Sunday, February 28, 2010

Looking forward to what exactly?

On Friday, my co-worker made the comment that I seemed a little down. I told her I was just tired-not so much physically tired, but more like bored tired. She asked how I could be bored when I am the busiest person she knows. I told her maybe unfulfilled was a better word.

I have been thinking about this the last couple of days. I know I am not the only one to struggle with wondering what their purpose in life is. But in addition to that, I am wondering what I am looking forward to in life. I don't have kids. I don't get to see them learn new things. I don't get to look forward to watching them graduate from high school and college. I don't get to look forward to seeing them get their first jobs. I don't get to look forward to the day they tell me they are getting married or they are expecting their first child. I don't get to look forward to one day spoiling my grandkids and traveling with my husband after we are retired.

My kids are dogs. Their lives are already half over. I get to look forward to losing them long before I'm ready and having to decide when it's time to end their suffering-alone. A decision James was supposed to be here to help with. This is certainly not something I am looking forward to. The tears are falling just thinking about it.

I get to look forward to going out and doing things with the Meetup group and then coming home to an empty house that is much too big for just one person. I get to look forward to watching others around me in the group pair off. I get to look forward to crossing potential dates off the list when I find out they aren't interested. Who can blame them for not wanting to date a 36-year-old widow when there's all these perky 20- and early-30-somethings running around? At a recent event, a guy my age said he's looking for a 25-year-old and won't go over 32. Men my age aren't looking for women my age. Men my father's age are and I'm sorry, but eeww! I had a father. I don't want or need another one.

I can pick up new hobbies; I can abandon old ones. I can go out every night of the week and twice on Sundays. But it isn't enough. I just want to feel like I have something to look forward to. That there's something waiting for me other than this. I want my life to feel full again. Yes, I am having fun getting out and doing things with the group, but I need more.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


James' family lives in California. Most of his friends live here and my family is scattered across the country. When he died it was up to me to make the funeral arrangements. His mother is not in the best of health (which may be the understatement of the month) and cannot fly nor should she endure long road trips. Obviously, she needed to be at her son's funeral. Having the funeral in California, however, meant the majority of his friends would not get their chance to say good-bye. Ultimately I decided to hold two services: one in California and one here. Because his brother was stationed in Iraq at the time, the California service had to be planned around the Air Force bringing him home. It worked out so that funeral was first. I know I got up and said something; I couldn't tell you what I said if my life depended on it. It was completely on the fly.

For the funeral here, I felt I needed to give James a properly eulogy. I was told I didn't have to be the one to do it, but for myself, I needed to do it. I needed to say good-bye to James and I needed to say good-bye for James. Two years ago today, I delivered these words to my family and friends-our friends, his friends and my friends who came to offer their support to me:

"Thank you all for being here today. I know that two weeks ago, this was certainly the last thing we all thought we would be doing today. James touched so many lives wherever he went. Unfortunately, when someone dies so suddenly, they don't get the chance to say what was in their hearts; they don't get to say good-bye to those that mattered most to them.

Jay-as you know, I have referred to you as the mistress for about 2 years now. There were days he would talk to you more than me. And I could always tell when he was talking to you because if you weren't discussing WoW, he was laughing about something. You were one of his closest friends. He was always laughing about something you said or something your kids did. He admired and respected you and really wanted you to be his 3rd groomsman in our wedding. He was looking forward to you meeting Jason and knew our reception couldn't be anything but a good time with the three of you together. I, on the other hand, was pretty sure the three of you would end up in jail. But you probably would have turned even that into a good time.

Jason- you were so much more than his best friend. You were a brother to him. You were his best man. Until I found out you weren't the same age, I was convinced you were separated at birth. I don't know two other people who could have such meaningful conversations about such random topics as you did. I know a lot of his best times were spent with you and I am not really sure how there are places you two were never banned from. I was concerned he wasn't happy when me moved back from Arizona-he assured me he was and a lot of that was because he loved that he got to hang out with you again. He loved you so much.

I can picture James standing wherever he is looking around and saying "well, this is certainly less than ideal." And I have to agree it certainly is that. But I can honestly say that while he did not die on his terms-he planned to live until he was 80-he lived life on his terms. I hope that you can find some comfort, as I have, in knowing that with the type of heart attack he had, he did not suffer; did not feel pain in his last moments.

James loved life. He loved to get into his car and drive, he loved to sing and read. He loved to watch his beloved Steelers. He was developing a real passion for photography, yet hated to have his own picture taken. He loved to laugh and could find humor in almost any situation. He greatly enjoyed World of Warcraft. I don't know that is was so much the game he loved or the opportunity it gave him to stay connected to his friends from Arizona. He was fiercely loyal and protective of those he loved the most and would do anything for them in a heartbeat. James was one of the most patient people I have ever met. There were times that I just wanted him to get riled up too, but over time, he taught me to be a more patient person. He had a way of bringing out the best in people.

