Monday, November 30, 2009

Painting Project #3: My Thoughts

One of the things "they" say you should do after the loss of a spouse is to make the house "yours" instead of "ours." (I am still not sure exactly who "they" are). I have done a couple of things along those lines by painting the guest bathroom and upstairs hallway. About 6 months ago, I decided I wanted to paint our bedroom purple. That would definitely be a healing move, right?

The painting supplies have been upstairs since the 4th of July weekend when I painted the hallway. I was going to paint the bedroom over Labor Day weekend, but decided against it at the time. Then, when I hit the 5th anniversary of my Dad's death on Veteran's Day, I decided I needed a clean start and was just going to sell the house. I even did a drive-by on a cute little 3 bedroom, 2 bath not far from here. It took about a week for that urge to pass and getting my new property assessment cemented it: I am not going anywhere for the time being. The value of my house dropped by quite a bit. And, truth be told, for where my life is now, my house is in a good location.

So, I went back to my bright idea of painting the bedroom. I get a 4-day weekend for Thanksgiving and knew I wasn't going shopping on Friday. Contrary to popular belief, I am actually a rational, sane person. I decided that this would be the perfect time to paint the bedroom. I also decided this was something I needed to do for myself, by myself. I am rethinking the rational, sane person part.

I got the paint Wednesday on my way home. I also ended up with a stud finder. That's the sort of thing that happens when I get bored waiting on the paint department and wander aimlessly around Lowe's. I have found the presence of studs in my bedroom. (Yea!) Sadly, they are not the kind with strong-yet-tender, arms. (Boo!) I spent Wednesday evening packing up the knick-knacks and other random items in the bedroom and taping off most of the baseboards. I put the bed in the bathroom, moved the dresser out from the wall and put the night stands in the other room, so this only left the wall behind the armoire, which I decided to move at the last minute so I could have the TV on for background noise. I needed it for the Macy's parade. Being a grownup means I can watch the parade if I want to and no one can make watch stupid football instead. Being a grownup has its perks!

Thursday, when I got up, I started to tape off the ceiling before heading over to our best friends' for dinner. After dinner, I finished off the taping. This was not easy for me as I had to get on the 3rd rung from the top of the ladder and I am afraid of unstable heights. I had one slight misstep early on that caused me to come close to falling off the ladder and made me realize this was not the best idea I have ever had. My hands were sweating so much, I was making the tape not be sticky anymore. Then I realized I could use one of the vacuum attachments as a tape dispenser and that made it a lot easier. I was relieved when that part was done but was filled with dread knowing I was going to have to get back up to the top of the ladder to get the newspaper down.

Friday, I started painting around 9:30. I finished the first coat around 1:30, which I didn't think was too bad. The edges near the top of the vaults were hard to do. I attached the paint brush to the stir stick and just dabbed at them until they were covered. There corners in the alcove I couldn't reach and decided it wasn't worth falling off the ladder over. So, they aren't done. I had to use the roller on the pole sideways going backwards to do the alcove as it was so I was getting pretty freaked out about the whole thing as it was.

By the time I finished the first coat, the first wall was dry. For the second coat, I decided that anything that required me getting on the ladder above my comfort zone was just not happening. This made it go so much quicker and with a lot less stress. The alcove and the tops of the vaults only have one coat but oh well!

I left the paint to dry, went to Wendy's and DQ for the now traditional post-paint food (grilled chicken go-wrap, and fries from Wendy's and a DQ Peanut Buster Parfait), and after dinner took a 2 hour bath. I thought about just staying in the tub until Monday.

Saturday morning, I had a chiropractor appointment. That was painful. After I got home, I removed the tape from the baseboards and what I could from the ceilings with just the step-stool. Then it was time to face the ladder again. As I had to keep going higher up, I thought about how nice it would be if I had something that I could use to grab the paper and pull it off. And then I remembered I do own one thing that is meant to grab stuff...

My grab method worked quite well and did not require me to go past my comfort zone on the ladder. I about cried tears of joy when I got the last of the newspaper down and had not fallen off the ladder in the process. I then went to see "New Moon" with my friends, thinking I was far enough along with my project I could take a break. Turns out I did nothing but stress out during the movie thinking of all the things I still needed to do.

When I got home, I shampooed the carpet in the bedroom. I figured it would be a great time for that since the furniture was moved. Sunday, I put the headboard, dresser and armoire back where they belong and shampooed where they were sitting. I had a meeting to go to for a volunteer project I am doing on Friday so I whipped up some brownies for that and headed off to Beaverton. When I got home, I was thrilled to find the carpet was dry and I could put my bed back together. After 4 nights on an air mattress, I was more than ready for my own bed! I have body parts I can't move and my bruises have bruises. I wanted to cry this morning when I went to wash my hair. Acting like a 25 year-old male stud muffin when you are in actuality an out-of-shape 35 year-old woman with a bad knee results in pain. Lots of pain.

The personal effects are still in the spare bedroom so my room looks very impersonal at this point. I am going to put a shelf above the dresser and put the stuff there instead of on the headboard and dresser. I still need to hook the TV back up to the satellite box and the VCR/DVD player but I know that isn't going to go well and was already too frustrated to deal with it last night.

I know this was a good move. I know it was stupid to have done it all myself and the stress of having done so outweighs the accomplishment of having done it. I think there is some numbness there too-denial that it is my room now-there is no longer an us. (MH #2 is either going to have to live with purple, hire someone, or paint the damn room himself).

I always turn the TV on in the morning to hear the weather and traffic reports. It is out of habit from when we had long commutes. I don't really need this information. I have a 4.5 mile commute that is all surface streets and I always wear jeans and a sweater or sweatshirt to work because my office is only slightly warmer than a walk-in freezer. Since the TV is not hooked up, this morning, after I grumbled at the alarm clock, I turned on the radio for something to listen to while I got ready. It is on a country station. I woke up to John Michael Montgomery reminding me "life's a dance you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow. Don't worry about what you don't know. Life's a dance you learn as you go." I have been wondering "what's next?" a lot lately. Somehow, this seemed like a perfect end to my weekend and a perfect way to start whatever it is that comes now.

Painting Project #3: in photos

After deciding I was going to do it about 6 months ago, I have finally painted our bedroom. I haven't been able to get the right light for the color to show up properly, but I now have the purple bedroom I have always wanted. I have decided to do the pictures and my thoughts on it separately.

The room has vaulted ceilings, a weird shelf thing (aka "the alcove,") and really heavy furniture.

So many choices...

The winner: "Guardian Angel," by Olympic. It is the one with writing on it and this is the only picture you can really tell it is purple even though it is still off.

Bed in the bathroom. It fits so nicely in there.

Ready to paint. I moved all the furniture myself. That was stupid.

The boys staying out of my way-for once.

You can see the new color on the left-much brighter even after one coat than the old.

Sammy decided to "help" after all by snuggling up against the wall.

I don't know how Charlie got paint all over his ear. Nor do I want to.

My room put back together-except for the TV. And it really is purple.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


When you suffer a profound loss, it is so easy to let that become the focal point of your life. And as a result, it is easy to lose sight of all the things that are still good. No, this is not how my life would be going if I wrote the script but there are still so many good things in my life.

I am thankful that I had 8 years with James.

I am thankful for the relationship we had-for seeing what real love is like so I will be able to recognize it again.

I am thankful James talked me into getting Sammy and Charlie. They are the center of my world.

I am thankful for my wonderful family and friends. I have such a great support network.

I am thankful that I have made a good friend who (unfortunately) "gets it." That friendship has helped me so much over the last year.

I am thankful that in these tough economic times, I have a job working for a company I love.

I am thankful to have such awesome co-workers, who are more than that-they are good friends as well.

I am thankful that I am able to keep my roof over my head and my bills paid. I am thankful also that I have reliable transportation.

I am thankful that I am too stubborn to give in when all I want to do is throw in the towel.

I am thankful my parents instilled in me that I can do anything I set my mind to. (Okay-there are some moments I really hate them for that). I am also thankful that this mindset gives me the determination to plow through when I get frustrated.

