Monday, October 26, 2009


Today was a day where I feel I accomplished a few things. I ordered a replacement cup for the one that exploded, I got a few things out in the mail, I set up my meetup group's next dinner and I got the insurance squared away on the BMW. I feel a lot more comfortable driving it with full coverage than I did with just comprehensive. I also learned that if I were to sell one of the cars and lose my multi-car discount, it would be less expensive to insure the BMW than it would be to insure the Lancer. That was a huge shock. The amount isn't that much different-it works out to about $5/month, but still, it isn't what I was expecting.

I feel more than a little silly for not being able to just pick a car and sell it. It shouldn't be this hard. And I feel especially silly about it when I think about what our best friends are going through: they are trying to decide whether or not it is time to put down one of their two dogs.

He is such a good dog, but he is older and he is struggling. He still has okay days, but she knows he is suffering and just wants to do what is right for him. It if frustrating for her because she can't gauge how much pain he is and of course, he can't tell her. He just looks up with his trusting, loving brown eyes. He has a badly infected fatty tumor in his leg and he has a neurological issue the vet says is not related to the infection. The vet wants to remove the tumor; but there is nothing that can be done for the neurological issue. My heart is breaking for her-I cry everytime I think of that big, sweet dog of theirs and what it is going to be like to go over there and him not be there anymore. And I think about the dog that is going to remain and how it is going to affect her for her buddy to be gone. And I think about my godsons and how sad it is going to be for them. They got the dog when my youngest godson was still a baby; he is now 13. This is the first dog James' best friend has ever owned; I know this is hitting him hard too.

And of course this makes me think of my own little darlings and how someday, long before I am ready, I am going to be in this same position. Only I won't have my husband to help me make the decision. I am going to have to make it alone. Even if I am blessed with a second chance at love, it won't be the same. He won't be the man that researched dog breeds with me for 6 months before deciding cocker spaniels would be the best fit. He won't be the man that brought Sams home while I was taking the Oregon State Tax Preparer's exam. He won't be the man that told the breeder that my idea of the "pick" of the litter was not the same as hers and we would be taking the runt (aka Charlie), so she could stop trying to force the other one on me. He won't be the man that rushed Charlie to the vet the first time his back went out, or who held me when I cried myself to sleep after Charlie had surgery and the incision got infected and I was convinced he was going to die. He won't be the man who laughed and laughed every night while Sammy "pinned" his shoulders down and showered him with kisses. He won't be the man who convinced me to get them in the first place and who knew he had to get me through it when it was time for them to go. He won't understand how losing my boys is like losing a part of James.

I look at them laying here waiting (most likely impatiently) for me to get off the computer. I can't believe they are already 7 years old-that my time with them is half over. It's going too fast. I can't decide between two cars. When the time comes, how I am ever going to decide to let one of my babies go?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

So, we meet again

As I mentioned previously, I joined a new group through that I was excited about due to the variety of events they do. I also mentioned that I had met the organizer of that group once before at a night hike back in March, but had not seen him at any hikes since then. He has a co-organizer for the group and several assistants who post events to the calendar, and he is not at all of them. The first event I went to for this group he was not at.

I had signed up to volunteer for the membership drive for Oregon Public Broadcasting, an event he was the organizer for. He is mostly focusing on the group's volunteer endeavours. I don't actually listen to OPB, but I thought this sounded like fun. I have kind of always wanted to do a telethon-type event. There are a few other volunteer events he is organizing, but I decided to see how this went before signing up for those.

When I pulled into the parking lot, he was the only one there. (I was early). He came up to my car before I even got out of it with a smile and said that he didn't put it together when I signed up for the group and asked if I remembered meeting him on the night hike. The hike where I felt it was necessary to tell a complete stranger all about James and the night he died. Yep, I remember that. He asked if I knew it was him when I signed up for the group and I said that I had a pretty good idea it was. (He has a very distinctive nose). He seemed glad I joined the group and I felt relieved by that.

He ended up sitting at the table right behind me and we were able to chitchat a little between "breaks." It seems backwards, but our breaks were during the radio programs, and when the programs went to break, we went to work. That is when the announcer came on with the details on the membership drive and the pledge calls starting coming in. It was kind of funny-we had to let our phones ring twice so they could be heard ringing on air. I only had one weird call: a lady from Astoria wanted to know why they were able to get OPB on the coast now when they had never been able to get it in the past. (A new transmitter was opened up a year or so ago).

He asked if I was still doing the hiking group and said he had gone to one other hike but left before it started because there were too many people there. I told him that I had done a few but realized my limitations were about 5 miles and an elevation gain of about 400 feet. He said he remembered that I was getting over being sick the night we met and that my husband had just ... he let it trail off, which I was grateful for as we both had another person at our tables. I said, "yeah, he's still..." and I followed it up with "But it has been almost 2 years now and I am doing much better." And then his phone rang. It seemed like every time I turned around to talk to him, his phone rang, so eventually, I stopped trying.

I had been nervous about running into him again. Would he be uncomfortable around me? I am happy that did not seem to be the case. In fact, he tried to recruit me into being an assistant organizer so I can try to set something up at Schoolhouse Supplies and I agreed to talk to Volunteer Guy about it on Wednesday. And, when I got home, I went ahead and signed up for the other volunteer events on the calendar. They are only open to a set number of people and they look like fun. I would really hate to miss out on that!

Exploding Cup

On September 1, 2000, I convinced James to go to the Oregon State fair with me. I thought it was a great fair; he was not impressed. Apparently, they have the King of fairs in Sacramento and everything else just pales in comparison. Having grown up in small towns, to me the Oregon State fair was huge and wonderful. Of course, all it really takes for me to think a fair is good is cows, rabbits and funnel cake. To be upgraded to great, all that needs to be added is a demolition derby. Yeah, I'm easy like that.

While we were walking around, I saw a booth where they were selling plates and recognized my mom's plates. We went over to look at them so I could point them out. My mom's plates are the kind you can throw around and they don't break, which I promptly demonstrated. At this point, James and I had been together for 8 months, had just moved into our first apartment and had a mish-mash of plates, bowls, glasses etc. By the time we left the booth, we had ordered our own 69-piece set of dishes (this is how I know the date of the fair. It's on the order form). They aren't the same as Mom's. Hers are a floral print. Ours are white with a single blue-grey stripe around the rim. We got ones we wouldn't look at in 20 years and think "what the hell were we thinking when we bought these butt-ugly things?" Even as early as 8 months, we knew we each other was the "one."

