Valentine. Schmalentine.

broken-heart-1175724_1280Once upon a time, the phrase ‘single Awareness Day’ seemed a pretty cool gotcha. When Valentines Day becomes a neon sign to solos that screams “Nope, not you”, re-framing the holiday doesn’t feel like that bad an idea. Depending on your frame of mind, this celebration of love can seem sensational, saccharine, or just plain sad.  This holiday of hearts can be a real kicker when you’re single. Valentine’s Day could use a slight makeover.

People exchange nearly 150 million Valentine’s Day cards a year, making heart day second only to Christmas in card-sending popularity. Legend has it that  Valentine was a martyred saint, which might have something to do with why the holiday seems especially sucky for a widow. It’s said the tradition of love greetings came began when the day’s namesake signed a note to a young girl he pined for ‘from your Valentine’. Ever since, kings, friends and lovers have exchanged tokens of affection. I’m quite sure, though, all those loving notes cost significantly less than $5.00 a pop ready-made.

Like everything else, Valentine’s Day was once a simpler — and cheaper time. I can still remember those tacky school mailboxes we glued together with bits of felt and wrapping paper to stuff cheery class cards in. Those were the days. We painstakingly wrote, what seemed like a million little cards to every classmate; then waited nervously for our own return windfall.

The love drama starts early. Continue reading

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Count Your Blessings

Praise the lord

Each one of us have been dealt an iffy hand in this life. Often more than one. Sometimes we get a straight flush; others force us to cash in the chips. (I don’t play cards so I’m winging it here) In the game of life, it sucks to lose but when you stack up all your cards, you might be relieved to take back your own.

There will be times that being thankful is a stretch. When you’re in that lowest of low places, gratitude is a foreign word. It’s easy to be thankful for stuff that makes us happy, makes us feel good. Being grateful for more complicated things is a bit more challenging.

The struggle ends, when gratitude begins. Neale Donald Walsh

Before you think I have this gratitude thing nailed down, I don’t. There are days I rant with the best of them. There are nights when pity parties reign. My writing is often just as much a reminder and inspiration to me — as to anyone else. That being said, in a nanosecond I can still write a list of 10 things I’m grateful. They would probably have a lot in common with your own list – family, friends, health, a home come easily to mind. These days, there’s a world in turmoil beyond our small periphery.

There are reminders everywhere that so much of this world cannot take safety or stability for granted. In many places outside our safe bubbles,  there are no nearby megastores packed with an overwhelming variety of food, clothing and things we don’t even really need. There’s no Uber; no HBO. It’s hard to be immersed in gratitude in the face of poverty, terrorism, war and loss of life, either of our loved one or of other people’s loved ones around the world. Yet, an attitude of gratitude is pretty global and somehow exists in the midst of the worst of human experiences. Continue reading

An Accident . . . of Fate

MyCarRingI don’t know who she was. I don’t know her name, age or where she was going that sunny Saturday noon. But a few nights ago I was told that she, an unsuspecting passenger in the car that hit mine that Saturday — died. I had wondered, in the days since, if she and the driver, not much older than I, were alright given the force of the crash. The truth did not set me free, if indeed I had needed it. Instead, her death hit hard and I grieved for a woman I never knew, who was merely a bit player in a sad, now deadly scenario.

I should be used to life’s wayward swings, its errant pendulum. How else could I explain the crazy things that happen in mine and everyone’s life? Could there another explanation for why, leaving my husband for just an hour, I came home to find him dead of an embolism? Was it his crazy luck of the draw or mine; God’s ‘plan’ or the universe blinking? Whichever way we toss the cards, we’ll never get to hold a full house for long. Even if we get a straight flush in our grasp, none of us hold on to it forever.

Accidents don’t come with a bell around its neck.

When I envision that fateful day, just 3 weeks ago, I wonder what might have changed the trajectory of each of our fates. Maybe I could have browsed longer for gifts or took another route home. The mom driving the car behind me, could have taken the kids that usually sat in the empty car seats instead of likely leaving them with her husband so she could run some quick errands. And the car barreling toward both of us? What put them on that road, in the wrong lane and speeding without slowing down. Were they going to visit friends, grandchildren, even an early movie? All I know is that something went terribly wrong that noon hour and a woman is dead because of it. The driver? I have to think a spirit is broken, and a heart is heavier than the weight of all three of the cars.

Just one moment can change everything. A momentary lapse in judgment or ability can happen and, in a blink of an eye, something irrevocable happens. That kind of realization can cause a mighty kick in the gut.

Message received. Continue reading

It’s all about the PANCAKES

amaranthCrepes_mainAs a pancake flipper, my husband crushed it. His pancakes were legendary and looking back, I should have eaten more, lots more.  But my tempestuous stomach competed with concern about my waistline to keep a lid on my appetite for these light as air suckers. Though I hadn’t eaten a lot of pancakes since my kids left home, when they were small I made more than my share of super healthy fat ol’ pancakes. Mine had apples, oats and wheat germ packed in but I never got any complaints. Of course, mine were all they knew.

