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! http://lovelightandmelody.givezooks.com/events/1st-annual-day-of-light-benefit

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Recipes for Viva New Mexico!


I’ve gotten a little backlash for not posting the recipes from Viva New Mexico!

After getting permission from my mumsie, here they are, with a bit of background.

The recipe for Jose’s Burritos came from a beloved friend named Jose Chavez.  He was a co-worker of my dad’s at the Conoco Refinery in Billings, MT.  There would occasionally be times in the refinery when some of the unioned workers would go on strike, and the Conoco employees would have to pull “strike duty” where they would work extra shifts, and Conoco would set up a make-shift camp for the men to stay in so they wouldn’t have to cross picket lines.  One of those times, Jose made a massive batch of burritos and gave my dad the recipe.  It’s written on a piece of dad’s Conoco letterhead and is in his handwriting, which is funny, because he wasn’t the cook. 

Jose was a really amazing man and good friend to our family.  He taught boxing to underprivileged kids and when he retired became a “lay priest” in his Catholic Church.  And he made really good burritos.

Jose’s Burritos
Meat:
2lbs Hamburger
1 #1 can whole tomato or stewed
4 cans Ortega’s green chili (or substitute with fresh roasted Hatch Green Chili if you can!)
1 ½ cans cream of mushroom soup
Pinch of sugar
Garlic and onion salt to taste

Brown burger, drain grease.  Chop chili, mash tomato, add soup and spices (or you can do this step in the blender or food processor, like I do).  Add to meat a little at a time.  Add a little water to thin it out (about a soup can’s worth).  Simmer 1 ½ to two hours (or stick them in the crock pot, this seems easier).

To serve:
Flour tortillas
Chopped onions,
Grated cheese
Chopped lettuce and
Chopped tomatoes

Fill a flour tortilla with meat (using a slotted spoon) and cheese, roll and place on plate seam side down, top with juice from the meat and more cheese, place in microwave for 45 seconds to melt cheese.  Top with lettuce, tomato and chopped onions.

The chicken enchilada casserole is one of those things that there wasn’t really a recipe for, Mom just sort of always made it, with a “little of this”, and “some of this”, probably the way you make scrambled eggs, but here’s as close as we could get:

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
3 chicken breasts cooked and shredded or chopped (Or you can use rotisserie chicken from the store.  Or you can use your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers.)
2 cups roasted, peeled and chopped New Mexico green chili (or you can use canned, if you have to)
1 26 oz can Cream of Chicken soup
Milk (use cream of chicken can)
2 cups shredded cheese
¼ cup onion, chopped
10-15 corn tortillas, torn into pieces to fit your pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Make a mixture with cream of chicken soup and milk, so it’s slightly less thick than cake batter.  Spray a casserole dish (13x9 should work) first with cooking spray, then dip tortillas in the soup and milk mixture and lay them out in the bottom of the dish so that there are no gaps.  Top with a layer of chicken, chili, onion and cheese.  Make another layer of tortilla dipped in soup mixture (remember not to leave any gaps!), then chicken, chili, onion and cheese again.  Whatever is left of your soup and milk mixture can be poured over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees until heated all the way through.

When we were cooking last week, Mom told Amy the story of where she learned to cook these.  Her girlfriend that she worked with at the bank in Las Cruces, NM, is the one who taught her to make these, and I had never heard that story before, even though I’ve eaten this casserole all my life.  She worked at the bank when she was pregnant with me.  How fun to know that little bit of history.

With love from my family to yours.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Restored


Do you remember my wedding ring post?

A few years ago, when I decided to stop wearing my wedding ring, the solution for me was to start wearing Sawan’s. 

Sawan actually had two wedding rings.  He had the one from when we exchanged vows, and then we had bought a cheap silver band at a street fair once, because he was afraid he would lose his good one when he went fishing, but still liked to be wearing a ring.  It ended up that he wore the cheap one more often then he wore the “real” wedding ring.  This cheap silver band is the ring that the paramedics took off his finger when he died. 

The silver one is the one that I chose to wear.  It was thinner than his other one and so it fit better.  It was still way too big for me; it could easily slide off every one of my fingers, including my thumb.  I usually would wear another ring over the top of it, to keep it on.