When James decided he wanted something, he went for it but not before thoroughly researching all his options. We researched dog breeds for 6 months before deciding that cocker spaniels would be the best fit for us, and he really loved our boys. When he decided to trade in his Eclipse, he test drove 17 cars. In one weekend. Some of them, he never seriously considered buying. He just drove them because he could.

James was by far the best thing to ever happen in my life. It did not take long for me to realize I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. For seven years, he told me that he never planned to get married, so no one was more surprised than I when he proposed. When he did, he asked if I would consider marrying him, so I wasn't sure if he was really asking or if I was just supposed to think about it. I could not wait to be his wife; it was the one thing I wanted more than anything. He was such a loving an accepting man. I am fortunate to have had 8 wonderful years with him.

We have all heard that the good die young. In this case, it is certainly true. James was one of a kind-he was the absolute best."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Two women, two dreams, one night

Saturday morning, I got a text from my friend wanting to know if I had fun the night before at bunco with the Meetup group. I replied that I did. She texted back that she'd had a dream she wanted to tell me about. I replied I had had a dream with her in it and it was weird by how lifelike it seemed. It was one of those that didn't feel like a dream.

We have been playing phone tag and our schedules were out of sync this weekend so I didn't get a chance to talk to her until today. I hadn't really thought anything of it-we have and share weird dreams all the time. But they usually aren't on the same night and about the same thing.

She started by telling me that before her best friend C met her husband M, my friend had a dream in which M appeared. Neither of them had met M, but my friend just knew that is who C was supposed to be with. She described him to C, and when C and M met, he was exactly like my friend had pictured him in her dream, right down to the clothes he was wearing.

She told me that in the dream she had between Friday night and Saturday morning, she was standing outside her house to see me off because I was leaving. I had to get somewhere and was in a hurry and was focusing on that. It wasn't somewhere bad-I just needed to be somewhere. She said I started to leave and a guy was standing by my car on the driver side near the back of my car but I was so focused I didn't see him (it's sad I am so unobservant that it manifests itself in other people's dreams). But she saw him and knew that was who I was supposed to be with. Saturday morning, she remembered in clear detail; but now she doesn't, other than he had wavy brown hair, was pale and had "weird" shaped eyes. (And no, it wasn't Edward Cullen. I asked).

Meanwhile, on the same night, I had a dream that I was at a Meetup event and was getting ready to leave because I had another event to get to and if I waited any longer to leave, I was going to be late for it. My friend came up and told me not to leave. I told her I had to-I had another event to get to. She isn't in the group so I didn't even know she was there, and was mildly confused as to why she was even there. She said she thought I should stay. I told her I had somewhere else I needed to be. She said that she had talked to Meetup Guy and he liked me. I told her he was interested in someone else-I heard him say he was. She said he told her he only said that because he was caught off-guard by the person asking if he liked the other girl and said he was because he knew the person asking was friends with the other girl. My friend told me he was really interested in me and I shouldn't leave because he was trying to figure out how to ask me out.

And then I woke up. As I said my friend and I have weird dreams all the time-these were normal dreams; the weirdness is in her and I dreaming basically the same thing on the same night.

I am so tempted to have her look at the profiles for all the guys in my Meetup groups to see if she recognizes anyone. But I won't. I will let time tell if there is something to this or if it was just a coincidence.


In December, I met a guy at one of the Meetup events with the fun group. It was one of the first events I had gone to and the second largest I had been to in terms of how many people were there. I knew the group had "official photographers," so I decided to take my camera with me, even though I wasn't one of them, knowing it would be easier to hide behind the camera than actually talk to all the people I didn't know-which was about 99% of the group.

It was Meetup Guy's first event with the group. We talked briefly-he came over to stand next to me to watch a couple of the other members of the group play shuffleboard. I had taken a picture of him earlier which on the small screen of my camera looked like it was going to be a good one and I asked if he was okay with me posting it to the website. It was my first time with the camera and I didn't want to upset anyone by posting pictures of them without their permission (I have since gotten over that now that I am an official photographer-but I do review the pictures first and don't post anything I wouldn't want posted if I was in the picture). It did turn out to be a nice picture and as I look through my pictures from that night, he is actually in several of them. Actually, he tends to appear quite often in the pictures of events we have both attended.

He said something while we were talking that intrigued me: he said he had broken up with his girlfriend a little over a month ago and that he had spent the holidays with his in-laws. This caught my attention because the only single people I know my age who speak of in-laws in the present tense are widowed. But how do you ask someone you just met if they are widowed? There are other possibilities as well: he could have been married and is still close with her family, or just refers to the ex-girlfriend's family as the in-laws. Maybe they didn't tell the family until after the holidays. Who knows? All I know is I was intrigued and curious and still am.

