… Get Off The Pot

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My father was born on June 27, 1903. He had some super interesting catch phrases. As children, my brothers and I did what most children do when their parents ramble on: we ignored him. However, as adults, it seems we didn’t totally ignore him as I have caught myself, and my brothers, slipping into the occasional employment of his more colorful bits of vernacular – like the title for this first post. Time for me to “shit or get off the pot.” Charming bit of wit there, don’t you think? But Ed, that was my dad, would be pleased. I’m finally “getting off the pot” after talking about, and thinking about, and then stalling, and then talking more about, this blog for quite some time.

So, it’s a Tuesday afternoon and I have spent the better part of my waking hours reading the WordPress boards and still haven’t a clue what I am doing but am jumping in anyway. I can figure it out as I go and should anyone actually read any of this, I’m certain you’ll help me along the way.

“The W-Card” – what that heck is that? Excellent question. I made it up. It’s the card I pull when all else fails and I really need to get something done or a reduced price or a freebie or …. yes, I went there. When you are a widow, especially a not-so-old one, people take pity on you. Big time.

This is especially true of mature men.  I have a theory that it is some primal instinct initially developed to protect the women-folk after the hunter-gatherer was eaten by some roaming feral beast. The surviving cavemen would return from the hunt, tell the newly widowed the bad news, then gather round to make sure she was taken care of and the children of their fallen brother would survive. Of course, if the women didn’t survive the children would be left to the men to raise and Lord knows they wouldn’t want that so they had to make sure the women were ok. Just a theory.

Anyway, after my husband died, there were many evenings when I would come home from work only to find all these men doing “stuff” around the house. Seriously. I live out in the country where pickup trucks rule the road. Except when someone’s husband dies and then they line up in the widow’s driveway taking care of everything from lawns to home repairs to, well, you-name-it, they do it. That’s when I discovered the power of the “W-Card.”

I didn’t need to use the card right after Joe, my husband, died as I was so fortunate to have that pickup-lined driveway. As time moved on, however,  so did the pickup trucks. But the “stuff” I needed to get done didn’t go away so, W-Card was born. From municipal inspectors to hardware store veterans to restaurant and retail establishments …. You have your Platinum card? HA! Child’s play — I have the W-Card! “The ace in the hole”(another Ed phrase).

The W-Card cannot be used recklessly. One cannot go running around exclaiming one’s widowhood status or wearing a big W on her t-shirt and expect to get the attention of the Card. The Card demands discretion and circumspect treatment. One must quietly, with the gentility possessed by the most well-heeled Southern Belle, insert the word “widow” discretely into the conversation. It’s magical. Skies open up. Angels sing. Your wish is granted. Your task is accomplished. Your sink is drained.

Now, there are many people who might disdain, or even condemn, this sort of potentially scurrilous behavior. To these people I say, “pshaw.” Walk a mile in my shoes and THEN, maybe, go all judgmental.  Until then, give me a break. I’m not knocking over convenient stores. I’m just using my sad, pitiful widow status to get through this next phase of my life. It’s worked for the past two years. It’s worked pretty darned well. It has shed some light in some pretty dark holes. I’ll tell you more about it later. That is my purpose here.
For now.

Cluttered

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Fifteen months since my last post and all I have to say is that my life has become “cluttered.” That word came to me in response to a simple inquiry from an old friend.”How are you?”  My reply?

Cluttered.

So, how did things get so messy? How is it possible that it’s been over five years since I last picked up the phone and heard my husband’s voice?  Where did the time go? Well, to give you a quick recap … when last I wrote, my daughter was in her senior year of college, my two rescue kitties were settling in, and I was feeling quite … well, I believe the word was “happy.” Nod to Pharrell Williams intended. And then the wheels came off.

My daughter, Jules, graduated with honors (yay!) but then came graduate school. She has a very clear sense of what she wants to do, unlike her mother who is still pondering the age old question of what to do when she grows up. But the road to Jules’ goal required graduate school – a 2 1/2 year program in the most expensive city she could find … New York City … Manhattan… The Big Apple.

You may not have heard, but Manhattan is a tad pricey. Just a tad. She was able to get housing through the school. A room in a well-appointed hotel. 24/7 security. Restaurants. Fitness center. Kitchen facilities. All for the low, low price of $2700.A MONTH!!! Now for you big rollers that probably sounds like a walk in the (Central) park. To this widow living in a small house in the country, that amount is painful on the ears as well as  other anatomical parts. But it was the best solution we could find for the first year in the Big City so hi ho, hi ho, further in debt we go.