One day in June, I put it on, and remembered feeling for it with my thumb on my way to work.  At the end of my long day of shampooing, cutting, styling, and chores (cleaning and laundry at the shop), though, I looked down and didn’t have it on.  I realized that I hadn’t put a smaller ring on top of it that morning, so it could have fallen off.  I looked everywhere.  I asked my friend and coworker if she had seen it, but she hadn’t.  I was already late to meet a friend at a baseball game, so I didn’t have as much time to look for it as I wanted, but I was devastated.  I went back to the shop over the weekend, tearing apart my station, ransacking every space that I could think of, but didn’t find it.  I left a note for the cleaning people, and they also looked, and took apart the vacuum cleaner bag, but didn’t find it. 

It was lost.  I was so sad.  I thought about it daily.  It was so hard for me that I couldn’t talk about it.  I told no one.  The only people who knew about it were the cleaning people and my coworker. 

Four months later, about two weeks ago, I was downstairs at the salon, switching out the laundry.  I heard a clinking in the bottom of the washer, and as I pulled out the last of the load to put it in the dryer, my ring came out from beneath the part that swishes the laundry around in the bin.  I found it!

I cried.  It was just a cheap silver band, but it was another piece of him that I thought was lost from me forever, and was now restored.

I’ve worn it everyday since, but am sure to put on a smaller ring on top of it to keep it on.  And, the good news is, after four months in the washer, it’s really clean.
Back on my finger, with a ring on top of it, to hold it in place.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Viva New Mexico!


My parents grew up in New Mexico.  They love the beauty of the desert.  It’s always funny to me, when I’m in a desert location with them (like most recently Arizona, for instance) when I look out on the wide open fields of dirt, with a little rock mixed in, and an occasional cactus, and my dad will say, breathlessly, “Isn’t it beautiful?”  I’ll say, “I guess.  If you like that sort of thing," you know, because I'm so sweet.  I grew up with mountains.  I like trees.  For me, mountains are my favorite kind of beauty.  I think it’s because that's what I grew up with.  As I’ve gotten older, I can appreciate that a desert is beautiful in it's own way.  It’s not my favorite kind of beauty, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

The good news is, my parents choose to live in the beauty of Colorado, where I am.  They gave me an appreciation for New Mexican food (heavy on the green chili, and under no circumstances do you use cumin), but I get to enjoy them being present without the dust of the desert.

I have bragged about just this sort of thing enough that one of my girlfriends wanted my mom to teach her to cook some of her signature New Mexican dishes.

On Friday, the three of us got together to make two things: Jose’s Burritos and Chicken Enchilada Casserole. 

As I stirred and chopped and spooned into casserole dishes, I wondered how I could possibly make these things at my own house without my mom’s utensils.  This seems to be a big problem for me in my own cooking.  My mom has an awesome heavy metal slotted spoon and spatula that were her grandmother’s, that I used in her kitchen when I was growing up, and there are some things that I just don’t know how to make without them.

It was such a delicious afternoon.  Just the girls, hanging out, visiting, and in the end we all had two meals prepared (actually, we all had two items prepared, but for me it will make more like six meals, I put some in the freezer, and have already brought dinner to a friend whose mom is in hospice).  Lovely.



 
Enchilada Casserole (Can you see Arthur out the window?  He was whining because I wouldn't let him in.)

The army of Crockpots (housing the Jose's Burritos)

The Chefs.  Please call us Senora Amy, Senora Noel, and Senora Leslie (but only for this post).

Monday, October 21, 2013

High Maintenance


My little dog is so high maintenance.   I guess I’m not surprised, his mom is pretty high maintenance, and don’t they say that animals resemble their owners?

Arthur has had a problem with puking for most of his life.  He is on a pretty normal schedule of throwing up about every 10-14 days.  I have gone through phases of trying to figure it out, changing his food, putting him on different kinds of probiotics, giving him Greek yogurt, nothing seemed to change it.  I figured it was a food allergy and I didn’t know what else to do.

