Pick a Card

Remember that time you walked through the Hallmark section of the store and your hand automatically reached for the husband, mother or brother card? Then you caught yourself. You remember that person is no longer here and, before there’s a teary cleanup on Hallmark aisle 6, you make a quick detour from the land of schmaltzy cards.

Cleaning out my husband’s night table drawer a few months after he died, I found a Christmas, Valentine and two birthday cards – all unsigned. He had a funky habit of buying several cards for every occasion. Go figure. He gave some, saved some and some he couldn’t decide. I was just glad he wasn’t ‘that guy’ who made a blindfolded lunge for the biggest wife card from the rack, regardless of what it said. Nope, that guy’s cards were always carefully vetted, usually eerily expressing his emotions, which could span the galaxy, but always made their mark. And isn’t that what cards are SUPPOSED to do?

Years ago, romantic cards seemed to scream – nope, not for you, keep going. They’d often tick me off. In fact, I even considered creating an entire line of funky, alternative cards. Seriously, we all have at least one relationship that is MEH on a good day, so why not a card that matches? Something neutral, kind, not mean spirited but definitely not “Oh my goodness, how I love you”. Yeah, no.

Then I met my husband. One of the many best things I realized about being with him was that I could finally march into the card aisle with abandon. That’s right, I could walk right up to the lovey dovey cards, and pick one without cringing. That was no small deal, my friends. In fact, I actually looked forward to Valentine’s Day! Imagine that. I now had a reason to leave little ‘just because I love you’ notes around. And it felt more than right because I could say those three little words without choking on them.

Those who’ve experienced painful relationships, emotional and/or physical abuse, knee-capping betrayal or disappointment totally get it. They understand that just being able to be transparent in love, let alone declare it loudly, is groundbreaking. Being able to sustain it, through the grittiest, most crushing cancer moments – is a damn grateful love miracle!

I’ve seen a shift in greeting cards these days. They are more real, more edgy, less saccharine. They speak to diversity, to coping with cancer, to LGBT couples, and parenting in real life. Unfortunately, everything seems to have a price and greeting card prices today are bordering on a small mortgage. I get it. The greeting card industry is struggling to stay relevant – and solvent. Seriously though, if you need to choose between a card OR a gift, that’s just weird.

Meaning well doesn’t always mean saying it well. That’s why greeting cards are kind of like an instant “Speak for yourself, John Alden”. Hallmark moments will never change the world, but bringing a smile, assuring that you’re thought about, and being reminded that you’re loved is always a good thing.

These days, I still steer past the husband section. Bumping into lavish, loving spousal cards, when searching for one for my handsome son, can suck. It can send you to emotional places you don’t have on your itinerary that can pitch a monkey wrench in your placid errand schedule.

My widowed friends can totally relate. 

I’m relieved we’re good with holiday cards — at least for a few months. I can use a break from sidestepping cringe worthy, lovey husband cards, or those to other people we’ve lost. Okay, maybe one day I’ll get one of those moonstruck “I love you cards” again. I might even have reason to send one, and I’m pretty sure my husband would be more than okay with that. The jokester who stashed those passionate cards in the night table would say, “Just step away from the rack and move on, kiddo”.

He was such a card.

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Those Damn Little Things.

Pollyanna had a Pity Party. Just when I thought I had this grief thing down to manageable pieces, just when I thought I stuck the landing — I landed on my butt.  There was no big crisis; nothing I could say “Oh, geez, now why did THAT happen.” Nope. There was just an avalanche of little teeny things that crept up and smacked me upside the head. Was I oblivious or just naive enough to think I had grief nailed.

Boohoo.

I almost didn’t write this post. I didn’t want to burst the bouncy bubble of my usual optimistic posts but into every life some rain must fall and we have all had our share of floods. As I’ve said before, I might talk a good game but no one would accuse me of having it all together. That said, put on your slickers, kids, here we go.

