1500


An illustration by W. W. Denslow from The Wond...

An illustration by W. W. Denslow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, also known as The Wizard of Oz, a 1900 children’s novel by L. Frank Baum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You probably didn’t notice but my last post made it 1500 even, which is a lot of writing. Like a book’s worth easy. And I was a bit startled when WordPress announced it to me because I haven’t been paying all that much attention.

Not like in the beginning of blogging when I counted everything. Page views. Blog visits. Number of posts.

Now, it’s just … oh yeah? 1500. Cool. That only took 6 and a half years – ish.

What’s more amazing to me is that after all this time, I still bother to blog at all.

But I can’t quite seem to walk completely away from the keyboard where blogging is concerned. Personal exposition has always been my favorite form of writing. It’s about as exhibitionist as I get and this in spite of my being a Sagittarius and all.

The widow dating stuff is probably the most popular if my search stats are to be believed.

If someone had told me back in my early single girl days at university that one day people would be reading my dating advice, I wouldn’t have known what to say. I was the hands down princess of the wallflower set. I had virtually no idea of how to get anyone to notice me, ask me out or how to go about initiating and maintaining a relationship. Seriously, hopeless on the romantic front and utterly clueless about relationships summed me up well into my thirties.

I wouldn’t even say that I was all that good at marriage the first time around.

So, the dating stuff, which pulls people in daily, is a bit of a shocking surprise.

Though I prefer writing about current events and politics, these are less of a draw. Understandable as I am not mainstream and neither buy nor sell the Wizard of Oz version of politics. I think that looking behind the curtain and seeing the Wizard for who he/she actually is works better in the long run than blissfully buying into whatever the current hope and change fantasy is. Most people wouldn’t agree, but it doesn’t keep me from reminding them that Emperor’s are rarely as clothed as they appear.

I still write about myself, which is amazing. And people read those posts. Which is equally astounding. And somewhat scary because I know some of these people in real life. I try not to think about that.

Originally, the blog was random, whiny and a bit about my annoyance with having been widowed. It was never really about grieving. Probably because I was nearly done with that by the time I started blogging.

Then, the blog centered on dating and remarriage. But that has a shelf life too.

Though I still write about Rob and I, we are old married folk in practice now if not in boots on the ground years. Perhaps we should count in dog years?

I have never been a mommy-blogger and I still find the writing from your uterus point of view repellant. I bred once. I have children. I mommy. I don’t think any of this defines me as a writer or is enthralling enough to do much of. Even my brief stint at a mommy blog was more a genre experiment than anything else.

So? Will the blogging continue?

Oh, I imagine so. I am not totally over it though I think that blogging as a writing form is at one of its lowest points, having been saturated to the point where everyone thought they could blog because they didn’t realize that it was about being able to write as much as it was about being self-absorbed. The narcissists eventually quit and the writers remain.

1500. It’s kind of inspiring.

Dating While Widowed: When Dating Goes “Wrong”


The Dating Game

The Dating Game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An interesting search term on dating gone wrong turned up this morning and as so many of the search terms seem to query in that direction, I thought it might be a good one to address.

What does it mean when dating “goes wrong”?

In general terms, it probably alludes to the fact that more often than not, we don’t get what we want out of the experience. For whatever reason, two people are left frustrated and hurt and no longer together.

This is not a widow thing.

I know that widowed are schooled by the various grief outlets to believe that anything that gets in the way of a new relationship is related to grief in some way, but this is an over-generalization. If a person takes the time to look back at pre-marriage dating or even conducts a brief tour of the internet via googling “dating issues”, he/she would find that things going wrong is fairly common in the dating world and widowhood has hardly cornered an exclusive market as a reason why.

Usually, when relationships develop anything from hiccups to major breakdowns, the culprit is a difference of unspoken expectations and a difficulty or unwillingness to engage in direct communication about them.

I have said it before – often – that when venturing back into the singles scene, it’s better to have thought about why and what you expect from it and be ready to articulate that to those you date upfront. This way the likelihood of beginning a relationship with someone who is unsuitable is smaller.

Of course, this is not how dating happens. Dating and relationships in our modern culture tend to be stumbled upon via chance and hook-ups by people who haven’t really fleshed out their own motives for getting involved with another person.

