Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On the Dark Side

More often than not I listen to music when I am on the computer. I leave it on random, although every now and then I pick and choose if there is a song I am in the mood to hear. Tonight is a random night. It is also a Windows Media Player night because iTunes and I are currently not playing well with each other in that I cannot successfully upgrade to the latest version (grr), which is really annoying when you have a song you specifically want to download (and a gift card). Happily, Amazon now lets you download songs so I bought it ("Just Can't Get Enough" by Depeche Mode) from them instead (take that Apple). I really wanted the song. And it was imperative I was able to hear it right that minute.

As I was typing my last post one of the songs that came on was "On the Dark Side" from the movie "Eddie and the Cruisers," which is an awesome movie. It is also one of the last movies James and I watched on Sunday Surprise and movie night before he passed away. He had never seen it and I love it so we put it on the Netflix list (let's see how many "sponsor plugs" I can get in this post-we loved to look for them in movies so it's fitting).

It turned out James did not share my high opinion of "Eddie and the Cruisers." (I still don't get that. How could you not LOVE "Eddie and the Cruisers?"). My favorite part is the very end when the scruffy man is watching the news story about the night Eddie disappeared and you just KNOW it is Eddie. (The fact they made a sequel kind of gives that away). It just gives me chills.

So the movie ends and I'm excited about how much I just love that part and James just looked at me and said "so, we could have just skipped to that part?" At least he liked the song "On the Dark Side," which in his opinion was the movie's only saving grace.

I am shaking my head and smiling at this memory.


In less than two weeks, it will be 2 years since James died. I know this, I sort of understand this and I sort of can't wrap my head around it all at the same time. I am definitely in a better place now than I was this time last year. Last year, I was curled up on my friend's couch crying that I was a fraud and I was just fooling myself and everyone else that I could actually do this because I couldn't. I'm sure that wasn't really reassuring to someone who was only about 3 1/2 months widowed at the time and who once told me one of the first things he noticed about me was my strength.

I think over the last year I have proven that I can actually do this. I still don't want to, but I can and will continue to do so. But as I get closer to the two year mark, I feel myself faltering. I miss James so much more everyday. I feel myself wanting to push others away again-out of my life so they can't hurt me by abandoning me. I don't want to need anyone, but the truth is I do. We all need someone. Not necessarily a partner but at the very least a good friend, and I truly am blessed with the friends I have. I couldn't have made it this far without them.

I see improvement. Last year I was overdoing it to avoid thinking about the 1 year anniversary of James' death. Now I am doing it because I have found a group that does a lot of fun things and I don't want to miss out on any of them. But at the last event I went to (a volunteer orientation), I found myself kind of standing on the outside of the group of people I knew and feeling like I didn't really belong as part of their group. It wasn't because of anything anyone said or did; just that desire to not belong so I can just walk away-putting up those walls and sending out that vibe so people wouldn't want to be around me. But at the same time, I felt so desperate to be with them. I am feeling torn between looking forward to my new life but still wishing for my old one.

So far, my schedule is pretty light for next week, but that could change. I have tried not to schedule anything for next Saturday just in case I need to be alone. I have bunco that night, however, which so far I am planning to attend.

It doesn't help that I am tired-mostly from doing too much and partly from not eating properly or getting enough exercise. I haven't slept well for years so that is nothing new (I have slept MUCH better since fixing the door though).

I have read the posts on the message board about what others have gone through as they approach their two year marks so I know what I am going through is normal. I just hope I don't keep faltering once I make it past the 6th.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Girl vs. the door (complete with random tidbits)

Last Tuesday evening when I got home from volunteering at the Food Bank, I discovered the latch on the sliding glass door was no longer working. That's just what every paranoid borderline insomniac needs: a door that doesn't lock. Thinking it was just stuck, I got out the WD-40 and sprayed it. That didn't help disproving in my mind the theory that WD-40 and Duct tape will fix anything.