I am thankful for my sense of humor.

I am thankful for the practical things my parents taught me: how to check my oil, my tire pressure and how to make chocolate chip cookies.

I am thankful the one "boy chore" James taught me was how to change the air filter in the heater/air conditioning unit.

I am thankful to live near a big city that allows me to experience a wide variety of events that you don't find in small towns.

I am thankful for my small town upbringing. I wouldn't change that for anything.

I am thankful for the freedom to both do the things I enjoy and to try new things.

I am thankful I chose to go to college and that I joined Alpha Gamma Delta even though I was unsure of the whole sorority thing. The strides I made there helped paved the way for who I am today.

I am thankful my now dear friend took a chance on the girl from Idaho and hired me for my first job when I graduated. It put me on the path to meet James.

I am thankful that 10 years ago, when James asked if I wanted to spend New Year's Eve with a bunch of people I didn't know, I said yes, even though he broke all my "rules."

I am thankful for the knowledge that what I think I want and what is meant to be are not necessarily the same thing (maybe I could be a cougar...).

I am thankful for my opportunities and my accomplishments whether they are big or small.

I am thankful for the little moments that make life great.

I am thankful that I am able to realize how much I have to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The walls came down

Something happened Tuesday that I wasn't able to get out of my head. It was just a brief moment and I couldn't figure out what it was about it that was puzzling me. The best way I could describe it was that there was something I just wasn't getting. That, and I couldn't put my finger on what it was I couldn't put my finger on.

The back story leading up to Tuesday is that the week before on 11/10, there was a fire that destroyed an elementary school in SE Portland. Thankfully, there were no injuries but the teachers and 435 students lost everything. It was quickly decided that a school that had been closed in 2007 due to budget cuts would temporarily house the displaced students and the organization I do most of my volunteering for, Schoolhouse Supplies (SHS), became the hub for donations for this school.

Every month, I lead a project at SHS that is organized by Hands on Portland, which is an organization that fulfills volunteer needs for other organizations. Our project for November was two days after the fire and SHS was already overwhelmed with donations for Marysville. It was clear that we would not be able to get through everything in the time we had for the project and they had a corporate partner scheduled to bring in a huge donation the next day.

Typically, a project leader needs to have a minimum 3-week window for posting projects on the Hands on Portland calendar, but I e-mailed them to see if we could do another project on the 17th to help expedite getting the supplies to the school. They agreed to let me have the project and put it on their front page to help get it filled. (I posted it Friday. It was full by Sunday morning. Yea!)

Saturday, 11/14, I packed up James' Steelers collectibles. I set some of the items aside for SHS: a football, a generic stuffed football, an insulated lunchbox-things that would be great for the incentive shelf (things teachers use to reward their students). I took the items with me when I went to do the special project on the 17th.

Normally when I get to SHS, I am chatty with the people who work there. They see a lot of me so I have established a friendly relationship with them. In fact, my friend and I recruited one of them to be in our bunco group a year or so ago. They even sent me a card when James died. Tuesday, however, I was not chatty. I was very quiet. I said "hi" when I walked in and filled out a donation sheet for my items. After a brief discussion with Volunteer Guy, we decided to leave the items in the store instead of sending them to the school, with the thought that there was a better chance of finding a Steeler's fan district wide than at just one school. I then went into the conference room and set out my name tags and sign in sheet and waited for the volunteers to start to arrive. I made small talk when they came in. Normally, I go over the project with Volunteer Guy so I know how to lead the group.

About a half hour or so after we got the project started, I passed Volunteer Guy. He asked if everything was okay and then asked what was wrong. And my eyes filled with tears. I motioned for him to follow me around the corner so we were out of sight of the volunteers. I took a deep breath and told him that it was one thing to pack up James' things but it was another thing altogether to actually dispose of them. And then the tears started to fall. I told him that I was sorry-that I was trying really hard to hold it together. That I had packed the stuff up Saturday but that was the first of it that I had actually given away. As I wiped my eyes, I heard him say "come here," but I just stood there and cried.

I don't know how much time passed, but probably not much. I tried to wipe my eyes again, and realized I couldn't really move my hands. I realized I was crying on Volunteer Guy's chest. "Volunteer Guy is hugging me," I thought. "No, Volunteer Guy's arms are around my waist. Volunteer Guy is holding me. hmm. I feel skinny. Damn! Volunteer Guy has a strong chest and arms."

I freed myself and told him that it has been almost 2 years and I keep waiting for donating his things to get easier but it never does and that it made me feel like I was erasing 8 years of my life. He said I can't erase the memories. I said that it also makes the fear set in that James was it for me and now I am going to be alone for the rest of my life. He said I can't think that way-that he doesn't believe that. There are too many people out there. I said it took a really long time to find the first one. He just kind of nodded in agreement and told me that if I needed to take a few minutes away from the project to take it.

At the end of the night as we were leaving, he asked if I would be there the next day for my front desk shift. I said I would and would try to be more like myself. He gave me a side hug and told me he would be leaving early for a supply drive at the basketball game and the volunteer cordinator would be coming in to close everything up but there would be about 1/2 hour where I was unsupervised. I asked if I was really being left unsupervised and then said I was going to throw a party. Wednesday, I was concerned things would be awkward but they weren't. I got there late due to a dead mouse issue in my office (grr) and he was on his way out when I was walking in. ( I was explaining to my boss that due to my having already disposed of a dead mouse in the break room I felt I had taken my turn and therefore, he would be getting rid of the one in my office).

I couldn't figure out what my brain was trying to tell me and it was starting to really annoy me. Friday, I had my appointment with the therapist. We were discussing all the healing steps I have taken since last month's appointment (driving his car, packing up the Steelers' stuff, the decision to paint the bedroom, etc) and she said that if I were to meet the right person-someone I felt safe with, I am ready to receive love (first instinct: run like hell!). I told her what happened on Tuesday and that there was something about it that I couldn't grasp. She said to continue thinking about it-I would figure it out. She asked if there could be a romantic connection there. I said no. She asked why not? I said that he's just not someone I have thought about that way and that he pretty much just tolerates me because I am a dependable volunteer. Plus, he is about 6 years younger than me. He's going to be looking for some hot 20-something year old. I really don't think I could land a 30-year-old so I don't consider him to be a possibility.

It finally dawned on me yesterday what was niggling at me. I let my walls come down with Volunteer Guy. I could have lied and said I had a bad day at work (not really a lie. Good days do not involve dead rodents under my desk). I could have said I was just really tired, like I usually tell everyone. But I didn't. I let my walls down-I let him in and I let him see me vulnerable. I don't like anyone to see that side of me. And I don't know why, but I felt he was safe to do that with. And I really don't know how I feel about that.

This morning's dream

Last week when Mom and I had our almost weekly Sunday morning conversation, she told me that one of the things she has read consistently over the years is that to get answers, you are supposed to say a prayer and then ask your angels for a sign. What you dream about it is your sign but it isn't always easy to interpret. She said when I went to bed that night, I should say a prayer and then ask Dad what life has in store for me.

"Dad only gives me bad news," I replied.

"You have to stop being mad at your Dad. And you have to stop being mad at God too," she said.

I sighed. We have had this conversation before. I told her that I was more accepting to God. I didn't like it, but I was more accepting of it. And I told her Dad could have been a lot nicer about the whole thing.

"Your dad was not mean to you." (How does she know-she wasn't in my head).

"Dad was MAD at me. He said to me 'I don't see how it is you can't see it. James is leaving you and he is never coming back.' He said it disgustedly. And a week later, James died. So yeah, I'm still a little mad at the messenger."

"Okay fine. Don't ask your dad. Ask your other angels. But I still think you need to stop being mad at your father." Mothers do have an answer for everything, don't they?

So, I decided to give it a try. I know I have had a couple of dreams but I don't remember them. I do remember the one I had this morning. I know it was morning because it was after the cling-on also known as Sammy got me up to go out at 4:15. I don't know what is up with these two lately but they are sticking to me like glue. It's actually starting to creep me out a bit.

