Thursday, February 4, 2016


A couple of weeks ago, Ellie (my sister) found these photos from Christmas 2008 and showed them to me.  I had never seen them before. 
Sawan and Arthur

Sawan and I with our Christmas cracker hats on

Ellie says she was trying out her new iphone and took this picture before he left for work.  It was his contact photo in her phone. 
After looking through them that night, I had a dream about Sawan, which has seriously only happened about four times (isn’t that strange?).  It was just a normal day, we were back in our old condo and he was making me dinner, which is pretty much how life always was.  His back was to me almost the whole time, and in random dream world he was making a salad but then he was trying to put it all on a pita, not in a “hey this will make a great wrap” sort of way, but just in a “this makes absolutely no sense because it’s in random dream world” way.  He put raw onions on it, which he realized too late and was annoyed about because then he knew I wouldn’t want to eat it (I hate raw onions).  And then I woke up.  I never touched him, didn’t get to tell him I loved him, how much I miss him.  It was truly disappointing.  Especially for it only being the fourth time in six years that I have had a late night rendezvous with my dead husband.

There was also this one.  Because, you know, safety first.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Intolerable Complement

2016 is starting out pretty amazing.  I’m crazy busy, but I won’t complain.  I’m loving life.

Remember that I said that I was listening to books?  I’ve been on a bit of a C.S. Lewis binge of late. 

In the last few months I’ve “read” The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, and The Problem of Pain.  I took a break in between to listen to something a bit less heady, and just finished The Problem of Pain last week.  I feel like I’m secure in the fact that I’m an intelligent woman, but when I read C.S. Lewis I feel like I know nothing, that I’m never going to get it.  Like he’s speaking the language of the gods and I am a mere mortal.  I was talking to someone about this and he told me that you have to just realize that every time you read him you’re going to get something more than you got the last time, and be patient with yourself.  So, I’m working on it.

But, reading The Problem of Pain has totally changed my life. 

I struggle with caring too much about what people think about me.  I think I’m better than I used to be, but it’s still there.  In a lot of ways I feel that people think that I must have really screwed up to be in the position that I am.  Widowed.  I have let that affect my own thoughts about myself as well.

It seems like there are multiple ways to process grief and suffering, but the way that I always go is that its all my fault.  Since the terrible thing that happened to me can’t be explained, it must be because of something that I did, or because I’m a bad person, or at any rate not good enough, and eventually, I get to, because God doesn’t love me enough. 

Part of the “messy spirituality" that I’m known for is that (as I have said before) I know intellectually that God loves me and wants what’s best for me, but if he thinks that me being widowed is best for me, then he’s kind of an asshole.  Even though I hate it, that’s  pretty much been the way I’ve been relating to him for the last six or so years.  And then I read this:

"We are, not metaphorically, but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.  Here again we come up against what I have called the 'intolerable compliment'. Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life - the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child - he will take endless trouble - and would, doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient [the ability to feel and to have subjective experiences]. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less." - C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.

Hmm.  He really loves me after all.  Talk about a paradigm shift.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

So long, 2015 (don't let the door hit'cha...)

What a crazy year 2015 was.

By seasons, it was a rough winter, followed by springtime of conflict, one of my darkest summers on record, and a fall that was beautiful but also painful in a different way.  As the year moved on toward colder weather again, I found myself loving winter in a way that I never have before.  I need the cold to seal everything up and let dormant things lie, so that there can be new life.

But, amid the dark stuff, there was light.  Here’s are some of the major happenings:

I got a Fitbit.  I got it in March, and gradually became obsessed with it. By May my crazy was full blown.  Picture me doing laps inside my house getting steps.  The neighbors see me walk by and call out, “Getting your steps?”  Pacing the floor in a quiet moment, causing my friends to say, “What are you doing?” I went from the second week of May through the beginning of September without missing my 10,000-step count goal (When you reach your goal, the Fitbit vibrates.  I call it “Party on my wrist.” It now comes with a dance, as well.).  A combination of it getting more difficult to walk outside and a three-week separation from it in November allowed me to release myself (I have a problem with letting things go once I’ve set a goal).  I still average 9K, but it’s not like the 12K I was getting in July.  Let it go, Noel.  *deep breath* But, summer 2015 will always be the Summer of the Fitbit.  All of my Denver family had one, and we would compete against each other and our Australia family.  My sister would stop by just because she was going out to get steps and she wanted company.  We would all be together and find the furthest parking spot away so that we could all increase our steps.  It was such fun. 
From a Fitbit walk this summer.  Sun setting, perfect weather, and a field full of dandelions.  I hate them in my own yard, but at the park, it was so dreamy, all I could think was, "That's a lot of wishes."

