Thursday, December 11, 2008

Here Comes Santa Claus

Last week I ran into PetCo to get some food for the boys. While I was there, I just happened to see the flyer announcing Santa was going to be there the 6th, 13th and 14th. So naturally, I had to take the boys for a picture with Santa.
I was going to take them on the 13th after my chiropractor appointment, but plans changed. When I got home Friday (the 5th), I noticed that Sammy had a sore between his pads. Sammy has very bad allergies and developed the sore as a result of always chewing/licking his paws. I didn't like the looks of it, so I called to get an appointment for Saturday morning.
I took the 9:30 appointment thinking that would work out well: I could take the boys to the vet appointment and then over to PetCo for a picture with Santa at 11:00. I figured since it always takes forever at the vet, I would be lucky to get to PetCo before the line got too long. So naturally, this is the one time we were in and out of the vet's office.
I realized that by the time we drove the 1/2 mile to the store I was going to have about 45 minutes with two curious monsters before Santa was due to arrive. I debated just taking them on the 13th, but decided to be brave. After all, we were already practically at the store. We spent about 20 minutes roaming the store. Charlie was not too sure about it; Sammy could not explore fast enough. After paying for the Christmas presents (I have to have something to put under the tree after all), and putting them in the car, we still had about 20 minutes to waste. So, we roamed some more. Then we got in line and waited patiently. I was so proud of them-all while wondering who these well-behaved dogs were and where my real dogs were. They didn't jump on anyone and they didn't join in with the Boxer that would not stop barking. Charlie did step forward when I went to pet another dog though, which I thought was funny.
11:00 rolled around and no Santa. Apparently, the man they hired was a no show so they had to scramble to get an employee to do it. The girl who volunteered was very excited (wonder how she felt at the end of the day!) as she had always wanted to be Santa. They had to stuff a dog bed in the Santa suit to fill her out, but once they had the wardrobe issues worked out, things got moving along. Naturally, when it came time for the picture, the boys decided they had behaved long enough, but this picture is better than the last time I tried this. In the last one, Santa looks pissed and Sammy looks like he is being strangled. One of these years I'll get my Christmas card photo!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I think I need a nanny cam

I have often wondered what exactly it is my dogs do all day when I am at work. I would like to think that they just lay on their blankets patiently waiting for me to come home. However, I know this is not the case. They are indoor dogs, yet every so often Charlie manages to wind up with a puncture wound. Is he peeing on the wrong bush? Is Sammy biting him? Who knows.

James was a pop drinker. I am not. We stocked up on it when it was on sale. He died right after the Superbowl. I have several cases of pop stacked up by the kitchen door, both that I bought and that were brought over for out of town guests that were here for the funeral. I don't know why I haven't just given it away but there it sits. Today, I came home from work to find a lone can of Sierra Mist in the middle of the kitchen floor. So, I ask the boys what they have been up to. They respond by excitedly jumping up and down.

I am having Thanksgiving with our friends, and went over there tonight to take my contributions to dinner and help with some of the prep work. Really I went over there to talk about how hot the actor who plays Edward Cullen in "Twilight" is. Slicing pickles was just my cover story.

So, I get home to find two very excited dogs and 10 cans of Diet Coke in the middle of the floor. The box was still by the door with all the other cases of pop but all the cans were in a weird circle in the middle of the room. I suspect they, and by "they" I really mean Sammy, decided to eat the box and when they/Sammy tried to get it down, all the cans rolled out of it. Of course they are acting completely innocent now. Charlie is happily destroying yet another Kong ball and Sammy is happily licking his foot. And I am wondering for the bazillionth time what exactly it is they do while I am away. Never a dull moment with these two, and for that I really am grateful.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I am blessed

I am truly blessed by the love and support of my family and friends. Those closest to me knew that last week, and especially yesterday, was going to be very hard for me to get through. But, here it is Sunday morning and I am still standing.

I made sure to keep myself pretty busy last week, mostly so I wouldn't have so much time to think and feel, although the busyness did not stop the feelings, as was evidenced by my complete and total sobbing meltdown on Tuesday. That was when I realized I could not get through this past week alone and as hard as it was, I reached out for help.

My best friend and another dear friend do not live in this area. But, despite being extremely busy at work, they e-mailed me as often as they could to make sure I was okay. My best sent an eCard and called first thing yesterday morning. My fellow widows and widowers offered online hugs and words of support, as did members of an online group I joined shortly after meeting James. My aunt sent me a very beautiful arrangement of roses and carnations. I came home yesterday to find messages from my dear friend and my new friends Pete, a co-worker of James, and his wife Stephanie, just letting me know they were thinking of me.

Friday, my dear friend and her son took me to dinner and then to Goodwill to try to find the clothes I will need to be Ugly Betty for Halloween this year. I didn't find my costume, but I did find a very nice, brand new (with the tags) $100 Coldwater Creek sweater for $20. Major score there. After that we raided Fred Meyer's jigsaw puzzle section. They were on sale, and we each left with 3. After a not-so-quick run through the Starbucks drive-thru, we went back to her place and stayed up way too late working on one of her new puzzles. She is a dear freind of mine and her husband was James' best friend, so she is the person I most feel I can talk ad nausem about James to.

Yesterday, another dear friend met me at our usual meeting spot and we headed into Portland to the Japanese Gardens. She would have been one of my bridal peeps. When James and I bought this house, we had a hot tub. It was an older model and after each repair just led to another repair, we finally decided to get rid of it. We threw some ideas around for the now empty space and James said he would like to put a Japanese Garden in that spot. So, that is what I am going to do and decided yesterday would be the perfect day to go to the Japanese Gardens and so what exactly goes into one.

After the Gardens, we went to the zoo, since it was only a couple of miles away. Sadly, the monkeys and meerkats weren't out, but it was still fun. I love the zoo, and have been there several times, so it's not like I have never seen them. All the animals seemed to have their back ends to us though, which did make picture taking a little challenging!