I went to bed knowing I was not going to sleep well as I would be convinced any little sound I heard was someone breaking in. Although I guess technically it isn't really breaking in if they can waltz right in. I think it is just unlawful entry at that point. I then remembered that when I moved the magazine rack to paint the bedroom, it broke so I tried to use some of the "spokes" from that to put in the door channel to keep it from being opened. They were way too short so I got out two pieces of the Swiffer handle and used them. It wasn't perfect, but it prevented the door from being opened more than about 6 inches.

My original plan was that I would just get the piece to fix it on Wednesday. The more I thought about it, the more I realized if I ended up needing help it would be better to fix the door during the day on the weekend than go knocking on my neighbors' door late in the evening. So I decided to get a dowel that fit the channel to provide some measure of safety until the weekend.

Wednesday evening after my volunteer shift, I stopped at Lowe's to get a dowel. That seemed simple enough: 1/2" round by 24" long. I found the 1/2" dowels but they only came in 36" and 48." The gal at the desk asked if I was finding everything okay. I said yes and no-I found the right width, but not the length and asked if they could cut it for me. She asked the guy sitting with her and he said he couldn't because it was too small. (Translation: I don't want to get off my lazy ass and cut that because someone might swoop in on my turf in the 2 seconds it will take me to cut that in half. Hate to break it to ya, buddy. She didn't sound that interested in you from where I was standing). Not able to get Romeo to help me, the girl was all too eager to sell me a mitre saw which is "super easy" to use. I bought it because it was already going on 8:00, I was hungry and I didn't want to go halfway across town to see if Home Depot was more accommodating. (Note to girl: have you ever tried to saw a round object in half without someone to hold it for you? NOT super easy!)

I got the dowel cut into two almost equal length halves (without chopping off my fingers, thank you very much). The door still opened about 2 inches, but that was better: enough to set off the alarm but not enough to let the dogs out. Still, the door wasn't locked and I knew that the dowels weren't going to be enough of a safety measure for me to sleep peacefully. (That and I was excited because I sort of asked Volunteer Guy out and not only did the ground not swallow me whole, he didn't exactly say no so I have a potential future date to play Frisbee golf with him. Yea me! Even if it doesn't happen that was a pretty bold move on my part. However, now that I have thought about it I have decided that I have no reason to believe he has any interest in me and until he gives me reason to believe otherwise, I am going with the assumption he is not interested).

This morning, I finally got a chance to fix the door. I took the handle off so I could get the latch mechanism out of the door. I took all the pieces to Lowe's so I could get the right piece to repair the door. As I was driving over there, I was thinking about how much I hated having to go to the hardware store with Dad when I was a kid. Our parents divorced when my brother and I were still too young to stay home alone so if Dad had errands to run, we had to go too. The hardware store was greasy and it smelled. And to a 9-year-old girl, it was pretty much the most boring place on the planet. Today I realized as a result of those trips, I am now a 36-year-old woman who knows her way around a hardware store, which comes in quite handy when you are hell-bent to make it on your own. (Thank you, Dad).

I couldn't find what I was looking for among the locks so I found an employee. It did not take long for me to realize that hardware is not her department as she kept trying to sell me parts for a closet door despite me showing her the part I took out of the door and telling her that it was for a sliding glass patio door. Luckily, just about the time I was about to tell her I was going to a competitor, another employee came up who knew exactly what I was looking for (made easy since I was still holding it), where they were (above my eye level) and who also gave me tips on how to install it having had to do it himself. I appreciated that.

Forty-five minutes later, I was happily locking and unlocking my sliding glass door and feeling quite proud of myself for accomplishing yet another boy chore. And Volunteer Guy said I needed a handyman. Silly boy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Accident on the Bridge

The night James died, I was given a piece of paper that had the names of the paramedics and the information I needed to get a copy of the police report if I wanted or needed it. I have no idea what I did with that information; I know all I need to know about the accident that was caused as a result of James having a heart attack. The only question the police report can answer for me is where exactly it happened. The answers to my other questions can't be found on a piece of paper.

In the 23 months since it happened, I have never really given a lot of thought to the ensuing accident itself. Thankfully, the other drivers weren't hurt which is all I care about knowing. That all changed on Tuesday.

I was on my way to meet several others from the Meetup group at the Food Bank for a volunteer project. I was heading south on the bridge when I saw the emergency lights on the northbound side. It was a three car injury accident. James was heading north when he died and caused a three car accident, including his own.

