Monday, March 30, 2015

Letting Go of a Lifeline

Not long after James died, I stumbled across the site site designed for young widows and widowers which had a message forum called "Chapter Two."  Chapter Two was defined in different ways:  for some, it was finding love again; for most, it was this new and foreign stage in our lives.  This forum was great in that it was divided into sections:  there was a general section, sections based on how long you'd been widowed, widowed with children, widowed without children, special circumstances, social, "widowbagos" (i.e. get togethers), etc.  The best thing about this forum was it was available 24/7 and for the most part, the members there were accepting of "non-married widows" such as myself and other fiance(e)s.

YWBB quickly became a lifeline for me.  It was the only place where there were others who understood exactly how I felt and what I was going through.  It was where I could cry and have others cry with me or laugh and not have others think I wasn't grieving "properly."  It is also how I found out about Meetup, which is what ultimately led to me starting my own group for young widows and widowers in this area.  Mostly in those first months, I stayed in the newly widowed (0-6 months) section but from time to time, I'd venture to the other sections to get a feel for what I could expect down the road.  I remember the first time I ventured into the social section and read about someone who was getting remarried-I started crying because I couldn't believe she'd do that to her late husband!  Over time, the social section became my "home" and as I read the posts of those I'd gotten to know through the board announcing remarriages, I envisioned the day that post would finally come from me (and I'm still waiting...).  I have not only "friended" several members of the board on Facebook, I even watched the wedding of one of them which was streamed live from the chapel in Vegas where the ceremony took place.  I can honestly say that will likely be the only wedding I will ever "attend" in my PJs!

As time continued to pass, I found myself feeling less and less a part of the board and eventually I started posting less and less and then I realized I felt I'd outgrown the board and found a new (non-grief related) place to post.  But I always knew the YWBB was there if I wanted or needed to go back to visit and whenever a new member joined my Meetup group, I directed them to the site.  I don't know how many tens of thousands of people worldwide found this site to be a huge blessing.

On Friday, March 6th, exactly seven years and 1 month after James died, I found out via Facebook the site was being shut down.  No reason was given but it was 12 years old and as I'm preparing to step down from organizing my Meetup group after 7 years, I can only imagine how the admins of the site feel after 12!  I'm sure they are definitely ready to move on to whatever is next for them.  I was at the beach with the dogs when I read the news and my first reaction was "No!  You can't take away my lifeline!  How do I fix this?!"  But the next day, I started to think about how long it had been since I'd even checked in and I couldn't remember.  What was being said on Facebook was that the site had become pretty dormant-of course, we all had to speculate on the reason for it's demise.  The more I thought about it as I walked along the beach just enjoying the waves crashing on the shore with the two four-legged loves of my life was that I wasn't sad for myself that this was being taken away-though it is a little scary to know my safe place is gone-but rather I was sad for those who are still to come who will not benefit from this site that has been a lifeline for so many people over the past 12 years. 

My understanding was the site was to be read only until March 20th and then it would just vanish from the Internet.  I haven't looked it up to see that it's really gone-I'm allowing the memory of how the site looked to stay in my brain as a reminder it was once there.  It would be too sad to get the error message the page I'm looking for doesn't exist even though I no longer need it to.

Good-bye, YWBB, and thank you for saving my life when I needed it the most. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Seven Years

February 6th was the seventh anniversary of James's death.  Seven years.  I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that.  It doesn't feel like it's been that long but then other times it seems as though it's been much longer.  Maybe it's more that I don't feel like I'm where I "should" be after seven years.  People often tell me they wish I could see myself as they do and that they wish I could see how far I've come since James died.  And I wish I could too.  I think it would be quite helpful.  Maybe one of these days I should try to list out what I've accomplished to help me try to pinpoint why I feel like I'm behind. 