From there, they lurch from one step to the next in a state of giddy inattention to details – good and bad – until one or both realize that the direction isn’t where they envisioned themselves heading. And then? Things have gone wrong.

There are no rules for dating again. There aren’t really formal rules in general for most of what passes for coupling in our modern age, but there are some things that are best thought about and really considered before jumping back in the game.

Why do I want to date?

What are my expectations of dating and of anyone who I might date?

What am I bringing to the table for someone else?

How will dating impact my life today? 10 weeks from now? 10 months? 10 years?

Am I a casual or serious dater?

Do I want to marry again? Have a committed relationship? Just hook up?

Am I able to date and not expect those I date to play the role of my therapist?

Can I set boundaries with my kids? Family? Friends? where my life as an adult is concerned?

Do I understand that dating can be emotionally unsettling and can stir up my feelings of loss and that I will have to really handle that myself?

And that’s just to name a few.

I don’t think most people really think about what they want before they begin to date again and I think that it is only by trying to date that you really begin to clarify your reasons and refine your methods. But, I don’t think that avoiding dating until you “feel better” or are “over the loss of your late spouse” are particularly helpful either because neither of those things are ever going to happen. There is no such thing as closure. There is just acceptance of reality and deciding to move on.

Which brings it down to this really. Moving on is a choice you eventually are ready to make. Dating is sometimes part of this but not always. There are no guarantees when you move on or date that life will suddenly be wonderful again. Wonderful is subjective and getting there takes time and personal effort. Magical solutions are no more real than unicorns.

Dating sometimes goes wrong. When it does, it will either work out with time, effort and communication; or it won’t and the relationship will end.

You may or may not meet your next great love right out of the box.

I entered the dating world again at about 6 months out. I met a lot of men. Some were nice but uninteresting. Some were neither nice nor interesting, A few were douchebags. And then I met Rob. We put time and effort into getting to know each other and deciding there was a basis for dating, commitment, engagement and marriage.

Rob met me right out of the box. Pretty much like he met his late wife. My husband has always been a pretty darn lucky man in that respect.

There is nothing wrong with you if dating goes wrong. It is not a sign from the heavens that it was too soon or that you are destined to be that sad lonely old widow in the nursing home weeping over photos of a long dead spouse.

It just means that you and this person weren’t suited. That happens. Walk it off. Consider what you might do differently the next time and when you are ready, try again. Or take a break. Or rethink the whole idea and give up on it.

This is your life. You only get this one once.

Bank’s Closed


English: UBS Investment Bank's Offices at 1285...

UBS Investment Bank’s Offices at 1285 Avenue of the Americas in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is no reward for being responsible, spending within your means, and generally putting off self-gratification until you can afford it. Pretty much all this will gain you is never-ending expectations of “lending” money to your relations who aren’t good at any of those things.

When my late husband was ill, his employer fired him. This douchebag, through an actually illegal move, halved our income in one fell swoop. I spent the next three and a half years just barely making ends meet. If it hadn’t been for my wonderful beyond words and generous to a fault Auntie, I am fairly certain I would have lost my house at the least and maybe my job at the most. She, more than anyone else, stepped up when it mattered.

Because of Auntie’s example, I try, whenever possible, to help others in dire financial straits. Last year this time, I had poured money down the hole known as my older nephew, N1 and I was still bailing out my brother, CB, from the fallout of his well-intentioned but foolish attempt to put N1 on his adult feet.

Fast forward. CB managed to right himself with a lot of assistance from me and our mother and worked steadily and profitably through last spring, summer and into the fall. However, he is a path of least resistance guy when it comes to his ex and his oldest daughter. When he has money, they hit him up non-stop for any and everything. Consequently, he doesn’t have money left to put in savings for the winter months when – because he is a contractor – work isn’t plentiful.

At Christmas, the emails started. “Can you call me?’

This only means one thing. He needs money and Mom is not forking it over. CB has come to rely on me to talk Mom into funding him.

And it is funding him. He never pays anything back even though he always begins the request for money with “I’ll pay you back.”

But they all do that.

There is no truer adage than this “don’t lend money you unless you can afford to never see it again” because it is the rare person indeed who pays back a personal loan – family probably being the most notorious deadbeats.