When we got them, we had a couple of broken glasses and a broken wine glass, which they replaced. Early on, I broke one of the bowls. I had taken it out of the dishwasher when it was still warm and it hit the one I set it in when I put it in the cupboard a little too hard. They replaced that too-the dishes come with a lifetime guarantee. I only had to pay shipping and handling. There have not been any more incidents with the dishes in 9 years. Until last night.

Last night, I was gearing up to settle down on the couch with "Heat Wave" by Richard Castle (who I initially suspected was James Patterson and which took me 4 stores to find), the dogs, and a cup of apple cider. I had put the TV on the "80's on 8" music station. I went in to make the cider and realized the song "I Can't Hold Back" by Survivor was on. I have not heard this song in ages. I love this song. So, I cranked the volume, put a cup of water (in a measuring cup) in the microwave to heat up, put the cider mix in a coffee cup and rocked out with my spoon microphone while I waited for the water to heat up. I tried to serenade Sammy. He ran outside. Charlie was hiding somewhere. It's really sad when your singing is so bad it scares the dogs.

The song ended before the microwave was done. So, I went and turned the TV back down to a respectable level. The microwave beeped and I poured the water into the cup with the mix. I have done this hundreds of times. This is how I make cider and hot chocolate. I was stirring the cider and the cup literally exploded, with a popping sound and everything. It did not just crack; it exploded. Cider everywhere, which the dogs enjoyed. Apparently, someone did not like my singing! Or they didn't like who I was thinking about while singing...

I told my paranormal loving friend about this. She thought it was odd. I thought it was creepy and disturbing. I told another friend about it. He wanted to know if the dogs and I were hurt when it exploded. I thought it was interesting he was concerned about the dogs.

I am crossing my fingers that I will be able to call the company tomorrow and get a new cup. The set has been complete for 9 years and it will drive me nuts if I end up missing one piece. And I am still in disbelief that it just exploded. That simply should not have happened. I guess I just won't sing anymore in the kitchen.

The Car

Last Sunday, the tow company the BMW dealership recommended came out to get the car. The driver smelled like stale cigarettes and did not fill me with confidence. I had cleared everything out from behind the car so all he needed to do was get it out of the garage and load it on to his truck.

When I called to make the appointment to have the car towed, I told the gal the car was dead. The tow truck driver seemed a little surprised by this information. The car was so dead we couldn't even use the key to manually pop the trunk so he could get to the tow hookup. We also couldn't figure out how to manually release the shift lock, as that is conveniently not in the owner's manual. He called his office to tell them there was no power to the car at all. I stood right there as he said this. He got off the phone and told me that they were going to have to come back the next day (Monday) with a different kind of truck and they were going to have to attach wheels to the car so they could pull it out of the garage. I told him I had to work, but was only 15 minutes away and to call when they were 20 minutes out so I could meet them at the house. He called the gal at the office back to set up the appointment and again, I was standing right there when he said "she" will be at work and to give "her" 20 minutes notice.

Monday morning, shortly after 9:00, the gal from the office called me to let me know the driver was at my house and asked if I was at work. I flew out of the building thinking that when I got back to work I was going to have to send a follow up e-mail to my best friend telling her my hunch about the tow company not calling until they got to my house was right.

There were two guys this time and I felt more at ease with them. One of them took the key from me, got in the car, tried to start it and told his co-worker there was no power to the car at all. Does the gal in the office not listen or bother to communicate with her drivers? Or do they just not believe her? They hooked up the wheel things to the car and pulled it out of the garage. I almost threw up when they started to pull it out. And then I started wondering if the neighbors thought I was having the car repossessed. I was really hoping they didn't think that. I don't know why that mattered, but it did. After they left with the car, I went in and let the dogs out of their crate and gave them pets and treats. I needed time so I wasn't following the tow truck.

There wasn't a set timeline on when the car would be ready. I have my Lancer so I wasn't stranded. They called my work number after I had already left for the day on Wednesday to let me know I could pick it up anytime. I ended up picking it up on Friday, with the help of my boss who was kind enough to drive me over to the dealership.

The weather on Friday was less than ideal which did not help my nervousness about driving the car any. I had to have the service tech show me how to move the seat forward so I could reach the pedals. I figured out how to adjust the mirrors, turn on the heated seats and the windshield wipers and off I went.

I did okay driving it back to work. I didn't cry or throw up, though I wanted to do both, and I remembered to breathe most of the way. I realized after I crossed the Interstate Bridge I was holding my breath but that is the only time I had to tell myself to breathe and I was at least halfway back by then. The BMW is just so different than my Lancer is. After almost 5 years, I know my car very well. I know how much lead time I need for the brakes, I know how much tension I need on the steering wheel, I know what all the knobs and buttons are for, and where they are. Driving the BMW is well, it's like driving a foreign car, German manufacturing aside.

Now I have a decision to make. I have to keep driving the BMW so I don't kill it again. Yesterday, I had to go over to Portland so I drove my car. I needed to be in a car I am comfortable in driving to a part of town I was unfamiliar with. Today, I drove the BMW to the grocery store. I think I finally have the seat adjusted to where I am comfortable with it, and I fixed one of the radio presets. James has them set up in the order he liked the stations. His station selection is fine; they just need to be preset in numerical order.

I don't know why I am making this so much more difficult than it needs to be. The bottom line is I don't need 2 cars and mine is the logical choice, the practical choice for the car to keep because it is the more economical of the two. But the BMW is such a nice car (did I mention it has heated seats? I could kiss the person who came up with that idea!). And I have to drive it for a bit because I have to be sure about this. Once I sell one of them, I can't take it back.

My co-workers told me that whatever is right for me is the practical decision, even if it turns out not to be the more economical decision. They are right, but I can't get past the dollar signs (the accountant in me just never seems to go away). I also look at the cars and I see the BMW as a status symbol: pretentious, rich people drive BMWs. The Lancer is cute and fun. The BMW has (almost) all the bells and whistles. The Lancer is very simple. The Lancer is more my personality. My friend asked if I can separate the cars from what they are. Can I see them for what they offer and not as a BMW and Mitsubishi? I thought that was a great idea. He said this was a much easier decision for him as they had one nice car and one crappy car so it was a no brainer which to keep. He said he didn't know what he would have done if he was in my situation and had two nice cars to choose from. The vibe I got from him is he thinks I should keep the BMW. It's a much smoother ride. He's due to have surgery and when I help him run errands afterward, it won't hurt as much when I hit the bumps in the road, which contrary to what he likes to tell people, I did not do on purpose last time. Sadly for him, keeping the nicer car is not actually going to magically turn me into a better driver.