So, I let the dogs out, fought to get back into bed and lay down before they started crawling all over me, got settled and said a quick prayer. Then I asked my angels what was in store for me and fell asleep to have the following dream:

James and I were playing on our computers. We were in our house, but our house was really a big yard with a glass enclosure. It was in front of a brick building like you see on college campuses. The phone rang and I saw on the caller ID it was my widower friend, so I answered it. He said that he was sorry for calling on such short notice but had a wedding reception to go to and wanted to know if I could go with him. I told him that James and I had plans but I would go ask James if I could go with WF. I told WF I didn't think James would mind if I went to the reception with him if we weren't going to do what we had planned. So, I went and asked James if he was planning to do a raid that night (James was a WoW junkie, but was playing something else in my dream). He said no, that we were going to do what we planned (I can't remember what it was-some show I think). I told him that I was talking to WF and he wanted to know if I could go to a reception with him. I was surprised that James was annoyed that WF had the nerve to ask me to go to a wedding reception with him.

So, I got back on the phone and told WF that James and I were going to do what we had planned so I couldn't go with him but I hoped he had fun. We chatted for a bit longer but WF was pretty quiet, so I asked him what was wrong. He said he knew he wasn't being his chatty self-he was just listening to what I had to say. He then realized it was almost 4:00 and he was supposed to be at the reception at 3:30. I told him that everyone knows that weddings start 1/2 hour late so he was probably fine. We laughed and hung up.

I had been walking around while I was on the phone, and when the conversation ended, I was standing in the sliding glass door of what is my current kitchen, facing outside. I had also turned down the volume on the TV at some point and was still holding the remote. I was walking back to where James was and was going to toss the remote towards the TV, but didn't want it to get lost in the grass. I thought about just walking over to the TV and putting it down but that would have taken me off my path so I just kept it.

I then came upon a small, fluffy dog on the sidewalk. I was carrying a board game (I have no idea where that came from), so I put the dog on the box. A strange blond guy came up and started saying all kinds of things about how pretty my daughter was (meaning the dog) and how he wanted to pet her and play with her. I told him my husband was very protective of her and had a bad temper. So the man left. I continued to walk over to where James was, but now instead of playing on the computer, he was sitting at a card table teaching a little girl (about 5 or 6) with long brown hair-our daughter-how to play checkers.

I have had a dream with this little girl before. I have only seen her from behind, but in both dreams she was my daughter. In the other dream, WF was her father. I was watching from the back of the driveway as he walked her to the school bus for her first day of school. He was bursting with pride but I could tell he was fighting back tears too. I thought to myself that it figured I would have to be the strong one while he got to have the emotional moment with her and I was a little jealous that he was the one having this bonding moment with her.

In both dreams, I have seen the little girl from the 3rd person point of view, although in my dream this morning, everything else up to the point I picked up the dog had been 1st person. The two times I have dreamt about this little girl, I have not seen her face or mine so I don't know how old I am. I do know the little girl is happy and healthy though.

Maybe she's MH #2's little girl and I don't get to see her face because she looks like her daddy and I don't yet know who that is. The poor kid definitely has my hair. Or maybe I am seeing myself when I was that age and life was so innocent and uncomplicated. Who knows? I do know it was nice to have a dream about James in which life was completely normal (other than the living outside part) for once.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Found a grave

After I got home from my volunteer project and running errands today, it was cold and grey but not raining so I decided to go over to the cemetery and try to find the gravestone I volunteered to photograph. I thought about just waiting until tomorrow, but decided I didn't want to tempt the weather. It is November in the Northwest, after all. I learned a couple of things with this first attempt:

* It is kind of creepy when you are the only person walking around a cemetery and you hear voices. I am guessing they were coming from the interior design business across the street. If not, I don't want to know.

* I don't like feeling like I am walking on someone's grave and kept feeling like I should apologize to all the people I was stepping on. At one point, I actually did.

* Having the exact location of the grave is handy, but doesn't do a lot of good when you don't know the layout of the cemetery. And cemeteries do not have the handy little "You are Here" signs like they do at the mall. At least this one doesn't. Luckily, this is a relatively small cemetery.

* As with other genealogy sites I have used, the information on Find A Grave is only as accurate as the person submitting it knows it to be. It is much easier to find a grave if you have the right name. I am guessing Sylvia Jenny and Sylvia Jensen, b. 1947, d. 2003 are the same person. If not, I am headed back to try again.

It was weird to see all the headstones that were for married couples in which only one spouse has passed away. I have a different perspective now that one of those could be mine. I could still take James' ashes and bury them in a cemetery, buy a plot for myself and get a headstone for both of us. How weird would that be to go visit him and see my own name? I think that would be creepy. It won't happen though as James did not want to be buried in a cemetery, which is why he lives on the mantle. He hadn't figured out where he wanted to be spread. As of now, he is going to be spread with the dogs and I in the harbor of Ocho Rios, Jamaica when I die. We had a really great day there right after we got engaged and his favorite picture from the cruise is the one he took of the harbor. It sits next to his urn on the mantle. The picture was there first. I framed it and gave it to him on the anniversary of the night he proposed. He died a month later.

I know a couple of young widows and widowers who have purchased dual headstones and plots and I have wondered about what they are going to do if they remarry? I think that would be hard to understand for a new spouse if they were not also widowed. I don't think I would get it if MH #2 is a widower and James had not died. I get it now and I understand it. If MH #2 ends up being a widower, I will say a prayer and thank his first wife for sharing him with me when I send him home to be with her. It was also weird to see a gravestone where the date of death was "19"-like this person was expected to die in 19-something and either didn't or no one ever bothered to have it finalized. It was a family plot, so maybe she was the last one? And, it was sad to see all the graves that obviously have not been visited in a very long time.

Now I just have to figure out which picture turned out the best and how to upload it. Then I will see if there are any other area cemeteries with pending photo requests. This is so much more productive than trying to research my ancestors!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Find a Grave

Several months ago, my friend told me about the website Find a Grave. It is "a resource for finding the final resting place of family, friends and 'famous' individuals." (Thank you Find a Grave FAQs)! One of the things members of this site can do is upload photos of gravestones for others who are researching someone but who cannot travel to where the grave is located. You can also request a photo for someone for whom you are researching.

For some odd reason, yesterday I decided to visit the site and typed in my mother's maiden name. I was thrilled to see that someone has posted the marker for my grandfather's plot in the mausoleum at Palm Mortuary in Henderson, NV. Rumor has it he requested to be placed in the mausoleum because at the time of his death there was a bar across the street from the cemetery (don't know if it is still there; he died in 1975), and he did not want drunk people to pee on his grave. I also found a photo for my step-grandmother's mausoleum plot. These were very happy finds for me so I tried a couple of other names but came up empty.

So, I decided to search for the cemeteries in this area and saw that another member of the site has requested a photo of a gravestone in the cemetery I could walk to from my house if I wasn't so lazy. I decided to "claim" the request, meaning I have 14 days to take and upload the requested picture.

This is when I discovered I never actually signed up to become a member of the site (yet another widow brain moment). I know I meant to and thought I did. So, I signed up for the site and claimed the request.

I know it may seem like this is a weird thing for someone in my circumstance to do. But, of the 7 family members who passed away in the last 5 years, only 3 are buried in a cemetery-two in Florida and one in California. I can't exactly visit them at will. Dad is in my brother's closet. My father-in-law is somewhere. We let his girlfriend have the ashes. I am not sure who has James' aunt. I think his brother does. And James is downstairs on the mantle. Because of this, I am able to disassociate myself from my own grief and view cemeteries as a genealogy tool. And I am excited to have found a way to start giving back to the genealogy community (and practice my photography skills). Now I just need a day (or at least a few minutes) without rain in the next 13 days...

Wacky Week

This has been a very wacky week that is all out of order.

It started out wrong when I stopped to get coffee on Monday. I just could not sleep Sunday night and knew I couldn't make it through the day without some caffeine. Normally, I can't sleep on Monday and stop for coffee on Tuesday. So, this put me in the mindset that Monday was Tuesday.