But then again, I never made a timeline after he died.  In fact, I did the opposite.  I stopped planning for the future because it's not guaranteed and I didn't want to be disappointed if I made all these grand plans only to have them yanked out from under me again.  I think it drives my best friend nuts because he wants me to work on a life plan.  Luckily for him, he doesn't understand that I HAD a life plan and why I'm reluctant to make another.  He's still free to make a life plan for himself without hesitation.  Without truly understanding it may not come true. 

That's not to say there aren't things I want to do in my life, or that I've just been sitting around doing nothing.  I've had a pretty busy go of it-especially the last 5 years.  In fact, I'm to the point now where I love feeling like I'm one of the cool kids for the first time in my life but I need a timeout.  I need to not have a social calendar that is always go, go, go.  I need more downtime.  A couple of years ago, I would have thought "but there's so much I'm going to miss out on if I slow down!"  And now I've turned a corner and think "Eh, there will be other events like that."  I'm finding that right now there are things I want to focus on just for me, without doing everything as a group.  I love my friends, don't get me wrong - I am very blessed in that way - but I need to spread my own wings and see where it takes me.  I need to continue to find comfort in my own skin. 

I'm finding that is taking me to some interesting places and this year seems to be the year of "Don't think, just do."  So far, that has me taking improv classes, participating in several photography challenges, planning to do a mini indoor triathlon and feeling excited about spending 4 days exploring Atlanta by myself.  And it's only February...

I have other goals for this year as well that aren't quite so spontaneous - quite a few of them actually.  I have a 3-ring binder that is divided into nine areas of life with my goals in those areas neatly typed out.  As the month goes along, I write in my achievements.  At the end of the month, I type them up and reprint the goals sheets.  I tell myself this is so it looks nice and neat as time goes by.  The truth is my handwriting sucks and I want to be able to read what I did in January come December.  Plus, in January, I exceeded some of my goals and had to use some of February's space to record them.  And I've already made a couple of revisions to the original list.

I call these goals but I guess it can be looked upon that this is my plan for 2015.  (It's also pretty much the plan I had for 2013 and 2014; this year it's just more visible unlike 2013 where it was out of sight, out of mind and more protected than 2014 when my hard drive crashed in October and I lost my progress on my goals which furthered the tailspin I had already entered into.  I also took dating out of the mix because why set myself up for failure for the third year in a row?). 

Maybe I've turned more corners than I thought I have and have made more of a life plan mentally than I realize.  My day planner does have a list of long-term plans on it- sort of a "bucket list" if you will.  I just haven't gotten to the point of being able to write it all down yet.  And maybe what's holding me back from doing that is there's still a part of me that's waiting to go back to February 6, 2008 and have the day end differently.

Friday, January 30, 2015


Over the years of being on Facebook, I've had friend requests from people I didn't recognize by name because they were using their married name which I didn't know and didn't also include their maiden name.  I either figured out who they are from their pictures or profile information, deduced it from mutual friends or if I still couldn't figure it out, asked a mutual friend what name I would know this person as.  I have also seen several friends change their name:  either first and middle or if they are married (or divorced and still have his name), their maiden and married initials for a last name.  I can think of 3 male friends off the top of my head who are currently not using their real last names so this isn't limited to just the women.

Everyone has their reasons for doing this.  One of my guy friends mentioned above created his Facebook account around the time he was looking for a job.  One just wants a low online profile.  Some do it because they simply want to be harder to find.  One of my widowed friends did it because she was having issues with her in-laws so she deleted her account and started over with a new name.  Some, I think, just get bored and change it on a whim because they can.

I've never thought it was a big deal to change your name on Facebook, but apparently it is.  I discovered this by changing mine.  I then posted a picture as part of a daily challenge and immediately someone commented "Wow!  You changed your name!"  (I wanted to respond to that and ask what they thought about the picture).  I had someone else tell me they almost deleted me because they were confused as to who I was.  I have noticed someone who normally likes all my posts hasn't liked any since I changed my name.  And the best (seriously-I'm not being sarcastic on this one) was a childhood friend I have known since we were 5 (actually, she was my first best friend) sending me a message to ask if everything is okay. 