I have thought about putting them both up for sale and letting fate decide: the one that sells first is the one that is meant to go. It shouldn't be this hard. They're cars. They are nothing more than a means to get from Point A to Point B. I should just be able to go out into the garage, look at the cars and tell one of them they are out. So why can't I? Because one of them, James picked out for me. He test drove it and knew it wasn't for him but would be perfect for me and it has been. And the other was the car he looked for for so long. The car he died in. Because it happened so suddenly, what if part of him is still trapped in there? How do I detach myself? And how do I stop getting so emotionally attached to everything in the first place? Sometimes, I really do wish I was an unfeeling robot.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Touring the $400,000 House

Not long after we moved into our house, construction started on new housing developments just to the north and east of our subdivision. I believe the houses to the east may be part of our subdivision but the ones to the north are an entirely new one. I hated seeing the houses to the north being built. I loved looking out the office window and seeing the field and a lone house off in the distance. It made me feel like I lived in the country instead of smack dab in the middle of a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood. Now, that lone house is surrounded by several others and a developer has submitted plans to cram 170 new houses into the field.

One day when I was out walking the dogs, I noticed the largest of the houses, which was serving as the sales office, now had a "for sale" sign and flyers in the little box. So, I took a peek at the flyer. When I got home, I pointed the house out to James as it can be seen from our office window. I told him they were asking $400,000 for it. We did not pay nearly that much for ours and it is only 3 blocks away.

I wondered what was so special about it that justified the price tag. We weren't doing anything so we decided to go check it out. I thought we would just walk up there but James didn't want them to know we lived right down the street and wanted to look like prospective buyers. So, we hopped in his car (after all people who drive BMWs are stereotypically in a better financial position than those who drive Lancers), and drove the 3 blocks up the hill.

We told the sales lady we were in the process of relocating back to Washington from Arizona. That's not a complete lie. There were, and still are, boxes that never got unpacked. My Mary Moo collection is just waiting for the shelves to be put up. It would appear I am going to have to do that myself. We also said that we were looking for a house. Okay, so that part wasn't true.

We were given the tour of what was actually a very nice house, but we ultimately decided it wasn't the house for us (I know, shocking!) as we didn't really need a 2,300 square foot house for just us and two relatively small dogs. She told us that they had another new development right down the street (those would be the new houses to the east of our 'hood) and that they were smaller. We decided to go take a look at them. What can I say, we were easily entertained. So, we looked at the first one and it wasn't bad but it didn't really suit our needs, given that we already had a house on the same street, which is actually a lot nicer. She said she had one more model so we agreed to see that too. We walked in, looked around and James told her "this floor plan is a complete waste of space." Shocked, she looked at me. I agreed with James. It really was a bad floor plan. The downstairs "living area" was more like a hallway than a room and the bulk of the usable floor space was upstairs.

We thanked her for her time and told her we were going to continue our search. We got back in the car and started to drive off. We got to the intersection and realized we had a bit of a dilemma. We were at the opposite end of the block from our house, but the sales lady was following us to get back to the north house sales office. She would pass right by our house to get to it, so we realized we could not go home without giving ourselves up. So James asked if I wanted to go get lunch. "Okay," I shrugged.

"Bilmo's?" Philly Bilmo's has awesome Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. I don't even really like Philly cheesesteaks and I crave them. I have only been there twice since James died. Once on his (first) birthday and once with my widowed friend back in February. Luckily for me, they moved right about the time we moved back. Otherwise, I would be able to walk to them from work and I would weigh about 300 pounds. They are THAT good. So, off to Bilmo's we went.

I laugh now when I picture us pretending to be new to the area and I especially laugh at the memory of James matter-of-factly telling the sales lady the floor plan of the east house was a complete waste of space. He was not one to beat around the bush-a trait I seem to have taken on since he died. He was right by the way. This was before the housing market went south and that house was one of the last houses to sell. It sat empty for several months longer than the rest before someone finally bought it.

It is these little things that I miss so much. The little silly day-to-day things that made up our life. I miss our life so much. More than anything, I want our life back. (Interestingly, Keith Anderson's "I Still Miss You" is playing right now). I want more fun memories like this, but that isn't an option. So I replay the memories I do have. Sometimes they make me laugh; other times they make me sad and long for what I lost. And sometimes, they do both. I hope I never lose the memories. Especially the silly ones; those were the times that were so "us."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Meeting the Organizers has a slogan: "use the Internet to get off the Internet." The purpose of Meetup is for like-minded people (I'm really starting to hate that phrase) to meet and do their like-minded things. The goal of an organizer is to have a successful group with lots of members doing whatever it is their group does. As of right now, there are 744 different groups in the Portland Metro area, with more being added everyday. There aren't 744 different topics; for example there are 5 different vegan groups, 3 hiking groups, several singles groups, enough wine-related groups to get a person drunk on a very regular basis, etc.

My goal as Meetup organizer is a little backwards in that I don't want people to join my group. More specifically, I don't want them to be eligible to join my group. It actually upsets me when I get the e-mail letting me know someone has joined. Because that can only mean one thing: yet another person under the age of 50 has lost their spouse, long-term significant other or life partner. I hate that there are so many of us going through this hell.

Because I don't want to see my group grow, I find that my needs as an organizer tend to be different than that of pretty much everyone else. Early on, however, I joined the group for organizers because I really had no clue what I was doing. I did go to a meeting last October and found it a little helpful, and I got invited to join the golf group in the process when the assistant organizer of that group found one of my sarcastic remarks really funny. I haven't gone to any of the other (quarterly) meetings due to timing and/or location, but last night there was a meeting and employees of Meetup were going to be there to discuss the site, where it is going, etc. They have made a lot of changes lately that I am not thrilled about-basically, they are trying to be more like Facebook but with less member control in my (and a lot of other members) opinion. So, I decided to go.

There weren't many people there yet when I got there (gotta love the unpredictability of Portland's rush hour traffic!). I signed in and made my name tag, deciding not to put my group name on it. I knew I was going to have to tell people, and wasn't looking forward to that part of the evening.

I first met a guy that is just getting a group for entreprenuers started. I told him what my group was and he asked if there were a lot of veterans in the group. I said that one woman's husband was in the military, but he didn't die in the line of duty. Then we talked about his group for a couple of minutes and he went to talk to someone he recognized.