I thought he was cute but I also thought he was much younger than he is. I didn't see him at another event until recently-OMSI After Dark, I believe it was, and then our paths only crossed a few times as we were hanging out with other people (and yet he is the subject of most of my pictures-there were a lot of people there and I was only trying to get shots of those I was 100% sure were with the group). One of the gals I ended up hanging out with took my camera to take a couple pictures of me, and he commented on one of them it was nice to see me in front of the camera for a change, which I thought was really nice. When the group went roller skating, he made the comment that I was early when he saw me (on my RSVP, I said I was going to be 1/2 hour late, but it ended up being the day from Hell and the perk of that was I was able to get there on time) and he was the only one from our group to come over and make sure I was okay after I fell. He's a nice guy and have I mentioned I think he's cute?

But then he RSVP'd for a couple of events and made a couple of comments that led me to believe he was a little too interested in beer for my taste-not to mention another girl in the group. Being the daughter of an alcoholic, I have a skewed perception of who is and isn't an alcoholic. Basically, I pretty much think everyone who drinks beer is one. So my interest was short-lived.

We were at an event Friday night: bunco, followed by an after party at a sports bar. That was definitely a fun night in which I convinced Meetup Guy to go stand next to a police motorcycle like he was planning to steal it because I thought that would be a fun picture (it didn't take a whole lot to convince him) and admitted to another girl in the group I thought he was cute. (Welcome to high school, folks). I also found out he's a dog person, likes to read, and has a degree in history. And he really doesn't drink that much-certainly not to the extent I had pictured in my head. He's funny. And he's still cute-he has a great smile. And I'm intrigued again. And I'm pretty sure he is interested in another girl-who wasn't there but whom someone else in the group was trying to set him up with. (Sigh).

High school wasn't a lot of fun the first time and really hasn't be much fun so far the second time around either.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Meetup or Meetbook?

I am the first to admit I hate change. I don't like anything to rock the boat or disrupt my routine. But I also begrudgingly admit change is inevitable and there are times when it turns out to be a good thing. But other times, it simply doesn't make sense.

I organize a group through for young widows and widowers. And, as I have mentioned several times, am an active member in another group. (A big part of the reason why I haven't blogged much lately is that I have been too busy with the "fun" group).

Every member of Meetup has their own homepage they see when they log into the site. A few months ago, they added a live activity feed to our homepages, similar to Facebook. This was done to promote the groups so we can see how active they are. So, when I log in, I get to see who RSVP'd yes or maybe to an event (but not no-for some reason, that doesn't represent a member's activity in the group), who changed their RSVP to an event (including changes to no), who posted photos to the site for one of the events and who commented on them, and who joined the group (but not who left as again, that is not an indicator of how active the group is).

I pretty much ignore that. I don't really care if a bunch of people I have yet to meet RSVP'd for an event today that isn't happening until the end of next month. By the time the event rolls around, half of them are probably going to change their RSVP anyway. If I want to know who's going to be at an event I am attending, I go to the details for that event and look at the RSVP list. (Although I do admit the activity feed is a handy way to stalk other members of the group without having to go to their profiles to see what events they are attending, which would be really convenient if I was a stalker). I pretty much just use my homepage to access the group homepages for the groups I am in or to pull up the calendar to see what I have RSVP'd for or what new events have been posted since the last time I checked that I might want to attend. While I was not initially a fan of the activity feed being added, I have gotten used to it being there.

Now the homepages for the groups are being changed and as organizers (who pay for their groups), we have no say over the change. Not only do I hate the new look, I hate that they are refusing to listen to their customers. That they are saying "we know what is best for your groups-trust us." How does a group of people in NY who have never met me and probably couldn't pick me out of a lineup know what is best for the group I have been organizing (successfully, according to their standards) since July 2008?

But beyond being angry that they aren't listening is the change itself. Currently, the layout of the group homepage is such that the next event is listed in the middle of the page. Below that in a column on the left is a list of several upcoming events and how many members are signed up for each event. (The "fun" group is currently showing 7 upcoming events between this evening and Thursday-slow week for the group!). To the right of that is a list of the most recent past events and how many people attended them. This gives members-both potential and existing-a great snapshot of how active the group is. Along the right side of the page is a column showing who joined the group and who posted pictures of an event.

With the new layout, member activity takes up the majority of the center of the screen. The focal point will now be who joined the group, (but not who left, since again that isn't a factor in how successful a group is), who RSVP'd "yes" or "maybe" to an event, who changed their RSVP to an event, who posted pictures, who commented on pictures AND greetings members leave for each other, which currently the entire group does not see. You only see that if you go to someone's profile, provided that member chose to make that information public. So, now members will see the same activity on the group homepage as they see on their own homepage when they log in. At least organizers can turn this feature off on the group homepage. If we do, however, we will have a huge blank spot in the middle of the screen.