Tuesday, I did a Hands on Portland volunteer project at Schoolhouse Supplies. This was a special project I added to the calendar in response to the outpouring of donations Schoolhouse Supplies collected for a school that recently burned down that needed to be sorted and taken to the school the students have been relocated to. I normally do a Hands on Portland project for Schoolhouse Supplies on the 2nd Thursday of the month, so this put me in the mindset that Tuesday was Thursday and Wednesday, therefore, was Friday. Although I think that was really wishful thinking more than anything.

Tonight, I have bunco. This is with my original group that typically plays on Wednesday. I have thought it was Wednesday all day today.

I told a co-worker that my week has gone Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Wednesday so by default that makes tomorrow Monday as that is the only day left. I had to laugh when I was driving home from work and thought about my game plan for tomorrow. I have to leave work early for a therapist appointment-which I usually have on a Monday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

By Special Request

The display case before:

The display case now:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Feel good moments

I am one that prefers to work behind the scenes. I don't like to be the center of attention and I get embarrassed when I am. (Unless it is my birthday, of course, as that is the one time it really is all about me). I take pride in what I do and I generally give it my all. Not always, but I try, especially if it is a reflection on someone or something else. For example, if I am a project leader or just volunteering for a project, I will often stay and help clean up after everyone has left-not as a reflection on me but as a reflection of representing Hands on Portland.

I have had a few moments lately, however, that have really warmed my heart and I have no one to share them with. I can't come home and say "Honey, guess what happened today?" I could tell the dogs, but they don't really care. They just want food.

The first happened in the midst of all the weirdos joining my meetup group. I had a widow join that responded to my introductory e-mail with doubts that I might feel she should not be a part of the group because she is older than my "cut-off" age. I e-mailed her back and recommended she come to a couple of our dinners and decide if she feels it is the right group for her and then explained why I started the group and why I decided to make it for widows and widowers 50 and under. Her response came right after I finished my blog post about the trolls and it warmed my heart. She thanked me for my kind words and said she would try out the the group. She was unable to make it this month though. As I finished her e-mail, my anger about the trolls subsided a bit and I thought "And this is why I do it."

Yesterday, I had another new member thank me for my sweet words to her. Several members of the group who came to dinner for the first time expressed gratitude for the existence of the group. That makes me feel like I AM doing something good even if I can't see the big picture.

It hasn't just been the group. Saturday, I did a volunteer project at an elementary school in Portland. It was a last minute thing-my friend's foster son needed some community service hours for school. So I decided to tag along. I got there a little early and the project leader was unloading his truck with breakfast goodies. I introduced myself and asked if he needed help. He said that would be great. Then he said that he had been talking to a gal at Hands on Portland the day before and she told him I was an awesome project leader. That totally made my day.

I don't normally toot my own horn. But it is so nice to know that at a time when it feels I am doing everything wrong, I am actually getting something right.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A cow, a cup and cookie dough (Random thoughts on a Monday night)

I am still waiting for the eBay auctions to end on two of the three cows I bid on Saturday night. So far, I am still the only bidder on both but the auctions don't end until Wednesday and anything can happen between now and then. Earlier today, however, I was having a moment so I took a peek at eBay and ended up bidding on "May All Moos Goals Come True"- a cute (aren't they all?) little hockey playing cow. There were no bids and less than an hour to go on the auction. I bid the minimum and won the auction. So, a new cow from the sports set will soon be joining my collection. I need to try to determine which cows belong to that set to see if there are any more I am missing.

Yesterday, I realized that I should have received the replacement cup to replace the wrong cup that was sent to me when mine exploded. I should have received it last Thursday. So, this morning I called, convinced they sent it to my old address. I was informed it was due to be delivered today. When I got home, there were no packages on my doorstep (I didn't have any mail either, which is odd). I thought I should have gotten the tracking number so I don't have to call them back again. The doorbell rang around 6:15. I was expecting it to be the middle school student with my cookie dough, but when I answered the door, the UPS man was driving away. The good news is I got my cup and it belongs to my set. The bad news is that despite what we were told when we bought the dishes, they changed the design of the cup and it doesn't match the other 7. It is white with the grey-blue stripe like it should be, but the shape of the cup is different. And the material it is made out of is rougher. Grr. On the other hand, the chances of me actually needing to use all 8 of my coffee cups at the same time is pretty slim. And the awesome friends who I would be serving wouldn't care if the cups didn't match. I would care though. I aspire to be the perfect hostess. Heck, at this point, I just aspire to be a hostess as it would mean I was having people over. It crossed my mind to call them and order 7 more cups. (I wonder if eBay has my cups. I also wonder if there is a program for people like me).

One of my friends celebrated a birthday on Saturday. Since our dinner group was meeting last night, I decided I would make him 42 cookies for his birthday-one for each year (yes, I am both sweet and corny). I think everyone should have a cake on their birthday, but he doesn't like cake (which I totally cannot comprehend. Who doesn't like cake? James didn't really like it either, actually. He wasn't a sweets person. And yet I still planned to spend my life with him). My non-cake eating friend does have a weakness for cookies, however, and I have been telling him I would make him cranberry-orange-oatmeal cookies for almost a year now. All he had to do was give me the butter he had in his freezer. I have lost count of how many times one or the other of us has forgotten the butter. When I gave him the cookies, I told him they probably would have turned out better if I had had butter to put in them (yes, I put butter in them).

Thursday, I was thinking about making the cookies and it dawned on me that not long after school started, I ordered some cookie dough from a student at one of the middle schools and never received it. I knew the order had been placed as my check had cleared the bank. I also know it takes time for these orders to come in. So, I called the school to find out when the cookie dough would be arriving. Turns out, it arrived on October 10th. Which means this student has had more than enough time to deliver it. The lady in the budget office told me she would track down the student and get back to me as to why it was never delivered.

I got a mesasge this morning in which Budget Lady apologized on behalf of the student and said that the student would be delivering my cookie dough tonight around 6:00 (it is now 7:16) and asked that I call tomorrow if I don't get it. So, that is why when the UPS man came at 6:15, I thought it was my cookie dough.

At this point, I don't care if I get the student in trouble. This is a lesson in responsibility and I am not impressed with her level of it. There were three girls that came to my house-one was nice; two were rather snooty. If she does ever arrive, I do plan to ask her why I had to call the school and have them track down my cookie dough, why she didn't deliver it and if she was ever planning to. I realize that by today's standards, that makes me an uncaring bitch. I don't care. Back when I was in school (again, when did I get old enough to be using phrases that start with back when I...) we NEVER would have gotten away with this. This is also my second non-delivery experience. Several years ago, I ordered cookie dough from a co-worker on behalf of her daughter. The co-worker was laid off and none of us got our cookie dough. And she lived less than a mile from me, but I couldn't remember which house. So, I am a bit touchy about it. Of course if she apologizes right away, I will probably just cave.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

From football to cows

Last week, I decided to sell the house. I even went as far as to do a drive-by on a cute 3 bedroom, 2 bath not too far from here. It was much cuter in the picture, which was obviously old-the house was not the same color in the picture as it is in reality. Just driving by, I could see the back yard was not well maintained, the gate needed to be fixed and the blinds needed to be replaced. I decided I can't move forward in our house. I need my own place.

That was last week. I have gotten over it (again) for now. The market sucks. I don't really want to move. I live in a great location for where my life is now and this is my home. It is my comfort zone. And there is still the fantasy that I will meet MH #2, we will (eventually) have our own house and I will rent this one out.

Now I am back on the painting the bedroom kick. I get a four day weekend for Thanksgiving and don't really have a lot going on, so that would be a great time to do it. I already have the paint samples. I e-mailed a friend to see if he has an air mattress pump I can borrow since mine doesn't work and I plan to sleep in the living room for a couple of days while the paint dries (another reason for wanting to do it over a long weekend). Where I am going to put all the bedroom furniture is something I have no clue about, but I will figure it out. Getting the 50-bazillion pound ladder upstairs is going to be a pain in the ass, but I'll get it done. I have no choice-I'm not tall enough to paint the room without it. Painting will make the room a little more feminine-a little more mine.