Then, I met a guy that organizes a couple of groups. He asked what group I organized. I said I organize the young widows and widowers group.

"Wow. That's (incredibly long pause)...intense," he said, looking at everything but me.

"Don't worry," I said. "It's not contagious." He really didn't know how to react to that one! So, I asked him about his group. He was clearly uncomfortable so I didn't make him talk to me for very long. He organizes a movie group in which they go see and then discuss movies. Evil Heather thinks it would be fun to join that group just to torment him with my presence. (Nice Heather thinks that would be really mean). Right now, their movie nights are primarily Wednesdays and I can't do that because of my volunteer commitment.

Next was a lady who told me I looked awfully young to be a widow. I thanked her for that and said I was 34 when he died. She asked how old I was now, and guessed 36. I told her I would be 36 in January. "Oh, so it is still very recent." I told her it has been almost two years, and then explained he died right after my birthday as she was clearly confused by my math skills.

I then started talking to another lady and one of the members of the Meetup staff about his group so there was no awkwardness there and I learned that marathons are 26 miles because that is how long man can chase a deer before the deer drops from exhaustion. You just never know when that little tidbit is going to come in handy.

Then the organizers of the hiking group came in so I went to talk to them. I first went to their group as a guest of a widowed friend of mine before joining the group on my own six months ago, so they already knew about James and have come to realize I am (mostly) normal. I was so glad to see their names on the RSVP list! It was so nice to have someone to talk to without it being awkward.

Things got started after that and we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves and tell a little about our group. When I said what group I organize, there was a collective gasp and then the room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. The Meetup people should have just used me when they wanted to get everyone to shush up. So, I just kept talking. I said it was the group no one wanted to join, that I had started it a little over a year ago and that we meet once a month for dinner. People seemed to be breathing again at this point so I left it at that.

The bulk of the rest of the evening was Meetup telling us about upcoming "improvements" and answering some of our questions. They also rattled off a bunch of statistics. I am happy to say that by their standards, I have a successful group.

At the end of the evening, a big biker dude who reminded me of my dad came up and shook my hand. He sounded a little choked up as he told me he was sorry for my circumstances and thanked me for starting my group and the service I provide because of it. That made me feel really good, even if pretty much all I do is just tell everyone when and where to show up for dinner once a month. I may the one who started the group, but really, I am just one of many whose partner died too young who desparately needed to know she isn't the only one.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Wanna be a Rock Star

A male 1970's rock star that is.

The shirt with the matching bandana was such an awesome find. Even better was there were a couple of people at the party that didn't recognize me.

with my groupie

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Wanna be a Rock Star, Part I: the guitar

Tonight is the Halloween party. It's early because next weekend there is a big soccer tournament and the couple hosting it didn't want to do it on Halloween. It is their first year as homeowners and they are looking forward to trick-or-treaters. I can't say I blame them as I love trick-or-treaters as well (not to mention all the left over candy).

I always have a hard time coming up with a costume. A couple of months ago, one of my friends posted a couple of pictures of himself from the early '90s on Facebook. His pictures inspired my costume: I'm going to be a rock star.

Every rock star needs a guitar. I was looking at a stack of boxes in the recycle pile at work one day and mentioned to a co-worker I could probably use one to make a guitar for my costume. He said to tell him what I wanted and he would make one for me. (I have awesome co-workers). So, I found what I was looking for on eBay (of course), printed out a picutre and said that he just needed to cut out the basic shape for me. I was thrilled with what he gave me and found out this morning that he actually had another co-worker bring in his guitar to use as a model. (Some of us just can't limit our Starcrack addictions to weekdays-I ended up right behind the guitar owning co-worker in line for our caffeine fixes this morning. The ensuing conversation is how I found out about the guitar).

Last weekend, I painted the guitar. Last night, my friend came over to help me finish it. Here's the end result:

The white and brown paint is your standard (cheap) tempura kid's craft paint. I went with white so it would show up better in the dark. The brown turned out awesome-close up, it looks like wood. The grey bars and the purple squiggles are acrylic. The purple is actually glittery. The strings are 30-lbs. fishing line held into place with brads. The grey knobs at the top are part of how it was cut out. The strap is a belt from a pair of shorts of mine that I don't use because the dogs chewed one of the ends off of it. The purple knobs are dark chocolate Hershey kisses with the tops cut off. My friend laughed as I was cutting the tops off. "Leave it to you to find a way to include chocolate," was her comment. I rewrapped them after I cut the tops off, so they can also double as a snack should the need arise.

I am very pleased with how this turned out. Not too shabby for a cardboard prop!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Save the date no more

This has been a big couple of days for me in terms of moving forward. Monday morning, I had to stop and get gas on the way to work. I got back in the car and thought about how cold it was and how long my car takes to heat up.

"The BMW has heated seats." Inner Heather reminded me. Inner Heather doesn't like the cold either.

I looked up the number to the BMW dealership last week but managed to not get around to calling them to find out what it is going to take to get James' car running again after it has been just sitting in the garage for over a year now. It is being towed to the dealership Sunday and hopefully, will be up and running again by the end of the day Monday. My boss has said he will take me over there when it is finished so I can drive it home. I should probably put the tags on it. I have valid ones; the ones currently on there expired in June of last year. And at some point, I should probably start thinking of it as my car since it is now in my name and has been since January. I wonder if I will ever start to think of his things as mine?

Today, I had an even bigger moment, at least emotionally. One of the things I have wondered for the last 20 months is what was I supposed to do with 100 save the date cards? Not long before James died, we received the save the date cards for our wedding. James had seen my hastily thrown together mock-up of how I wanted them to look and was very skeptical of how the finished product was going to look. He was so impressed when he saw the finished product. We did not have them made by a professional. My best friend made them for us. 100 hand-stamped 3-layer cards. And for almost 2 years, they have been just sitting on my filing cabinet. James died on a Wednesday; I had planned to mail them out that weekend.

Today was trash day and my recycling cart was full enough to justify wheeling it out to the curb. This morning before I left the house, I set aside several of the cards for safe keeping. On my way out this morning, I put the rest of the cards in the recycling bin. And then I quickly got in my car and drove off before I could change my mind. I resisted the urge to turn around and pull them back out. I forced myself to just keep going.

And now they are gone, with the exception of the few I kept. My simple yet absolutely perfect save the date cards. My best friend's loving handiwork literally tossed out like yesterday's trash. I think that has been my hesitation. It's not from hanging on to the hope that I would still get to use them but that no one will get to see her labor of love. (I am not going to scan and post them due to the personal information they contain).