Events will now be off to the right side and much smaller. There will be one featured event, which may or may not be the next event and only up to 5 upcoming events will be listed. The calendar feature is now hidden under a button that it does not make sense to click on to find it. 98% of organizers who have weighed in hate it. The Beta test group members who have chimed in have reported that if they indicated they didn't like it, they were given instructions on how to leave the test group. This is a change that quite simply doesn't make sense: the point of Meetup is to have a place where people can go to find other people with similar interests and MEET UP with them. The point is not supposed to be Dick told Jane he thought she looked pretty last night and he hopes to see her again soon. (Sad thing is, Dick is probably not even going to know the whole group is going to see that when he posts it). Or that Jane changed her RSVP to "no" to a bunch of events because Dick RSVP'd "yes" to them and she thinks he's creepy.

The new format looks as close to Facebook as Meetup could make it without actually becoming Facebook. The only real difference is Meetup organizers have to pay for their groups and Facebook groups are free. I am wondering why I should leave my group on Meetup when it comes up for renewal.

The really sad thing about this is that all the majority of the organizers who have spoken up want is the option to choose between the two layouts, which we can currently do-but only for the next two weeks until the change becomes mandatory (although they are now back-tracking a little on that timeline). For a company that needs its customers to survive, you would think that would be an easy request with which to comply.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Internal Identity Struggle

When James died, I lost a huge part of who I was. For half of my adult life, I had been half of James and Heather. I no longer knew who I was as just Heather; I didn't know how to be just Heather.

Two years later and I still don't. I don't know how to be carefree and single-I didn't really know how to do that the first time around either. In some ways, I see myself slipping back into the person I was before I met James and that doesn't make me happy.

I am falling back into being an overly insecure woman, although I don't doubt my every move this time-just a fair percentage of them. I now know I am a good partner, but I highly doubt I am ever going to get the chance to be one again. Who is going to want an average looking 36-year-old widow with abandonment issues? I feel myself slipping back into the all too familiar role of being everyone's friend: the girl that's only good enough to hang out with until the woman they marry comes along. It's a role I had for far too long and one that always plays out with me being told how wonderful I am as I am being shown the door.

I am the responsible, dependable, loyal one. I know these are all great traits to have, but lately they have been bringing me down. I don't want to be the responsible, dependable, loyal one anymore. For once in my life, I want to know what it feels like to be one of the cool kids. I want to be part of the "in" crowd-not just stand on the sidelines and watch them. I want people to think I'm fun. I don't want to be called on just to plan the party-I want to be invited to it. While the meetup group I have joined is great and I am enjoying it, I am starting to see the cool kids emerge and I am not one of them.

This has been festering for awhile and is now affecting my work. I have always had a strong work ethic and lately I can't bring myself to care. I have been slacking off a lot lately and last week it all came to a head. Even still, I don't know how to snap out of it.

I had things that I knew needed to be done but I didn't prioritize the way I should have and I wasted too much time on projects with low priority and just goofing off. Around 2:30 Wednesday afternoon, my boss told me I had to have something done first thing Thursday morning. I told him I had to leave at 4:00 (my usual quitting time). He said he didn't care as long as I got everything done by the time he got in the next morning (failing to mention he had a dentist appointment and would be late).

I knew I couldn't get it done and still leave on time. I e-mailed Volunteer Guy to let him know there was a 50/50 chance I would be there for my volunteer shift. He replied it was no big deal-he had it covered. I felt bad for leaving them in the lurch, but around 3:30 the volunteer coordinator e-mailed me to let me know she had tried to send me an e-mail Tuesday to let me know one of their corporate sponsors was sending in volunteers and because another lady and I had gone above and beyond with helping at their fundraiser the prior week, they decided to give us the week off and have the corporate sponsor volunteers fill our shifts. I never got the message.

I don't want to be the responsible, dependable, loyal (boring) one anymore, but as soon as I did something irresponsible and felt I left my favorite organization in the lurch and let my boss down, I was devastated. That's not me: at my core, I truly am the person I am really starting to hate. I sat there and worked through my tears until 6:00. In the process, I realized my favorite organization doesn't really need me at all. They survived just fine for several years without me. They would survive just fine if I never stepped foot in there again.

I think that is the hardest thing about this for me: nobody needs me anymore and I don't know how to not be needed. That's why I can't snap out of this: what's the point?

I feel so lost right now. I don't want to be me anymore; but being me is really all I know. And I need for somebody to need me to right my universe. What happens if no one ever needs me again?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hearts and flowers and all that crap

I can't imagine any day being a good day for your partner to die. But with the anniversary of James' death being on 2/6, Valentine's Day just feels like an extra slap in the face. The last thing I want to see are all the hearts, flowers, balloons and boxes of chocolate I can't comfort myself with thanks to the grill.

I have been mopey and having my own pity party about today for the last week. I had love and now I don't and might never have it again. I miss having a valentine. Not because of the commercialism of it all-we didn't really do anything to celebrate this holiday. I miss the partnership-I miss my best friend.