We then headed to the Cheesecake Factory. I had a gift card (yes, I know. Shocking). and the only Cheesecake Factory is about 30 miles from my house, but was only about 10 miles from the zoo. My mom had sent me the gift card along with one for Barnes and Noble a long time ago thinking that my friend and I could use the B&N card to get wedding books and then go look them over while eating cheesecake, so there was some irony there. It takes a bowl of soup and 3 slices of cheesecake to use up a $25 gift card. I was having a hard time deciding between 3 flavors, so when the server told us that, my decision was made.

We then headed to Border's, which is a very dangerous place for me to be. Despite having a huge stack of books to be read, I can always find something in there that I HAVE to have. Yesterday was no exception. I got a book and a DVD and 3 Lindor truffles because in my world it is against the law to go to Borders (or Michaels) and not get 3 Lindor truffles.

Today I plan to just relax and catch up on my shows and work on a puzzle. I was gone so much last week that I need to spend the day with my boys. Charlie is curled up on the chair behind me and Sammy is streched out behind the chair. They need to see that I still love them.

Granted, I would still much rather be in California this morning, or on a plane to the east coast for my honeymoon, but I am very thankful for and overwhelmed by all the love in my life.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Not Exactly How I Pictured Today

The day that I have been dreading for the last 8 months is here: our wedding day. Only instead of sitting at the Lake Natoma Inn in sunny Folsom, CA, I am sitting at home in foggy, cold Vancouver WA.

We didn't pick this day because of any significant meaning. We originally chose 12/31/09 because that would have been the 10th anniversary of our first date. Then, I decided if I had to wait almost 3 years to get married, I would probably go insane. I wanted 8/8/08. Eight is my favorite number, it is lucky in Chinese (granted, neither of us is Chinese, but one of my bridal peeps is so I figured that was close enough), and we would have been together for 8 years, working on the 8th month. I figured we couldn't go wrong with all that on our side. But, it was a Friday, and most of our guests would be traveling, which would mean an extra day off of work for them. So, I thought 8/9/08 would be fine too.

James wanted his brother to be in the wedding party and he was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in July 2007. We didn't know if it was going to be 6 months or a year, but thought if it was a year, August would be cutting it close for him to be back in time. September would have been a little better, but still iffy and I really didn't like any of the dates that fell on a Saturday. Plus, I really wanted an outdoor wedding and we also had to consider how hot it is in Sacramento during the summer months. We figured October would be a good month for an outdoor wedding, weatherwise and that by picking an October date, we did all we could to accomodate James' brother's deployment. My nephew's birthday is 10/3, my niece's is 10/4, and one of my bridal peeps will be celebrating her 10th anniversary on 10/18. We figured the 25th was getting too late into the month, so by process of elimination, today was the day. However, God had other plans and 13 months after James proposed, and 8 months and 5 days ago, James died, leaving me a bride-to-be without a groom. No longer a fiancee, but not really a widow either.

I am blessed to have had 8 years with such a wonderful man, even if I didn't get my happily ever after. In my heart, I was already married to him and have been for years. I will always love him; I will always carry him in my heart. But as I hit here with tears streaming down my face watching the fog slowly lift outside I can't help but wonder what our wedding would have been like. Would he have liked my dress? The only thing he asked was that he not know what my dress looked like ahead of time-he wanted that element of surprise. Would I have been a beautiful bride? Would I have been a total uptight Bridezilla (um, probably). Would everyone have shown up? I think it would have been beautiful; even if little things went wrong, as they tend to do at weddings, I think it still would have been perfect.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Gussied Up Spanish Rice

I have been on a Mexican food kick lately, so for tonight's dinner, I decided to see what I could turn a box of Rice-a-Roni and a pound of hamburger into. I am very pleased with the results.

1 Box Spanish Rice Rice-a-Roni
1 14.5 oz can of stewed Mexican style tomatoes
1 lb ground beef
1 4 oz can diced green chilis
1 small can sliced black olives
Miced onion, or diced onion
Garlic Salt
Salsa (optional)
Cheese (I used the pre-shred Mexican blend, but cheddar would work too)
Tortillas (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

Prepare the Rice-a-Roni as directed. The recipe calls for a 14.5 oz can of tomatoes, but isn't specific about the flavor or style, so I used the stewed Mexican style.

While the rice is simmering, brown the ground beef. Season with minced or diced onion, pepper and garlic salt to taste.

When the beef is about 3/4 done, add the green chilis and olives. When it is just about done, add a big spoonful of salsa, if desired. When the meat is done, drain it, put it back in the pan and add about 1/2 cup cheese. Keep warm until the rice is done.

When the rice is done, add the meat mixture. Add another 1/2 cup or so of cheese. Mix it all up and when the cheese is melted, dinner is ready.

I tried this by itself and wrapped in a flour tortilla with sour cream. I liked it better on its own. The tortilla and sour cream seemed to really mute the flavor.

For a more complete meal, I would serve a side salad with a Salsa Ranch dressing or a vegetable medley of steamed red, orange and yellow Bell peppers. If being overloaded on starches isn't a concern, go with corn with a touch of salsa mixed in.

Helping with the Laundry

Sammy and Charlie love to "help" with the laundry. Usually, this means re-combining the piles of dirty clothes after I separate them or unfolding things, or knocking over my nice stack of folded towels, and then unfolding them. I think they get more points if something lands on the floor.

Today, I had a load of whites and two loads of towels to fold. I tipped the basket with the whites and one of the loads of towels over and Sammy promptly climbed in it. This is not something I have seen him do before-and he will be 6 next week! Poor Charlie had to settle for what spilled over onto the bed until I got the second load of towels out of the dryer and he decided that was a much better pile to help with. Whoever said cocker spaniels are perpetual 2 year olds was right! Sammy wasn't about to give up those last two towels for anything.
(I took the pictures with the cell phone since it was handy, which is why the picture quality isn't the best).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ovarian Cancer Awareness

Earlier this month, I had my first checkup with the orthodontist. I thought they were just going to check things out (since that's what they told me) but it turned out that I was ready for a new wire. So, Jill the Torturer handed me the box of bracket rubber band thingys so I could pick out a new color while she did whatever it is orthodontist assistants do when they are preparing to torture you.