I never give money to my family expecting to ever see it again. Even if you have a formal agreement, written up and signed by all parties, the first time a loan repayment conflicts with some expensive desire you will hear “I’ll pay you next month for sure, ok?”

And then maybe they do or not but the precedent is set and wants get fulfilled more than loan repayments and pretty soon, the person stops paying the money back at all.

CB has legitimate money issues. I feel for the dilemma he has with his ex and his daughter though if it were me, I would have told my nearly 17-year-old to get up off her butt and find a job before I bought her a car she couldn’t afford to keep up anyway. So I gave him the money but with the stern proviso not to hit on me again because the bank is closed.

Already, Rob and I have had to resign ourselves to not being able to buy a new house in a better locale, trade in our fast falling apart truck for a new one and give up completely on the idea of taking a holiday from this long ass winter because of financial responsibilities that we’ve taken on to help out family.

On the one hand, I accept this but on the other I am not as sanguine. And there are several reasons for this.

First, I rarely shop for myself. I see things that I actually could use or even need to replace things that are worn and I defer because I am my father’s daughter. He drove home to all of us kids, though it seems to have only stuck completely with me and maybe DNOS, that you buy things when budget permits – regardless.

Second, I look around my home. We’ve been renovating since Dee and I arrived. In fact, Rob was renovating years prior to even knowing me. Six years nearly and we don’t have steps to the back door. Took them out in the summer of 2007 and the cement blocks are still there. There is no floor in the living or dining room. Because winter came early, we didn’t get the shed built, so that lumber is stacked and taking up room in the garage, making it difficult to work on the plethora of automobiles cluttering up our landscape – some of them aren’t even ours.

The plan originally was to have had the house finished and sold by now. But life in the form of family in need has intervened and slowed progress to the point that now we are stuck. We just will have to finish up and gut it out.

“We could end up having to retire here, you know,” I told Rob.

“I refuse to think about that,” he replied.

But it could easily be our fate. Dreams of an acreage somewhere or even a house in town, which would be a million times more convenient, could easily elude us because of the stops and starts that eat up time and cash flow.

Third, one of the vehicles has developed what is probably a major issue. It’s the one we wanted to trade in and can’t because we’ve taken on Edie’s car payments now that she is back in school. We did this willingly, mind you, because we are parents and we know that she needs training in a profession if she is to go anywhere career-wise in life. But it’s a major imposition now that the truck is fubar.

I shouldn’t whine or be resentful. Life is what it is and my life is hardly the stuff of tragedy.

But I am annoyed about this.

When I was 18, I went off to college, which I put myself through and then with very little monetary assistance from my parents, made my way in the world. My mother poured more than twice as much money into N1  just last year than she has ever “lent” me as an adult. Sometimes, I question whether I should have learned my father’s lessons as well as I have. There is certainly nothing to be gained – other than the right to stand on the soapbox – from having denied one’s self and been responsible.

I will be fine without a new truck or moving. We have a beater in the back that Rob can easily get running again if worse comes to worst, and the house will be finished … someday … and maybe even emptied of all the crap that makes if seem tinier than it is. Life is not unbearable by any means.

But the bank is closed. So don’t ask. Unless you really want to hear what I might have to say.

I Got A Raise


yoga

yoga (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

I don’t think much about getting paid to teach yoga. I should. One thing my teacher training instructor hammered home to us was that “People don’t value or stick with instruction that is given to them for free”, and she was correct.

In fact, I knew this from my time spent in the public school trenches – if it was free/it was a “gimme”. Anything you simply share is eventually taken for granted by the majority of people. Especially in our North American culture where so much emphasis is placed on price and the material.

But, I haven’t ever pushed to be paid at a certain rate. When asked, I throw out a few numbers based on what I know about the market and I accept what is offered. Money is fine but karma points are often much better.

This morning I got a call from the woman who hired me to teach at the community hall. She had been thinking about my rate of pay and wondered if I was happy with it.

At a minimum wage job, it would take me about half the day to make what I receive for teaching one hour of yoga. It’s not the worst part-time job ever. It’s barely a part-time job at all given that I work on average about three hours a week minus travel time, which is also pretty negligible.

“I hadn’t thought about that,” I told her.

“Well, I have been thinking that maybe we need to raise your rate,” she said. “The yoga program has been very successful here and we wouldn’t want to lose you.”

