Monday, February 24, 2014

Missed Opportunity

You know those “Ferrari” style soda machines that are popping up at the casual dining restaurants these days?  I love them.  You hit a button, and can choose a million different soda options.  They almost always have Coke Zero, my favorite, and I do a “suicide” combination with mostly plain coke zero, but add a little of the flavored ones, like vanilla coke zero, as well (sometimes raspberry, too, if I’m feeling frisky).

Yesterday, I went to Noodles and Company with a girlfriend for lunch, and had already filled my soda from the Ferrari machine and was fitting it with a lid and straw while the handsome man in line after me took his turn at the soda machine.  He stared at the options for a long time.  I gave him a sideways glance, and said, “So. many. choices.”

He said, “I know.  It’s like online dating.” 

I giggled.  And clammed up.  That’s all there is to this story.

I tell you that because I think that I have a reputation for a quick wit and always knowing what to say in these situations.  I didn’t.  He was totally flirting with me, but all I did was put my lid on and went back to my table.  Sometimes I don’t have the right thing to say.  And he was so cute.  Dangit.

Friday, February 21, 2014

My Poor Neglected Little Blog...

Ah, my poor neglected little blog.

I spent my whole month of January doing another major renovation at the Pink House.  It was only slightly dramatic, because how could it be my life if it wasn’t dramatic?

The project was simple enough, but as with anything I do, it snowballed.  In my house that was built in 1900, I have plaster walls.  There were a few holes in the plaster in the stairwell.  But the stairwell and the upstairs hall are connected, and between those walls and ceilings I had at least five different mismatched textures.  So, as long as I was having the plaster repaired, I might as well have the texture smoothed out as well.  And as long as we were doing it in the entryway and stairwell, I might as well do it on the whole downstairs level, since those were a mess, too.  And as long as we were doing the walls, I might as well have them scrape the popcorn ceilings and smooth that, too, right?  (Whoever decided to put popcorn ceilings in a Victorian 1900 house should be horsewhipped, but I’m sure their 1980’s brains were thinking, “Oh, our house looks so modern now!”)  And then I had someone working in my house for the entire month of January.

I had a 24 hour period where, in true Noel-the-Drama-Queen fashion, I was sure that I had exposed myself, my dog, the guy working, and anyone who would ever come to my house in the future to asbestos and we were all going to die.  I made a late-night phone call to a friend of a friend who owns an asbestos abatement company.  He totally talked me out of a tree and sent his guys over to test first thing the next morning and when he called me with the good news that my house was free of asbestos, he teased by telling me, “Good news.  You’re gonna live.”

The great thing about the guy that I had do the work on the walls is that he would let me work with him, which saved me some coin, plus I learned a lot, but it kept me super busy.  I cleaned up plaster dust, I painted, I cleaned, I painted, I cleaned up plaster dust, I shopped for light fixtures, I cleaned up plaster dust, and then I cleaned up plaster dust some more.  And now I’m done with projects for a very long time.

Thanks for not giving up on me.  I neglected all writing for the last two months, so it feels good to flex that muscle!  Love to all of you!
A quick shot of my smooth living room walls and ceiling.  I haven't put any art back up yet, I'm just enjoying the smoothness!  Plus, isn't my gray just lovely?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Wow, here we are at the end of another year. 

2013 was a year full of the duality that makes widowhood such an adventure.  It was full of a growing sense of contentment, and a serious sense of loneliness and longing.  As we pull it all to a close, I can’t say that I’m sad to see it go, but mostly it’s because I’m looking forward with hope to what’s next.

As I look back over the year, some really cool stuff happened.

I got a brand new car.  I’ve never done that before.

I took my first college course (Creative Non-fiction).  I got an A.  It was so much fun, and I think that even though it didn’t help me generate much material for my book, like I was hoping, it helped me to be a better writer, so it was definitely not a waste of time.  I loved it.

I did a major home improvement project and I lived to tell about it.  I love my new bathroom and finally got moved in to the “new” master bedroom!  My brother and dad helped me build a closet and it’s pretty amazing!  I’m getting ready to start a new project, wow, am I a glutton for punishment or what?

You know my furniture-painting obsession?  I refinished eight pieces of furniture this year.   Here’s the really cool, easy to miss, widowhood bravery piece of that story: I live alone.  Furniture is heavy.  I work out every day to make it possible to carry that stuff all by myself, and I have the strength to do it. 

This year, for the first time, I got out my old Christmas stuff.  This felt like a huge accomplishment.  The last time it was put in those boxes, Sawan and I put it in there together, and I just couldn’t bear to unwrap the stuff.  But, I felt ready this year.  I felt ready to greet my old things and face that sadness.  I had a friend come over to help, and I was surprised by how it made me feel.  I was prepared to sort things into a box of “things I’m not ready to get rid of but don’t want to see again for a long time” and instead, I hung those ornaments (like our “Just Married”) on my tree.  Sometimes I shock even myself.