He also has a spot on his back, an itchy, dark spot on his white fur that has become not only increasingly tacky, but also increasingly uncomfortable for him.  I finally took him in to the vet to see what we could do about it.  This is apparently a food allergy related issue, as well.  After two different visits, changing his food to a science diet that made him even more sick, and more itchy, the vet and I decided to try him on a new raw diet and she also put him on a couple of different prescription strength probiotics, to try to get his guts back to normal.

Let me tell you something about my lifestyle.  I don’t cook.  First of all, when I’m the only person eating, it’s really more affordable to eat Chipotle most of the time.  If I were to cook, food goes bad in the fridge before I can handle eating it for five nights in a row.  But also, cooking is not something I enjoy.  At all.

So, when I looked into raw dog food for my dog, it was roughly six times the cost of what I had been feeding him (and I was already feeding him an all-natural dog food from a whole foods type pet store…read that- not cheap).  I was stressing out about how I was going to be able to feed my dog, myself, and pay my mortgage.  So, I looked online and found a recipe for raw dog food you can make yourself (which is much more affordable), and my mom and I made it on Monday.

I can’t believe I’m making food for my dog, when I won’t make people food.

It was actually really fun!  The recipe had ground meat, veggies, and it required sardines, which, when we put them through the food processor, along with the other ingredients made her house smell like a fart (wow, Arthur, your mom and Grammy love you very much!).  But, he loves his food, and gives me lots of fishy kisses; as though he knows how much work it took to make it for him.

His tummy seems to be better and he’s not waking me up in the middle of the night scratching.  I think he’s on the mend.
Early morning fish breath kisses.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Upstairs Bathroom Project: Complete!


This summer we should really have re-named the Pink House “Renovation Land.”

I have two bathrooms in my house, which is not common for a house built in 1900, so I am uber lucky. 

My upstairs bathroom, however, left much to be desired.  I don’t know anything for sure, but with a house built in 1900, it’s possible that the bathroom was an afterthought, a retrofit (meaning that the original house had no bathroom at all).  It certainly looked that way.  All of the plumbing was wadded into one corner.  The bathroom had been updated in the fifties, so I had a fifties era tub and homemade vanity, and then the tile had been updated in the nineties.  It was esthetically tacky, to say the least.  But, also, I am 5’3”, and would hit my knees on the vanity when I sat on the potty, so I can’t imagine what it was like for someone taller.  The way that they had retrofit the tub to accommodate a shower had a weird extension on it, which was also crowded into the corner with the toilet and sink, with only about a six-inch gap from the toilet.  I would be aware of this during the day, but when I would get up in the middle of the night to go potty, would usually forget, so I had perma-bruise either on my knee or shin.  I was so over it. 

I wanted to not just remodel the bathroom to make it more user-friendly, but I also wanted to restore it, to make it look like it belonged in a house built in 1900.  In addition, there is no master bedroom upstairs, with an en suite, so I wanted to add a door to the bedroom next to it, to give it a “Jack and Jill” type entrance, where it made one of the bedrooms seem like a master, but still gave access to the hall and the rest of the house, as it’s the only upstairs bathroom.   All of this required moving everything around, plumbing wise, ripping everything out, moving the current door, moving the lights.  Phew.  It was a tall order.

So, the contractor that I hired started in mid-July, and quoted me two and a half weeks to get the job done.  We finished last Friday.  That’s more like ten and a half weeks, if you do the math.  Nothing went according to plan.  The guys that did the initial work had to do a bunch of stuff over again.  I eventually had to call in back up (thanks, Dad) to get them to follow through on what they said they were going to do.   It’s been an emotional roller coaster.  It made me feel really widowed.  I had to keep remembering that even if my husband were alive, I would still have been the one dealing with the contractor, because I was better at it.  I felt like I was being taken advantage of because I was a woman with no man around to back her up.  I also felt like it sucked that I’m 34 and a half years old and what it took to finally get it right was to call my daddy and have him talk to them.  I realize that it’s more like I’m smart enough to know how to use my resources, and in the end, the job got done (my dad is a construction engineer who deals with contractors on a daily basis, so even if he were just my friend, he’s exactly who I would have called to support me on this). 