What prompted this, I think, was less the idea of losing me and more contact with fitness instructors.

The fitness program in our little hamlet has grown from yoga to include a program for senior citizens twice a week and two weekly Zumba classes.

I don’t know what the instructors of the classes charged for their services, but I can guess and it’s probably more than what I settled for initially.

However, they came from proven backgrounds and have additional communities that they serve. I was just starting out.

So, I got a raise and didn’t even have to ask for it. How awesome is my life?

Insomnia


Insomnia spooky5.JPG

Insomnia (Photo credit: Buddha Rhubarb)

While there is no cause I can pinpoint, I had a night of interrupted by stupid insomnia again.

Doctors have been unhelpful in the extreme. They tell me it is “aging”. Drink some tea. Meditate. All quite useless.

It’s not as bad as it was prior to the discovery that I am indeed suffering from “female issues” of an aging lady variety, but sleeplessness is not an option for someone who has to be up before the dawn to put a kid on a school bus and pack a husband off to work.

Making breakfast, packing lunches and making sure that the bus does indeed arrive to convey the child has me up and conscious just long enough to make it difficult to impossible to go back to bed for a couple more hours.

This leaves me with days like today. Walking not quite dead. Feeling as though I am just coming down with or just getting over a messy bout with influenza.

Insomnia is nothing new for me. I have never been a good sleeper.

As a wee one, I gave up naps quite early, was a night owl and an early riser and generally seemed able to run on six or seven hours of shut eye without much trouble. No lounging in bed til noon as a general rule for me as a teen or young adult. And though I developed a bit of a napping habit in my early 30’s, it wasn’t a consistent one but more about the weather, which meant that on wintry or raining Sunday afternoons, you might catch me napping but otherwise – not.

Pregnancy and early motherhood were bad for sleep, but that’s true for a lot of women.

I didn’t sleep well the first year of widowhood either, but I blame that more on physical issues than emotional ones.

Now, it’s just a piss poor schedule combined with that old lady thing and the fact that we have really inconsiderate neighbors.

Age has screwed with my internal temperature regulation.

It’s too hot. Or it’s too cold. More cold than warm during the day and the opposite over night.

Who knew you could get cold flashes?

Our neighbors are a railroad siding, a guy who finds it necessary to start his truck even morning at 6 AM and leave it idle for 15 minutes – right underneath our bedroom window, and an elderly woman across the alley who, rather than listen to her equally elderly dogs shuffle and bark at her all night, puts them outside so her neighbors can listen to them shuffle and bark all night.

Once I am awake, I am awake for a solid hour or more.

In the past, I have  panicked about not getting back to sleep and this just made it take longer to get back to sleep.

Now I am more sanguine. Not happy however. I know what a loss of two hours in the middle of the night means for the next day.

It means I accomplish next to nothing and I get to feel like shit in the bargain.

Oh, I have my folk remedies. Although tea makes me pee and melatonin has to be used in moderation lest one feel just as groggy and wiped out as the insomnia leaves one.

I have a heating pad for cold flashes and muscle aches (another thing those books on “aging” don’t mention but should) and ice packs for overheating.

Mattress is newer and foam-topped. Sheets are a primo thread count.

But still, I endure days like this several times a month.

When my mother, and then Rob’s mother, were visiting recently, I noted that neither of them could sleep through the night. Mom is 80 and MIL is 71. A glimpse of my future that is bleaker than the creakiness, the sagging skin and the humpbacks.

I don’t recall my Dad having such a time sleeping, but since he went to bed by 7PM and was up by 5AM most days from about age 65 on, I don’t know that I can glean much from his example.

So much about getting older in this year I make my slow approach to 50 is depressing.

It’s not that I expect the true middle of middle age to be the new 40 or 30 or some such other nonsense, but does it have to be such a chore all the time?

The Stress Test


Scientology Stress Test with E-meter

Scientology Stress Test E-meter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s heading toward three years since Rob’s “heart event”. At three years past with no further incidences, one is considered “good to go”. Even insurance companies think you are just an average risk for your age again.

A final step before the “all clear” is a stress test. He’s had one every year since the heart attack and treatment.