Oh yeah, debt. Lots of it. When Joe and I were making our plans for the future before he, well, took a powder, we were working with two incomes; two sets of health/dental/optical insurance; two retirement plans; two of everything. October 17, 2011 changed all of that. Funny, I can barely remember my own birthday but the date of his passing is hard-wired into my brain.

Whilst it wasn’t quite time to take on the second job as a Walmart greeter, it seemed obvious that it was time to seek professional help. A shrink? Yeah, well that’s always been a consideration. Nope, a financial planner was going to be the answer to all of my woes. Except, true fact, they ask the hard-hitting probing questions like “What is the interest rate on your mortgage?” and “Are you staying within your monthly budget?” and then this nugget … “What is your retirement plan?”

Well, geez, Louise, if I knew those answers, why the heck would I need a financial planner? Of course, that’s the sort of ill-considered questioning that got me into hot water as a youth and seems to have prevailed into my maturity. Sigh, I hate it when people ask questions that you SHOULD know the answer but haven’t a clue as to the response.

The good news, well kind of good news, is that I am not alone. It seems that “widow spending” is a thing. You see, in many, many cases, when a loved one dies, they leave behind resources. Those resources are intended to help make up the gap … or, as in the case of many widows, they are to fill in the gap (left by the loss). “Make up” and “fill in” become two diametrically opposed concepts. “Make up” is a fiscally savvy approach to secure the future for you and your family. “Fill in” is an emotional, knee-jerk reaction comprised of impulse-buying like major house renovations, trips to Europe, erecting a new edifice in your loved one’s name. Guess which route this author took? Yup, numbskull.

So, today is President’s Day. While others are out enjoying a three day weekend, I am gathering financial info. Bank statements, credit cards statements, tax form … My dining room table looks like a paper bomb exploded. But, and here’s that eternal optimist speaking, the financial guys didn’t seem all that disturbed and actually quite empathetic. I am either being lulled into a false sense of security or my money fears were misplaced. I’m rooting for the latter but skeptical enough to consider the former.

Well, I say I am doing all of that forensic accounting when what I am actually doing is catching up on this blog. My adult onset of OCD is not helping matters! Must get a calculator and hit the spreadsheets. Until later, God speed, friends. I am back and getting de-cluttered!

Pharrell Williams

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I haven’t written in a long time. I’ve been busy. Really busy. Even better than busy …. singing along with Pharrell Williams on a daily basis. Yes, dear friends, turns out I am “happy.”

My daughter is healthy, happy and a senior in college. My work life seems to be stable. My home life is full and happy. Even the cats are on track.

Do I still miss Joe? Damn skippy I miss him. I think of him every single day. I still feel him with me – and some days, seriously, he comes to visit. Recently I was leaving a friend’s house and the passenger side air bag light came on (like somebody was sitting there). This has never happened before. Ever. Seemed odd but I kept driving home. When I arrived at home, I jumped out of the truck to run into the house and grab some things before heading back out. I gathered up the sought-after materials to complete my errands and jumped back into the truck. I turned the key to start the engine –  only to get the alarm that the passenger side door was now open. Almost like somebody had exited the vehicle. I shut the door and all alarms/warning/lights stopped going off.

No doubt in my mind – he came along for the ride that morning. Some might think it spooky. Maybe even weird. I was, again, at peace and really happy as I like to believe he is thinking about me as much as I am thinking about him. How much?

To the moon and back.

A Word Bigger Than Love

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It is the eve of Super Bowl LXIX.  Tomorrow, at 6:30 pm, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks will take the field while millions of fans watch, rooting for their faves  as they consume mass quantities of pizza, chicken wings, and vast amounts of beer. For decades, the Super Bowl was akin to a religious holiday in our house. My husband loved football. Come to think of it, “loved” is probably not the right word. Is there a word to express a feeling bigger than love? Nothing comes to mind – at least nothing that adequately captures the passion, zeal and devotion my Joe had for the game of football.