To be honest, I didn't think anyone would even notice and it does feel good that they did and that they want to make sure everything is okay.  Although I do suspect one is hoping for some juicy drama.  And here is the juicy drama leading to me changing my name:

I am now participating in several groups.  In fact, that and messaging are pretty much the primary functions for which I am now using Facebook.  (Totally just changed that sentence so I wouldn't end it in a preposition.  Go me!).  A few of these groups are literally worldwide.  I don't know these people personally and I decided as I become more active in these groups, I wanted to be more anonymous with my personal information.  

Scandalous, I know.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Every year, I participate in the 30 Days of Gratitude on Facebook, in which I post one thing I'm grateful for every day for the month of November.  This year, I didn't do it on Facebook, but rather kept track on a piece of paper which was hanging on my closet door.  It's been hanging there ever since, until now, as I need the closet door space for a new challenge. 

Here are the things I was grateful for in November 2014:

11/01:  A roof over my head.
11/02:  A job that pays the bills.
11/03:  Not having to worry where my next meal is coming from.
11/04:  Having reliable transportation.
11/05:  Finally having someone listen when I really needed to talk.
11/06:  Having compassion towards towards others.
11/07:  Being able to reconnect with old friends.
11/08:  The unconditional love of dogs.
11/09:  A great turn out for a friend's baby shower.
11/10:  Having had Dad in my life for almost 31 years.
11/11:  The passage of time easing the hurt of losing loved ones.
11/12:  Music.
11/13:  Well wishes and check ups/check ins from friends (gum graft surgery).
11/14:  Sick days with pay.
11/15:  My best friend being here.
11/16:  Knowing I want more out of my life.
11/17:  Laughter.
11/18:  Not having bat shit crazy relatives.
11/19:  Being able to stay in touch via social media/technology.
11/20:  Food Bank and trivia nights.
11/21:  Not having to be anywhere on a dark and rainy night.
11/22:  Having a bucket list to cross things off of.
11/23:  Family-both biological and the one I created for myself.
11/24:  Easy access to books.
11/25:  Blessings in disguise. (Dentist appt being moved to Gresham meaning I didn't have to drive to Lloyd Center on the busiest day of the year).
11/26:  Aloe infused socks and Benadryl.
11/27:  Wanting to embrace the holidays again.
11/28:  Weekend getaways.
11/29:  Knowing that some times, it's okay to cry.
11/30:  Not having to drive home (from Everett) in the snow.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Inspiring Quotes for 2014

In the age of electronics, I use-gasp!-a paper day planner.  Yep, that's correct.  I write down my things to do, places to go and people to see.  I find in doing it this way and having it sitting right in front of me on my desk, I'm less apt to double-book myself and I have an easier time remembering where I'm supposed to be, what I'm supposed to accomplish at work, etc if I write it down.

It is not one I went out and purchased.  It is one I designed based off of one my best friend designed.  I then printed it out and took it to Office Depot for binding.  It was also a lot cheaper than going out and buying one and the most important thing is that it perfectly fits my needs since I designed it to do just that.

It is laid out a week at a time with Monday - Wednesday on one side, Thursday - Sunday on the other.  It has sections for the focus of the day (usually work related), the top five tasks to complete at the office, the top five tasks to complete personally, hour increments for 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m for Monday - Saturday, and blocks of time for Sunday, sections for short-term (30 day) goals and long-term goals.  And it has a section for a weekly quote:  something to reflect how I feel that week or what I want to focus on mentally.

Here is my list of quotes that got me through 2014:

Week 1:  "I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.  If you're making mistakes, you're doing something." - Neil Gaiman

Week 2: "Thank God we can't tell the future.  We'd never get out of bed!" - Tracy Letts, "August, Osage County" (If Meryl Streep does not get nominated for an Academy Award for this movie, then there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with that process!  Holy cow-what a performance!!)