Traffic was backed up for as far as I could see. Is that what it was like the night he died? Probably, as traffic was already slow due to another accident earlier that day. I imagined the frustration of the drivers stuck in the backup. And then I imagined what it had to have been like for James' best friend-to have his wife telling him he needed to get to the hospital and his not knowing it was the accident James caused that had him stuck in traffic and unable to get there.

I felt sick. So very sick. By the time I got to the Food Bank I wanted to throw up. I imagine this scene was very similar to the one the night James died-the one I never had to see but can now picture so clearly in my head.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

But why not me?

I was at a Meetup event the other night that ended up being attended only by women. As the night went on, we ended up chatting about whether or not this is a good group to meet a potential life partner. I think it has the potential for that but I was in the minority. True, most of the events are attended primarily by women and true, according to census data women over the age of 25 overwhelmingly outweigh the number of men (regardless of marital status) and true, most of the men in this group are close to 50 if not over and true, when the younger men come to the events they do have a bunch of women swarming around them like flies. But it could still happen.

So as we are discussing this the conversation turned to a member who was removed from the group for making some of the other members uncomfortable by hitting on anything that moves. Really? I have met him several times and he is never once hit on me. One of the girls said I should consider myself lucky because he's really creepy but I don't feel blessed. I feel rejected. How come I'm not good enough to be hit on too? He's certainly had the opportunity to do so. Granted I'm not interested, but it would still be nice to have someone express interest in me-to make me feel like I might be attractive to someone. I was feeling washed up before I found out about this-this certainly didn't help. Statistically, the odds are already stacked against me; what does it say if I can't even get hit on by someone who hits on everyone?

It's been almost two years since James died and other than a co-worker who invited me to dinner, which I declined for a variety of reasons, no one has even looked at me twice. And now that I am thinking about dating again, I hear my dad's words again: "What's so wrong with you that you can't attract a man?" I know it's too soon to give up hope. And I know I have a lot to offer to the right person. But it's things like this that make it hard to keep the faith.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yea for Idiot Guides!

I have a weakness for buying the little recipe books in the grocery store checkout line. I tend to pick one up if the line is long or moving slowly because I once read that if you pick up one of the magazines and thumb through it, it distracts from how long the line is or how slowly it is moving which helps keep your stress level down. As I am riffling through the books, if I see more than a couple of recipes I think I would like to try, I throw it in the cart. Do I ever actually try them? Not as often as I should to justify my continuing to buy them.

I had to make a quick trip up to the Ghetto this morning (aka Safeway) to grab a few things. I have never been to another grocery store that actually discourages grocery shopping. As usual, the only aisle that was open was the Express lane. As usual, not everyone had 15 items or less because for some odd reason some people (myself included) actually think it is a full-on grocery store and not the convenience store it tries so hard to be. As I was standing there trying not to be annoyed by the Ghetto, I glanced over the magazines and recipe books.

And I saw the book that was written for people just like me: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Finding Mr. Right." Oh yes, that went right into the cart. Along with a crock pot recipe book since I am always on the look out for those.

I am possibly about to re-enter the dating pool. I say possibly because re-entry requires the participation of a member of the opposite sex. I don't really have much control over that aspect of it. I can point to one and say "I like that one," but sadly, it's not as easy as just going to The Man Store and picking one out. And therein lies the problem. I am pretty clueless when it comes to this whole dating game thing. I'm not the most observant person in the world and I have no idea how to tell if someone likes me, short of them coming out and saying so. I mean, I can tell if people like me in general (usually)-just not if they like me as in "I like you. Will you go out with me? Check Yes or No." (I've never gotten one of those. I would love it if I did now. That would score MAJOR points). I can't tell if someone is flirting with me-that usually dawns on me after the fact. Way after. I can't tell if someone keeps calling me "H to the hizzle" and giving me hugs because he's interested or just friendly or if I just look like a lost puppy dog in need of a snappy nickname and a hug. I don't know how to read signals-I think said guy and I may be giving each other mixed signals, but I could also be so far off base I'm no longer on the field (I am noticing, however, you can use a lot of baseball references when talking about dating. That's good. I understand baseball).