The biggest changes of the year are the subtle ones that are hard to quantify.  At some point, I think that I really started to choose life this year.  At some point, the memories of Sawan became something that I enjoyed again.  It was no longer too painful to remember even the sweetness of him.  Now I can enjoy the sweetness, and the enjoyment, even though it carries the sting of his absence, is worth it.  The sadness that I feel now is the sadness of missing him, the loss of what we had and the loss of all of my dreams for our future, but it also carries with it a sense of longing for what’s to come.

And so, I say, bring it 2014.  I’m ready.

Love to all of you, thank you for reading my words, for being with me for another year.  I wish you all the best in the New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Small Talk

I think that we could use a little levity around here.

Here’s a funny story from when I took Littlest on a date last week.  We were walking up to the doors of the grocery store, where they had fresh, live trees in every size displayed out front, including cute little two foot tall ones. 

Me:   Look, they have Littlest-sized trees!
Littlest:  (walking to point at the big ones) Yeah!  And they have a Grammy size, and a Daddy size, and a Mommy size, and a Ellie size and a….(pauses to look up at me)…What’s your name again?

Littlest, with Arthur on his lap.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Noey's Song. Free Download.

The day has finally arrived!  Listen to and download Brad Corrigan's new album, Someday is Today, with "Noey's Song" on it here.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Oh, Colorado, you're breaking my heart.

I was having a typical busy Friday in December, you know, the kind when you have your sister and her family visiting from across the globe (they currently live in Sydney, Australia), and so I had hustled to get the stuff done that I needed to get done first thing so that I could enjoy every drop of time visiting with them as I could.

My big plans for the day included “dates” with two of my nephews.

I took the littlest first.  We decided to go out for a treat.  His mom had suggested Starbucks, and I love me a pumpkin spice latte, so we headed there.  On our way, though, we discussed what kind of treat he was hoping for and he told me a gluten free gingerbread lady.  I started to get nervous about the gluten free options at Starbucks.  Plus, the time had crept past the 11:00 pick up time for him, and the Starbucks that’s two blocks from mom’s house is across the street from the high school.  I waited at the light while about a million highschoolers walked casually across the street, in no hurry, not caring if their light was actually green or not.  I pulled into a parking spot, and we walked in, to find wall-to-wall people.  Several sweet highschool girls smiled at Littlest, smiled at Arthur, and complimented me on how cute they both were.  When we got close enough to the treat case to see what was inside and found no gluten free options, looked around the crowded coffee shop and found no tables, I convinced him that we should head on over to Whole Foods, a few blocks away, at Streets of Southglenn, for a better treat.   

We found delicious gluten free chocolate chip cookies, he got to pick out a special juice, I got a latte, and we had a great visit about what his favorite thing is about Sydney (boats).  He has a pretty short attention span.  I had about fifteen minutes to kill before I was meeting Ellie and Middlest for lunch and to swap boys with her.

Littlest and I walked around the Streets of Southglenn for awhile, looked at the ice skaters, stomped around in the snow, then headed to Chick-fil-a to meet up for lunch. 

A quick glance through Chick-fil-a showed that we had beaten them there, and I opted to take the three-year-old back outside to keep him occupied. 

As we walked out into the sunshine, there was a table of three girls, two with Arapahoe Highschool sweatshirts on.  I see them put down a cell phone, hands go to cover mouths.  One girl gets up and starts pacing. 

Littlest and I pass them.  He points at a firetruck that passes by us with the siren going.  Then two more police cars go by us.  I’m registering that something’s not right, but I mostly just do the same internal prayer that I always do when I see a firetruck racing down the street.  I know what it’s like to be the person that’s called for those paramedics.  I know that panic.  I think about the bad day that that person is having.

I turn back to look at the table of girls, and full panic has set in, one of the girls is still pacing but is now hysterical. 

I look down at Littlest and say, “I think those girls might be sad or hurt.  I think we should go talk to them.”  So I walked up to the table and asked, “Are you guys ok?  Can I help?”

They told me that there had just been a shooting at Arapahoe Highschool. 

Their whole lives had changed and I had watched it happen.

I stayed with them.  I kept telling the hysterical girl to take deep breaths, and rubbed her back.  I kept them talking.  They did better when they were talking.  I kept telling them that we didn’t know yet how bad it was, so let’s try not to worry until we know.  This was difficult to keep in the forefront of the mind, though, as we watched ambulance after ambulance after firetruck after firetruck after police car after police car race by.  One girl called her mom, and so I waited with them until their mom got there.   I introduced myself.  I gave them Kleenex.  We talked through where their brother would be. 