I can’t say that I don’t worry about these things. Rob’s sister, LW, watched her husband drop dead in the middle of his stress test. Granted, he was a  high-strung type and heavy smoker that had been experiencing problems. A stress test was just asking the universe to do something. But, I worry just the same.

And it’s January. I had a husband die on me in January before. Some months are decidedly better than others to schedule things.

However, he went. He jogged furiously. His heart kept up. He’s once again rewarded for his indifferent regard for cardiovascular exercise and watching his weight.

Instead of sitting anxiously about the house, I went to town to walk at the fitness centre and run a couple of errands. By the time I also squeezed in side trip to Dee’s school to chat with her teacher about a ski trip form I’d apparently filled out incorrectly and arrived home, time enough had passed that if something amiss had occurred during Rob’s stress test – someone would have contacted me already. No reason, therefore, to worry further.

He wasn’t even out of breath when he called to let me know he was already on his way home.

“I’m cleared,” he said. “No reason to make any more follow-up appointments unless there is a problem.”

A relief. I prefer everyone in my life to be healthy.

My own health issues were given the “you’re just old” stamp last week after all the cancer checks came back cancer-less.

The Doctor, who is seriously chagrined that I not only am well-versed in my own anatomy but that I can and actually do read the lab requisitions he gives out, had to do a bit of explaining as to why he ordered blood work to check for ovarian cancer along with assessing my hormone levels.

I had already googled and knew why, but I loathe being treated like just one of the sheeples and now he knows better than to poke and pry without giving me a heads up.

So, we are both good. Old. And not in a fine wine so of way. But okay.

Hopefully, we can put all the worries about health to rest now and concentrate on getting the present uncluttered and start planning the future. Other fish need to be cleaned and prepared because this being old business just keeps getting older by the day. I don’t want us to waste too much of it stressing.

A Letter From the Dead Husband’s Mother


Right after the New Year, a Christmas card arrived for Dee from my late husband’s mother. Typically, all cards arrive after

 

christmas card

christmas card (Photo credit: merwing✿little dear)

 

the fact whether it be her birthday or Valentine’s. Sometimes no card arrives at all and I take that as a sign that she is once again in hospital due to one or another of her health issues, which my BFF, who is a nurse, is fairly certain will shorten the woman’s life but isn’t doing that quickly enough for me.

 

Accompanying the Christmas card was a smaller envelope addressed to me.

 

Lovely, I thought. Nothing says ‘happy new year” like a screed from Will’s mother.

 

“Please send me pictures of my granddaughter,” she wrote.

 

She never calls Dee by name. Even in the cards she sends, she rarely uses the child’s name and even more rarely does she do much more than simply sign her own.

 

Dee, from the beginning of her existence really, has only been an opportunity to claim the coveted title of “Grandmother”. In fact the first thing she said upon being told I was pregnant was to announce,

 

“Finally! Now I can buy one of those cute grandma sweatshirts.”

 

Being a grandmother has never been about Dee herself. It’s a status thing. It’s pictures to share. It was another opportunity to stake a claim on yet another territory of victim-hood because from the beginning, Will and I did nothing but tell her “no”.

 

No, you can’t name the baby.

 

No, you can’t be in the delivery room.

 

No, you can’t have the baby for overnight visits or the weekend.

 

No, we aren’t driving an hour every Sunday to your mother’s so you can play at being grandma for an audience.

 

No, we aren’t going to bring her to your house when your alcoholic sister is rampaging, and no your sister isn’t be a part of Dee’s life.

 

No, you can’t babysit because you can barely walk.

 

She was never kept from visiting, but she refused to come to our home because it was contrary to what she wanted. It also meant she was tacitly agreeing with the reason behind our avoidance of her home – that it was a hoarders’ heaven. Seriously filthy and in some areas, completely nonnegotiable. Weeks worth of dishes molding in the kitchen sink, the dishwasher and even on the breakfast bar. Mounds of fast food bags, wrappers and super-sized cups on the fireplace hearth and around the lazy boy where she nested most of the time. In the garage, the bloody vomit stains that preceded the death of her dog dried and flaked away for two years.

 

The war over Dee was not even the first or biggest battle that either Will and I fought together or I fought alone after he got sick. It was simply par for the incredibly predictable course where the woman was concerned. In fact, by the time Dee arrived on the scene, his mother would only call Will’s cellphone and not our home phone. She’d figured out that if I didn’t know about something she was up to until it was too late, I had a lesser chance of stopping her.