It was a long ten weeks.  I got so tired of plaster dust, of having stinky men in my house, of having to be up with a bra on at 9AM every day (even if they didn’t show up by then, which was the norm).  In the end, I got the bathroom of my dreams and I’m so excited!  (I can’t wait to finish painting the bedroom next to it and move into my new “Master Bedroom!”)
Arthur and I in the "new" vintage tub.

Before.

...with everything ripped out.

This is the before shot of tub that I refinished myself.

...and the "before" shot of the vanity that I refinished myself.

"After" of the vanity, shown through the new pocket door.

"Happily Ever After."

Friday, October 18, 2013

My Favorite Song


My friend Grahm is a cowboy that’s been stuck in a city for most of his life.  In May he left Colorado for Montana, to work on a cattle ranch.

He passed through town this weekend, and I got to spend a couple of hours with him, cutting his hair, then eating some Chipotle (he had had Chipotle the night before, but was so excited that I had suggested it, Montana seems to be lacking in Chipotles).

I got to listen to him talk about all that he learned in Montana this summer about cattle and how to care for them.  He talked about the way that being in the wide open spaces feeds his soul.  It was a great chat.

My favorite part, though, was him talking about the fishing up there.  He was in great fly-fishing country, and he is a passionate fly-fisherman.  I used to know one of those.

I asked him to tell me about the biggest fish that he caught.  He told me that the fish he was catching weren’t that big…. So I told him to tell me about the biggest fight.  He used words like “tail water,” and “riffle.”  He had used a “streamer” rather than “nymphing or dry flies.”  Just the words were so familiar to me, but it seems like it had been so long since I had heard them spoken with such passion.  It was like listening to my favorite song.  I had to swallow hard against the lump in my throat.

Sawan used to talk about fly-fishing so much that I remember a specific time, after him giving me a forty-five minute college-style lecture about “flows” (it’s something to do with people controlling how much water goes from the reservoirs to the rivers) that I knew my eyes had glazed over and I thought, “Oh my god.  I’m going to have to listen to this for the rest of my life.”  If only.

Now I long to hear fishing stories because they remind me of my love.  Thanks, Grahm, for "playing my song" for me.  It was a delightful evening.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Not just leaves are falling at the Pink House!


I’m loving fall! 

Not just leaves are falling at the Pink House.

Here’s a brief catch up on what’s going on in my life:

My bathroom project finally wrapped last week.  We started July 16th, I was told by the contractor it would take two and a half weeks.  It took eleven.  Maybe I misheard him...I think he meant two and a half months?  Either way, it’s finished, and it’s beautiful.  I’ll post some photos soon.

Nothing ever goes quite as planned in an old house, so I had planned to be finished and moved into the new bedroom suite by Labor Day.  Now if it happens by Christmas I’ll be stoked. 

Falling Ceiling Fans:
Phase two was finishing the bedroom.  I had it painted last weekend.  The paint I chose is Morning Fog.  Wouldn’t it be fun to be a paint namer?  Or a nailpolish namer?  That’s what I really want to be when I grow up.  Anyway, Morning Fog is a lovely shade of gray.  My friend Steve is the best painter ever, and will also help with random handyman stuff, so he also installed a ceiling fan for me, and I helped.  We had had three beers at that point, so we only dropped the old one, not the new one, luckily.  The whole room looks updated and much better.  

Falling Shelves.  Falling Workers:
I have been working on the closet, which is the last phase of the project before I can move in.  Over Labor Day my friend Rachel came to help me demo the old closet organizer (if you can call it that, it was a warped shelf with a rack that was at about 48”, not enough height to hang an adult dress from without it dragging on the floor) and we narrowly escaped a trip to the emergency room.  (Note to self:  When demo-ing, remove the boards with rusty nails from the floor before moving on to the next one.  How I landed in between those rusty nails without imbedding it in my knee is beyond me.  I felt that I was so lucky, I bought a lottery ticket.  Alas, I used up all my luck on the closet.)  I had to do some major plaster patching, and we painted it turquoise.  It’s lovely.  Last weekend my brother and I started installing an organizer from Ikea, but, with lathe and plaster walls, over brick, it was much more involved than we thought and will require another day to get it finished. 