Week 3:  "There's an important difference between giving up and letting go." - Jessica Hatchigan

Week 4:  "Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't. - Steve Maraboli, "Life, the Truth and Being Free"

Week 5:  "The only reason you won't let go of what is making you sad is because it was the only thing making you happy." -

Week 6:  "Hope is a renewable option.  If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning." - Unknown

Week 7: "It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance." - Xiaoiu Guo (and  Bette Midler, "The Rose")

Week 8:  "Happiness is a delicate balance of what one wants and one has.  It's an inner joy that can be sought and caught, but never taught and bought." - Unknown

Week 9:  "Stop leaving and you will arrive.  Stop searching and you will see.  Stop running away and you will be found." - Unknown

Week 10:  "Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy." - Unknown

Week 11:  "Never give up on something you really want.  It's difficult to wait but more difficult to regret." - Unknown

Week 12:  "The energy it takes to hold on to the past is holding you back from a new life." - Mary Manin Morrissey

Week 13:  " If you're dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough." - Unknown

Week 14:  "And through the rise and falling apart, we discover who we are." - Lifehouse, "Who We Are"

Week 15:  "Life is like a camera...Focus on what's important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don't work out, take another shot." - Unknown

Week 16:  "You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.  You're on your own.  And you know what you know.  And you are the one who'll decide where to go."  - Dr. Seuss, "Oh, The Places You'll Go"

Week 17:  "The best journeys in life are those that answer questions you never thought to ask." - Rick Ridgeway

Week 18:  "Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end."  - Unknown

Week 19:  "What a wonderful thought that some of the best days of our lives haven't happened yet." - Unknown

Week 20:  "Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith. - Margaret Shepard  And, "Forget all the reasons it won't work and believe the one reason why it will."  - Unknown

Week 21:  "Two things define you:  your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything."  - Unknown

Week 22:  "You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way."  - Unknown

Week 23:  "Sometimes we have to lose something precious to gain something priceless." - Unknown

Week 24:  "Life is like a book:  some chapters are sad, some are happy and some are exciting, but if you never turn the page, you will never know what the next chapter has in store for you." - Unknown

Week 25:  "The best feeling comes when you realize you're perfectly happy without the people you thought you needed the most." - Unknown

Week 26:  "Nothing lasts forever, so live it up, drink it down, laugh it off, avoid the bullshit, take chances and never have regrets because at one point everything you did was exactly what you wanted." - Unknown

Week 27:  "Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know." - Pema Chodron

Week 28:  "How do you look at someone you love and tell yourself it's time to walk away?"  - Unknown

Week 29:  "Just because something isn't happening for you right now doesn't mean that it will never happen." - Unknown

Week 30:  "There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Week 31:  "I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere in the world.  Then I ask myself the same question." - Unknown

Week 32:  "We are all created with equal amounts of awesome.  It's up to you to decide how much of it the world gets to see." - Unknown

Week 33:  "I admit I really miss how things used to be.  But I can also admit that I've accepted the fact that things changed." - Unknown

Week 34:  "All I need is time.  Time to figure out who I am, who I want to be and where I want to go."  - Unknown

Week 35:  "What's meant to be will always find a way.  She's going to marry that boy one day."  - Trisha Yearwood, "She's in Love with the Boy."

Week 36:  "I wonder what the person I'm going to marry is doing right now?"  - Unknown

Week 37:  "Life is an adventure.  I can only wonder what treasure awaits at the top of the path."   - Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Week 38:  "The world is a book and those who don't travel read only a page." - Unknown

Week 39:  "We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us." - Unknown

Week 40:  "If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place."  -Lao Tzu

Week 41:  "The only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief you are alone." - Anna Draper, "Mad Men"

Week 42:  "Don't look back.  If Cinderella had gone back for her shoe, she wouldn't have become a princess." - Unknown

Week 43:  "You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it." - Unknown

Week 44:  "Never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about."  - Unknown

Week 45:  "Let your faith be bigger than your fear."  - Unknown

Week 46:  "If you live in fear of the future because of what happened in your past, you'll end up losing what you have in the present."  - Unknown