I do feel it was a big step though. It was a huge acknowledgment to myself that he really isn't going to come home. I wonder if that will ever cease to amaze me?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The last of the firsts

It seems odd to have a last significant day almost two years into this, but here it is. I have been dreading this day for several months now. Today would have been our first wedding anniversary. I have been trying not to think about it and instead stay focused on the good feelings from the other day. But now that it is here, I can't help but feeling sad, hurt, angry, and jealous.

I am sad, hurt and angry that he had to die. Very angry that he died. I am jealous of all the couples that got to have their weddings, whether it was a fancy celebration or a quick trip to the courthouse. I am jealous of little old couples who have been together for 50 years. I am jealous of the couples my age who take each other for granted and who are so damn oblivious that it only takes an instant for everything to change. I am jealous of the life I will never have. Because no matter how much I hope for it, James is never going to miraculously walk through the door like none of this ever happened.

I am trying not to torture myself with the thoughts of "if only" but I can't help it. Tomorrow is Columbus Day so James would have had it off. Would I have taken the day off too so we could go out of town for a long weekend? Or just stay home for a long weekend? Would our cake baker actually send us a fresh cake top as advertised? Would we go to our favorite restaurant or would we have still had Sunday Surprise and movie night? What would I have gotten him for a gift? What would he have gotten me?

I know there is no point to this, but I don't think ignoring these feelings would be a good idea either. It's all part of the process; just another hurdle I have to jump over. I was never good at hurdles.

Today instead of celebrating my anniversary, I am going to paint a stupid cardboard prop for my Halloween costume and go take pictures at some stupid garden in Portland. I probably won't go swing dancing because I woke up with a slight cold in addition to my stupid allergies and I want to nip that in the bud before it gets worse. I'll just be glad when today is over. There will still be little firsts that pop up, but at least all the important days will have finally passed me by.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Busy Days Ahead

I haven't been posting the last couple of days because I have been busy. This was a huge part of why I had to pay the bills on the 6th. Other than Monday, it was the only chance I was going to have until today and if I had initiated the payments today, several of them would have been late.

Wednesday and Thursday were both spent at Schoolhouse Supplies (SHS), the organization I volunteer for on a regular basis. Thursday ended up being a bit of a challenge. I lead a volunteer group the second Thursday of the month at SHS through Hands on Portland. An employee of SHS gives us the details of the project(s); it is up to me to keep the volunteers on task and give them direction if they need it. The SHS front desk volunteer had to leave early so I ended up trying to cover that AND lead my team. It was very hectic, but instead of exhausting me, I felt very energized when I left.

Last night, I hosted bunco. I had been pretty stressed out about it knowing that I was not going to be home Wednesday and Thursday to prepare for it. This group does the snacks potluck style, so that cut down on a lot of the stress, and I calmed down considerably after I had secured the player list. I knew that I was pretty calm when I only had one OCD moment (I get pretty OC when I am stressed out). I had put the prizes in the bags and ended up taking everything out of two of the (three) bags and switching them so the prizes would match the bags better. I am sure I was the only one who would notice, but it was really bugging me and I just couldn't let it go. On the plus side, I did let it slide that the crackers and salami didn't line up on their plates perfectly. I really hate it when my snack presentation is sloppy. When James would help me get snacks ready for bunco, the first thing he would do was ask how I wanted them to be presented-he caught on to that VERY quickly!

I am supposed to be on a hike right now, but I have been fighting a cold (though I still insist it is allergies) and was feeling pretty run down last night so I decided to listen to my body and sleep in today instead. I have a lot of things on the calendar for the rest of the month and I don't want to get sick and have to miss them.

Tomorrow afternoon, I have a photo shoot with my women's photography group. Tomorrow evening, I may go swing dancing with that new group I joined. It will depend on how I feel. The allergy pill I took this morning did make a HUGE difference, but I do still have a bit of a sore throat so being out late on a school night might be a bad idea. Not that that has ever stopped me before...

Tuesday, I am signed up for a cooking demo. I am very excited about this as I have always wanted to take cooking classes.

Wednesday and Thursday are volunteering. At this point, I have nothing going on Friday, which I am sure my dogs will enjoy.

Next Saturday is a volunteer project at SHS, followed by a Halloween party in the evening. I need to go out today and get everything I need for my costume.

The 18th is my monthly dinner with my widowed people group. It's the first time we are having it on a Sunday and I am hoping that will allow some who have not been able to come during the week due to work or babysitter issues to be able to attend.

I have an appointment on the 19th with my therapist, followed by a meeting for meetup organizers in which employees from Meetup's headquarters will be present. I am looking forward to sitting down with them and telling them how much I hate some of their new features.

On the 21st, I have a volunteer shift followed by bunco with my original bunco group. I have played with them for over 10 years now and look forward to my monthly bunco night with my girls.

On the 22nd and 23rd, I will be giving my boys some much needed Mom time. I am sure Sammy will be pretty ticked by then, which he has no problems expressing.

I start off the 24th with a visit to the chiropractor, followed with a volunteer shift at the membership drive for Oregon Public Broadcasting. I have always thought it would be fun to volunteer at a telethon. I am debating if I want to do the "frosting fun" event afterwards. Frosting is an area I could really use help with, but that may be too long of a day for my dogs to be cooped up.

There is a ghost walk I am interested in doing on the 25th, but the event filled up fast and right now I am #4 on the waiting list.

On the 26th, I am going to history night. It is held at one of my favorite places the last Monday of every month. I have lived here since 1996 (except for the time we spent in AZ from 2003-2005), and since I have no plans to leave this area, I think it is about time I learn some of the local history!

The 28th is volunteering. The boys will be happy to see me home on the 29th and 30th-if they still remember me!

The 31st is the monthly art museum walk. And then it is handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters.

So, I may not be blogging much for the rest of the month. Some nights I will still get home early enough and some nights I may just need to get something out even if it means staying up much later than I should. I will just have to see how it all plays out.

Speaking in Code

As I mentioned the other day, my nephew's birthday is October 3rd. I am very good at remembering when people's birthdays are. I can still remember most of the birthdays of my grade school class. Granted, there were only 23 of us and I went to school with most of them from kindergarten to 9th grade, but most of these people I have not spoken to or had any contact with for many years now.

I am not so good, however, at actually acknowledging birthdays on the actual day. And I am even worse at getting cards and gifts to the recipient on time. If I am really good, they will get them sometime in the same month.