I did fairly good today, treating it like any other Sunday. It was nice to just lounge around with the 4-legged loves of my life and catch up on my shows. Laundry is done and I even cooked myself a nice dinner (love the crock pot! I really should use it more). But around 3:30, I could feel myself slipping and feeling sorry for myself again. It just seems so hopeless that I will meet someone who won't be freaked out that my last partner died. And even if I did, I probably wouldn't realize it anyway. I keep mistaking everyday niceness for interest after all.

I decided to call my widower friend. He recently had surgery and I felt bad that I had only talked to him once to see how he was doing. Plus, although he and his wife didn't really celebrate Valentine's Day either, I figured he would be thinking about her and might be feeling down too.

An hour and a half later, we hung up. I love having a friend that understands what I am going through and that I feel I can talk to about anything. At one point, I was howling with laughter. (We can't seem to have a conversation without making each other laugh). Maybe next year I will have someone to give me heart-shaped balloons and flowers, maybe I won't. But on this Valentine's Day, talking and laughing with my dear friend was the best gift of all.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dancing Queen? Not so much.

The song playing was "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" by The Police. She was at the bar getting a drink when he walked in and spotted her. She looked over and caught his eye. He smiled, glad to have found someone in the group he was there to meet. She smiled back, glad to see someone from the group she recognized as well and glad to see him in particular. Though she would never admit it, he was the reason she decided to go to the dance at the last minute when she could have just as easily stayed home. Now she just had to figure out how to stay close and dance the night away with him without looking obvious...

That's how it would have gone if I ruled the universe and it would have ended well. The song playing was "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" and I was getting a drink. Two of them actually-cranberry juice and water. And cute Meetup Guy was supposed to be there, but if he was, I never saw him. We are a hard group to miss and he's met several of us more than once so he knew who to look for. I was a little disappointed he never showed up but I still had fun, which was really the point of my going in the first place.

I am not a dancer. I have no sense of rhythm but for once I didn't let that stop me from going out and dancing the night away. It was 80's night at the Crystal Ballroom. You can't go wrong with 80's music and seeing all the music videos from my youth was such a fun trip down memory lane. This group I belong to states it is about inclusion and everyone is there to have fun so I had plenty of people to dance with-namely my buddy who is in his 60's and who recently (unknowingly) told me just what I needed to hear: that I am one of the fun ones. He was also sweet enough to walk me to my car at the end of the night so I wouldn't have to brave the scary parking garage alone. And then there was a newcomer to the group who is a lot closer to my age and who is not hard to look at.

The co-founder of the group was hard to watch. His energy and dancing style reminded me so much of James that it about knocked my breath away. I didn't want to watch him, yet I couldn't take my eyes off him either. But he left early. Last year at this time, I think it would have been I that left early because I wouldn't have been able to handle that without breaking down.

The night reminded me of my high school dances except there were a lot more people, no curfew and alcohol wasn't available for purchase at those dances. (Though I wouldn't be surprised if it was available). I was watching the college kids (they weren't from our group) having a great time together and realized that if I had given birth at 15, one of them could have been my child. That was a very disturbing and creepy thought. Though it could have been funny too-me going out for a night on the town, hoping to connect with a cute boy. On the other side of town, my college-aged daughter wants to blow off steam and she and her friends decide to go dancing because the cute boy from her math class and his friends are going to be there...(I'm not really sure why she doesn't live at home; I'm going to go with her living on campus for the full college experience. I'm still trying to get over the shock that I could conceivably have a 21-year-old).

Throughout the night, I noticed a couple from our group dancing and having a great time together. I have seen him at events before but they have been larger events and I haven't really met him. I met her at a movie event, which was a small gathering and she is really nice. As the night wore on, I realized they were together. I asked her at one point if they were a couple before or if they met through the group. She said that they met through the group-that neither of them were looking but he is absolutely perfect for her and she has never been happier (there is a picture of her on the website taken last night and she looks absolutely radiant). That gave me hope. Maybe MH #2 is someone I will meet through this group. Maybe I already have and just don't know it. Yet.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Interesting-although I'm not really sure why.

I was about halfway through my blog post on Saturday and crying my eyes out when my mother-in-law called to see how I was doing. During the course of our conversation, she told me for the second time in as many weeks that it was time for me to start living my life again-that her son would not want me to heavily grieve for him for the rest of my life. He would want me to live my life and be happy again. I love her for recognizing and encouraging this. I can't imagine that is easy for her to do.

After I finished my entry, I decided I had two choices: I could sit around the house and cry all day or I could go out and remind myself that life goes on. I felt like I should sit around and mourn-like that is what I was expected to do but though I felt guilty for doing so, I decided to get out of the house.

I started by going to my godson's soccer game. I thought it would be good to practice my action shots. They didn't turn out as well as I would have liked but I got a few good ones. Not of my godson, unfortunately, but I will have plenty of chances for that. We won the game 2-0 despite the ref's every effort to give the game to the opposing team. Apparently, he did not get the memo that referees are supposed to be impartial. Pretty much every foul was against us regardless of who was at fault (my godson was fouled for getting elbowed-that's how ridiculous it was).