From an amazing encounter with author of the Shack, Paul Young.  
That leads to another great thing about 2015.  I began to “read” again.  Well, sort of.  You see, I used to be a big reader.  I would read one or two books a month.  When I was a kid, I actually got grounded from reading more than once.  I would be reading when I was supposed to be doing other things, like chores, or sleeping.  After Sawan died, however, I had to stop.  I couldn’t read as quickly as I had before, and my comprehension had gone down the tubes.  Reading provided only frustration where it used to bring joy, so I gave it up for awhile.  There have been a few books that I’ve struggled through in the last six years, but it was just that, a struggle.  I have a friend that is an occupational therapist that suggested I try doing two things at once, like reading and swinging, or reading on my elliptical.  That would employ both sides of my brain and therefore help me to remember.  But, I found an even better solution, using her suggestion of two things at once.  Audiobooks.  I listen while I’m getting my steps (or walking, if you want), or driving, or working in the yard, or in the tub, or doing the dishes.  It’s employing both sides of my brain but I’m still being productive.  I “read” 17 books this year.  Plus, I’m old school reading (actual books with paper and words) three more right now, but that takes me forever.

August is always a hard month for me; the majority of my "hard days" fall in August.  I really keep thinking that it’s going to get easier, but man, this one was tough.  I told my mom one day that the only thing I wanted to do was smoke and work out.  A bit counter-productive, I know, but I allowed myself some grace in the cigarette department (I technically quit November 2014) and gained some muscle at Orange Theory.

Which brings me to my very favorite thing from 2015.  Orange Theory Fitness.  Orange Theory is a HIIT workout that kicks my butt every time, but is completely enjoyable.  When I tell my friends about it, some of them say they never want to do it, and some of them have come with me.  Either way, I am addicted to the endorphins and have injured myself more than once from trying to go too often. I think it probably saved my life this summer and so I’m incredibly thankful for it.

I started a new job in September staging real estate.  I work staging on the days that I’m not doing hair.  Well, to be fair, I only worked a handful of days last fall and then things totally slowed down around the holidays, so I had plenty of time for the busy season at the salon.  A really gifted friend is training me, and I love every minute of it.  It’s totally energizing in a whole new way.

I began to use Arthur (my service dog) less and less this fall; it just felt like it was time, because I’m doing so much better than I was when I first started using him.  I just don’t need him as much as I used to.  He and I are stumbling a bit through the transition of him not having to work all the time, but still being a good boy when I need him to work.  I think he doesn’t get it, doesn’t understand why I’m leaving him.  And, I miss him.  I don’t miss all of the questions or the attention that we got, though.  Anyway, we’re getting it figured out.
Arthur with his birthday cone

freezing his paws off.  not a fan of the boots.

September in Santa Fe
My parents moved away this fall.  My dad started a new job in October, so he headed north then, and my mom came and went throughout the fall working on finding their new house and getting the old house ready to go.  They left for good right after Thanksgiving. I went up there for Christmas (BTW, spending time in the town where I went to high school and have rarely been since was surreal), so I haven’t really felt their absence until this week.  It pretty much sucks.

Sprinkle in there a few bad dates, a few good dates (but none with a permanent solution to my single-girl woes), some awesome time deepening old friendships and making new ones, another season watching the Rockies lose, and you pretty much have my year.  For the most part I feel like 2015 can suck it.  I’m not sad to see it go.

old friends. (Or friends for a long time.  We're NOT old.)
(relatively) new friends.

I’m excited to see what 2016 will bring

My dear readers, my Readership of Tens, thank you for reading my words.  Thanks for your comments and words of encouragement.  Especially you widows…we got this!  We’re in it together.  Thanks for another year.
Christmas in Montana

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

'DO NOT BE AFRAID. For unto you I bring glad tidings of great joy which shall be for ALL people.' Unto us a savior is born. With all of the hope that the season brings, I wish you a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Insult, Injury and Awesomeness

A couple of weeks ago, I had one of those days.  I posted on Facebook “Whoever coined the phrase ‘adding insult to injury’ must have had a 24 hours just like mine.”  I took it down almost immediately, when I realized that I was being one of those facebookers that I hate, that post cryptic, passive aggressive messages.  But, seriously, let me lay it out for you.

It started at Orange Theory on Wednesday.  (This is my latest obsession.  It’s seriously the best hour of my day. I absolutely love it.  It’s a super hard HIIT workout that I do five or six days a week and it’s hard on my body, but it’s so fun. I love the way I feel while I’m doing it, and after I do it, so I don’t care how hard it is.  I feel like I’m physically stronger than I’ve ever been in my entire life.)  We did a series of major core exercises with lots of reps, (woodchoppers, dumbbell Russian twists with a press in-between, a few burpees added in for good measure).  I was fine after the workout.  I felt great.