So, last Saturday, I called my nephew to wish him a happy birthday. He's 11 now and it was a short conversation. I asked if I could talk to his dad. I had asked my brother what to send as a gift, but he had not gotten back to me, other than to tell me my nephew had been given 3 footballs by his friends. He's as good with gift sending as I am. I got my birthday present in June. My birthday is in January. It has become quite the joke between us, but I do try to get something to my nephews somewhat close to on time.

When I called, they were on their way to my nephew's soccer games. I told my brother I still needed to know what to get as a gift. He said we were going to have to play verbal charades.

"Oh, so let's see how smart Heather is first thing in the morning?" I asked.

"I love to play let's see how smart Heather really is anytime." he responded. Smart-assness runs in the family. I'm not really sure who we get it from, however.

I asked if I should get my nephew something Seattle Seasquawk related. My brother said no, think Boston.

"The Red Sox?" I asked wondering when my nephew became a baseball fan.

"No, same theme you were on before."

"The Patriots?" I felt relief. I like the Patriots. I asked if there was anything specific I should get.

"Do you know what goes over the shoulder pads?"

I stared at the phone. Surely, my brother cannot possibly think I am that stupid that he had to phrase it in the form of a question!

"The jersey?" I asked with as much sarcasm as I could muster.

Turns out I am not that stupid after all. I asked if there was a particular one I should get.

"Number 7, I think, but it could be number 10."

"Ben Roethlisberger is #7. I am pretty sure Tom Brady is not, if that is who you are talking about." (Take that little brother).

I asked what size I should get (youth large) and what I should get if I couldn't find one. He said a hooded sweatshirt would be fine.

"A Patriots sweatshirt? Say 1. A generic sweatshirt. Say 2."

"Keep with the theme." Notice he did NOT follow directions.

I told him I would let him know what I ended up with.

Here is what I wrote on his Facebook wall later that day:

"I was able to go with option #1-and it is #12. Had to go X-no L's. The eagle will take flight on Monday."

His response was "clever code words...he will be happy. good job auntie" (Direct quote. I did not leave off the period at the end of that sentence. He did. I include this sidebar because years from now it is going to annoy the hell out of me to see that and think it was my doing).

I told my mom about this and read her the cryptic message I left on his Facebook wall. Even with telling her the story, she didn't understand my message. I told her I was able to find a Tom Brady jersey, who wears #12 and I had to get an XL because they didn't have any larges left (I actually got the last one they had) and I am going to mail it on Monday." I don't know how she didn't get that.

It occurred to me that my brother and I could probably have a cryptic conversation in front of her that she wouldn't understand. We are going to have to test out this theory next time I go home. What can I say? Growing older is mandatory. Growing up is optional.

Ha Ha God

Yesterday on my way to work, I turned down my radio so I could have a little chat with God. I thanked Him for the beautiful day, my opportunities and my blessings. I asked Him to look after a couple of my friends. I thanked Him for the time I had with James. I told Him that I know He has a plan for me and asked for patience to just let it all play out. I told Him that it was my hope that His plan was not for me to spend the rest of my life alone. ("You won't be alone for the rest of your life" Inner Heather chimed in). I threw a name out as an option for a suitable partner just in case God is open to suggestions. I asked for just an inkling that His plan is not for me to spend the rest of my life alone. I finished with the Lord's Prayer.

I turned the radio back up. It was quiet for a beat. And then The Supremes informed me "you can't hurry love. You just have to wait."

I laughed. Point taken. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

20 Months

Well, it's the 6th again. It's the one day I wish I could just erase from the calendar. It's the day I have come to dread. It's the day that symbolizes another month has passed since James died. At 20 months I am definitely on the downhill side of 2 years. How did that happen so quickly?

I knew the 6th was on the way. My friend and nephew share an October 3rd birthday. I knew Saturday was the 3rd which meant the 6th was right around the corner. Only a funny thing happened this month. The fact that the 6th was coming was in the back of my mind, but for once, it wasn't front and center and I wasn't filled with dread. When I woke up this morning, it wasn't the first thing on my mind. I felt sad when I woke up, but it wasn't raw, gut-wrenching pain. It was the underlying sadness that is now a part of me. It wasn't even an overwhelming sadness. In fact, I was in a pretty decent mood when I first woke up. Which is actually kind of strange since I am NOT a morning person, I was having a crappy dream, I was thirsty and I had a Charley horse in my right calf-again.

Then I started to think about the day ahead and remembered I had to pay bills tonight because I decided to be a slacker and play on Facebook last night instead of being responsible. I pay my bills on the 5th and the 20th. That's how I remembered today is the 6th. And it did make the sadness a little worse, but not by much.

I had a moment on the way to work today where everything could have taken a turn for the worse. I was sitting at a stoplight (there's a shocker) and an ambulance came up from behind with its lights flashing. "Is that the one?" My first thought whenever I see an AMR ambulance popped into my head as it flew by. "Is someone else about to lose someone they love?" I felt myself welling up with tears; I felt my body go tense. I forced myself to take a deep breath. I told myself it was okay; I was okay repeatedly until I was able to force the tension out of my body. "I can do this. I am okay. I am okay."

And I was okay. Throughout the day, I could feel myself trying to make myself feel sadder than I was. At one point I felt guilty because I was actually in a pretty decent mood. "It's the 6th. I should be really sad. I shouldn't be in a good mood" was followed by "James would be okay with you being in a good mood. James would want you to be in a good mood. It's been long enough. Enough 6ths have gone by that you don't have to feel so bad on all of them anymore."

It's my favorite time of year and today was an absolutely beautiful day-a great day to be alive. It was chilly this morning (damn it. I left my coat at work again. Now 2 of them are there. I am going to run out of coats soon), but sunny and warm with just a hint of a chill in the air this afternoon. The leaves are just starting to turn. I took advantage of the beauty of today and took the dogs for a nice long walk (nothing gets the urge to get a third dog out of my system faster than walking my little darlings does!). I paid the bills. It didn't even phase me to write "Pd 10/6/09" on all of them.

Today is the 6th. Today I felt sad, like I do everyday. But I didn't fall apart. And I feel very good about that.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What's the point?

Throughout school, I always did really well on the standardized achievement tests, with the exception of reading comprehension. Apparently, I don't comprehend what I read correctly. I think it is partly because I am such a literal person. If I read "a quick brown fox jumped over the fence," I take that to mean an animal hopped over the fence. I don't read anything in that about illegal immigrants and border crossings. I don't know if it is entirely because I take things so literally or because I am hardwired differently, but the good thing is my inability to comprehend things the way I am "supposed to" has not hampered my love of reading any.