Week 47:  "Your mind knows only some things.  Your inner voice, your instinct knows everything.  If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path." - Henry "the Fonz" Winkler

Week 48:  "Every girl needs a best friend to help her laugh when she thinks she'll never smile again."  - Unknown

Week 49:  "Someday everything will make perfect sense.  So, for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason."  - Unknown

Week 50:  "You don't have to have it all figured out to move forward."  - Unknown

Week 51:  "I am spending Christmas with family:  the family I chose for myself."  - Me

Week 52:  "I am an idealist.  I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on the way."  - Unknown

(Those marked as Unknown did  not have an author attributed to them on the site(s) I found the quotes, which was usually Google Images of whatever theme I was feeling that day, and I'm too lazy to look them up).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fome the Things I Wish I Could Say File: "Dear Prospective Tenants"

Dear Prospective Tenants,

I understand the vacancy rate in this area is seriously low and therefore rents are being jacked up like crazy by landlords making it so a lot of people are searching for somewhere more affordable (or even just plain affordable) to live.  I also understand from speaking to prospective tenants that not a lot of prospective landlords respond to your response to their Craigslist ad.  Let me give you a few pointers.

First, while you need a place to live, I don't need to rent out the rooms in my house.  I am doing so because the vacancy rate is ridiculously low and renting out my spare rooms is a financially smart move, especially since I like to travel and this allows me to do more of it.  Therefore, while I can sympathize with your predicament, I don't have to respond to your email.  I'm looking at having strangers move into MY home in which I live and damn straight, I'm going to be picky about who I chose to respond to.

If your response to my ad simply asks if the room is still available, I am not going to respond to you because my ad says emails that simply ask if the room is still available are going to be treated like spam and clearly you did not read my ad.  (Exception:  You use that as an opener before going on to tell me a little about yourself because you have a sense of humor.  You will actually get bonus points for a sense of humor). 

If your response to my ad simply says you are interested in the room and demands I call you, that is not going to happen.  I will respond via email until my Spidey sense determines whether or not to proceed with you as a prospective tenant.  This also holds true for responses to my ad that tell me you will come by to see the room tomorrow at 3:00 so what's the address.  No, you won't.  You will come by and see the room at a mutually agreed upon time and that time will not be during my work hours.  If you actually want a response back from me, tell me something about yourself that gives me incentive to consider you or at least indicates you actually read the ad. 

I am renting out a room.  So no, you cannot move in with your baby daddy/mama, two kids, your cousin and your two dogs.  One room, one person, no animals.  It also raises red flags when your 30 year old child cannot look for a room on their own, unless you explain why you are helping them.

"Proof of Employment" means just that: you can prove you are employed.  I am not running a shelter or a commune.  I am looking for tenants who can pay their rent with money, not by offering me free tattoos, massages, cooking lessons, car repair or housekeeping.  And no, the room rate does not include turning my garage into your parlor/shop.  That is where my car lives.

If you are new in town and I tell you that your commute will take about an hour from my house, which I have lived in for almost 9 years, trust me on this.  Especially if you are a college student who doesn't have a car.  You will NOT be riding your bike 20 miles to school in the dead of winter.  Again, trust me on this.

The rules for my house are not unreasonable, nor do they differ from the rules I have seen stated in other ads (yes, at times I do check out the competition).  If you want to have overnight guests of the "casually dating" variety or to illegally download torrent files, get your own place.  I'm not having a parade of strange men (or women) coming and going from my house nor am I subjecting myself to losing everything to the FCC due to your illegal activity.  Sending me nasty emails about my rules still leaves you without a place to live and me in the same position I was before I read your email, which is not needing you as a tenant.  All it accomplishes is that it makes me glad I don't have to deal with you on a regular basis and in my space.

And finally, if you hate animals, why are you responding to an ad in which three of the five pictures have an absolutely adorable photobombing cocker spaniel?