My eyes immediately fell to the teal ones and I chose those without a second of hesitation. This is definitely a bold statement for someone like me who would much rather not do anything to draw attention to herself. I did it for my best friend.

I met my best friend on the school bus in April of 1989. I was a freshman and she was in the 8th grade. We had both just moved to the Sandpoint (Idaho) area. It was my second week on the bus when I saw and didn't recognize her. I remember going up to her and asking if she was new too, praying she would say yes and not look at me like I was a complete idiot who should have known she had lived there her entire life. It turns out she had moved to the area a week after I did. I hadn't seen her before because I moved there the week before Spring Break; she moved there during Spring Break and had just started riding the bus.

We have been through a lot in the 19 years we have known each other. Life has a way of handing you its share of ups and downs and we have celebrated and commiserated over each one. We also have this special bond in which we instinctively know when there is something wrong with the other one. So, earlier this summer, I could tell she was trying to hide something from me and I was right. She was hedging, so I immediately suspected the worst case scenario, and I was right. Sort of.

She had been having some female problems since around February, but was trying to ignore them. She should have gone in for an exam in January but she put it off because really, what woman looks forward to that appointment? Finally, her doctor told her that her asthma medication prescription would not be refilled until she had a physical. Well, my best friend kind of likes to breathe so off to the doctor she begrugingly went.

The doctor found that she had an "atypical" cyst on her left ovary. He told her they could monitor it with periodic ultrasounds but that would not really tell them anything. She has had cancer scares before and always felt everything was fine; this time she felt bothered so after reviewing all her options she decided to have a partial hysterectomy. She just knew something was wrong-she could feel it.

At her pre-op appointment, the doctor told her he was only going to take out the uterus. After surgery, the doctor told her that he took out the uterus and the left ovary as there were cells present he couldn't identify under the scope. Of course, this led us to all kinds of questions we did not have answers to, which is really not a good thing for two women who do not like to be kept waiting! Finally, a week later, she was told that the cells were "non-invasive with borderline malignant potential." Um, okay. A quick Google search had me more confused than ever and I decided that was the "used car sales pitch" of a medical diagnosis. She had to wait several more days before finally seeing her doctor, in which time I grew more and more impatient, convinced my best friend was next to die. (When you have 7 family members die in 4 years, it kind of makes you wonder who's next after each funeral). She handled this much better than I did-much, much better.

The doctor told her she is special. That cancer is black and white and she is very gray. Part of what took so long for her to see him again after her surgery is that he was basically consulting with everyone in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. He wanted to be sure, which is a good quality for a doctor to have.

The cells they found inside the tumor were cancerous. The cells had not attached themselves to the tissue yet, which is what kept her from being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In other words, they couldn't have caught it much earlier. I believe having asthma may have saved her life. The cells were so slow growing that if she had made her appointment in January, like she should have, they would not have caught it. If nothing else, she definitely has a guardian angel, and a very strong sense of woman's intuition.

The type of cells she had feed of estrogen, which is why the doctor left the right ovary. Because she is only 33, if he had taken that one too, she would have most likely needed hormone replacement therapy, and the estrogen levels in that put her at a much greater risk if there are any cells left than just having one ovary will. She will be monitored every 6 months indefinitely and if one ultrasound or test comes back the slightest bit off, she will have the other ovary removed. She is at peace with this. I, being the overly emotional irrational one in this relationship, think she should just have all her organs removed and replaced with fake ones. I am a numbers girl and even the 5%-7% chance she is looking at of a reoccurrence is 5%-7% too great for my liking.

She found all this out the 10th of September. She also found out that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and that the awareness color is teal. That is why I have a mouth full of teal rubber bands. And if anyone comments on them, I tell them my best friend's story. Some people I just point them out to and tell them. Ovarian cancer tends to be found when it is too late. Listen to your bodies ladies. And be sure to find a doctor who will listen too. We know our bodies-we know when something isn't right. My best friend did and thankfully, she listened to the little voice telling her this cancer scare was different. I told her she definitely did her part-we are now very much aware of ovarian cancer! I also told her that I have always known she is special and asked that next time, she please find a less dramatic way to prove it. :o)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mediterranean-Inspired Grilled Chicken Wraps

The combination of sensitive teeth and braces has me eating a lot of pasta, soup and scrambled eggs. And I am getting sick of pasta, soup and scrambled eggs. Last Friday, I remembered that I had a really good grilled chicken wrap at Dairy Queen and it was pretty soft, so I got one for lunch. This one was not nearly as good as the first one and left me with a craving for a chicken wrap. So, tonight I created my own. DQ's has chicken, cheddar, Ranch and lettuce. I was going to copy theirs, without the lettuce, but went a different way instead. I ended up with a quick and easy meal.

The ingredients are based on serving one person; I made two wraps.

1 chicken breast
4 good-sized grape tomatoes
5-6 Kalamata olives.
Feta cheese
Ceasar dressing (I used Wish-Bone because it was on sale for 99 cents. Score!)
Flour tortillas (I used the smaller Diane's ones that come in the package of 20)

Season and grill chicken (I used my George Foreman grill. I love George).
Slice tomatoes and olives lengthwise. (My olive method is one for the dish, one for me)
Heat tortillas on the stove (either in a skillet or on the burner)

When the chicken is done, slice it lengthwise. Place chicken, tomatoes, olives, cheese and salad dressing on tortilla. Wrap it up and enjoy. I had one with the dressing and one without. I liked the one with dressing better.

Suggested side dishes: chilled cucumber salad, cottage cheese and or cantaloupe.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

That's sick!