I went on with my day, which included seeing the man that I had been…what would we call it? Involved with? Seeing each other? We were I guess dating for a couple of weeks in the beginning of October.  This is a man that I’ve known since, well, I technically met him when I was in 7th grade and he was in 8th grade.  I had a major crush on him starting the summer before my sophomore year of high school, and going on into that fall.  I’ve known him a long time.  He got divorced a year after Sawan died and started asking me out pretty quickly thereafter, and I always said “no.”  It just didn’t seem like it could work.  We had changed so much in adulthood that I didn’t think that we saw eye to eye on important issues.  I never really even considered it.

But, something happened this fall that made me re-think it.  We had had several good conversations that made me think that we weren’t that different after all.  Even if we didn’t agree on issues, he at least understood where I was coming from, and didn’t think that I was stupid (for my way of thinking).

So, I let him in.  We started dating.  It was like high school, actually, in some ways, with lots of long make-out sessions.  It surprised me that I was so into him, after feeling absolutely nothing for him but friendship before.  I think I was partially seduced by the fact that things were different with him than with anyone else I’ve dated since Sawan.  He didn’t make me feel like he was doing me a favor, dating a widow.  Maybe because he’s known me for so long.  Maybe because he knew us both.  Maybe because he’s just not an asshole.    The friendship that we’ve had for so long, the shared history, made it so much fun.  It was so comfortable. 

And then, every song on the radio was about him.  I hadn’t experienced that in a long time.  He said things to me like, “I think I could love you for the rest of your life…” and I believed him.  He told me that he was attracted to smart women, but that physically I had it all, too.  I have no problem in normal situations feeling like I’m physically attractive (call me arrogant), but this felt different.  I felt attractive in a whole new way.

But, after just two weeks he was headed on a long trip overseas.  The last night I was to see him before he left on the epic adventure, I said, “Ok, I’m sorry to be such a chick about this, but, before you go, I need to know where we stand.”  And he said, basically, “I can’t make you any promises.  I can’t take care of myself right now, much less anyone else. I don’t even know if I’ll be returning to Denver long-term.” 


We turned the lights off.  And that was pretty much it.  The next day I briefly told him I was mad.  That I had given him lots of opportunities to say those same things in the last two weeks and he hadn’t.  He left with “Well, for what it’s worth, I’ve really enjoyed the last two weeks.”  Well, shit.  Me, too.  But I’m not sure I would have done it the same way had I known that two weeks would be it.  Especially because, with his connections to my family, I’ll be seeing him around for the rest of my life.

And now we’re back to Wednesday night, and my 24 hours of insult and injury. 

He had one night in town between the epic adventure overseas and another two week trip. I was so excited to see him.  I had really missed him even though, well, we had left things on such sketchy terms.  We had communicated a tiny bit while he was gone, and I had convinced myself that he had to be just scared.  He had said that this was 20 years in the making.  He couldn’t possibly be over it after only two weeks.

But, the conversation Wednesday night didn’t go well.  He basically said that he thought that it was going to be different (I think that he has this adolescent fantasy about what love is and honestly nothing real in the adult world is ever going to do it for him. I told him as much.). He never meant for me to get hurt.  He loved me but not in “that way.”  Yikes.  I’ve honestly never been the rejected party before.  It kind of sucks.

Too many beers in to drive home, I slept at his house.

When I woke up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I couldn’t stand up straight.  I had tweaked my back somehow, and I was in incredible pain (damn Orange Theory).  The next morning it was even worse, and I felt sick from too many beers and not enough (or any) dinner.  When I told him goodbye, I told him not to text me or call me.  I didn’t want him to string me along.  Then, I got in my car and drove home.

Except, on the way home, I puked in my lap.  Yep.  I was trying to convince myself that I wasn’t going to be sick, but I couldn’t hold it in.  By the time I realized that I was definitely going to be sick, no way to talk myself out of it, I had time to pull over but not to get my window down or my door open, so I just puked all over my lap.  Classy.  Isn’t it something, though, how you puke and then feel like you could climb a mountain?  I could have if it weren’t for my stupid back.

I also realized on the way home that I had left my fitbit (and later, also my favorite pair of earrings).  Seriously?  So much for no calls/no texts. 

I got home and laid on my bed, realizing there was no way I could work with my back in this condition.  I called all of my clients, then my amazing bodywork guy, who got me in that day to work on me (this is something of a miracle, considering his schedule).  I cried the whole time, from physical or emotional pain, I’m not sure which.  He thinks that with all of the Russian twists I did, I Russian twisted my vertebrae out of allignment.  Or, he said (ever the Buddhist), alternatively, pain in the back comes from relationship pain.  Feeling like you’re not supported.  Yeah. Either way.

I went home and cried the rest of the day, and watched How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. 