Typically a quiet man, something about football brought out a side of Joe that was the antithesis of quiet. On any given Sunday, Joe was perched on his favorite chair – prepared to root on his team, call the plays and loudly chastise the calls he considered unfair, misguided or just plain wrong. Screaming, jumping out of his chair, and swearing (loudly), it was not uncommon to hear, repeatedly, “WHAT THE (expletive) ARE YOU (expletive expletive) DOOOIIINNNGGGG?” That man had quite the colorful vocabulary on game days.

Things changed in 1994. You see, in 1994, our daughter was born. Unfortunately, 1994 was also the year Giants’ fans remember as the beginning of a dark time for the team. 1994 was the year that Phil SImms and Lawrence Taylor retired and things went seriously south.  But our girl was born in May, months before the darkness descended over the Meadowlands. Joe bought her a tiny little NY Giants’ shirt that she could wear on game days. There he was, all 6’4″ of him curled up on the floor next to his tiny little baby girl clad in Giants’ blue.

But he wasn’t curled up for long. It was a train wreck of a season – well, as history will note, it was more than one season. As the team spiraled downward, that poor man was near apoplexy. And, as our daughter matured, it became clear that it was in the best interest of her developing language skills that game day might best double as movie day – or even shopping day – for us gals. You see, my daughter attended parochial schools. While I might not be the sharpest knife in the tool drawer, I was fairly confident that Sister Elizabeth or Father Anthony would not find game day verbiage appropriate, or even mildly entertaining, for our little Catholic angels.

Eventually the team broke through the darkness (thanks to Tom Coughlin and a kid called Eli) and posted some pretty major wins. Joe’s vocabulary didn’t change much but the winning seasons made the depth of his despair less painful to witness – and the need to make movie or shopping plans less necessary.

Tomorrow night will be the fourth Super Bowl since that screaming, blustery ÜberFan was silenced. However his little girl is now twenty and, of course, she is a massive fan of the NY Giants. Although Eli and the guys are not in tomorrow’s game, she tells me that she will be bellied up to a bar in London (she is studying abroad this semester) so she can watch the big game and scream, jump up and down and, yes, hurl some expletives at those darn Patriots, the nemesis of her beloved father. I think I will stay home to watch the game. Maybe sit here, in his favorite chair, and try out a few expletives of my own. 🙂

 

Enough Already

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When I started this blog, a little over a year ago,  my goal was to look at “the lighter side of widowhood.” Ha! Talk about an epic fail. For three years, since my husband’s death, I have done a lot of crying and not enough laughing. The events of days like today – another unbelievable atrocity – certainly don’t help stop the tears – but enough with the excuses …. Maybe events like those that happened today should be a rallying cry not to take life for granted; not to waste the precious time we have on this earth. WTF???? You would think I would have learned that lesson on October 17, 2011.

Anyway, I am wiping my eyes, putting on my big girl panties, and snapping out of it. Time to look to the light … no, not “go into the light” … It’s time I “lightened” up (wow, talk about overworking an analogy). It’s a new year … watch out.

 

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#JeSuisCharlie

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Today, twelve people died because they dared to satirize. Twelve people were killed because they had the audacity to publish their thoughts. Today, the freedom to express opinion was gunned down in an office in Paris by three masked men in the name of Allah.

My heart hurts for the loved ones of those murdered. My heart hurts for a world gone mad ….

I do not know of a God who would condone murder.

But I see a shred of hope — there are people around the world rallying to support the French. There are thousands gathering with signs “Not afraid.”

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And, ironically, instead of shutting down a newspaper, the assassins have turned the employees of Charlie Hebdo, and the police officers trying to protect them, into heroes of free speech.

The people of the world are rallying to protest this latest atrocity. The people of the world stand with Paris. The people of the world stand with the brave French who were not afraid. The world is chanting …

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I cry for the world’s loss… while I raise my hands to heaven…

Je suis Charlie.

Seasonal Sorrow

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I haven’t written a worthy word since my last post. Oh yes, the daily bon mot on Facebook about the weather or somebody’s new grandbaby or political hijinks. But none of that counts.

Late Autumn sucks the very creative life out of me. This artistic  death slide starts in October with the anniversary of my husband’s passing; spirals downward through holidays designed for gratitude and joy and wonder but realized in tears and the hollowness that only solitude amongst other people’s families can bring. Finally crashing into the New Year, my birthday, and an opportunity to start all over. Again.

So, I wait … for this season to pass … so I can think, so I can write, so I can feel something other than sadness, and self-pity… and the darkness of winter is finally lifted by the songs of spring.