Life is hardly predictable or neat. Each time we think it might be, things pop up, like a gophers in a mine field, and knock you on your keister. All the things and people that once made us so happy are the very things that can take us down when they are no longer there, simply because — they are no longer there. Sure, those sweet spirits will eventually bring only healing memories, smiles and warm, fuzzy feelings but until then, things can be iffy.

Trauma creates changes we don’t choose. Healing is about creating change we do choose.

This fall, It will be 3 years since Elvis (otherwise known as my husband) left the building. It’s hard to believe all that time has past, yet here I am, folks. Just me. And sure, I’m doing okay, or as fine as you can be after your life went off a cliff. Every person who’s ever had a rude coupling with loss gets it, boy, do they get it. After loss, you may be under construction for awhile; you might even need a few critical renovations. Still, as time goes by, tears become less copious, days become less brutally empty and even laughter sneaks back when you’re not looking. Slowly, you find a new normal but even then, there are always those days some dopey ‘little things’ pop up. They use their inside voice to say, “hey, remember how it used to be?” and then your new normal becomes a freak show. Now isn’t that special. Continue reading

Hope SPRINGS Eternal

Fiendishly fluffy bunnies. Cavity inviting chocolates. Treats in colors that don’t exist in nature. Enough cheerful Easter goodies are born each year to fill baskets to overflowing. They make it hard to remember the holiday is anything more than a Hallmark moment. But Easter is a season, a timeless, ancient season of being reborn, renewed and transformed.

The oldest Christian holiday, Easter focuses on Christ’s triumph over death while the Hebrew Passover commemorates freedom from enslavement. No matter which you celebrate, both converge in a message of hope.

“Spring is God’s way of saying – ‘one more time’.” Robert Orben

Like nature’s seasons, life, too, is indeed short. Remembering its transience makes our own, and every life around us, even more valuable. That transience of life is symbolized colorfully each spring in Japan, when the appearance of cherry blossoms signal the festival of Hanami. Like the cherry blossom, each and every life brings color to the world. When lives are lost, summer is drained of sunlight, autumn becomes colorless and winter is long and empty to the loved ones who remain behind. Eventually, the weather turns mild and the season graduates to one of hope. That’s why spring is so much more than fuzzy little chicks and bright pink peeps. It symbolizes an exodus from dark times; a delivery from despair. Pretty apt for people who grieve.

“Every flower must go through dirt first”

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Blogiversary . . . and Beyond

When I picked up my pen (uh, mouse) to begin this blog, I had no idea how long the conversation would continue. In those dark days, I had no words.  Yet, I had plenty because, well, that’s how I roll. Sometimes they made no sense, even to me. All I could do was send my soul out to the universe in kooky missives that, gratefully, you read and shared back to me. It’s been two years this month since that first blog post, and it’s only now, as I survey the emotional landscape, that I realize those words were actually breadcrumbs strewn toward the land of the living. They helped me leave behind the expectant vision of two old people rocking on a front porch that clearly would never be, and somehow steadied me on the path I now walk alone.

“The most painful state of being is remembering the future.” Kierkagard

Don’t get the idea that these last two years have been clarity-filled light bulb moments. There hasn’t been an overwhelmingly gung ho determination to race through a bucket list. Full disclosure? Most days, I’m not too sure of anything at all.  I just bluff pretty damn well. Okay, there was that time (twice to be exact) I came out on the winning end of a them vs me go-round with car dealers, especially the fight for Blueberry 2.0. And of course, there was the reluctant (what’s not to like – it was free) trip to CA, where in spite of myself, I had a good time. I even wrote a pretty damn good review for my client. Bonus. Christmases have passed, so have Easters. Valentine-less Days and birthdays without my man. But lonely I wasn’t.  Surrounded by super great adult kids, gorgeous, blooming grandkids and amazing friends in abundance, I can only be grateful.

“Life must go on; I forget just why.” Edna St. Vincent Millay Continue reading

If You Could See Me Now . . .