Prospective Landlord

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Going Solo to the Lounge

In an effort to broaden my horizons, get some exercise, and find yet another way to make a fool out of myself in public, I'm taking swing dance lessons.  It turns out that despite being uncoordinated and not the least bit graceful, I don't suck quite as badly at it as I think I do.  Or so I've been told by kind partners who may have just been saying that.

My class is on Tuesday evening at 6:30, which I think is great.  I'd love it if all my evening activities were this early as it greatly increases my odds of getting home early enough to go to bed on time.  And since my lovely little white dog has now decided we must wake every morning between 3:00 and 3:30 to go potty, I need to go to bed at bedtime as often as I can.  The downside of my 6:30 class is that it is inner SE Portland.  And "rush" hour traffic has become a serious problem that easily lasts several hours depending on the weather and which of the two north-south running freeways you take. 

This is only a four week class and last week for class #2, I was late due to the combination of the aforementioned evening commute and Blazer traffic.  You would think that by now I'd be used to them having games and their stadium being right off the freeway, but no.  It never occurs to me to check to see if that's going to be an issue before leaving the house.  So last week was unfortunately not really worth the time and effort it took to get there.

So this week, I decided to be smart and head across the river super early and find a place for happy hour prior to class.  I don't drink but who doesn't love food at discount prices?  I settled on a place Mapquest showed to be reasonably close to and which turned out to be kitty-corner from the dance studio.  It really does not get anymore convenient than that!  I've been here once before for a Portland Cello Project concert, but that was in the basement so this was the first time I'd been in the lounge itself.

The lounge was pretty small with really loud techno music.  Mirrors everywhere gave it a larger and somewhat of what I imagine a bad 70's porno would be like vibe.  (The low lights didn't help that image.  And it's connected to a hotel...).  But I wasn't there for the atmosphere.  I was there to not be late for class.

For being 5:00, the place had a decent number of patrons.  (There's also an outside area with heat lamps but it was cold out so I didn't investigate).  A couple sat at the bar not talking to each other.  Another guy sat at the other end of the bar.  I would have sat at the bar as it had the best lighting and I brought a book (yeah, I'm that awesome), but I didn't want to sit between these people in the off chance they wanted to be social.  (Yep.  Still awesome).  I settled for a small table where I could sit and eat my cheese fries and drink my pineapple-orange juice combo in peace.  Sadly, it was too dark to read so I did what anyone else in my shoes would do:  texted a running commentary to my friends in between checking Facebook.  I also toyed with going over and chatting with another solo patron also playing with his phone a but then I saw the ring.  And then his companion arrived and he moved across the bar so they could sit by the fireplace, which was now available due to the two women who had been occupying this spot leaving.

Instead I sat and listened to the two men sitting beside me.  Or rather one of the two men who went on and on and on and on about playwrights.  He's an actor, it turns out.  I know this time because of the numerous times he said "As an actor, I..."  I entertained thoughts of turning this into a drinking game, while thinking if I was on a date with this man, I'd likely want to gouge out my eyeballs because that would be less painful.  I ultimately realized the younger of the two seemed to be interviewing him.  Not because all he did was ask questions (he didn't get to say much) but because I realized he was taking notes.  When they left, the younger one seemed rather shell shocked.  I wanted to ask if it had indeed been an interview but somehow that seemed like it would be rude so I gathered up my stuff. 

I joined two others at the bar to pay my tab.  I was slightly caught off-guard when the bartender asked for my name as by this point, I was the only woman in the bar who had a tab going.  But on the other hand, I do appreciate his wanting to make sure to charge the correct card for my meal (well, to the extent cheese fries constitutes a meal). 

I don't really think I'm a lounge person.  I don't mind going out to eat alone.  But there was something sad about just sitting there by myself eating my fries and drinking my juice.  I discovered there's a coffee shop across from the lounge so next week, I'll give that a try.  Maybe that will be more my speed, though I suspect the other patrons won't be nearly so eclectic.  And they likely won't have cheese fries.