Yesterday, I took another step in making the house mine. I packed up all of James' Steelers collectibles. I kept a few items that had meaning to me-the cross-stitch I made for him, the flower pot pen holder that was my first-and only-attempt at decoupage, the Nevada license plate I bought him when we took our first trip together, etc. Things that had meaning to me. I kept a few things that I knew had special meaning to him as well-the Jerome Bettis plaque, the Jack Hamm/Cris Carter photograph that Jack Hamm autographed, the can of Steel City beer that is God knows how old. I put some things in a box for his mother-she asked for the collection at one point. I put a few things in a box for Goodwill-hats that sun had faded, a penant that was getting worn out, a license plate that had been turned into a clock. I set aside a few things I want to find a true Steelers fan to give them to-the 2003 media guide, a couple of DVDs, a commemorative license plate showing their Superbowl victories from the 1970's.

I had been gearing up to do this for a while; I just didn't want to look at a half empty display case. My Atlanta Braves' collectibles take up the bottom half, so the display case had a sports theme to it. I cleaned out the closet in the living room with the shelves sitting there empty. I threw away the suit and coat he was wearing the night he died. I kept the shirt-it still smells like him and is the only thing I have that does. I can't give that up yet. I put the shoes and the belt in the Goodwill box along with a coffee maker that doesn't have a pot and a Swiffer as it turns out I have two of them.

Then I hauled my collection of Mary Moo cows downstairs. They have been boxed up for 4 years now. James tried to put up shelves for me once but was having a hard time finding a stud and got frustrated as it made him feel like less of a man for not being able to do what should have been a simple thing. I never felt that way, but didn't press the shelf issue either.

I had thought about putting the cows in the case before, but I was afraid I would meet someone, they would see the cows and it would scare them off. But yesterday I realized I am not perfect. I have quirks. And one of my quirks is that I collect cows. MH #2 will not be scared off by this. MH #2 will see a Mary Moo when we are out and about and ask if I have that one yet. MH #2 will accept the cows (and the puzzles, which is a completely different addiction that is much more out of control than the cows).

I set all the cows up on the card table so I could re-acquaint myself with them and so I could put them on the shelves according to which set they belong to, if they belonged to a set. It turned out very cute, although it is a strange contrast to my Braves' "stuff."

I was okay through all of this. It was one of those things I just realized it was time to do. (And I take no responsiblilty for the Steelers' loss today-that really hurt my fantasy team). After I finished I came up to look for more cows on eBay. I am missing 5 of the "Moos of the Month" set. That's when I got sad. I was remembering when I first decided to collect Mary Moos-I have been collecting cows since college, but not those specifically. I remember telling James I wanted to get all the Mary Moos there were. And then I found out how many there are and how unrealistic of a plan that is (although, how cool would that be to have them all?). He suggested I pick a couple of sets I thought was cute and just concentrate on those and then go from there depending on how much room they took up. (We agreed I would have 3 shelves in the guest room for them). He was the one to convince me to buy a bunch of them at the Antique Toy and Collectible show even though they didn't go with one of my sets because I didn't have them and the lady was selling them for a really good price. He encouraged my cow habit because it made me happy. And the cows really are cute.

I just couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to look for very long last night. I wanted to both cry and throw up. I did bid on three-one Halloween (didn't win) and February and July from the "Moos of the Month" set (auctions aren't over yet). Then I decided to play Farmville on Facebook instead. My heart just wasn't in bidding on cows.

I know this is a positive step and in a lot of ways I do feel good about it. I need to move forward with my life before I get any more rooted in the rut I feel I am in. I am so tired again-I am back to waking up at 4:30 and not being able to fall back asleep. I have so little energy right now as a result. But I feel ready for a change. And I do feel like something is coming-there is a change in the air. I just hope it is a good thing. I don't want to deal with anymore heartbreak.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wake me up on February 15th

I have been feeling down since the 5th anniversary of my dad's passing-like this hollow feeling is always going to live inside me; like I don't have any hope for future happiness. I know the holidays are fast approaching and I am sure that has something to do with it. I would like to just skip them (except for the extra days off work-I do want those. And the yummy goodness of holiday food-I want that too). I got to thinking about it this morning and I realized I am going to be packing a lot of significant days into a short amount of time:

11/06: 21 months since James died
11/11: 5 years since Dad died
11/26: Thanksgiving
12/05: Dad's birthday (would have been 59)
12/06: 22 months since James died
12/25: Christmas
12/31: New Year's Eve and the 10th anniversary of our first date
01/01: Start of a new year-hopefully a good one
01/06: 23 months since James died
01/15: My 36th birthday
02/06: 2 years
02/14: Valentine's Day-the day that throws in my face how alone I am

I don't want to put on a happy face and make the best of it. I just want to hibernate until these days are over. I already feel myself withdrawing into my numb place. The good news is that time seems to be flying by right now, so this may seem daunting but will most likely be over in a snap.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

21 months and 5 years

Last Thursday I was skimming a post on the widow/er board and in the post it said something about it being the 6th. My heart skipped a beat-had I actually gone through my first 6th of the month without realizing it? No, I had not. It was the 5th and as I was only skimming, I wasn't absorbing the details of the post correctly. And then I had a moment of panic when I couldn't remember how many months it has been. I thought it was 22 but that didn't seem right so I calculated it and realized it was only 21. As it had been getting closer, I had already been using 21 months, hence my confusion. It snuck up on me though. I wished my cousin a happy birthday on the 3rd and then just lost track of time.

I woke up at 4:32 on Friday. More accurately, I was rudely awaken by Charlie at 4:32 on Friday morning. I shouldn't get angry-at least he gets me up now instead of just going and standing quietly by the door and then peeing on the floor when I don't get up. I just wish I could adjust his internal clock. When I woke up, my first thought was "it's the 6th. 21 months. I wonder if I will ever stop counting?" After I let the dog out, he was kind enough to let me go back to sleep. I was dreaming that I was reading an e-mail from a very cute guy (a different cute guy than the one from yesterday's dream post) and it ended with "I love you. Plz respond." It was actually voice activated e-mail, meaning that when I opened it, it was read aloud to me. My response was a moment of panic cut short by the alarm clock going off. Seriously, why can't these cute boys act like this in real life? And why in the world am I listening to Barry Manilow? (James'-not mine. We combined all our music onto an external hard drive at one point). I got out of bed with Tommy Page's "Don't Give up on Love" going through my head-specifically, the line that goes "one in a million, gift from above, don't give up on love." Tommy Page was a pop star with one hit in 1990. And because he was so cute and I was, of course, going to marry him, I had to by his tape because that is what supportive future wives do. I'm such a good, supportive future wife, I now have the CD. Sadly, that is not my most embarassing CD. My friend would say there is definitely a message in the dream and that song lyric that James wants me to be happy. Now I am tempted to tell her just so I can see what she says.

The rest of the 6th was fine. It was Friday after a long and crazy week and I was glad it was over. The day was a lot like last month in that I felt myself feeling I should be sadder than I was. And I have found that a sadness has settled in over the past few days. But it isn't about James.

Tomorrow is November 11th. It is Veteran's Day. Five years ago, at 6:08 pm, Veteran's Day took on an entirely different meaning for me: that is when my father died. He wasn't the first relative I lost, but he was the one that impacted me the most, up until James died. My dad and I had our issues, but we got the chance to resolve them. I knew he was sick. I knew he was dying. I knew when the doctor said 4 months, it would not be that long. And it wasn't. It was just less than one month. He held on long enough for his sister to fly to Idaho from Florida and I from Arizona. He held on long enough to say good-bye to us. And then he slowly let go.

I called every day. Sometimes we would talk for several minutes; sometimes he was too tired for anything more than "I love you." I called on the 11th. I heard the "death rattle" though I didn't know what it was. His caregiver held the phone up to him and I said "Hi Dad. It's Heather. I just called to say hi and I love you." That was the last thing I ever said to him and quite possibly the last thing he ever heard. Less than 10 minutes later, my brother called to tell me he was gone.

