Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: Some of the Milestones

2012 was a pretty amazing year for me.  I almost said that it was a year of healing…but that implies that I healed more in 2012 than I did in the previous years and I don’t think that that’s true.  I think I just finally got to a point where the slow and steady pace of healing that I’ve been going for the last three years felt like I had actually gotten to a place where I could enjoy life again.  So, here’s a little look back at the milestones.

It feels a bit like I should do it by comparison- so let’s compare 2011 and 2012!

Number of first dates I went on in 2011: Two.
Number of second dates I went on in 2011: Zero.
Number of first dates I went on in 2012: Two.
Number of second dates I went on in 2012: ONE!
Then I went on a third date and a fourth…and had a relationship that lasted a few months.  It ended, but it ended as well as can be expected and I am so thankful for the things that I learned.  I’m so thankful for the man that he was and the kindness that he showed me as we were dating.  I ended up feeling like he was a great man, just not the right one for me, and so it ended at the end of October, but it was a huge blessing and I have no regrets.

Number of plane rides Arthur got to go on in 2011: Zero.
Number of plane rides Arthur got to go on in 2012: Two.

Number of parking tickets in front of my house in 2011: A Million.
Number of parking tickets in front of my house in 2012: Zero.  They give parking tickets for street sweeping on the first Tuesday of every month, April-November.  I set a reminder in my phone this year and beat The Man.  *Fist pump*

Number of writing classes I took in 2011: Zero.
Number of writing classes I took in 2012: Two.
I got a solid start to my memoir and I’m really thankful for the friendships that I made there.  I feel really good about the way the book is going and I’m so thankful that I did it and for the community that I’ve found there (one new friendship in particular…such a blessing!).  As a result, I read a ton of memoir, and the best book I read this year was Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.  It was one of those books that halfway through I started being bummed about how many pages I had left and really trying to savor it, trying to time where I would be when I read the last pages.  It was so good.

Number of tattoos I had on my body in 2011: Zero.
Number of tattoos I have on my body in 2012: ONE!  (And I love it and might get another one.  Don’t tell my Dad.)

Number of rooms that still had boxes in the Pink House in 2011: Three.
Number of rooms that still have boxes in the Pink House in 2012: One.  That’s my New Year’s Resolution.  Organize and finally move in to the office (and get this number down to zero).  Boo.

Number of bodies living in the Pink House in 2011: Two.
Number of bodies living in the Pink House in 2012: Three! 
Arthur and I asked Chrissy to move in and she came to join the Pink House family in August.  She is a huge blessing and we love having her here.

As I look back at 2012 I think about all of the major things that happened.  New friendships were formed.  Old ones were strengthened.  Lots of my close girlfriends had babies.  Some in my group experienced great loss.  In my family this year, a sibling moved here, we enjoyed a brief time of having all of the siblings living in one city, and then a sibling moved (to Australia, no less!) and we’re flung all over the globe again.  But it sure was a treat for that few minutes.  I also lost twenty pounds in the spring, which has done great things for my psyche (it’s pretty great to look in the mirror and like what I see).  Mostly this year I realized that I could be happy again.  I’m not always happy, but I find myself saying that sometimes (“I’m happy.”), and it is delightful.

This has been a rough month, but a pretty amazing year.  I keep hearing the Counting Crows song in my head, “It’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last.”  I said that at the end of 2011 with great hope for 2012, and I say it again with great hope for 2013. 

Thank you to all of you who have been on this journey with me.  For caring to read the words that I write and for loving me through all of this.

Noel (and Arthur)

Thursday, December 27, 2012


A couple of months ago someone was talking about me, and they described me as someone who had a “messy spirituality.”  They did not mean this as a compliment, but I took it as one, anyway.

I’m one of those people that think, “Hey, I’m a mess.  It’s ‘ok’ with me if you’re a mess.  Let’s be in the mess together.”  It’s no secret that I’m angry with God.  I have been through a lot and I think he can take it.  It’s not that I don’t think he’s good.  I do.  I think that he loves me and wants what’s best for me.  But, I think that if he thinks that widowhood, with all its pain, is what’s best for me then he’s kind of an asshole.  I’ve been pretty honest with him about that.

A few years ago my sister went to visit my nephew.  Every time she would come to visit she would come in and say, “Guess what I have for you?”  This time, when she arrived, the little guy, totally conditioned, said, “What do you have for us?”  His mom was of course mortified, and everyone laughed, because Ellie actually did have special surprises for him, and it was really so cute.  But, I think of this often in my relationship with Papa, the name that I’ve been calling God after reading “the Shack.”  I think that I don’t want to only come to him when I need something, asking him, “What do you have for me?”  I think that hurts his feelings.  So I try to talk to him in a way that communicates more the way that I’m feeling.  I try to tell him what I’m thinking about certain things, even though I know he already knows.

A few weeks ago, I was doing just this. I was telling him that I feel frustrated.  This frustration was, as it typically is, about being alone.  About having no partner.  About the confusion of why he allowed my partner to be taken away.  I was just telling him how I felt about all of this, not asking him for anything.  And, for the first time, I felt him giving me a promise.  I have lots of friends who have told me “He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.”  This is a reference to a scripture, but I feel sure that God has not promised me that (I do, however, love that they believe that for me, and believe that if God has promised them that for me, then please, continue believing, hold that space for me!).  One of the things that I struggle with so deeply is the realization that God has broken no promises to me.  God didn’t promise me that my husband would live to be old.  He didn’t promise me a baby and a family.  But, as I was talking to him about my frustration a few weeks ago, the Paul Simon song popped into my head.  It’s the one about "I will not give you false hope."  It was so clear to me that God was promising me that. 

