And the truth is, as great as it sounds and looks on screen, I know me and I know that I don't feel fully comfortable with touch unless there's a level of trust that's built over time. I also know with deep conviction, that I would rather be alone than be with someone who doesn't enrich my life. But guess what alone means? That biological need not being met.

This is just how it is. There isn't a way around it, only through it. But knowing that doesn't make this easier.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


A simple photo opportunity.

A day in the sun. A day with the one I love.

Our hands.

Proof that he is here for me. Proof that he exists here in my life. Proof that he offers his hand to me.

I sit here looking at this innocent photo that I took today.

My hand on his. His hand at ease. His hand already used to mine finding it's way over to his.

I am very fortunate. I never forget this. I never take the offer of his hand for granted.

It reminds me of another photo I took four years ago.

Another day in the sun. Another day with the one I loved.

Our hands.

Proof that he was there for me. Proof that he existed here in my life. Proof that he offered his hand to me.

My hand on his. His hand at ease. His hand already used to mind finding it's way over to his.

I am very fortunate. I never forget this. I never took the offer of his hand for granted.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fairy Tales

Michael's my prince charming. He saved me from the poisoned apple, kissed me out of an eternal sleep, slayed the dragon, and swept me up into his safe arms. And as soon as I was swept up, I felt like he was pulled away from me.

But, I still believe in fairy tales. It has been through my fellow widows; their stories, pictures, memories and thoughts....that I realized there were others in this world that had found their Aladdin, Beast, and Prince Phillip. It reinforced that I have felt the greatest of love's yet survived the largest of tragedies....and I was not alone in surviving.

It reinforced that love will always live on.

So I will wake tomorrow, out of my glass case, surrounded by seven dwarves but no prince...within sight. I will take on this world, this tale we started....and in the end I will have my happy ending, as we will be together, and live happily ever after....and until then, I shall always believe in fairy tales and the FACT that they do come true.

"Only those who truly love and who are truly strong can sustain                      their lives as a dream. You dwell in your own enchantment.                      Life throws stones at you, but your love and your dream change                      those stones into the flowers of discovery. Even if you lose,                      or are defeated by things, your triumph will always be exemplary.                      And if no one knows it, then there are places that do. People                      like you enrich the dreams of the worlds, and it is dreams                      that create history. People like you are unknowing transformers                      of things, protected by your own fairy-tale, by love."
                    -Ben Okri

Friday, December 9, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I am in the 7th year AD (after Daniel). The 6th anniversary was in November, and this will be our 7th Christmas without him. I was thinking the other day, as Carl, the kids and I decorated the Christmas tree, that I could never have imagined this life that first Christmas in 2005.

That Christmas is a dark blur in my mind's eye. I vaguely remember shopping (on-line, no way I was going to the stores). I remember trying to pretend like it would all be okay, and I vividly remember having to take a cry break in my bedroom after we opened presents. My mom found me and sat with me while my brother entertained Grayson with his new toys.

The next year was better, but only marginally. I don't remember much about it other than as Jackie suggested I bought myself something really nice and said it was from Daniel. It helped.

Each year since then has been a bit better, although each year has had it's tough moments and I expect this year to be the same. I've already tackled some of the bigger hurdles: looking through the ornaments ("first Christmas together", "first house", "baby's first Christmas"), decorating the tree, etc.

Although rumor has it that once you find another partner you are magically healed from the loss of your spouse, I have found that this magical cure is a myth. Carl, as fabulous as he is, is not able to wave a magic wand, erase my past, and make me forget. Carl is my present and my future, but my past will always hold Daniel and I will always miss him. Fortunately for me, Carl has no desire to erase my life before he was in it. He tells me he is grateful for the life I had, as that life and the loss of it has made me the person I am today.

This year I am celebrating the holiday with Carl and the kids. Together we'll be making the many rounds of holiday celebrations. This year more than one celebration will be with the Dippels, who are ready to welcome Carl into the family.... Poor man, he doesn't quite know what to think about my large extended "former in-law" family. They, however, are ready to welcome him, and as odd as that may seem to most of the world, it's an oddity I find comforting. I am grateful for so many things, but today I am especially grateful that no one expects me to give up my past in order to embrace my future.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

All I Want for Christmas

Photo from here...