"No, he's not. I just talked to him and he's fine. Well, not fine, but he is still alive." I argued. According to his caregiver, he died right after she hung up the phone. She said it was like he was just waiting for me.

I can't believe it has been 5 years. I remember it like it was yesterday. I can't believe how much I still miss him. I don't feel that I miss him any less than when he first died. He is never far from my thoughts-I don't think a day has gone by in the last 5 years when I haven't thought about him. Mostly, I wonder if he would be proud of me. Or would he wonder if his loser daughter will ever be able to attract another man since it was so hard for her the first time around?

And then it makes me think of James. Three years and three months from now, when it is the 5th anniversary of his death, am I going to miss him with the same intensity that I miss him now? Is this never going to subside? And does that mean I am not really getting through this? Because that is how I feel. I feel trapped. I feel like there has been too much loss and too much damage and I am never going to feel anything but sad.

I was laying in bed Sunday night thinking about Dad and how much I still miss him. I was thinking about how he was fine when he was my age. He didn't get sick until he was in his 40's. He died at 53. It occurred to me that I have always been so terrified of growing old alone like my mom and grandmother that it never dawned on me I could get sick and die young like my dad. I don't want to die young. I want a long and happy life, but right now that just feels so out of reach. My dad didn't have to die so young. He could have taken better care of himself. He could probably still be alive today. So, I know that if I did get sick, I could take care of myself and live with diabetes for a very long time. But taking care of myself and managing and illness so I can just grow old and die alone is really not much of an incentive.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I have always had weird dreams that I used to remember in vivid detail. One of the changes in me since James died is that I either don't remember my dreams, or I only remember bits and pieces of them. If they are the bad ones in which James has either left me for someone else, or wants to leave me for someone else, those I remember every painful detail of.

I have had a theme of sorts in my dreams for the past several years: whenever I am stressed out, I dream about former classmates, usually one in particular. I am going to guess the psychoanalysis behind this is that I am dreaming about people who were part of my life when I was young and innocent and in stressful times, I want to go back to that place. Lately, I have been dreaming about a couple of different childhood classmates which has been odd as they are not ones I have ever dreamt about. I also dream about people trying to or wanting to kill me a lot. I'm not sure about that one. It might be all the crime drama I watch and read.

Saturday night, I had one of the "kill me" dreams. I had uncovered a killing spree plot and was on the verge of figuring out who was next and how they were going to die (I watch and read A LOT of crime drama), and realized I was on the list. I think I got on the list because I saw the bad guys set fire to my neighbor's house. (I have had a lot of fire dreams since James died. Apparently, dreaming about a house on fire means I need to undergo some transformation). I wasn't supposed to be next, and I didn't know how I was going to die but I ended up running through a snow covered field and hiding behind a snow bank (the bad guys weren't incredibly bright). Then I was laying on a bed and got bit on the fingertip by a really short guy with poisonous fangs that was dressed like an ewok (I have never even seen Star Wars; dreaming about the ring finger can be symbolic of needing to be healed. Being bit represents vulnerability. It doesn't say anything about ewoks). I woke up before I died in my dream telling myself that death in a dream doesn't necessarily mean death in real life but can also signify change. I could use some change-if it is positive. I'm not really sure I consider poisonous ewoks to be a good thing. I'm not really sure how I feel about ewoks period.

Last night I was having such a good dream. I was at a retreat with the new-to-my dreams former classmates. Interestingly, I was at the same campground with them last week. In last week's dream, we were getting ready to leave and I was helping with some last minute trash duties. I went to tell Former Classmate to hold up on taking the last load to the big garbage can because they were trying to gather up everyone for the group picture. We ended up going to the garbage can because he was upset that someone didn't like him and needed to talk and we missed being in the picture (I am sure this has something to do with my abandonment issues).

So anyway, I am back at Unknown Campground with the former classmates and Really Cute Guy (we are talking come to Heather cute) appears and I decide to leave with him to go on a hike. As we leave, I am a bit hesitant because I didn't tell anyone I was leaving with RCG and my former classmates have never met him. So, we are driving along to the hiking spot and all is well, except for me feeling bad that I didn't tell anyone where I was going. And then we are walking along the road uphill (huh?) to the hiking spot and RCG starts thinking he is having a heart attack, but is really having a panic attack. I got him to calm down and was thisclose to kissing him when I woke up. Grr. Why do I always wake up at the good parts (I will take guilt over kissing someone other than James for $200, Alex). Actually, according to the dream dictionary, if you wake up right before you are about to kiss someone it symbolizes you are unsure how they feel about you. Okay, I can see that. But couldn't I have gotten a little action first and then been confused? I so would have been down with that.

I was really hoping to fall back asleep and pick up where the dream left off. But no. I went on to dream that I had to take some aptitude test that was just a bunch of really easy brain teasers. They were out of the real test so I had to take the practice test. Then part way through, one of the teachers asked how many people needed the real test. Four of us raised our hands. So, she went to find some more copies of the real test and never came back. Meanwhile, I continued to work on the practice test and ended up being there longer than everyone else (I started late) and had to leave the classroom I was in so I went to another classroom and was sitting on the floor to finish it. Let's see: according to, the #4 denotes stability. How boring. Taking a test can denote being put to the test or scrutinized in some way. Or it can be a pun on being testy or irritated. Hmm...I went from being thisclose to making out with a really hot guy to taking a stupid brain teaser aptitude test. That's not the least bit irritating.

I do wish I could remember more of my dreams. Their weirdness always entertained James, who never remembered his dreams. I just know I have a lot of them and they are very active which keeps me from getting restful sleep. At least if I knew what they were about, I would know why I am so damn tired all the time. I'm hoping for a good dream tonight. If I am going to be exhausted in the morning, I should at least get to have some fun in my sleep.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


James was a boob man. I have never understood the fascination men have with boobs-everyone has them-but he was a boob man. He even had a t-shirt that said "Boobies Make Me Smile." His best friend has it now. They were at Spencer's while his best friend's wife and I got our eyebrows waxed (something I have not felt it was necessary to do again) and they saw the shirt at the same time. James grabbed it first. After he died, it only seemed right for his best friend to have it.

Yesterday, I had a date with the best friend's wife. Our new thing is to go have our 6,000 calorie salads at Sweet Tomatoes and then walk it off at Border's. During lunch, we were talking about the dog they just put down and how the urn company messed up the dog's name on the urn, but they should be able to fix it. I said when the time comes, I am putting Sammy and Charlie in with James. His urn is not sealed so his ashes can be spread someday. I said that my plan was to put the boys in with him and then when my time came, I want to be put in with the three of them and our ashes all spread together.

I then went on to say that I realize this could prevent a problem down the road as Mystery Husband #2 might not like this idea, assuming there will be a MH #2 (if not, I guess that solves this problem). She said that maybe as time goes on, I will change my mind. I said that's true. Maybe I would decide that they could share me. MH #2 would get part and James and the boys would get part. And then I told her to make sure James gets my boobs.

I really do amuse myself.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ah, widow brain

Pretty much every widowed person I know has "widow brain." It is a side effect of grief caused by your brain trying to protect you from the pain. Unfortunately, it causes you to pretty much forget everything. It is why we suddenly stop speaking mid-sentence-we can't remember what we were talking about/saying. (I freaked my brother out with this one once). It is why we quizzically stare around a room-we have no clue what it is we came in the room for and often times don't remember how we got there in the first place. It is why to this day, I have absolutely no recollection of telling my dear friend I needed light bulbs the day after James died and therefore was very confused when she brought me light bulbs. (I did need them). I could go on, but basically, it's grief-induced amnesia. I refer to it as "griefnesia" because I learned by listening to others in bereavement group it is not limited to widow/ers.

Apparently, I had a widow brain moment last July. And by last July, I mean July 2008. I discovered it yesterday. I would have made this discovery a whole lot sooner if I was not one of the least observant people on the planet, which actually makes this a whole lot funnier.