I clearly need help. I don't know that the Idiot's Guide is the way to go about it-I might need the "Beyond Idiot Guide," if there is one, but at least it's a start.

Happy? Birthday to me

January 1st was the start of a new year for everyone. The 15th was the start of a new year for me.

I turned 36 on Friday. The day started out much better than last year. Last year, I was in tears before I even got out of bed. This year, I made it until about 12:30 before I really started crying. Plain and simple, I miss James. I love birthdays and I miss having someone special waiting for me to come home on mine. And I think I have some survivor's guilt. There is a part of me that feels I shouldn't get to have birthdays anymore either. Then there is the guilt of feeling like I might be ready to meet someone new. It's a bit of a catch-22. The last thing I want is to spend the rest of my life alone but allowing someone new in my life feels like a betrayal. I know James would want me to be happy though. That's what he wanted when he was alive; I can't see that changing in death. (I feel sorry for my friends when there is a viable candidate for my affections. Lord knows they have had to provide enough therapy with me just thinking about it!)

Mostly, my day was good. My co-workers spoiled me with presents. I received a ton of e-mails and well wishes on Facebook from friends. My brother sent flowers. My mom sent a couple of things to help decorate my house and a blanket she made for me-purple, of course. I spent a very nice low-key evening with one of my best friends enjoying cheesecake and Mexican food (in that order) and working on abundance boards, though I didn't get very far on mine.

I don't know what this year of being 36 holds for me. It has started off mixed, with the overwhelming outpouring of love on Friday, mixed with the sadness of missing James and the fear of being alone for the rest of my life. Yesterday, I did a volunteer project in celebration of MLK weekend. It went well, and I didn't stutter too much during my opening remarks. It helped that the library contact was kind of long-winded so I kept my part very short so we could get on with the actual project.

Last night, I went to a birthday party for the organizer of the Meetup group I have been doing a lot of activities with lately (which is where the picture was taken. It didn't take long for his hat to start making the rounds). That was a lot of fun, although I am paying for it today in that a night of dancing and a bad knee do not mix! I am starting to recognize more people from the group which is making it easier for me to attend these events. Later today, I am heading to a potluck and viewing of "Raging Bull" with this same Meetup group. There will only be 12 of us if everyone comes, so it will be a nice intimate gathering.

But I just feel like crying. I don't know why. I don't feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, just weepy. Three compliments given to me yesterday and today from two close friends and a new acquaintance have me feeling overwhelmed with how much people actually like me. Maybe I am just overly tired and hormonal. Maybe I'm coming down with something. There are a few bugs going around and I am even more emotional than normal when I don't feel good. Or maybe it's because on some level I know I am starting a new chapter in my life and I hate change. I do feel a little bit like I am about to leave something behind but don't yet know what that is. My life with James is the most likely answer. Maybe it is just fear of the unknown-that is a very scary thing for a control freak like me. I don't know what lies next, but hopefully, it's fun and exciting. I really want this to be a great year.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dear Comcast...

Dear Comcast,

I am sure you must have a really important reason for calling me; otherwise you probably wouldn't have left me messages everyday for the last several days. I would love to speak with you to clear up this obviously pressing matter, but in order for that to happen, I need you to please do one of the following:
  • Have a real person leave a message letting me know what this is regarding so I know which of the 5 options to choose when I call back the 1-866 number you are at least nice enough to repeat so I can write it down.
  • Change your automated message ever so slightly to inform me which of the aforementioned 5 options I should choose when calling you back.
  • Add a 6th menu option of "I am returning your call and have no idea which of your 5 menu options I am supposed to choose because your automated message doesn't tell me squat."
Seriously, Comcast. Help a girl out.

Thank you,


Monday, January 11, 2010

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

I have been doing really well lately. I have gone out a few times lately and actually had fun. On the 2nd, I went and saw "The Hurt Locker" with the meetup group. On the 5th, it was "North by Northwest" with the same group, although different people from the group. The 6th was bunco and it was one of the rowdiest buncos we have had in a long time. Plus I won a $15 gift card to Starbucks for having the most buncos (score!) and it is always more fun when you win. Saturday, it was another event with the meetup group-this time it was breakfast at Slappy Cakes, which is a restaurant that allows you to make your own pancakes (mine were buttermilk with chocolate chips and cranberries).