“What time is it?”
“It’s 12:30.”  I said. 
“He has first lunch.” She tells me.
“Does that mean that he’s still at lunch or is first lunch over by 12:30?”  I ask her.
“No, it’s fifth hour.” She says.
“Good.  Do you know what class he has fifth hour?”
“Um, no?”  She says, panicked.

Ok, Noel, that’s not helping anymore.  Get her to talk about something else.  So, I asked them, “Guys, this might be weird, but, I’m wondering if it would be ok if I prayed for us?”

“Yes.  Would you please?” Said the girl who didn’t know what her brother had fifth hour.

So we prayed together for a few minutes.  We moved between praying and talking, praying and talking. The reality of what had just happened began to dawn on them slowly; gradually new realizations would hit them, but mostly they kept asking the same question. 

“How did this happen?”
“Oh my gosh you guys, I’m so glad we weren’t in there.”
“How did this happen?”

Littlest, who can be a bit of a rascal, just sweetly held my hand the whole time, dialed in to the fact that these girls needed help.  Ellie and Middlest came by at some point and she took the nephews inside to get food, while I stayed with the girls.

And then their mom came.  What a beautiful hug that was.  I stayed long enough to make sure they didn’t need anything else, then went inside to join my family, and I completely fell apart.

You guys, my heart is broken.  I share the same area code with other tragedies like Columbine and Aurora, but they are not in parts of town that I spend a lot of time in.  This happened two blocks from my mom’s house.  At the highschool that my brother and sister graduated from.  It’s the school where my friends’ babysitters go.  This is my neighborhood.

I keep thinking about the girl that was shot.  Did she have first lunch?  Was she one of the girls that I encountered at Starbucks?  Is she the one that held the door for us?  Or the one that thought that Arthur and Littlest were so cute?  Was she part of the crowd that I was annoyed at that took too long at the light?

Really, I find myself meditating with the sweet girls at Chick-fil-a.  How did this happen?

Arapahoe Highschool Warriors

Friday, November 22, 2013

Noey's Song

I’ve always been the kind of person that has a song for each particular era of my life.  Play Bon Jovi’s “Always” and I’m right back in my sophomore year, slow dancing with my crush, in the sweaty high school gym.  A song is a warm, soft place to land in my memory.  It’s a comfy couch that I can go back and sit on and re-experience that season of life.

As a brand new widow, I needed a song.  I needed something to ground me, something to relate to, to know that someone had felt the way that I did, to know that I wasn’t alone. 

But I was so very alone.  No one understood.  I had no couch to sit on.  There were no widow songs.  And so, I felt the need to stand, my legs getting tired beneath me, feeling like I had to do it all on my own.

When I heard “Homesick,” by Mercy Me, it was about loss.  I could find a bit of rest in it, a bit of relief.  It’s funny, after three and a half years as a widow, I can no longer listen to the song, it sounds like “the beginning” to me.  I hear it and I am transported back to the rawness of soul that I felt.

But, that song was not specifically for widows.  I couldn’t completely relate, and so it didn’t meet all of my needs.

I found other songs along the way that helped.  I could hear the loss in the writer’s voice, could feel the weight of shared experience.  As my heart began to heal, it didn’t matter as much if all of the details of the song applied to me.  There were some people that got it, in some small way.  I was alone in my own pain, but not alone in the process of grief.  Grief is universal to the human experience, in varying degrees.  Even songs about a love lost because of a breakup began to feel helpful in some ways.  Some of those felt comfortable, like, for a moment, I could go back to their couch and find a bit of rest, feel the familiarity of the community of grievers.

One of my good friends is a musician.  Knowing that I was missing a "widow song" in the beginning, he began writing me a song almost four years ago.  Tonight the album it’s on is being released.  We worked on it a little bit together, he would ask me questions, write things down after conversations, once he made a note on the back of a paper plate. 

It was his gift to me, and to widows everywhere.  It is a place for them to go, to know they’re not alone, to know that they can be related to.  One of the verses is even full of my own words, as a fresh widow, from my own journal.  The song couldn’t be written until now, because it lacked the element of hope that was necessary to make it useful to anyone else at all.  It had to wait for me to heal to be born.  And now, it’s a gift to the world.

Come; listen to “Noey’s Song.”  Sit on my couch.  Feel the embrace and comfort of shared loss.  I’ll cover you with a chenille throw of my own pain, so that you know that you’re not alone.

(Check back for a link to the song.  I’ll post one after it’s available!)

*Don't have plans tonight?  Here's a link to buy tickets to the album release (also a benefit for Love, Light and Melody, a really great non-profit)!  7 p.m. at the Gothic!