On July 4, 2008, I started my meetup group for young widows and widowers. When you set up events, one of the questions you are asked is how members of the group will find you. I answered that "I will have a sign for the table." Our first dinner was 7/23/08. Earlier that day, I realized I was supposed to have a sign for the table. So, I printed off two pages with the group name: Portland Metro/SW Washington Young Widows and Widowers. I taped them to the sides of a manilla folder. Not fancy, but I had to go with what materials I had available. We used this sign every month for months until recently when one of the members took the beat-up sign from me and made me pretty, flourescent laminated ones. He just photocopied the one I made onto three different bright sheets of paper and laminated them. Now when Sammy steps on one, it doesn't leave a mark, and the one that was on the island wasn't destroyed by the recent exploding cup incident like the original would have been. It's just sticky.

So anyway, last night I thought it would be fun to make an attendance spreadsheet for my group. We have a member who is highly dramatic and relates to absolutely EVERYTHING anyone says and I was curious to see how many people have come to dinner with her there and have never come back (in all fairness, I do know there could be a wide variety of reasons they have not come back, myself included). There are other concerns I have about this member but that is not for an Internet blog. I also wanted a snapshot of who has never come to dinner and wanted it in a more consolidated location than having to look up everyone's profile for the information.

As I was working on the spreadsheet, I noticed it says Portland/Vancouver Young Widows & Widowers Meetup Group across the top of our home page. I thought it was weird my AO thanked the creepy guys for their interest in the Portland/Vancouver Young Widows and Widowers group in his e-mail explaining why he was removing them, but I figured he was just being lazy and didn't want to type out Portland Metro/SW Washington Young Widows and Widowers group. It is a mouthful, but there is a reason I named the group that: I didn't want widow/ers who lived outside of the Portland/Vancouver city limits to think they weren't welcome. They probably would have been smart enough to figure it out, but I wasn't exactly thinking rationally at the time (only 5 months after James died).

Then I started to wonder when my AO changed the name of the group (this goes to the whole unobservant thing) and why he didn't tell me. The more I thought (obsessed) about it, the more upset I got. Why would he just take it upon himself to change the name of the group? And to not even mention it to me? It is MY group (I have control issues). I wondered if I should confront him about it or let it go. "Let it go," I kept telling myself. "In the grand scheme of things, it is really no big deal." I wondered what else he was able to do in his capacity of AO without me knowing about it. Okay, so I was downright pissed at this point. Part of it was due to what I felt was a complete lack of respect. And part of it was a self-esteem thing, or more accurately, lack of. I felt he was making changes he felt would improve the group because he didn't think I was doing a good enough job.

So, went to the meetup FAQ section and found out exactly what a AO can and cannot do. It turns out an AO cannot change the name of the group. It turns out that for the last 16 months, I have thought I named the group something other than what I actually named it (this does explain why new members always look confused when they see the sign). And I have posted a monthly dinner every month for 16 months and never noticed what I thought I named the group and what I actually named it are not the same thing. Which is really sad, considering I am in several groups and I have to click the link for our group on my home page to get to the group page-the link that says Portland/Vancouver Young Widows & Widowers Meetup Group, and apparently always has.

My AO called this morning. We were chatting about the group and I told him I felt I owed him an apology. "No you don't," he said. "You don't know why I think this," I told him and then told him this story, although I left out the self-esteem part. When I finished the story and apologized for mentally accusing him of something it turns out I did, he was laughing. "That's funny," he said. "You're hilarious." I told him my co-worker thought the same thing yesterday when I told her I was 98% sure I am keeping the BMW. He also said that if he had changed the name without talking to me about it, that would NOT have been no big deal; that it would have been huge.

Lord knows what else I have done or thought I have done over the last 21 months. I'm not sure if I really want to know, unless it's funny. I do have the ability to laugh at myself. And this is why if James ever sends me a sign, it is going to have to be a huge, flashing neon billboard. Which I will probably still manage to drive by everyday for a month before I see it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Some things you just cannot make up

The wind is blowing lightly.
The rain has stopped.
It is the calm before the storm.
What will the storm bring?

This has been a weird and trying week. Two weekends ago, I was talking to my friend and she said the energy in the air felt "off." I agreed. She said it felt like the calm before the storm. I agreed with that too. She was talking about the disconnect she felt about the reality that they were going to have to put their sweet dog down not yet settling in. As usual, I had no idea what I was talking about. I pretty much just make crap up as I go. I'm easily entertained that way. But some things you just cannot make up.

Last week, the week of Halloween, I had 6 new members join my young widow and widowers meetup group. That in itself was odd. Usually, the group grows at a rate of one or two new members every month or so. Normally, when a new member joins, I send them an e-mail welcoming them to the group. I could just have a canned e-mail that meetup sends out for me, but I like to tailor them the best I can based on what the new member has put in their introduction.

The first of the six was a gentleman and I did not get a good vibe from his profile. He did not say anything about being widowed in his introduction-it read more like what you would find as the header for a personal ad. The types of groups he was interested in joining also made it appear he was just looking to meet women. So, I sent him an e-mail offering my condolences, stated how I find it helpful to be around others whose partners had died young, etc. I was trying to clearly state what the group is about without coming out and accusing him of not being legit. Then I sent an e-mail to my assistant organizer and asked him to check out New Guy's profile and tell me what he thinks. I didn't say anything else. I wanted to know if I was being paranoid. My AO, as meetup calls them, also said he didn't feel this guy was right and said I should kick him out of the group. We went back and forth and I ultimately decided we needed to give him the benefit of the doubt. I have heard and read several stories of men and women preying on the widowed; I just didn't want to believe it though. Word on the street is we all have hefty life insurance payouts and are so lonely we will sleep with anything with the right parts. Um, no and eww.

I sent my e-mails to three others, leaving me with two. One, a widower and the other a gal who joined the group looking for support for a widowed friend. She however is not widowed. So, I decided to leave her for last so I could think a bit more about what to say to her. I went to e-mail New Guy #2 and looked at his profile. All the groups he is interested in joining are centered around sex. Mostly tantric sex. I paged my poor co-worker to my office (I was on my lunch break at the time). I said bad words. Lots of very bad words. I decided not too send my e-mail. Later, another co-worker got an earful with even more bad words. She just laughed. Not at the situation, but because for some reason my co-workers think it is really funny when I get all riled up about something. I decided I wasn't comfortable sending a welcome e-mail to New Guy #2. I was afraid he would think I was offering to help him with his "sexual healing." (Marvin Gaye is now ruined for me. So is White Snake, which has nothing to do with this story, though it does have to do with the male anatomy, which I guess is the tie-in). So when I got home, I called my AO so he could send the welcome e-mail to NG #2, which was the point of my call and which we finally got to in a very circular fashion. He answered the phone "Hey, I learned something today" (gotta love caller ID), so it really is his fault I didn't start out the conversation by getting to the point. In all fairness, at least 90% of our conversations take a very long route to get to the point, if by the end of the route we still remember what the original point even was.

Forty eight minutes later, which felt more like 15, we hung up having made the decision he would e-mail the new guys. I told him I didn't care what he said to them. I trust him-I knew I didn't have to write his e-mail for him. He ultimately sent them very polite e-mails in which he told them we had to protect the safety of our members and based on their interests, he was removing them from the group. I didn't know he could do that as the AO, but I am glad he did. (I wonder what else he can do. I should probably look into that. Although, I'm not really that concerned about it because like I said, I really do trust him). I stand by his decision. This was Monday.

Yesterday, we had another new member join our group. She joined because she had just broken up with her significant other. Seriously. I know that I loosely define widow so I can include myself (kind of a given since it's my group and all), but are you kidding me? Are there really people out there who do not know that widowed means there is a death of a person involved? Like, a real death. Not just wishing they were dead. And she RSVP'd "maybe" for our next dinner. She thinks she feels bad now. Come to a dinner with a bunch of angry people whose partners can't wake up one day, realize they made a mistake and beg for forgiveness. And then see how you feel. That's what I wanted to say in my e-mail explaining why I was removing her from the group. Instead, I politely suggested she might find she relates better with a divorce support group. Sally the "football widow" better not join our group-I don't think I would be able to stop Angry Heather on that one.