Now, let me be clear.  I have no idea what it means in a practical sense.  In the midst of my frustration about being alone I want to believe that God was promising me whatever I want.  But that’s not the case.  He wasn’t promising me a husband and a baby.  He was promising me HOPE.  And I’ll take it. 

Clearly, he knows me.  He didn’t promise me a nice, neat little scripture.  That’s not the way my mind and my heart work.  He promised me a Paul Simon song.  That’s the messy spirituality that makes me tick.  That’s the Papa that I love.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wishing you...

A Merry Christmas!
December 24, 2012

With Love,
Noel and Arthur

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A fun Christmas Project!

I thought we could use a fun post on here, so here’s a fun thing that I’ve been doing:

About a year ago I bought a sewing machine.  Since I hadn’t used a sewing machine since Home Ec in eighth grade (thanks for everything, Mrs. Stolberg), I got intimidated by, um, loading the bobbin, so I put it in the closet (isn't that where all scary things live?) and decided I would take a class before I faced it.

I looked into classes but never got around to taking one.  Well.  My roommate, Chrissy, happens to be a crafty little minx and she helped me get it out and get the bobbins loaded and get the thing threaded.  Then she helped me figure out what I was doing wrong when I made a few novice errors.  And she was only a little bossy.

I started with a dishtowel project I had pinned on Pinterest (that particular “pin” was actually the deciding factor in me buying the machine in the first place).  It’s actually the only thing I’ve made so far, but I’ve made a few of them and they’re super fun.  I’ve even ironed (you have to when you sew, and I’m a seamstress now.  I sew.).  One of my favorite things about doing this was that it was creative, but it also made me feel so woman-ish.  It made me think of all of the women in my life that had helped teach me to sew and had sewn things for me to wear growing up (like Aunt Neecee, and my Granny, and Aunt Cindy, and Fran Collie, to name a few) and I felt like I was joining in their ranks in some small way.  I had a great time!

Here are the photos.  All I did was buy dishtowels at Target and then I sewed on strips of decorative fabric (this is my first one, with a Christmas theme) and then a little rickrack (well, one little rickrack and one HUGE rickrack) to make it extra cute.  Easy.  I think after I get a little more experience I’ll laugh at the fact that this one took me about two hours.  I mostly think it’s the ironing that takes me so long (guess I should practice that, too).

Sewing.  And I have a Sonic Coke Zero with Vanilla.  Always.
Finished with the Polka Dot part.  I'm pretty proud!  I sewed!
The finished product.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Whole New Kind of Heartbreak

When I was new to this widowhood thing, I kept hearing stories about a childhood friend of a friend who had been widowed in a very similar way to me.  Sawan had died in late August and this woman was widowed in November.  Her husband was the same age as Sawan (40) and was super healthy.  In fact, her husband collapsed while on a run, happened to be in front of an emergency room, and they were unable to save him.  It turned out to be blockages in his arteries, which was also a contributing factor with Sawan’s death.  There were so many similarities in our stories, and I was longing for fellowship with someone who could understand me, that I really wanted to meet her.  She eventually moved to Denver and when we finally met, it was one of those meetings that can scarcely be explained.  Her brother told me, “Noel, I’d like you to meet my sister,” and she and I, after hearing about each other for so long, but never actually laying eyes on each other, just fell into an embrace and sobbed in each other’s arms, without even saying a “Nice to meet you.”  At last, here was someone who “got it.”

She and I have become friends over the years since then.  Our stories are similar and yet very different, as is always the case with widows and grief.  We relate to a lot and then struggle with it in our own unique ways.  She is a delight to me and it is always just so good to be with her.  To get her different perspective.  To have someone who can somewhat relate. 

We both have busy lives; she and her husband had four children.  Our time is mostly spent talking about widowness.  It's girl time.  Our last visit was about a week and a half ago; we just met for coffee and chatted, as we always do, about how we’re coping, about how we make sense of all of this.

And then, two days later, her oldest son died.  He was 14. 

My heart is broken in a whole new way.  I think, for the first time, I’m getting a glimpse of what it must have been like to be the people that loved me when I went through those early days after Sawan’s death.  To want to do something, anything, to make it just a little better, knowing that there’s really nothing you can do.  It feels so helpless.  I don’t know what to do or say.  I want to hold her and protect her.  I want to do it for her.

And then there are the things that it stirs up in me and my own grief, as well.  I know that neither of these options are truly logical, but I find myself thinking that as a widow one of theses scenarios is true:  Either I’m completely exempt from more pain, I’ve seen the worst and nothing bad can happen to me again, or I’m one of the people that all of the bad things happens to and everyone else gets to lead a charmed life.  As this has happened to another widow I can’t help but live in great fear that the second is true and I’m doomed.  Doomed to a life of pain.  Doomed to bring pain to everyone around me that I come into contact with.  I feel a great sense of responsibility in this, as well (“Ok, as one of the doomed ones, I should never love again, it’s not fair to them, they’ll only die young because of it”).  C.S. Lewis wrote that he never new that grief would feel so much like fear, and I’m really getting that this week.  I’m constantly reminding myself that, “True love casts out all fear.”  It’s hard in these situations to live in that reality, but I know, logically, that neither of those two options is true.  I’m neither doomed nor exempt.  Death is a part of life and we can’t try to explain the “whys” to ourselves.

So this has been a dark week.

With the holidays upon us, I think of her and her family.  I think of their celebration and how different it will look, and how painful it will be.  And then I think of the way she addressed it in her speech at the funeral and feel that this is the hope for me, as well…Why would we not celebrate?  We, the grieving, more than anyone else, have something to celebrate because of all that it means for us.  Unto us a Savior is born.