In spite of the fact that I’m hurting and I’m really mad, I find myself still believing the best of the man I had been seeing.  I know him.  I know that he really didn’t mean to hurt me.  I think that he’s self-centered and therefore didn’t think about the consequences for his actions, but I think he probably means it when he says “I love you.” (and that, “just not in that way,” is also accurate).  But I’ve also never been the type to hang on.  I do not need to convince anyone to love me.

When I woke up on Friday, my eyes were so swollen from crying that I looked like someone had punched me in the face.  I looked in the mirror at myself and said aloud, “F#ck. Him.  And then, as Barney (on HIMYM) would say, “Whenever I feel sad, I just stop being sad and be awesome instead.  True story.”

So, that’s the gross 24 hours and the 24 hour turn around and recovery.  The moral of the story?  Don’t date your childhood friends. Trust your gut. Don’t drink four beers and skip dinner. Don’t work out so hard at Orange Theory.  I don’t know, maybe it’s one of those. Or, maybe it’s: BE AWESOME.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Fair Warning

I was talking about my writing today, and sharing about how I had offended someone in the last post, and so I had stopped posting for a while.  Even though I had tried so hard not to hurt feelings (I wrote the paragraph in question over and over and over on Whatever), I still had done so.  I felt terrible.  It made me so sad.  But, I let that control me, manipulate me.  I let them take my voice.  No one should have that power. 

I was reminded of, and am claiming this for my own:
I will do my best to be honest (and not make myself look like a hero).  I will try (I will write and re-write paragraphs) not to hurt feelings.  I am not taking license to be snotty.  But, fair warning.  This is my story. I will tell it. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Anne Lamott lists the three essential prayers, according to her, in her book Help, Thanks, Wow.  But when I saw her speak about a year ago, she said, and I’m paraphrasing, that she had not realized until after the book was published that there is a fourth essential prayer, whatever.  (Help, Thanks, Wow, Whatever doesn’t quite have the same ring, so maybe it’s for the best that she didn’t come up with that ‘till later.)

I thought, “Whoa.  How often do I pray that prayer?  ‘Whatever, God. I just don’t get you.’”

For the last few weeks, that has pretty much been the meditation of my heart.  I’m not saying it angrily.  I’m not really pissed at God (well, not about that, anyway).  Just confused.  I just really don’t get him sometimes (OK, almost all of the time).

I had a brutal summer.  For some reason, the grief of widowhood just kicked my ass this year.  Summer is always hard but this one was worse, for some reason.  whatever.

I turned off the last of my online dating profiles today.  I give up.  I’ve had a few ridiculous dates this summer.  Only first dates.  The profiles I see don’t give me much hope that there’s anything better out there.  A man in your age range, with a job, that will have children?  You’re asking way too much, Noel.  whatever. 

Plus, even if I find a guy that ticks off all of my deal breakers, he’ll probably just end up being like the last guy, that technically met all the deal breakers, (and I’ve decided not to use this blog as a platform to say mean things about men I’ve dated and broken up with, but I have nothing nice to say about him at all).  So, without giving details, I’ll just say that if the available men are like him, then I’m content to be single for the rest of my life. whatever.

The whole thing about the “Biological Clock Ticking” that you hear about on the movies?  That’s a real thing.  Only, in the movies they’re always joking about it, and in real life, it’s not funny.  It’s so incredibly stressful.  It’s constantly on my mind.  The pressure that it puts on dating, that it puts on me as I give up dating is so intense.  Whatever.

The IRS just imposed a levy on me, for unpaid taxes from when I owned the salon in 2007.  That whole thing about not needing to keep tax records more than seven years?  That’s not really a thing.  There is actually no statute of limitations for the IRS to come after you.  Turns out my accountant still had my 2007 records, and I had paid but misfiled the 2007 taxes, so we’re getting it figured out, but sheesh.  The stress.  And the hours spent on hold.  The hours spent working on finding files, on re-filing the proper forms.  The feeling that I’m being accused of being dishonest. Whatever.

My parents are moving.  My dad got laid off in March, a victim of the low oil prices.  After the stress of looking for a job for six months, he finally got an offer. (Yay!)  In Montana.  (Boo!)  In my whole life, I’ve lived in a different place than my parents for 4 months.  It was in 1996, when I came back to the states to finish my senior year of highschool and they stayed in Ukraine.  This makes me know that if I could live away from them when I was seventeen and they were in a whole other country then, now, as an adult I’ll be fine, but it just sucks to know that I don’t have them around to bail me out.  Especially as a widow.  They’ve taken up the slack with things that my husband would have handled.  My dad helps me when my car won’t start.  My mom takes care of me when I’m sick.  Whatever.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that I have things to be thankful for.  In a few days I think I’ll be able to get to where I can think about those things.  But right now, this sucks.  WHAT-EVER!

Isaiah 55:9
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.