Other than home improvement stuff, I’m still working full time and going to school two days a week.  I am constantly making lists of stuff that I need to get accomplished, so that I can keep up.  I have given myself lots of space to let items not get crossed off.  (How important is a clean car, anyway?)

It’s a glamorous life I lead, what can I say?

In honor of fall fashion, here's a photo of Arthur, sportin' his hipster bow-tie.

 Happy Fall, Everyone!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sun Shine Down


I have a vivid memory of a specific evening back in 1996.  I was living with my family in Kiev, Ukraine, and I had gone over to my friend Gillian's apartment to hang out for the evening.  I was seventeen, she was twenty-one.  The age gap at that point made her a grown up, me still a kid, but I totally looked up to her and she treated me like I had the maturity of someone that she wanted to hang out with.

I think that maybe the electricity had gone out in the building, which was not an uncommon thing to happen, because I was reading by candlelight, and she was writing.  She had this really beautiful leather bound journal that she liked to write poems in.  We had this perfect flow, like waves coming in to the shore, where we would read and write for a bit, then visit for a little bit, read and write, visit, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.  It was a delightful evening of connection.

She told me that night that she wanted to write a book.  Well, she backpedalled, she said that she liked to write in that journal, and wanted to fill it with her own poems, so that someday she’d have written a book of poetry.  She said it, holding her journal forward.  It was as though saying that she wanted to write an actual book was too big of a dream to even admit to.

Last week, I went on Amazon and ordered the memoir that she wrote.  It came in the mail today.  I can't put it down, it's so good.

When I was seventeen, I had no idea that I wanted to write a book of my own.  It wasn’t even an idea, much less a dream.  But, it is now, and once again I’m looking up to her.  She had a dream, she focused.  She made it happen.  And now, she gets to hold her own book in her hands.  She did it.  I’m unbelievably proud.




Friday, September 20, 2013

Camaraderie


On Wednesday night, I sat at a coffee shop with a man who had been widowed only two months.

I have spent time with other widows before, but never a widower, and never with someone whose loss is so fresh.

There’s camaraderie in people who have lost a spouse.  Our stories are all different, but there are some things that are just so the same about loss.  Some things that we all just get.

He wanted to know how long it was that I wore my wedding ring.  How long before I was able to go back to our old haunts?  How did I handle my in-laws?  How long before I went back to work?  What was it like for me to run into people who didn’t know the news?

I have no idea if it was helpful for him.  I have to give myself lots of grace in this area.  I spent a lot of time beforehand, just praying for his broken heart, and praying that I wouldn’t say the wrong thing.  I have no idea if I did just that (say the wrong thing).

What was interesting was what it brought out in me.

I was surprised by what it looked like to see someone so freshly grieving.  He is still struggling to not say “we.”  It hasn’t sunk in yet that he is now an “I.”  I had forgotten what that was like.

What was most remarkable, though, was, what it literally “looked like.”  I felt like I could see his emotional pain physically on his face.   He would say something and wince.

 I wonder if that’s how it was for me.  I don’t know what I looked like.  I didn’t watch myself, as most of us don’t see ourselves as we’re talking.  I didn’t look in the mirror much at all; I just didn’t care about anything.  The way I looked was so arbitrary when I was hurting so deeply.  I can’t think of one photo of myself from the whole first year of widowhood.  I wouldn’t allow myself to be photographed because I couldn’t stand to see myself without him standing next to me.

Wednesday night was hard.  I wanted to give him hope.  I know that that’s not my job, but I wanted to so badly.  Yet, I sometimes feel like I need to give myself hope, too.  That’s what I struggle with the most.  I wanted to tell him that it gets better.  It certainly will get better than what he is feeling right now.  But, he will never again be the man that he was before his wife died.  Sometimes I think that it’s an amazing gift, widowhood.  The depth of who I am as a widow is so beyond who I was as a wife.  And yet, if I could choose to go back to the naive, care-free girl that was married to Sawan, if I truly had that choice, its pretty tempting to think that I would choose it.