I am looking forward to some upcoming events as well: my volunteer shifts on Wednesday and Thursday, either going to a play or playing Pictionary on Friday (my birthday), a birthday party for the meetup group organizer on Saturday, a potluck on Sunday, and bingo on Monday (which I now have off-yea!). It's a lot and I will probably overdo it but there are so many fun things on the calendar it is hard to say no to any of them and I love that I am excited about these things and about life again.

But at the same time I am afraid it's just temporary. I am afraid the other shoe is going to drop and I am going to end up right back where I started. I am afraid I am going to realize this was all just a mask to get through the rough stretch of November through February. I asked one of the widowers who has been doing this longer than I have if that seemed normal and he said it did. I was really hoping to get his wife's perspective on it to see if this is something she went through as well but she wasn't feeling well and didn't come. I'll definitely have to ask my therapist about it next week. I hope it's completely normal and in the end, while I'll still have bad days, my fears are unfounded and the happiness I am feeling, though it is a different kind of happiness, is real.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


At the beginning of January 1998, I decided to stop drinking pop. I was drinking way too much of it and had my last can of Dr. Pepper on 1/4/98. That is the only resolution I have ever kept though there are times it hasn't been easy. It was hard when James would get the occasional Dr. Pepper and I could smell it. And there are times when I am at the grocery store and a bottle of Rudy Red Squirt will beckon to me. I know an occasional pop won't hurt me; mostly I resist temptation out of stubbornness.

Despite that being the only resolution I have ever kept, I still make them. (Maybe I should resolve to stop making resolutions). They always include the generic eat better and exercise more. I always resolve to stop procrastinating and do a better job of staying in touch with my friends and family. The other night while I was waiting to meet a group of people to see "North by Northwest," I decided to make a list of resolutions for this year. I decided that maybe if I looked busy, the other patrons would stop giving me the "oh, look at her all by herself" looks of pity.

I resolve to get out more and have fun. I resolve to stop creating profiles on online dating sites and stop obsessing over MH #2-whether he exists and whether or not I have already met him. Instead, I plan to enjoy a wide variety of events with the meetup groups I joined and just focus on having fun and exploring what Portland has to offer-something I was too afraid to do before I met James. As part of this, I resolve to try to start conversations with others at these events even though that scares the crap out of me. I do seem to be getting better at it though.

I resolve to conquer driving around downtown Portland without traumatizing myself or getting lost. I mentioned this to the organizer of the group the other night before the movie started and he said when the weather gets nicer he is going to organize a few walking tours of downtown and through that, we will turn me into a pro. My friend keeps telling me I need a GPS and I keep resisiting. However, if they come out with one that senses anxiety, and works when I am walking as well as driving, I may change my mind.

I resolve to cut back on swearing. Considering I have a customer and a vendor at work who royally tick me off on an almost daily basis, this will be a challenge.

I resolve to finalize James' estate, including packing up the rest of his things and selling my Lancer. While this will be so hard, I know it is something that needs to be done for me to truly be able to move forward with my life.

I resolve to read and watch more classic books and movies. Since the meetup group is starting to do both monthly, I won't really have an excuse not to do either. If I decide the group setting is not the best approach for me to achieve this goal, at least I have easy access to the top 100 lists of each (well, one of the many versions of both lists) so again, no excuse.

I resolve to actually use my gift cards instead of hoarding them. I have quite the collection and a knack for adding to it. It seems every time I use one, I get another to take its place.

On the genealogy front, I resolve to actually spend some time working on it. I resolve to fulfill 12 photo requests for Find-A-Grave. One a month is not unreasonable. I also resolve to establish the parental units of my great-grandmother, Dorothy Wentz, once and for all. (I don't know why that makes me laugh. Sometimes I just crack myself up-this woman is a royal pain who managed to not have a birth certificate and managed to avoid the census for the first 22 years of her life).