As I mentioned before, I spend entirely too much time sitting in my car. Today's random thoughts are not due to stop lights however. Today's delay was the drive-thru at McDonald's. Who would have guessed it would be packed at 4:15 on a Wednesday?

So there I was salivating over the thought of a Quarter Pounder with cheese and salty, squishy fries, when a commercial for Famous Footwear came on the radio. Mr. Famous Footwear Announcer Dude was doing his civic duty by explaining to parents of today's youth that the phrase "that's sick!" actually means something is really cool.

I tried to remember how old I was the last time this phrase was cool. Sadly, I couldn't remember, which kinda sucks since I'm really not THAT old. But, it did bring back memories of other classic phrases and buzz words of my youth, most notably "that's bad," "rad" and "that's fat," back when fat was still spelled with an F. I wonder how long it will be before those make a comeback, or if they every truly went away. I hope they went away. That is not necessarily a time of my life I need to be reminded of.

There are some good phrases/buzz words that have stood the test of time, such as my favorite: "bite me" and "sweet!" My favorite buzz word of my youth, however, is "score!" The first time I said that in front of James, he thought I meant to say "sweet!" Apparently, he had never heard "score" as a cool buzz word before. He decided it had to be an Idaho thing. Actually, he thought that about a lot of things I did or said. I don't know-maybe Idaho is in a league of its own when it comes to coolness.

I stopped using "score!" because here in Portland it wasn't the cool thing to say, which was pretty much a bummer. I don't see why it can't be cool, and I don't know why it matters if I am the only one who feels that way. I think I am going to give it a try and see what happens. I'm easy to please. If I can get just one person to start using it, I'll be a very happy camper.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Are you ready for some football?

Last week, I received my annual invitation to play Fantasy Football. I received it just as I was starting to get antzy about not having gotten it yet. Because our league is first come, first serve and more people were invited to join in than there are spots available, I immediately signed up. Last year, I had a miraculous comeback from 8th (out of 10) in the second to last week of the season to making the playoffs and ending up placing 3rd. It's always satisfying to do well; even better is beating out my two rivals-both of whom are silly boys.

I first started playing in 2002. I played that season because my friend was short two players and wanted to know if James was interested in playing. Being that he was a die-hard Steelers fan, and therefore did not want to have to root for anyone who was not a Steeler, James was hesitant to play. So, I said I would, knowing absolutely nothing about what I was doing.

I ended up letting Yahoo draft for me instead of pre-selecting my draft. That is not something I highly recommend. I then "hired" James and my friend Kip (also a Steelers fan) to be my coaches. Everything they told me to do in terms of roster moves went against my instincts. Let's just say I should have listened to my instincts. I finished that first season 8 out of 10, but I was hooked.

The next season, I did about a 50-50 split of pre-ranking players for the draft and letting the system pick for me. I also "fired" James and Kip and did what I wanted to, or asked their opinion and did the exact opposite. That seemed to work better-I finished 3rd (out of 10), thanks in large part to Torry Holt's best season of his career-a draft pick everyone thought I was smoking crack for selecting. A women's intuition is a beautiful thing.

In 2004, we expanded to 12 teams. This is the only season from 2002-20007 that we have had 12 teams; it is the season that I got first. I believe that there may have been some help from above in that one-that Dad was able to give me one last gift, because I should not have won it all with the team I had!

Naturally, when you are #1, there is nowhere to go but down. And down I went. I dropped to 4th in 2005 and 9th in 2006. But, when you are in the basement, there is no where to go but up, as I proved when all the stars aligned to give me a 3rd place finish in 2007. I seriously needed 6 scenarios to go a certain way that last week of the regular season and they all did, jumping me from 8th to third going into the playoffs.

This season, we are playing with 12 teams again, so I have high hopes for another 1st place finish. But as excited as I am to play, it is going to be hard to not have James here cheering me on, giving me advice to ignore, and telling me I am a goof for shouting "Woo-hoo!! Points for me!!" when one of my players scores a touchdown, or to laugh at me for shouting "Will you stop throwing to him?" at the TV when my opponent's player keeps getting the ball . It won't be the same not having him here to catch me actually watching a game only to insist that it was only on for background noise while I made dinner because I couldn't find anything else to watch. He stopped believing that a few years ago, and rightfully so.

All I can do is believe that James is watching over me and that he and Dad will be shaking their heads over my silly girl moves-like drafting players for no other reason than because I like their name. I really do want to take first this year, and I want to do it for them: two of the biggest football fans I had the honor of loving.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Six months

182 days. 26 weeks. 6 months. James has now been gone for 6 motnhs. 1/2 year has already gone by and I do not know where the time has gone. The truth is, I don't remember most of the last 6 months and I am okay with that. There are some things it is probably best I don't remember anyway.

This last week leading up to today has been miserable. Last Monday, I called in sick to work which is something I rarely do. I went to the Same Day Clinic first thing and was diagnosed with viral bronchitis. I was given some super-strength cough pills and told to come back if it turned into pneumonia. I have always been given antibiotics for bronchitis, so late the next morning I called my primary care physician, only to find out his office is closed on Tuesday afternoons. They finally called back Thursday and I told her my cough was getting worse and more productive. She said that if I started to run a fever of 100.4 to come in and that I needed to give it two weeks to fight it on my own. I reminded her that I was grieving the loss of my fiance and that my defenses were down. She agreed that I probably won't be able to fight this on my own and said to make an appointment when I have pneumonia. Right now, I don't really feel health "care" is an accurate phrase, but I have felt that way for awhile. As a result of this, my brother decided it was best to not come spend the weekend with me on his way to the coast after all. While I understand he has to do what he feels is best for his kids, it was still horribly disappointing.