After the game, I headed across the river for a pottery painting event with the meetup group. I have now been to several events with the girl that organized it and I really like her. She is really nice and so welcoming to everyone. I am looking forward to (and a little afraid to) see how my bowl turned out!

The interesting part came after I left. I was in a weird parking lot and was planning to turn right out of it. The parking lot has spots in front of it as well and I couldn't tell what the driver a couple of spots down was doing and I didn't have very good visibility to turn right. It was only slightly better to turn left but I decided to do that instead. Turns out that was what I needed to do to begin with as that was much closer to the freeway. I pulled up to the stop sign behind a car with the license plate "Psalm 24." My first thought was "Yea, as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," which of course is from Psalm 23. My next thought was "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want" which of course is also from Psalm 23. I decided to look it up when I got home. Many years ago, Mom gave me a Bible that has a listing of verses to read every day for a year, finishing the entire Bible on 12/31. I set out to do this but unfortunately, this is one of those Bibles that is very hard to understand so I didn't get very far. I looked it up online and Psalm 24 states that the earth and everything in it is the Lord's. I just picked up James' Bible and turned it to Job, where I found a piece of paper with the title "Where to find comfort and encouragement in the Psalms. This is the first time I have ever opened his Bible. Maybe this isn't about the verse-maybe I was supposed to find this piece of paper. Or maybe I was supposed to find the marker in his Bible is on 1 Corinthians 13 and the following verses are highlighted:

(v 4-8) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
(v 11) When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
(v 13) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

It was raining as I drove home-typical for February in Portland. I was driving a bit under the speed limit due to the rain and was thinking about Volunteer Guy and how I was an idiot to let myself believe I could possibly have a chance with him and how I was glad I found out he is either back with or trying to reconcile with his ex before I completely embarrassed myself by asking if he'd like to get together sometime, like I was working myself up to do. A Jeep pulled in front of me. My mind grasped that it had a personalized plate but registered the right half (STL) first. "STL," I thought. "Okay. St. Louis." Then it registered the left half was DNT. Don't Settle. Okay. Psalm 24. Don't Settle. The Jeep then changed lanes again, pulling in behind a truck with a plate that read Wild 4 u.

Psalm 24, Don't Settle, Wild 4 U. It is said our angels send us messages while we are driving because whether we admit it or not, we tend to zone out while driving. I feel like there is a message here but I just am not getting what it is. Several months ago, I was told that before I met MH #2, there would be a sign but I wouldn't realize it was a sign (typical) so now I am always wondering "is this my sign?" When are my angels going to learn I need a clearly spelled out billboard? Neon, of course, so I don't miss it. This is bugging me because I know I am supposed to be getting something here-I can feel it with absolute certainty-but I just can't connect the dots.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Two Years

February 6, 2008 started out like any other Wednesday with James and I going through our routines of getting ready for work. With neither of us being morning people, conversation was minimal and there were only a few minutes in which we were both up and moving around.

The day was pretty uneventful for the most part. We both went to work like normal. I came home like normal and got ready to spend some time on the NordicTrack, like normal. The commute wasn't normal for James. There had been an accident on the Glenn Jackson bridge earlier in the day, and as happens when there is an accident on one of the bridges, traffic was a mess. He decided to pull off the freeway and find a place to hangout for awhile until traffic cleared up.

I told him that my boss had told me that if you registered Independent, you couldn't vote in the primary. James had been thinking about changing his party affiliation from Republican and didn't know if he would be able to vote in the primary if he did.

While we talked, I was trying to fast-forward my tape to the right spot so I could watch "General Hospital" while I exercised. He told me he thought he would be home around 7:30. I told him I wouldn't be here when he got home pausing after I said it because I realized I had fast-forwarded the tape too far.

"That's just temporary, right?" I thought that was cute-I was the one who was always insecure about him leaving, not the other way around.

"Of course it is," I told him. "The Family History Center closes at 9:00." I was going to review some microfilms I had ordered with birth records of the branch of my family I refer to as "the bunnies," as that ancestor and his wives averaged about one kid a year for close to 20 years.

"I thought you were telling me you were sick of this going out shit and you were leaving," he said. He rarely went out after work-only if traffic was bad or he was meeting his friend who stood him up more often than not.

I laughed and told him that would be the dogs and I wouldn't be here when he got home. We talked for a minute or two more and hung up. That was the last time I ever heard his voice. I recorded our outgoing voicemail message and his cell phone message was the generic one that comes with the phone. God, what I wouldn't give to hear his voice right now.

Just before I left for the History Center, I gave him a call to let him know I was leaving. He didn't answer, which I thought was odd, but I also thought he could be somewhere loud and didn't hear his phone ring. I told him there was something else I needed to tell him but couldn't remember. I hung up only to call him right back to tell him I remembered that I was going to tell him I had checked KATU's traffic cameras and it was still pretty messed up so he should stay in Portland a bit longer. In looking at his cell phone log, I am certain he got my messages not long before he died.