I do, however, have moments where things that make perfect sense in my head make absolutely no sense to anyone else. It happens enough that I just know when I am going to have to explain what my little brain has conjured up. I'm not offended by it-it is just one of the many quirks that makes me me. I got to thinking about this today though, and it made me wonder what people think when they read my blog-if what I am really trying to say comes through or if my point is only made in my head. If I go back and re-read my posts, I read them as I originally wrote them because I know what I was trying to say.

Take a few of my last posts for example. In the post about the new meetup group I found, the point I was trying to make is that I am excited to have finally found a group that looks exactly like what I am looking for. I have not been truly excited about anything since James died and it is a good feeling. This will entice me to get out of the house and be an active participant much more than some of the other groups I am in that I keep RSVPing "no" to because I am not comfortable in settings that revolve around drinking and that is all they seem to do despite advertising otherwise.

Speaking of drinking (or not), my post about discovering that the sulfites are probably what causes my alcohol allergy was really about the sadness and frustration of not having my #1 cheerleader to share the information with. It was also about growth, to a lesser degree, in that the moment made me sad, but I did not go into a full on"grief attack." (Though shopping at Wal-Mart can be enough to make anyone cry in and of itself. I feel my blood pressure rise just by walking through the doors. And you know it is a weird day in the universe when the people at the mall are dressed more bizarrely than the people at Wal-Mart).

My cougar post yesterday was really just me musing about whether or not I could date a younger man without thinking it was icky. (I realize "icky" is not exactly a grown-up word). Not necessarily Volunteer Guy, whom I have absolutely no romantic interest in, but in general. If I was a 65-year-old thinking of going the "true" cougar route then finding a strapping young 57-year-old would be one thing. But to my 35-year-old way of thinking, a 27-year-old is still a child. A 27-year-old is someone I used to babysit when we were kids.

I also wonder if people who know me personally read and interpret my blog differently than those who don't. I think that would play into it. I am very glad that people actually read what I write, even though that wasn't why I started the blog in the first place. I started it to record my memories of my life with James and as an outlet to help me figure out what to do next-to help me as I find my way. But having readers keeps me inspired and keeps me writing. Ultimately, however, the only thing that really matters is that I convey what I am trying to say clearly enough that years from now when I look back on this and re-read my own words, I will understand perfectly what I was trying to say to myself.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Could I be a cougar?

Cougar (slang): a woman over 40 who sexually pursues younger men, typically more than 8 years her junior. (Wikipedia)

Cougar (noun): A 35+ year old female who is on the "hunt" for a much younger, energetic, willing-to-do-anything male. (Urban, definition 2).

I am a fan of the "Twilight" series. After reading "New Moon," I became a much bigger fan of Jacob than Edward. My friend, who is more than slightly obsessed with all things Edward, said that Jacob is underage and this made me a pedophile. I told her I preferred cougar.

The term cougar seems to be popping up a lot in my life these days. The organization I volunteer for on a regular basis has a staff of 5 women and one guy. Volunteer Guy is the one I usually work with for my monthly Thursday night project and who I answer to (so to speak) for my weekly front desk duties, which I just started two weeks ago. Due to my keen investigative skills, I have learned he is a little over 5 1/2 years younger than me as he just turned 30 and I will be 36 in January.

Several months ago, I started to flirt with Volunteer Guy. It wasn't because I was interested in him, it was because I really need the practice and he was safe. He had a girlfriend. It was just harmless fun. And then he and his girlfriend had to go and break up because they want different things at this stage in their life. I stopped flirting after that. I don't want him to get the wrong idea, much to the disappointment of my co-worker who thinks I should still flirt with him. "You could be a cougar," she said. I told her that based on another co-worker's theory on how long it takes to get over a breakup, Volunteer Guy should be ripe for the picking so yes, I could be a cougar, if I was interested in him, and vice versa. It kinda has to go both ways. (One month for every year you were together is apparently how long it takes to get over a break up, just for the record).

Thursday when I was there to cover the front desk, a co-worker of his asked what he was planning to be for Halloween. He said he likes to do something with a pun, like "Freddy Cougar"-a cougar who is also Freddy Kruger. She thought that would be funnier if a woman did it and said I could be a cougar. She mentioned something about cougars being in their mid-40's. I told her I was not that old and she was no longer my friend. I said I didn't think it was so much the woman's age that mattered but the age difference between the woman and the guy. She replied with "so, you could be a cougar."

Although these conversations have been in fun, it has got me thinking about whether or not I could date a much younger man. My brother is three years younger than I am and the thought of dating someone that could have been one of his little friends growing up creeps me out. Although he did have a couple of cute little friends. But eeww. (My brother is currently logged on to Facebook, so I asked if it would creep him out if I dated someone younger than him. He said no. However, when I specifically used the term cougar, it did gross him out. Yet his last girlfriend was 19 years older than him). I tend to like them a bit older than me. Throughout my life, the guys who have been attracted to me have either been a few years younger or several years older. Another mystery of my life: why is it that men my age are not and never have been attracted to me? So, chances are MH #2 is not going to be my age.

I do know that age does not matter if you are with the right person. James was 7 1/2 years older than me and the only time the age difference ever came into play was when he would talk about shows he watched as a kid that I was too young to have watched. I know what it is like to be with someone older; I am kind of curious as to what it would be like to be with someone younger. Would it really be that different? I guess it would depend on how much younger. I'm not talking jailbait here! He would have to have some life experience, especially if he is going to be able to handle the extra emotional baggage that comes with dating a widow. Mostly though, the thought really just creeps me out. I guess the only way to really find out would be for the right cub to come along.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Validation, at last

The thing about grief is that it keeps you guessing. You expect certain things to trigger it: birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, the day they died. These days you can brace for, can do your best to prepare for.

And then there are the little things that come out of left field. These things can't be prepared for. They just happen, without warning and often without consistency. Some days I can ago through the pop aisle in the store without any problems; other days I have to avoid it like the plague, for example. Today, I had a moment in which I solved one of the mysteries of my life. I wanted to call James and tell him-I was too excited to wait until I got home. And then I remembered there is no James to call. I finally felt validation after years and the one person who really believed me wasn't there to share it with. Sharing it with anyone else just wouldn't be the same. A year ago, I probably would have burst into tears right there in the middle of Wal-Mart. Today, it just made me sad and frustrated.