14064-woman-sunset-girl-arms-blue-sky-clouds-silhouette.1200w.tnWhat am I saying? Of COURSE, you can see me! An ol’ newsman who never met a story he didn’t want to write or tell? I’m quite sure I’ve been in your sights since the night you died. The question is, what do you think? You’ve been gone more than two years so I’m sure, as usual, you have plenty to say as you watch me traipsing through life each day. You knew me really well, as I knew you, but since that night you left, we’ve had way different journeys and I’m at a little disadvantage. Hanging out in the ethernet, I’m guessing you know more about what my trip looks like than I do yours.

Anyway, you may have noticed that I’ve developed a kind of (even more) offbeat way of being, of maneuvering the world on my own. In those first awful months, it was just about staying afloat, treading very dark waters until I found my rhythm. And though rhythm always jazzed us both, this tune was hardly something dance to. I could hardly envision how I would ever get through without-you life but somehow, I’m still here. When you’re dropped in water over your head, you sink or swim — and I’m swimming. (or something like it. I’m no Michael Phelps).

You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you

Here I am,  hanging out in this world and ‘adulting’, as our granddaughter would say. Like all people on the planet, I’m just doing the best I can, with what I have, if you include a personal weird spin. Have you been critiquing this reluctant reinvention? A sweet widow friend you may not have met, echoed that same thought last week, as we joke-texted one night about our packing up Christmas decorations antics. As she wistfully considered her late husband’s appreciative laughter at her fight with her own fake fir, I decided our imagining must be ‘a thing’. That said, if you, my other half, if your new career is ‘wife watch’, here are a few highlights to consider: Continue reading

Deck the Tree . . . with DIY

YesI_CanMy Christmas tree is not a family affair. It used to be when kids, pets (even hamsters and fish) filled the house, but the empty nest arrived, so did the anal graphic designer mom. Even my poor husband, who once upon a time gamely offered to assist, gave up. He realized there was a light stringing game plan that didn’t include haphazard laying on of strands. I suspect, however, he became more than happy to volunteer help from the safe distance of the couch, contentedly watching Antiques Roadshow. And I’d bet real money that he counted on his finicky wife not taking him up on his offers to help.

Back in the day, when little kids reigned in my house, when gingerbread houses were built, advent calendars were opened and elves, Santas and reindeer abounded, my tree might have been described as eclectically homey. I was less concerned about matchy-matchy and more interested in making sure the dog didn’t swipe candy canes off bottom branches. When a cat replaced the dog, wire securely anchored the tree to the wall so our artistic greenery didn’t crash in the furry alpine climber’s race to the top.

The winter I awaited my last baby was a long, freezing one, complete with a blizzard that snowed us in. My girlfriend and I, two very pregnant chicks, decided to keep our already busy selves occupied with sewing and stuffing pre-patterned patchwork ornaments. At the time, they seemed like puffy masterpieces, maybe even ‘shabby chic’. Now they only qualify as shabby. The hardy few that survived all the years since my baby became a parent herself, earned their places on discreet bottom tree branches of my tree, along with two worse-for-wear drummer boys from my childhood tree. Many ornaments have retired, not so much from age discrimination but an inability to assimilate cosmetically. In other words, they are the plaid bellbottoms of ornaments.

Ornaments with aching sentiment are a completely different story. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, the more they are loved, the more cherished they’ve become. My granddaughter, who will be married next year, made an oversized padded and lace ruffled heart ornament in kindergarten, complete with sewn little charms. Okay, now it has drifted toward the back of the tree, it will always be there and always treasured. A photo of each child and grand, in funky little frames, dot the branches, as well as their grandpa, who is and always will be, front and center. Next to his framed picture, hangs a proud silver knight, symbolic of my guy’s crazy collection. The first Christmas Eve without him, the string of lights beneath those ornaments began to blink. Not all the strings of lights, not even a few rows – just this one section. The following morning, the lights stared me down unblinkingly. If that wasn’t a mischievous sign from beyond, I don’t know what is. Continue reading