At 7:23, my phone rang. The caller ID said it was James. I thought it was weird he was calling me at the Family History Center. Even though it isn't one, I tend to think of it like a library. I answered it "Hi Honey."

The voice on the other end wasn't James. It was a strange man who said the 6 words I will probably never forget: "Does your husband drive a BMW?" The connection was bad. He had to repeat himself a few times during the ensuing conversation.

I was told that James had been in an accident on the Glenn Jackson Bridge near Government Island. It appeared he had a seizure and was unconscious. He had crossed 3 lanes of traffic and hit two other cars; the other drivers were okay. They were taking him to Southwest Medical Center. The caller asked if I knew where that was. I said I did and asked who he was. He said he was just someone who had seen the accident and found James' phone in the console and called ICE.

I don't know why, but I immediately called the wife of James' best friend. I told her that I needed to get ahold of her husband because James had been in an accident and I didn't have his number. She said she would call him for me and said she was near the hospital and would meet me there.

The volunteer at the Family History Center told me she would put my film back for me and to just go. I told her I didn't know if they would tell me anything because we were just engaged-we weren't family. She said it worked in "While You Were Sleeping," which happens to be one of my favorite movies. I said I would just tell them I was his wife. I remember thinking "Oh God. I just lied in a church."

I had the presence of mind to stop at home and get the prescription James was taking for acid reflux beause I knew they were going to ask. I don't know how I got to the hospital in one piece. Everyone was driving so slow. On my way, a little voice told me I was too late-he was gone.

My friend was waiting when I got there. Her husband was stuck in traffic-not knowing it was the accident James caused that was preventing him from getting to the hospital. I said I was going to be sick. She led me to the water fountain. I didn't know at the time she was there when they brought James in. She already knew it was bad.

They came and took us to the little room. With my limited hospital experience, I didn't know this was a bad thing. I just thought it was great I didn't have to sit in the ER with all the sick people. The ER doc came in and happily told me James had been down for 40 minutes. I looked at my friend and said "that's too long.' By the time I saw him, it had been almost 50 minutes. I grabbed his hand and told him if he was still there, he needed to come back to me and he needed to do it RIGHT NOW. His hand was already cold.

They were still doing CPR. I was led out of the room and I think had to give permission for them to stop giving CPR. I know I felt guilty about that for quite some time-that even though I knew his brain had been without oxygen for too long, I gave up too soon.

The chaplain did last rites at my request. I remember asking if he was a real priest and apologizing because I kept swearing. I called my brother first. Then I called his cousin so she could go tell his mother. It wasn't news to be delivered over the phone. I remember leaving a trail of warming blankets between the room James was in and the bad news room. I remember being left alone with James and saying to him "if you really didn't want to get married, you just shouldn't have asked." I remember asking if I had to take off my ring. Apparently, I asked pretty much everyone that-which I don't remember. I remember wanting to yank the breathing tube out of his mouth. And I remember asking if I could take off his watch. I don't know why, but it was very important that I have that. I remember peeking to see if he was completely naked-and feeling violated that he was. Those "parts" were for my viewing pleasure-not the free world's! I remember I kept kissing his forehead over and over. I remember he was already starting to turn purple. I remember not wanting to leave but knowing I had to. My friend drove me home around 10:00. I remember getting home and calling my boss to tell him I wouldn't be in the next day.

Two years. I didn't even think I would survive two days. But here I am still standing. I miss him so much. I miss our life and I miss the woman I used to be. I miss being in love and I miss someone being in love with me. I hate this life. Two years. It feels like a lifetime ago and like yesterday. I feel the same sickness this morning that I felt then. Two years. 731 days. Wow. I will make it through today. I will make it through tomorrow as well. I can do this. At least I think I can.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Girl (and boy) vs. the car battery

There are pros and cons to owning two vehicles. The biggest pro is that if there is something wrong with one, you have a spare. Sometimes it makes more sense to take one vehicle over the other. For example, I would rather take the dogs to the vet in the car with cloth seats than the one with leather. My post-surgery friends prefer I chauffeur them around in the car that doesn't hurt as much when I hit the bumps. And one has seat warmers which is really nice to have when it is cold out.

The cons are mostly financially. Upkeep on two cars can be expensive and my insurance would be about half of what it is now if I was only insuring one car (on the other hand, I do get a multi-car discount). It also is a major con to have two cars that need repairs at the same time resulting in two cars that may or may not be drivable. This is also not a good way to start a Monday. (Having a pokey wire cutting up the inside of your lip isn't a good way to start a Monday either, especially when the wire broke on Saturday night and you can't see the orthodontist until Wednesday).