I am allergic to alcohol. I have known this since I was in college. That is all I have ever known. If I drink, I get chest pains and have a hard time breathing. If I am around wine long enough, the smell of it is enough to give me a headache. People hear this and some tell me that sucks. I don't think so. Others look at me like I just flew in from another planet. This is major microbrew and wine country after all. In all honesty, not being able to drink probably saved my life after James died. I know if I was able to, I would have buried myself in the bottle. I am the daughter, the granddaughter (according to my mother anyway) and the niece of alcoholics. My family doesn't understand why I can't drink with them. I get the impression they don't believe me when I tell them I am allergic. As a result, I feel like an outsider when we have family gatherings (aka funerals).

Today I had to buy a bottle of wine. I am making a chicken dish tomorrow that calls for "dry white wine." (I am also making homemade bread in the bread machine and cookies). I hate when I have to buy alcohol. I imagine the feeling I get standing there is pretty similar to how guys feel in the tampon aisle. There are too many to choose from and all I knew was "dry white wine." I don't know what is dry, other than sherry, which is not white. At least not at Wal-Mart. (Buying alcohol at Wal-Mart seems so white trash. I really classed it up by wearing sweats. Which my mom probably bought at Wal-Mart since she lives in a small town and that is the only place to shop). So, there I stood looking for an inexpensive bottle of dry white wine, not knowing what I should be buying and wondering what the opposite of dry wine is. I am guessing it is not wet. I picked up a $2.97 bottle of Pinot Noir and looked at the back of the label. I was pretty sure it wasn't going to say "Yes, you dumbass, I am a dry white wine," but it didn't hurt to look. It didn't say if it is dry or not dry. But it did say in bold letters CONTAINS SULFITES. Sulfites? I smiled. I crossed the aisle and looked at two different wine coolers. They too contain sulfites. I felt giddy. I needed to call James and tell him I am allergic to alcohol because it contains sulfites.

How do I know this? Several years ago, I had a sinus infection. A couple of days after I started the antibiotics, I got a hive on my leg. My co-worker had just told me how stress causes her sister to break out in hives. I was pretty stressed out at the time, so I thought nothing of it. But then the hives kept coming and getting worse. So I called my nurse and said I thought I might be allergic to the antibiotic. I had no history of reactions to medicines but had never had this type before. I described the hives and she said I was definitely allergic and I needed to tell all future doctors and pharmicists I am allergic to sulfites.

It feels great to finally have a concrete reason behind saying I am allergic to alcohol. It is so frustrating I can't tell the one person who never doubted me when I said that; the person who once threatened a waiter for joking that he was going to bring me a Long Island Iced Tea instead of a regular one. The person who tried to explain to my family why I won't drink with them.

I think he knows. When I left the store, the sun was setting but the light was really bright. And it was raining. And when I turned around there was a double rainbow, faint on top but brilliant and beautiful on the bottom. The scene reminded me of the pictures I have seen of rainbows and brilliant light my dad took in Nevada when I was little. It made me feel they were both there with me.

I ultimately bought the $1.37 bottle of white cooking wine. I figure if it specifically says it is for cooking, I won't screw up the recipe. (If it was my store, the cooking wine would be in the baking aisle, not with the salad dressing, but whatever). Not that it really matters since I don't know what the dish is supposed to taste like and I am the only one eating it so if it sucks at least my cooking won't have made a bad impression on anyone.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Decorative touches

I have never been one for decorating my house, much to the chagrin of my mother who changes everything down to her curtains just about every season. When she moved back to Idaho several years ago, she stayed with my brother for a month and drove him nuts with all her ideas of what he needed/should do to decorate his house. He still bitches about that. When James died and she saw my house for the first time, she offered some suggestions as to what I should do with it which I just ignored. For me, it is not so much the decor that matters but the feel. And my house feels like a home. Even with James gone, you can still feel the love when you walk in the door. (Once you get past the excitement of the boys, who you would think have never seen people before, that is).

But as part of the grief recovery process, I do feel it wouldn't hurt to add a few feminine touches here and there as part of that whole making the house "mine" instead of "ours" thing. My friend offered to help me with that, which I wisely did not tell my mother when she told me about this season's curtain scheme (blue, I think. I wasn't really listening). I would have gotten another lecture on how I need to get some pretty curtains. My mom is very big on her curtains. I don't want curtains-I have really cool wood blinds. Well, they look like wood anyway. My friend and I have looked at a couple of stores and I have pointed out a few things I like so she is keeping that in the back of her mind when she is out and about. She changes her house around from time to time and it always looks nice so I trust her. And yes, she does have curtains. But just on one window. She has blinds on the rest.

Today on my way home, I stopped to get a birthday present for a friend and ended up getting a few things for myself. I really shouldn't have spent the money, but I justified it by everything I bought for myself being 20% off.

The first thing I got was a 12" x 12" square wall hanging with a seashell in the middle that says "It's not what you look at that matters," down most of the left side and "it's what you see." across most of the bottom. The shell looks like it is sitting on a antique yellow fabric square and the background behind it is different blues and browns. I am going to put this in my master bathroom, which is light blue with a darker marble looking blue counter. I have always thought some sort of nautical theme would work in there. My real reason for putting this in there, however, is so I will see it when I am getting ready in the morning and remind myself to really look at the person I am-not just the package I come in.

The second thing I got is a small plaque (about 9" x 4") that has a small blue butterfly in the lower left corner and a weird purple and blue flower with a green stem and leaves on the right side that says "Life is a journey not a Destination" on the left above the butterfly. I am not yet sure where this is going to go; I am thinking maybe by James' picture and his urn for now. It is a reminder to take the time to enjoy life now and not worry so much about getting to my future.

The last plaque I got is also small-about 5" x 7"- and has a daisy at the top and one of my new found favorite quotes in the middle: "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." It says Dance across the bottom. As any fan of Grey's Anatomy can tell you, sometimes you just have to dance it out. I am thinking about finding a spot here in the office for this one. This is my reminder to learn to find and appreciate the good in life even when it all seems to be going downhill.

There was one other plaque I was really tempted to get. It says "I am not a fast cook and I am not a slow cook. I am a half-fast cook." I'm actually a pretty decent cook; I just thought that was really funny, especially when you say it out loud. The sale goes for another couple of days. I may have to go back for that.

With what little I have done so far, I have come to realize that no matter what I put on the walls or how many rooms I paint, James' essence will still be here and I am more than fine with that. It's what makes my house my home. But making my home a little more girly (I am SO not a girly girl) won't hurt anything and could actually be fun. But don't tell Mom I said that.