Overall, I resolve to make this be a great year in which sadness is not my most prominent emotion. Yes, there will be rough days but I think I have it in me to really start enjoying life again and to let happiness take over again.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Girl vs. the TV

Like most boys, James loved his toys. In his case, it was gadgets. He kept his cell phone upgraded. He was always on the lookout for bigger and better when it came to his computer. He had surround sound. And every time I figured out which combination of remotes I needed to watch my soap, something was purchased or upgraded that required me to have to learn a whole new system of remotes. Prior to James, I had a computer, a cable box, a VCR and no cell phone. And I was good with that. (Surprisingly, we never upgraded past the original Playstation, but I think we would possibly have a Wii if he was still alive-mainly because I want one).

The one thing James did not have when we met that he really wanted was a big screen TV. Every now and then, we would drive over to Video Only so James could "visit his TV." We would be there for hours (or so it felt to me) while he discussed the latest technology with the sales staff and decided which TV he would purchase if we were in the position to buy one. Five years after we met, we found ourselves in a position where James could finally have the TV of his dreams (translation: Yes Honey, you ARE going to have to learn a new remote if you want to watch TV). We were in Arizona by this time so we bought the TV from Ultimate Electronics. I know he wished he could have bought it from Video Only as they devoted so much time to him (and sold him his surround sound before we met and sold us a VCR and later a DVD player).

Because the gadgets were his thing, I never really paid much attention to them. If my computer stopped working, he eradicated the virus. If it was time to upgrade the cell phone, he went with me and asked all the technical questions that I found tedious. Gadget maintenance was definitely a boy chore. So a couple of months ago when I noticed an orange light on the TV control panel, my first thought was "hmm. Has that light always been there?" I know there is a little green light when the TV is on, but I couldn't remember there being an orange light-not that that means much given I am one of the least observant people on the planet.

I got out the book for the TV (being that filing is a girl chore, I knew exactly where to find it). I found out the little orange light meant the lamp was going out and needed to be replaced. "There's a lamp? " I thought. "Good to know." Apparently, it is a projection TV and needs the lamp to blah blah blah. According to the book, it's really easy to change the lamp-you can even do it yourself. I was skeptical. I know me. I can't even get the VCR hooked up without tears of frustration and a lot of swearing, yet I am expected to take apart the TV?!

I ordered the part at the end of November. It arrived on December 8th. I put it on the island in the kitchen and just ignored it. The TV was still working fine so I figured it wasn't doing any harm. Yesterday, however, I decided it might eventually damage the TV to have a bad lamp so I better change it.

I debated whether or not I really needed to unplug the TV first and ultimately decided there was probably a really good reason for step #1 to be unplug the TV. I took off the little speaker grid. Talk about dusty! I added my own step: remove dust that has built up behind speaker grid. I unscrewed the lamp cartridge panel. I unscrewed the lamp cartridge. I gently pulled on the handle. Nothing happened. I pulled harder. Nothing happened. "I can't do this," I could feel tears threatening. The screws on the lamp cartridge don't come out all the way and I hadn't unscrewed them enough. I finally got the lamp cartridge out; changed the lamp and screwed everything back into place. I plugged in the TV. I turned on the TV. Nothing happened. The timer light was flashing so I looked up what that meant. It meant the TV had just been turned off (huh?) and was cooling down and I had to wait 1 minute before I could turn it back on.

Sixty incredibly long seconds later, it stopped flashing and I pressed the power button on the remote. And there was sound. And then there was picture. And a message asking if I changed the lamp. "Why, yes I did!" I pressed "enter" on the remote per the message instructions. The message didn't go away. I realized I probably needed to press "enter" on the TV remote and not the satellite dish remote. "Do I have a remote for the TV?" (Stupid question-what don't I have a remote for? Seriously-I have 5 of them just for the downstairs entertainment center and that doesn't count the remote for the CD player which is completely separate from everything else). I found the TV remote and pressed enter. The message went away and the TV didn't blow up. All my recorded shows and TIVO "To Do" list were still there. And I did a happy dance.

No matter how small, I just love these moments that show me I can do this on my own.