Last week, after having a moment in which I had cross words for James thanks to having to deal with a family matter he should be here to deal with, a little yellow warning light came on when I tried to start the BMW. It was a steering wheel with a lock next to it. I thought it meant the steering wheel was locked (logical assumption), turned the steering wheel and got the car to start. It did it a couple of times the next day as well so I looked it up in the owner's manual and learned it means the electric steering wheel lock is jammed. To fix it, just turn the wheel. After those incidents, it didn't do it again for a couple of days and then started again. Sunday, it briefly turned red-twice. Red warning lights in the car are bad. In this case, it means you can no longer start the car. So yesterday, I made an appointment to take it in before it permanently turned red leaving me stranded somewhere. The service manager told me he had never heard of someone getting stranded because of this. I came really close to telling him there is a first time for everything.

The service manager wasn't sure he could rustle up a loaner car for me with such short notice but I wasn't too concerned. After all, I have a spare car. I knew the car needed a battery, so I decided I would take care of that after work in case I didn't get a loaner when I dropped off the BMW this morning (I did. It's a 2008 530i. Yep, I'm driving a $50k (minimum) car. It's a VERY nice car. James would really like it). I decided to take the BMW home, get the Lancer and take it to the auto part store (which ranked right up there with the hardware store as the most boring place on the planet when I was a child) and see if they would change the battery for me. My co-worker looked the battery up for me so I knew which one I needed and he called ahead so I knew they had one in stock (I have great co-workers).

When I got home however, the Lancer wouldn't start. She tried, but just couldn't do it. Luckily, the BMW was being cooperative yesterday so I took it to go get the battery. After buying it, I called in an order for some Chinese food. While I was waiting for my food, I texted my brother that I was thinking about swapping out the battery in the Lancer. A minute later he called. It's good to know if I ever really need to talk to my brother all I have to do is threaten to work on the car. I didn't check the caller ID before answering and answered with a questioning "hello?"

"Step away from the toolbox."

"I'm not near the toolbox. I'm at the Chinese restaurant getting dinner." My brother was audibly relieved to hear this.

He wanted to know when I was planning to change the battery. I told him I didn't know, but I bought one and I was at least going to eat dinner first. He said to send him a picture of the battery when I was going to do it and to call him and he would talk me through it. I told him it was a group 35 battery, proud of myself for knowing this. Apparently that doesn't really mean anything because there can be multiple ways to hook up the terminals, blah blah (I hope she gave me more than one fortune cookie), blah.

After eating my dinner and watching "Desperate Housewives," I decided to tackle the car. I sent pictures to my brother and got him on the phone.

It is actually really easy to change a car battery, however, the most mechanical thing I had ever done in my life was check the oil and tire pressure. My brother talked me through taking off the hooky thingy that holds the battery in place, which of the screws to loosen to remove the postive terminal and came up with suggestions when I couldn't get the negative side loose. He listened patiently to my litany of "colorful 4-letter mechanic terms" as he called them on my Facebook page. He was also very patient as I tried to describe my tools to him ("The wrench doesn't have a number on it. It has a letter." "I don't know what size it is-it's the size that doesn't fit." "I have plenty of sockets but can't find the thingy they go on." There was a point in my life when I knew that was a ratchet. "Can't I just spray it with WD-40?").

I had to hang up and call him back a few times as I needed two hands at times. The nut holding the negative terminal wire in place just wouldn't budge, but finally gave when I got to the point of wanting to give up and sell the car for parts so I wouldn't have to ask my co-worker to come fix it for me when I had gotten so close on my own.

I got the new battery in place (I cannot believe how heavy those suckers are) and screwed everything back in place. I was encouraged when I plugged in the positive terminal and the lights came on (ooh-lights. Lights! That means power!). Then I thought I should probably turn the lights off until I finished tightening everything. I was a little spooked by the sparks and was afraid something bad would happen if I left the lights on.

After installing the new battery, I was very hesitant to start the car. What if it exploded? Even worse, what if it didn't start? I turned the key and she fired right up. There was fist pumping. Then there was happy dancing in the driveway as I called my brother back (again), who didn't answer. I left him a message asking if he could hear the car-that I had done it and the car didn't explode. And then I started to cry.

Suddenly, I was so overwhelmed. It may not be a big deal and the simplest car repair to do (other than changing the windshield wipers, which I have done several times) but I have always been afraid to do anything with the car or anything electrical. I have never trusted myself that I could do it.

I was composed when my brother called me back, but barely. He told me he was proud of me and that I surprised him, first with doing the Polar Bear Plunge, with doing my own home repairs and now tackling the car. I thanked him for having faith in me that I could do it and he told me he's always had faith in me. And the tears came again. I told him I was just really overwhelmed because I had never even tried to do anything mechanical in my life. I was so proud of myself but so overwhelmed. He asked if they were tears of joy. I said mostly.

But after I got off the phone and was walking upstairs to go to bed, I glanced at James' picture on the mantle and all I could think was "Oh Honey. If only you could see me now."