Seriously. You just cannot make this stuff up. I feel this is the storm my calm was preparing me for. The absurdity is almost comical and would be if I did not have the emotional well-being of a group of vulnerable women to take into consideration. I have reported these three to meetup to see if they can determine if any of them are the same person. I simply cannot have people come into my group with ulterior motives. I am not running a dating site. I am not running a group for people looking for rebound hookups. I am running a group for people who want the understanding of others who can help them get through the most devastating time of their life.

My co-worker made the comment today that beyond the disbelief of all of this, she feels anger. She said she has seen the tremendous leaps and bounds I have made since James died, with starting this group, with joining other groups to put myself out there, with regaining some confidence in myself and she said things like this make her afraid I will take huge steps backwards-that I will lose faith in people. I told her it absolutely does slam a door for me. It does make me want to stay in the cozy and safe confines of my house. All I really know is James. What if I do put myself out there and in the end, all I get is scammed? The thought makes me not even want to try to find love again.

It is still calm outside, but the wind has picked up a little. There is a storm coming. It is supposed to be a big one. Hopefully, the only thing it brings is wind and rain.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Update on the Exploding Cup

Yesterday when I got home from work I checked my front porch to see if my friend dropped off some cookies for me. She tried a new recipe from a book I lent her and I guess the cookies are pretty good. There were no cookies on my door step, which was a bummer as it was definitely a cookie sort of day.

As I was heating up my dinner, it occurred to me that I should have received my replacement cup. That was not out there either. Since the lady who took the order made it clear she didn't really care to get my address correct, I figured there was a good chance it was delivered to our old address and toyed with the idea of going to see if they got it.

The cup was waiting on porch when I got home today. Still no cookies though. I opened the box to find another box with the words "Vic" and "mug" on it. I thought "please let that mean it was packed by Vic and not that this is a mug from the Victoria set." It's a mug from the Victoria set. I do not have the Victoria set. I have what used to be called the Milano set, but is now the Venice set.

So, tomorrow I will call again to see about getting a replacement cup for the one that exploded. I am hoping they will let me keep the Victoria cup. I am sure my mother wouldn't object to me sending her a spare cup for her set.

On the plus side, at least they sent it to the right house.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kelly Clarkson: "Already Gone"

James and I did not watch "American Idol." He wasn't really interested and I suck at watching it. I am so tone deaf that the ones that sound good to me are the ones Simon thinks are the most awful thing he has ever heard and the ones I think suck are the ones he likes. So, after about 3 episodes of this spanning various seasons, and usually the result of it being on in the background at bunco, I have given up trying to watch it.

Over time, James realized he liked the songs that were released from Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson's 2nd album-"Breakaway." I like a few of her songs as well, so we bought the CD. I like Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood better, but the country label ruined her for James. He wasn't a country music fan, but did own Diamond Rio's "Greatest Hits." It is a great album-I had a copy of it too. Actually, I may still have both copies. I have Carrie's first two CDs, and James did like a couple of her songs, but I haven't really kept up on either her or Kelly's music as I listen to the '60's and '70's station in the car and CDs and MP3s from my collection at work. James, on the other hand, listened to the Top 40 station and just told me what songs he thought I would like. It was a great arrangement. I got to know what songs to try out and download and didn't have to listen to a DJ I can't stand. For the most part, I honestly couldn't tell you what is popular or what has been released in the past (almost) 22 months.

It would appear Kelly Clarkson has a new album out. Sunday, I went to a meetup event at OMSI, which is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry science center and a really cool place. I have been hesitating to drive James' car across the river to Portland and decided a Sunday morning following Halloween would be a good time as traffic would probably be light. I have been driving the car to work so the radio was on the oldies station. For some reason, I decided to switch it to the Top 40 station. The new song by Kelly "Already Gone" was playing. When I left OMSI, the same song was on the radio. Both times, I turned to it at exactly the same spot in the song-the end of the chorus where the lyrics are "but I want you to move on, so I am already gone." Below are the lyrics. Both times I got in the car, it was the 2nd to last time she was singing the chorus, so I didn't hear the first two verses.

Kelly Clarkson: "Already Gone"

Remember all the things we wanted
Now all our memories, they're haunted
We were always meant to say good-bye
Even with our fists held high
It never would have worked out right, yeah
We were never meant for do or die
I didn't want us to burn out
I didn't come here to hurt you
Now I can't stop

I want you to know
That it doesn't matter
Where we take this road
But someone's gotta go
And I want you to know
You couldn't have loved me better
But I want you to move on
So I'm already gone

Looking at you makes it harder
But I know that you'll find another
That doesn't always make you wanna cry
It started with the perfect kiss
And then we could feel the poison set in
"Perfect" couldn't keep this love alive
You know that I love you so
I love you enough to let you go

(Here is where I tuned in both times-at the end of this chorus

You can't make it feel right
When you know that it's wrong
I'm already gone, already gone
There's no moving on
So I'm already gone
Ahhh, already gone, already gone, already gone

Ahhh, already gone, already gone, already gone

Remember all the things we wanted
Now all our memories, they're haunted
We were always meant to say good-bye

You can't make it feel right
When you know that it's wrong
I'm already gone, already gone
There's no moving on,
So I'm already gone

It was pretty weird to turn on the radio twice in his car, to a station I don't normally listen to and have the first words both times be "but I want you to move on, so I'm already gone." Now that I see the rest of the lyrics, though I can tell it is about a break up, I feel like James was telling me it's okay for me to move forward and to love again, the one thing I wish he would have been able to tell me when he was alive.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The 2nd Halloween

Yesterday was Halloween. It was the second one since James passed away. I had a hard time with it last year. I handed out candy and then went to a party dressed as Ugly Betty-had to make good use of my braces!-but my heart really wasn't in it. This year, the Halloween party was early; it was on the 17th. I went back and forth about going. I enjoyed putting together my rock star costume but that was it. I really did not enjoy the party that much. My friends and I got there around 8:30; by 10:00 I was wondering why I was even there. It was something James looked forward too. It was something I did for him. I think this year's party will be my last one. Of course, I said that last year too. I am just getting too old for the inevitable drama. I want a nice, quiet, minimal drama life.

I was fine with yesterday being Halloween until Friday when I decided I did not have enough candy and set out at lunch to get some more. I picked up a few packages at the Dollar Store and then decided since I was right there, I would run into Safeway and get a bag of chips to go with my sandwich that I no longer wanted to eat. I ended up getting a couple more bags of candy while I was there. I felt sad walking back to my car. I was reliving the conversation we had every year in which James told me I had plenty of candy and his "of course you did" response when I came home from work on Halloween and told him I got more candy. I was remembering his wisely not saying a word when I still had a bunch of candy leftover after the last kid rang the doorbell.

Last night, the first kids rang the bell at 6:18. It took me about 1/2 hour to reach 50 kids and about 50 minutes to reach 100. I keep track for two reasons. First, so I have a rough idea of how many to expect the next year (seriously, the accountant in me just does not stop). Second, it is a game for me. The goal is to have more kids than the year before. Obviously, this is not something I can control. Last year, I had 260 kids. It was my best year in this house and I wondered if James had sent a few kids my way to make me happy. I knew that would be tough to beat. This year, I had 276. And I still have a bunch of leftover candy.

It was hard to not have James upstairs playing his game while I was handing out candy. There were a couple of times where I almost shouted out my "milestones" out of habit. There a couple of times when I could hear his words: "don't worry, they will come" when 6:00 came and went without a knock on the door. "You have plenty of candy," after my supply was cut in half after the 7:00 rush. "There is still plenty of time left," after the 8:00 lull when I start fretting about not beating the prior year's number. "Anything good left?" when I turn the light off at 9:00 and still have a bowl full of candy, having saved as many Almond Joys for James as I could-candy I was sure to bring home and hide when he wasn't looking so he wouldn't eat them all ahead of time.

I sent my friend text messages all night long with my "progress." I thanked her at the end of the night for putting up with them. It was easier than last year, I will admit that. But some of the joy was definitely gone. I wonder if it will ever come back?