 

Most of her plots had to do with money. She’d perfected the art of guilting where her son was concerned and it nearly always involved a combination of throwing his dead dad at him and reminding him that she was just a poor, marginalized widow that the world was against.

 

Her biggest loss on the funding front came when I inadvertently discovered that she’d check his name on a joint checking account and was trying to use it to obtain a new line of credit.

 

The account was (I would figure out later after I’d been widowed myself) leftover from the days when she was collecting Social Security survivor’s checks. At sixteen, the money (and the account) should have been turned over to Will, but she never told him about it and there was no reason that he would have known this. She kept the account joint and continued to use the money herself. In addition, she made him get a job, pay rent and buy his own food.

 

I stamped down hard on the credit line idea and I made Will take his name off the account. If she found me hard to take before, it was war from then on.

 

Fast forward. Will died in January of 2006. She behaved atrociously the entire three months leading up to it with the highlight being the day she told the hospice Social Worker that I had physically abused Will while he was ill. This lead to the Social Worker hauling me into her office and demanding that I explain myself.

 

Of course, the accusations were fabricated from the half-truth/half-fantasy world that Will’s mother dwelt in and the Social Worker spent the rest of Will’s stay falling over herself trying to make it up to me.

 

The funeral was a nightmare.

 

And then I heard not one word from her for nearly ten months until she called one day and suggested that we both apologize to each other for our “crimes” against the other and then move on to set up visitation for her with Dee.

 

I did not quite tell her to “go to hell” though it was on the tip of my tongue. But I did set her straight on what I thought of her and that seeing Dee, supervised only, would only occur when she could convince me  that she was no longer emotionally unhealthy and that her relationship with reality and truth were more than just passing ones.

 

And then another year went by. During which time I met Rob.

 

It amuses me and astounds me by turns that I could met, fall in love with and plan to marry a man from a foreign country, quit my job, sell my house, emigrate and marry without one single member of Will’s extended family noticing. To me, this was, and still is, proof of how little Dee and I meant to any of them. Will’s mother included.

 

If not for Rob, I doubt any of them would still have the slightest idea of where we were because it was only at Rob’s urging that I contacted them.

 

Really, I wouldn’t have been moved to do it on my own.

 

And it was only my belief that Will would have wanted me to send photos of Dee that I bothered to make that small gesture at all. Will knew perfectly well that his mother was selfish, a liar and a user. He apologized for it with “she’s had a really hard life and I feel sorry for her.”

 

It was guilt and pity that motivated much of what he did for her. The bills he would pay. The cash he gave her. The odd time he would take on some household chore or task to help her out.

 

He resented being her only child because he had no one to share the burden as her physical issues rendered her more ill and increasingly disabled, and more than once, we discussed just moving to my hometown because it would put distance between us and her demands and also because he liked my family better. My family was a chance for him to have the real extended family he’d always dreamed about growing up. People who weren’t perfect but still had each others’ backs, which was very much different from the vipers’ nest of his mother’s family. The alcoholism. The dysfunction. The barrage of guilt and battering of self-esteem.

 

In a lot of ways, Will’s mother owes her continued ostracism to Will himself, who let me know from the first that he didn’t want any of our children to be too close to his mother or extended family because of the misery they’d made of his childhood.

 

The letter she sent about the pictures was nearly a grocery list.

 

“Next year I’d like a 5×7, wallets and a fridge magnet.”

 

Thanks to Facebook, I don’t print pictures anymore, so the photos of Dee’s school events, soccer games and holiday adventures stopped a while ago. All that’s left are school photos. I buy one package and divide them up between our family, friends and Will’s auntie and mother. They don’t go very far and she’s lucky I bother. I still don’t like her. I will probably never forgive her for the hell she instigated during Will’s last months when I, frankly, had no extra patience or time for her hysterics, attention-seeking or games.

 

For the time being, I haven’t told Dee the reason behind my distaste for her late father’s mother but when the time comes – I will. I have no intention of allowing Dee to meet this woman before she is old enough and armed with the truth. She will not use my daughter the way she used her own son.

 

Until then, I send photos. I resent the time and effort it requires. And I keep checking the obituaries.