So, getting back to Monday. After being sent home with my super-strength cough pills and sleeping all day, I felt a lot better, so I kept my appointment with the orthodontist to have the spacers put in. They told me they would be sore for a few days and then feel better. That I would need to eat soft foods for a couple of days and then I would be able to chew again. In theory, yes. In practice, not so much. I was finally able to almost chew again Monday (a week later) after they took the spacers out to clean my teeth and put new ones in that sat more comfortably. I really did enjoy that soft taco and chalupa! The top braces and bottom bands went on today so no more Taco Bell for a few days. I can still have Starcrack though, so all is not lost.

I have been having bad dreams in which James wants absolutely nothing to do with me and is downright nasty to me. My head knows they are just dreams, probably brought on by stress. My heart, on the other hand, is devastated. In a fit of desparation Thursday night, I pleaded for a sign that everything was going to be okay-that I was going to be okay. Friday morning, my co-worker buzzed my desk to ask if I was aware one of my tires was almost completely flat. After I finished a tirade of swear words, he and I slowly drove to the gas station on the corner to fill the tire. I felt so helpless. After work, I went and had the two rear tires replaced. This is the 4th time this tire has gone flat in 3 years and after the last time, I told James if it happened again, I was just replacing it. I also realized that I have never had to pay attention to my tires before. It was something that James just did for me and I just let him. I felt less helpless after that.

So, being sick, hormonal, unable to eat anything that requires chewing, and having bad dreams has made me a lot more emotional. I miss James more than ever and want nothing more than to have him here to give me a big hug and tell me everything is going to be okay. I have basically been a sobbing wreck for the past two weeks. I know I need to let it out but it is exhausting. I can tell there is something eating away at me, but I can't figure out what it is. He was so good at drawing things out-most of the time, he knew when something was bugging me long before I did.

I have been told that I am doing everything "right" which I find amusing since there is supposedly no right or wrong way to grieve. I go to bereavement group, see a grief counselor and a grief therapist, I am in contact with other young widows/widows of the heart, I keep a journal and I consult books on grieving for some extra guidance. But lately I just feel like I am hanging on to the edge by my fingernails and I really don't know what else to do. It is said that around six months, shock wears off and reality sets in. I believe that to be true. And reality sucks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Remembering Josh

On the morning of Saturday, October 8, 1983, the phone rang pretty early. It was my grandmother calling to let us know my aunt had given birth to her third child, a boy she and my uncle named Joshua Jeffrey. I remember being so excited to go to school on Monday morning and tell everyone I had a new cousin in New York, either named Joshua Jeffrey or Jeffrey Joshua. At the time, I was a 9 year old fourth grader in Davenport, WA and New York was a far away place on the other side of the country that took days to get to.

The first time I met Josh was the summer of 1986 when my brother and I went to New York to spend some time at Grandma's. (Turns out it doesn't take days if you go by plane). I was 12 and Josh was almost 3. He was a very happy little boy-always smiling-with a head of blond curls. The things I remember most from this trip are that we went to the Scottish Games Festival and he got this plastic constable-style hat that he absolutely refused to take off. There are a lot of pictures with him in this hat! The other thing I remember is that we had watched "Back to the Future," and he kept jumping on and off the couch saying "I have to tell you about the future! I have to tell you about the future!"

I next saw him two years later but I don't remember a lot from this trip. It was a shorter trip and we didn't see as much of my aunt and uncle and cousins as we had the first time. The only thing I really remember is my cousins had friends over and my cousins got in trouble and my aunt made us all go play kickball to punish us. Eventually, she came out too and I realized what I cool aunt I have.

The next time I saw Josh I was a sophomore in college and he was 9. By this time, we had moved to Idaho and the New Yorkers had moved to Florida. Grandma flew me down there for Spring Break. By this time, Josh was a baseball fan and I noticed he had an autographed picture of one of my favorite players, Walt Weiss, which I thought was so cool. Even more cool was that Josh had met Walt 3 times. He also had the game "Guess Who?" that he loved to play and since I was "new" I was the only one who would play it with him. I think the others got tired of getting beat by a 9 year old. He was pretty good at that game.

The second day I was at my aunt's house, my aunt took me to the beach and conveniently "forgot" the sunblock. You do not take a girl from Idaho to the beach in Florida in March without sunblock without consequences. I have never been so badly sunburnt in my life! I felt so bad when Josh got home from school and came over to give me a big hug and I couldn't let him because it hurt too bad. He also did something to tick off his big sister, as little brothers often do, and she told him he was adopted, which is why he didn't look like her or their older brother. He was crushed, and I wanted to kill her I was so mad! So, I told him that I very clearly remembered the day he was born and he didn't look like his brother and sister because they looked like their dad and he looked like their mom. He seemed to accept this as his beautiful smile returned and he suggested we play a game.

I never would have guessed that would be the last time I would see Josh alive. Two years ago yesterday, my youngest cousin died as a result of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. He left this world entirely too young at the age of 22, but was welcomed in Heaven by my dad (his uncle), our aunt and our grandfather that none of us grandchildren got to meet in this life. I cherish the few memories that I have of him. I didn't get to know him as well as I could-or should have. But, he has and always will have a very special place in my heart.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I am grieving

I am:

Going crazy
In denial
Not myself

Monday, July 14, 2008

Okay! I'll talk! I'll tell you everything!!

Feel time slip away
Waiting in the dentist chair
Let the "fun" begin.....

Today I learned about a perfectly legal form of torture that I am sure would get even the most hardened of criminals to spill their guts. No, I was not arrested; my life is not that exciting. Today I had my records appointment for my braces.

It sounds innocent enough: "We're just going to take some pictures, x-rays and impressions." First up, Jill the Torturer, as she is now known, had me stand in front of a wall. "Okay, first we are going to do a serious picture." Naturally, I started laughing. Once the serious picture was done, it was time for the full smile. I do not smile naturally when on the spot, so she got what James always referred to as my fake, Suzie Sorority smile (yes, I am a sorority girl). Then, it was turn to the right for the last of the mug shots.

We returned to the patient room and I asked if she would be doing my fingerprints next. At least she had a sense of humor as she found that funny. Or, maybe she was laughing because she knew what was coming.