Anyone who reads this knows what each and every one of us would like for Christmas if we could have whatever we wanted....We also know that's an impossibility.
We could sit and count every moment that we are missing our love. Every scenario that lacks our spouse. Every tradition that falls flat without their presence.
Or we can try to find the glow that once existed in the holiday season. We can remember the laughter and hope to feel the love that was and, hopefully, is somehow still held for us by our loved one.
There are times that I feel that the "celebration" part of December is lost on me. There are certainly moments that I fantasize about ripping off and stomping on those reindeer antlers affixed to jolly people's car windows.
But this year, I can't help but think, "What would Jeff want me to do at Christmas?" And under all my gloom and "bah humbug-ing", I find a little bit of holiday joy bubble up from somewhere forgotten.
I remember his beloved traditions - lifesaver books in the kid's stockings, homemade stuffing (dressing) in the turkey that resembled liver (he always had to make me a separate batch without the giblets), and drinking large amounts of Irish cream all day in his morning coffee.
My favourite memories involve waiting for the kids to fall asleep and attempting to be as quiet as possible while giggling maniacally over his rendition of a dark-haired, tiptoeing Santa Claus or his hilarious ways of wrapping my presents (in toilet paper for instance).
So this Christmas, I will buy the lifesaver books, stock the cupboard with large amounts of Baileys and attempt to create stuffing (aka dressing) that resembles an internal organ.
Although I will most likely forgo the strange wrapping paper, I will buy myself something that HE would have bought me. Something that would make me smile and feel loved. Something just. for. me.
And I will force myself to stop my fantasies involving vandalizing the ornamentation on Christmas revelers vehicles......Okay, maybe not. But I won't actually do the damage.
I am sure that there will be sad and lonely times. But I will be damned if I do not smile and let the warmth of his love and the love of my family warm my heart. Because, really, that is all anyone could want or need.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tis the Season ....

                                           picture from here

.... to be jolly.
Ho, ho ..... oh whatever.

I mostly loathe this Season.
I really do.
And that ticks me off.

Because I didn't "before".
I loved Christmas and everything it entails.
It was a wonderful time of the year for me spiritually, emotionally .... the older kids came home from college for several weeks, and physically .... loved the parties, the goodies we only eat once a year .... I basically loved Christmas.

And then came my "after".
And it just so happens that my "after" began on December 18th, which is not only one week (exactly) before Christmas, but it's the birthday of my sister, my brother and my step-dad.
Oh yeah ..... it ranks right up there.
Well, it ranks anyway.

I keep thinking that this will get easier with each year that passes.
So far I have been wrong.
It has not become any easier.
I've tried .... I really have.
I've tried the whole "mind over matter" thing .... if I just don't think about it, if I just don't let myself go "there" ..... then things will be better.
Ummmmm .... not so much.
It seems that my body has a mind (and a clock, AND a calendar) of it's own.  It doesn't need me thinking about the time of year in order to feel it coming.  It pays no attention to my mind.  Sigh .....

I've tried the "distraction" method ..... if I stay really busy and make a lot of Christmassy plans, things will be better.
All that's accomplished is to make me really exhausted ..... as well as depressed.

I don't want to feel like this.
I really, really don't.
I want to make this a happy time for my kids.
It used to be.
And it sucks that it suddenly wasn't.
And that I can't seem to make it better .... or at least can't make myself feel better.

But the truth is .... I've been starting to resent this time of year .... and what has become a very huge part of it ..... the giving of gifts.
Again .... used to love it.
Used to be on top of it.
Used to have my shopping done before December 1st.
I know .... that's so obnoxious.
And SO pre-2007.

We are now past the 1st .... and I really haven't done much.
I think about it every once in a while, but then just stop thinking.
I resent having to buy gifts.
I resent some of my children for seeming to want nothing but gifts. (Note that I did not say ALL of my children .... in case you just happen to be one of my children .... and are reading this.)
I resent the feeling of being a human cash machine (to be fair, that's not just this time of year).
I resent that I seem to make some people happy if I spend enough money ..... or buy the right gift.

And I resent like hell when I hear women complain about what their husband did .... or did not .... give them for Christmas.

So yeah .... you can call me Grinch, if you'd like.
I'm ok with that.
Because I feel pretty Grinchy.
And I wonder if I always will?
Or will there ever come a  year when I will not feel depressed in December?
Is there some magic number of years?  Is it 5?  Because I'd totally love it if it were 5.  Then at least I'd know there's a light at the end of the tunnel .... in one more year, to be exact.

But I know there's no magic number.
For anything.
It is what it is.
Until it isn't any longer.

I will be very glad when that time comes.
And if it doesn't come .... please don't tell me.
I should have something to look forward to.
Doncha think?

P.S.  Sorry that we seem to have a running theme going of how hard December is (again, we don't contact each other about our writing, and I didn't realize it when I first wrote this a few days ago) ..... I really would've liked to have written a cheerier post, but I'm not there ..... yet.  I hope to be ..... one day.  In the meantime, I hope that each of you isn't drowning in depression from our posts.  :(