Enter the pancake king.

From the decadent iHOP variety to stacks of homegrown hotcakes with the mom-forbidden syrup, (pancake syrup is only maple FLAVORED!) pancakes are always a go-to for kids. And the same kids who inhaled pancakes themselves, passed their love of the circular bites of goodness to their own munchkins. When my husband came on the scene, they discovered quickly that his specialty pancakes were like no other. Even I was crazy for them, but why not? These light as air pancakes were the crepe variety – delicate, delicious and often studded with blueberries.

Hungry yet?

Even nights when the exhausted work warrior trudged through the door, if grandkids were there and they asked for pancakes — they got pancakes. He’d drop his briefcase, and head to the kitchen, yanking out the griddle, eggs and spatula as he went to work. Before the first pancake was lightly browned, the kids were at the table begging for more. And crepe-like pancakes are labor intensive! The poor guy barely had time to breathe before grandpa duties got him by the apron strings — and he loved every minute of it. If grandkids asked, the answer was always yes. Continue reading

Truly. Madly. Deeply.

 

valentines-day-heart-facebook-timeline-coverMr. Hearts and Flowers – boy, was that guy smooth. I was reminded of just how cool he was as I opened my Valentine storage box last week. Stuffed with silly stuffed animals and sparkly ‘I Love You’s”, the box was chock full of never-again memories. Last year was the first Valentine’s Day without my funny, sweet husband. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that even the idea of popping the lid to that box was more than I could handle.

This year I thought maybe the house could use some Valentine décor. Why you ask? I have no idea. I don’t feel one bit romantic, and I’m not wired for a Valentine’s Day pity party so being a touch masochistic is the only reason I can think of. Why else would I decorate for a holiday that’s clearly missing the one person who gave it true meaning for me? The grandkids – of course! Hey, who loves freaky but super cute stuffed monkeys, bobbleheads and a candy-heart carrying Minnie Mouse more? Continue reading

Turning Over a New Leaf (reluctantly)

dsc_0093“Autumn is the year’s last, loveliest smile”    William Cullen Bryant

My lone maple tree in the front yard is doing its thing. As all of nature, it meekly obeys the laws of the season. With branches exposed, leaves going, going, gone, I can easily picture my grandboys climbing upwards with the helpful boost of their grandpa, while my heart was in my throat. It’s the same tree I laughingly watched, many springs ago, as my sweet neighbor deftly dug up my perfectly placed impatiens, replanting them in her own garden. (To be fair, she did think they were planted by community landscapers; thus fair game)

I know my proud tree will soon become a snow laden skeleton and spring buds won’t emerge until another season of bloom. But right now, its leaves are dying a Technicolor death. Others will grow and follow in another year, another season, but these particular leaves, who’ve shaded the grandsons throwing Frisbies – will be gone forever.

Like those we love, like we ourselves – to everything there is a season. The season our husbands, our wives, our mothers, fathers or siblings shared with us has been swept away along with the stunning foliage that was theirs alone. To us it’s never the right time or season for leaf loss. We don’t care that they become merely crinkled and aged shadows of their neon green selves. We don’t care that they’ve reached the end of their season with nowhere to go but the ether. We just want them – there. When the tree is no longer lush, barely able to still shade and shelter, when fall’s brutal winds remove the leaves and bare sad, naked branches, we want to hold on to the season. We want to grasp spring buds and  fall’s kaleidescope tightly, thinking we can save them from morphing into winter’s stark silouettes. Ha!  Just like all of life, autumn . . . leaves. Continue reading

Keeping It…REAL

pakiet.na-zdrowie.3Newsflash – No matter how any of us try to be perfect – that’s not happening. Neither people – or marriages are born to be perfect. Sure, we may WANT perfect, the ideal — but  REAL is what we get.

Marriage is rarely a Hallmark movie or 24/7 euphoria. Instead, authentic marriage means sacrifice, issues, chores, schedules, love, irritation, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, anger, affection (not always in that order). It’s also idiocyncrasies, snoring, worries, richer and poorer. When critical illness and its side effects enters the mix, now that really transforms the playing field. One partner undergoes endless procedures/surgeries, diminished quality of life, anger, pain and fear. The other juggles worry, research, is the keeper of the medical records, and caretaker extraordinaire. That was our  marriage; that was our REAL.

I’ve poured my heart out these past months, writing about deep grief, and the missing of a husband I loved beyond words. It came to me recently, that the painting was incomplete. It was in black and white with pieces missing. While stark pen and ink art has always been my forte, when it comes to portraying a real picture of real marriage, black and white doesn’t cut it.  Grief outlined only in high contrast is pretty flawed and does a disservice to the flavors and colorations a real marriage holds. Continue reading