We then had to finish the pictures, which involved putting these weird plastic sort of Y-shaped thingies in my mouth and stretching it unnaturally while I bit down. Turns out I have a small mouth. That is not something I hear oh, ever, but is good to know for the next time I encounter someone who feels otherwise. So, Jill the Torturer went to find the child-size plastic thingies. Apparently, having a child sized mouth means I needed to be talked to like a child for the remainder of the appointment. First, my mouth was stretched out as far as it would go to the right. "You're doing so good," cooed Jill, "now can you just stretch it a little farther? Good girl." Jill would not have thought I was a good girl if she knew what I was thinking! Then the left side, which had to be done twice because she did not realize the memory card was full and the first picture didn't take. "You're doing so good" said Jill, as I glared at her.

After Jill the Torturer got a new camera, it was time for pictures of the top of my mouth. This involved using both the grownup and child-size plastic thingies AND shoving a mirror in my already crowded mouth. This wasn't so bad. Pulling my bottom lip down to my knees while holding my mouth open as far as it could go and holding my tongue behind the mirror shoved in my mouth pretty much made me want to confess to crimes I didn't commit just to end things. And of course, this shot had to be done THREE TIMES.

That was the end of the pictures. Next came the impressions. Okay, if they can make the flouride taste somewhat okay, you would think they could do that with the impression paste. But no. I am pretty sure the impression paste and drywall glue can be used interchangably. In fact, I am pretty sure they are actually the same thing. I have a VERY sensitive gag reflex, so as I am gagging and practically throwing up, Jill is holding the tray in the bottom of my mouth with a brute force such a petite woman should not possess. She decides I should do the top over the sink since it is "far worse" than the bottom. "Oh goody," I think. The top turned out to be a piece of cake, other than it getting stuck and not wanting to come out.

Then it was on to X-rays. I had been dreading X-rays, thinking it was going to be those horrible plastic things they cram in your mouth and make you bite down on while they go out in the hall and take pictures and exchange recipes with the other hygenists. This was actually the X-ray where you stand in the Star Trek machine while it scans your head. Big sigh of relief as there is nothing painful about that.

Last but not least was the biting of the wax. I'm not sure what this was for, but it was quick and painless so I didn't ask. It was probably to make sure my mouth was still working properly.

Jill then took me to see Cheryl. I like Cheryl. She is one of those nice, bubbly people you just want to be friends with. Cheryl, who thinks I am going to look cute with braces, asked if I was excited. I told her I was a lot more excited until Jill the Torturer (yes, I did say that) got a hold of me. I then signed my life away and made my next appointment.

Next up: the consultation and the "seps"on the 28th. That's separators for those not up with orthodontic lingo. I have heard this is the worst part. Goody. But I get to eat soft things like Twinkies and mashed potatoes afterwards to make up for it. I also have to have the "syphs" done since the "syph" machine wasn't working. I know this has something to do with X-rays, but that does not get the image of George O'Malley tackling Alex Karev in the locker room of Seattle Grace saying "YOU gave me syph?!?! " out of my head.

Ah yes, the fun has begun....

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Stepping out of my shell

I am one that prefers to stay behind the scenes. I do not like to draw attention to myself, and I do not like to be the center of attention-unless its my birthday because that is the one day that really should be all about me. Everybody's birthday should be all about them; its their own special holiday.

It's not that I don't have an interest in stepping up or out of my comfort zone, its that I have been painfully shy my entire life. I can sit here and hide behind a computer screen "talking" to others until my fingers fall off, but out in the real world, I am very much aware of where the exits are and the quickest route to get there. Once I get to know people, I don't shut up but initially, I am very anxious of strangers-almost terrified, which is interesting given that I do a lot of volunteer projects where I don't know anyone ahead of time. That has helped draw me out of my shell some.

Being that he was a Gemini, James was good for me in this aspect. He was quite the social butterfly and people just gravitated to him. He always made sure I was okay though; he made sure that I was relaxed and having fun. Now that he is gone, it would be so easy for me to just retreat and never voluntarily face another situation where I didn't know a single soul. But that is not what I am going to do. In fact, I am doing the opposite of that. I have agreed to be a project leader for a group I regularly volunteer for, and I have started a Meetup group for young widow and widowers in this area. I am sure that the evening of the first meeting, I am going to be full of butterflies and wanting to back out-my typical response for the unknown social setting. But I know that I won't do that-I will go to the dinner and meet these new people who have unfortunately also lost their partner way too early. I am hoping this group will help us all in our healing process or provide support for those who may not be blessed with a wonderful family and friends like I am.

I have to admit I am proud of myself for taking the first step and setting up this group. It is definitely a huge thing for me to have done and I feel really good about it, even though the reason this group is needed totally blows.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

Webster's New World Dictionary defines independence as follows:

in-de-pend-ence: n. 1. the state or quality of being independent; freedom from the influence, control, or determination of another or others 2. [Now Rare] an income sufficient for a livelihood.

I am an independent woman. It is up to me to make all my own decisions for both myself and Sammy and Charlie. The consequences of my actions are mine and mine alone. I have the freedom to come and go as I please, to do whatever I want whenever I want to do it. If I want ice cream for dinner, so be it. If I want to spend my weekends volunteering or staring at the TV, that's what I am going to do.

There may be some out there who think I am lucky that I have the freedom to do as I please without answering to anyone. Those are the people who did not really know what my life was like with James.

James had a motto: "what Heather wants, Heather gets." (With the exception of a 3rd dog, that is!) He was not the least bit controlling. He once told me that just knowing I was there was enough. We had our date nights on Thursdays and Sundays and we did do a lot together. But we also had very different interests. If I wanted to go see a play with a friend, his response was "better her than me." The theater was not his thing, but we would go see comedians we liked when they came to town. If I wanted to do a volunteer project and we didn't already have plans for that day, he would just ask when I would be home. On the nights my bunco group met, he would always leave the stove light on for me so I could see when I finally made it home. All that really mattered was at the end of the day, I came home. And it went both ways. If he wanted to meet up with friends after work, I just told him to be careful. If he wanted to go play golf with his buddy, I just told him to have fun and I'd see him when he got home.