I guess its good that we don’t get to choose.  That someone else does the choosing for us.  Otherwise, what a boring, vanilla world this would be.  In the meantime, we move.  Move towards hope.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ugg Boots, Comfy Sweaters and Pumpkin Spice Lattes


Usually, when September hits, I feel this immense sense of relief.  I feel like I can say, “Suck it, August.  We’re through for another year.”  But this year has not quite felt that way.  I’m a bit discouraged.  I feel a bit down, like August still has its power over me, or something.

I’m just kind of blue. 

But, the weather has finally started to cooperate here in Denver.  We’ve had a few days of true autumn type weather around these parts, and it’s getting my head in a better space.

I got my Ugg boots out.  I’m wearing my favorite Free People long sweater.  It’s rainy and cloudy (not quite what you would expect to be just the ticket to cheer me up, right?) and I’ve been listening to Neil Young and Jackson Browne  and other fall favorites (not sure why Fall=classic rock).

I fell in love in autumn.  I find that I feel nostalgia for my husband in a whole new way this time of year.  Even though this time of year makes me miss him more, it gets me out of the trauma space in my head a bit, and that feels like a welcome respite.

So, I raise my Pumpkin Spice Latte and say, “Welcome, Fall.  I’m so glad you’ve come.”

I posted this on Instagram yesterday, saying, "Hello, old friends."

Friday, August 30, 2013

New Routine


I am ruled by routine.  Throwing something new into the mix, like a class two days a week, has rocked my world a bit, but I’m starting to settle in.
I’m so glad that I chose to take a class on campus rather than online.  Partially because my limited technical skills are put to the test enough as it is, and I’m actually showing up for the “learning part” in person.  

Being on campus, even though it’s in my own city, is so different from anything else I’ve ever experienced here in Denver, I sometimes feel that I’m in a different country altogether.  As a white person, I’m in the minority.  It’s crowded with people.  The fragrance in the air is cigarette smoke and cherry chapstick.

One of my favorite scenes last week: I saw a guy walking to class.  He was wearing a flat-billed, oversized baseball cap, full-sleeved tattoos, a wife beater and oversized shorts.  He was pushing a stroller with a toddler in it.


The campus that I attend is shared by three different schools, two of them community colleges, so I’m not in the minority in terms of non-traditional students.  I don’t feel out of place, being 34 and a half and going to school for the first time.


I should say that I don’t feel like I look out of place, there are lots of people my age and older that are walking around, but it feels out of place in my own skin, I guess.  I constantly feel like I’m too old to be starting this.  It’s funny to talk about this class and have people say, “Oh, you’re going back to school?”  Nope.  I’m going to school.  First time (not going “back”).  I never did this before.  I went to beauty school.  


I wondered, as I walked to my class this week, how many of the other students had spent the beginning of their day, you know, as “class prep”, in therapy (because they’re widowed), then hassling with the contractors on their bathroom renovation, then making confirmation calls for their full-time job, then leaving a heated message with the bank because they still haven’t sent the checks for the business account that were ordered over a month ago, then loading their service dog onto the light rail and waltzing into class?  



Friday, August 23, 2013

Chewing gum, Denim Threads and Ziploc baggies


August 24 is the hardest day of the year for me.  Harder than Christmas.  Harder than Thanksgiving.  Harder than Sawan’s birthday.  It’s the day that stole my husband from me.  It’s the day that ripped my dreams from my grasp.

The week leading up to it has taken me by surprise.  I know that I always brace myself for the difficulty of the day, but I had forgotten how rough the whole previous week was.  This is my fourth one.  You’d think it would start to feel familiar by now.

I can tell you in great detail what we did on the 21st, the 22nd, and the 23rd in 2009.  Now, in 2013, I subconsciously, unintentionally, do mental check-ins throughout the day.  Where were we?  What were we doing?  I hate it. 

I feel fragile.  Frayed.

You know those threads that hang off of cut-off jean shorts?  I feel like I’m held together by those and pieces of chewing gum.  But, when something is fragile, and you want to make sure none of the parts get lost, you stick them in an envelope, or a Ziploc baggie, and my friends and family are my envelope, keeping me encouraged, promising to just hang out near me on Saturday, texting me and emailing me encouraging words, remembering that it’s my hard day coming up.  It makes me feel surrounded, protected.  So that if the chewing gum doesn’t hold up, at least I won’t lose a piece forever, it’ll stay near by.