We talked about me not working, only working part time, only working tax season and me going back to school. Although James would have loved for me to stay home and provide for me, he knew that wouldn't ultimately make me happy. And that was all he really cared about: that I was happy. He encouraged me to try things that appealed to me that I was too nervous or shy to pursue without that little nudge. He knew me better than I know myself and he gave me the freedom and the strength to explore who I am. I am now drawing on that strength to be the woman I know I can be.

I am an independent woman. I have been one all along. And I would much rather be an independent woman with a partner than a independent woman flying solo.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Breaking the law?

I was driving home from dinner with a friend tonight and there was a whole string of cars pulled over. I thought it was a multi-car accident, but none of the cars looked damaged and all the drivers were in their cars. So, now I am wondering if a bunch of peeps got pulled over for talking on their cell phones without being hands-free, which is illegal as of yesterday. Because if you are going to break the law, everyone knows the smartest place to do that is while passing the sheriff's office. And if you don't know you are passing the sheriff's office, you really aren't paying attention, given that they didn't exactly make an effort to hide what that building is. (Yes, I am feeling more than just a bit sarcastic this evening. Nothing a little chocolate won't cure).

My new stoplight game is seeing how many people are breaking the new cell phone law. I figure since I will be sitting there anyway, I might as well have some fun. And at the right time of day, a lot of cars can pass you in the two minutes it takes for the light to turn green again. My tally for today is 5. Apparently not everyone got the memo.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My latest culinary creation

I keep stocking up on Rice and Pasta-Roni. At a buck (or less) a box, it is really hard to pass up. I have been trying to come up with creative ways to make it last longer, mainly so I can have leftovers and don't have to try to come up with something to make for dinner every night.

My last creation involved Rice-a-Roni Broccoli au Gratin as the base. I made that according to the directions on the box. While that was doing its thing, I seasoned and baked a couple of chicken breasts and steamed some broccoli pieces. When everything was done, I diced the chicken and mixed everything together. I find the chicken easier to cut when it is cooked, and there is the added bonus of not getting raw chicken goobers under my nails. Eeww!

I like cheese, so I shredded some Tillamook Extra Sharp Vintage White Cheddar cheese on top of it. (I would have used regular cheddar, but this is what I had. I don't really like sharp cheddar, but it was part of a gift basket that I won). I also threw in some sliced olives (black) because olives just make everything better. I thought that onion would probably be a great finishing touch, but I was feeling lazy so I sprinkled in some onion powder instead.

It turned out really well and I got 4 decent sized servings out of it. The only down side is that my kitchen still smells like broccoli. Either that or something curled up and died and I just haven't found it yet. I'm really hoping it's the broccoli.

Not nearly long enough

Yesterday, when I was trying to think of something for my profile, it dawned on me that at 34, I have been an adult for 16 years. At the time of his passing, James and I had been together for 8 years, 1 month and 6 days. So at that time, we had been together for more than 1/2 of my adult life by 51 days. Now that he has been gone for almost 5 months (on Sunday), I have spent more of my adult life without him than with him.

I have been struggling with this all day; it has created a new sense of sadness for me. It doesn't matter what the numbers are. No matter how you calculate it, the bottom line is that it wasn't nearly enough time. But on the other hand, it was 2,959 wonderful days that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Braces? At my age?

When I was young, I wanted braces. I always thought my friends who had them looked so cool. But, I never needed them-until now. I don't want them now-I got over that stage of my life about 20 years ago. It's not a vanity thing-I am really not a vain person. Its more that I have heard they hurt and I am very much an anti-pain person.

I have insisted for the past few years that my bottom teeth are shifting. I have looked at these teeth everyday for a really long time so I felt that I was more than qualified to notice when they started to not look right. With the moves to Arizona and back to Washington, however, I kept changing dentists before they could really notice this shift I was talking about. I had my last cleaning on 1/29. I go every six months without fail. I have good teeth and I would like to keep it that way. Finally, at this appointment, the dentist was able to see that I really do have shifting teeth ("unstable" was their term). It isn't so much my teeth she noticed, but the fact that I am holding my bottom jaw to the right to try to correct the bite. She scheduled me for an orthodontal consult which was supposed to be February 11th, but I cancelled it after James passed away. It still seems so unreal that one evening we were casually discussing me possibly needing braces and putting it off until after the wedding and a week later he was gone.

They called last week when they realized I had not been in yet to see them. So, I went in today. In January, I was shifting my jaw periodically, now I am doing it constantly. I have a midline shift, which sounds more like some sort of defensive play in hockey or soccer than an orthodontic issue to me. I have options: I can get a retainer and hope it stabilizes the problem, or I can get braces and fix the problem.

I know if James were here to discuss this with, he would say to fix the problem instead of just putting a Band-aid on it. It bothers me that this is just one more thing he didn't get to know the outcome of. But, he is not here and my insurance apparently does not cover this. So, there is that to consider as well and that is a pretty big consideration. I am basically looking at the equivalent of another car payment if I go with the braces. Looks like I better crunch some numbers. Luckily for me, I'm good at that. I also have to look at the big picture-my jaw will go back where it is supposed to and I will stop feeling like I was punched in the mouth every day. I think I have pretty much made up my mind, but after 8 years of having a partner to weigh all the pros and cons, it is a little weird to make the decision on my own. Good thing this isn't a huge decision!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Are they still running today?

I have really bad luck with stop lights. I swear they see me coming and turn red on purpose. This amazed James. We could leave the same place at the same time and he would get to our destination at least 5 minutes before me every time. Being that I spend so much longer in the car than is really necessary, I have a lot of time to think. Sometimes I just let my mind wander, which is not always a good thing!

I have my radio set to a station that plays music from the 60's and 70's. I like the music and I like the fact that they actually play music in the morning instead of just chattering away. Monday, as I was driving to my appointment with the grief counselor, Steve Miller's "Take the Money and Run" came on. This really is a catchy little tune. But it got me thinking. One of the lines is "and they're still running today." Are they? Are Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue still on the lam? I did some research and from what I can tell, the song came out in 1976, so they have been running for 32 years, if they are still running. Do they have any money left or did they spend it all? How much did they steal in the first place? My guess is that Billy Mack has long since retired. Does this unsolved case haunt him? If they made it to Mexico, that would be out of his jurisidication.

If James was in the car with me, we might have discussed this. These were the silly things we talked about to pass the time. We may have even created a scenario as to how they were caught or how they are living today. I would love to know his thoughts on it. And I would really love it if Steve Miller did a sequel song letting me know what happened. Because now that I have this in my head, it is really going to bug me. Maybe I will just write my own story as to how this all played out. Maybe one of these days, I will also figure out how to hit green lights instead of red ones. There are definitely better things I could be doing with my time than pondering hit songs of the '70s.

Pennies from Heaven

My grandmother died in 1994. Not too long after that, my mom told me about the pennies she had found from Grandma. I thought that Grandma had left her a very small coin collection. This is when I learned about pennies from Heaven-that our loved ones leave us pennies so we know they are still with us. I asked Mom how to tell if it is a penny from Heaven vs. a random ol' penny just laying around. Mom said to look and see when it was minted. If it is a significant year, it is a penny from Heaven.

When I joined the young widows group after James died, I learned that our loved ones also leave us dimes. Being that they are the smallest and lightest of the coins, they are easier for our loved ones to move. Too bad quarters aren't the light ones! A case could also be made for $100 bills being pretty light, but I imagine the wind probably isn't too cooperative.

Last Saturday, I spent the day at a Habitat for Humanity construction site. I have always wanted to volunteer for them and was excited when the opportunity came up. This is the only thing I have really felt completely excited about since James passed away.

Being that James and I were about the same height, some of his shoes fit me. So, I dug his CAT work boots out and wore those to the site. They fit, but the left one was rubbing my heel the wrong way so I already had a blister by the time I got to the site. I also had a pebble rolling around in the boot. I grabbed a couple of Band-Aids from the first aid kit in my trunk and sat down to bandage my heel and get the rock out. I shook out the rock, and set the boot down. I put the Band-Aids on and reached out to pick the boot up to put it back on. Right next to the boot was a dime, minted in 1999. 1999 is when James and I met. I felt that he was there with me-probably making sure I stayed away from power tools-and cheering me on as I finally stopped saying "I will do this someday" and achieved one of my goals. I later found a 1989 penny, which is when we moved from Washington to Idaho, so I know Dad was there too-probably also hoping I stayed away from power tools.

The project was fun. We were split into groups and spent the day painting the interiors of 4 of the condos. There will be 23 when the project is complete. This morning, I signed up to be a regular volunteer. I am not sure how often I will be able to make it to the site, but I can't wait to go back. I want to finish what I started.

Monday, June 16, 2008

This song says it all

A fellow widow from a message group I have been a part of for years said this song describes how she feels. I have to say I agree completely with her.

Keith Anderson: "I Still Miss You"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The cows are laying down-it's gonna rain

My dad and James have been on my mind a lot lately. Actually, they pretty much always are. But, with James' birthday yesterday and Father's Day on Sunday, they have pretty much been the only thing on my mind.

Like most places, we have been having some weird weather. It has been downright cold and nasty lately. All of the dreariness got me thinking about a couple of incidents that happened several years ago; the first involving James and I and the second involving James, Dad and myself. Despite the gloom outside, the memory has brought a smile to my face several times over the past few days.

There is an old farmer's tale that if the cows are laying down, it is going to rain. James and I were out for a drive one afternoon on a fairly decent day. We passed a field and I noticed the cows were laying down. So, I said it was going to rain. Being the city boy that he was, James had never heard about weather predicting cows and assumed that I had heard that on the news. I explained to him it was going to rain because the cows were laying down.

Of course he immediately had to poke holes in what was one of the most ridiculous things he had ever heard. And I, of course, had an answer for everything. He thought the cows were just tired. I adamantly said that it was going to rain. He wanted to know what it meant if only some of the cows were laying down. I told him it was only going to rain a little bit. (Yeah, I was stretching on that one). Nonetheless, he was not convinced that whether or not cows lay down or stand up has anything to do with the weather. The next time we were out and about on a rainy day, he pointed out that the cows were not laying down therefore disproving my theory. I told him that it was already raining so there was no need for them to let us know the rain was on the way.

The next time we were visiting my dad, we were driving back to his house when we passed a field where the cows were laying down. Dad said it was going to rain. Having noticed the cows, I asked Dad why he said that. He said "the cows are laying down." James was convinced I had put Dad up to it, which I had not done. It took quite a bit of convincing until James finally believed that I had not said anything about the cows to Dad ahead of time.

I don't remember if it actually rained either one of those times, but this is the Northwest, so odds are good that it did. I know James never believed that if the cows are laying down it is going to rain. To be honest, I am not really sure if it is true either but I like to believe it is. After all, I passed a field yesterday and all the cows were standing up. And what do you know? The sun finally came out today.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Honey

Today I celebrate the life of a wonderful man who would have, and should have, turned 42 today. I am blessed to have loved and have been loved by him for the past 8 years. James truly was a remarkable man and he was taken from those who loved him far too soon.

Today I am doing the things he would have done if he was still here to do them. I have gone to see Indiana Jones, had lunch at one of our favorite places and am preparing to slay some plainstriders, since that is pretty much all I can do with World of Warcraft.

I know that James is smiling down on me and giving me the strength to get through this first birthday without him. I know he is smiling down on all of us that were so fortunate to have been a part of his life. Happy birthday Honey. I love you.