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!

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Wilbur and Aidan – Pouncing into My Life

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I was staying true to my goal of writing at least one post a day until “they” came. “They” being two kittens – one black (named Wilbur) the other grey and white (named Aidan). Don’t blame me for the names – they came with them. As these are rescue kitties, I didn’t want to further confuse the poor boys with more change than they had already experienced in their (approximately)four or five months on this earth. Losing their mothers, their siblings, and their homes, I thought the least I could do is retain their shelter-given names. About a month apart in age (they are not brothers although they act like it), they are full of piss and vinegar and have turned my home upside down – not to mention being a massive distraction from my writing.

But that’s ok – they’re a welcome addition to this quiet house. When I get home from work, there they are … adorable and waiting for their dishes to be filled and making a God-awful noise akin to screaming (is meowing something they learn?). As a friend noted, they bring life to this house. And Lord knows this house needed some life. On the other hand, I have heard more than my fair share of jokes about turning into a crazy cat lady.

They are here now and ready to pounce so I must signoff. As soon as they get a little older, and a little calmer, I think I’ll be able to get back to the blog. In the meantime, be well friends. Time to chase the kitties.

One last quick note — there is a special place in heaven for people who rescue animals. A very special place.

Widowhood Sucks – but people don’t (always)

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Writing this blog has provided me with an avenue to express myself – whether it be on those very dark days when I felt so all alone I could drown in my own tears or on the days of light when laughter crept into my otherwise solitary existence. For a long time I didn’t tell many of my friends about “The W-Card.” I just kept writing and keeping it between myself and a few folks who stumbled over this blog. I’m not sure why the secrecy.

That’s a lie. I know why — I didn’t want to be judged or, worse than judged, pitied. I hate that. I know people feel compelled to tell you how sorry they are for your lot in life but every time I see it coming — and don’t you see it coming, widow friends? Someone will be talking and inadvertently use a word they think might be offensive to a widow…. you know, like “husband” and they get that pitying look on their face and there it goes “Oh, I am so sorry.” Flashback to the 80’s … “Gag me with a spoon.” I detest pity.

Unless, of course, it gets me something as I described in my original premise for “The W-Card.” But that’s different. That’s not just looking sad and uttering “I’m sorry.” That’s doing something about it. Big difference.

Anyway, so I have been telling more people and getting more feedback. It’s been very encouraging. I have heard from friends but, even more exciting, I have heard from other widows. I have heard that all this writing has not been for naught. The other night I had a note from a widow who told me how helpful it was to read that some of the thoughts she had might not be so crazy … because those were thoughts very much like the thoughts and feelings I was writing about. I cannot begin to tell you how incredible that felt. I don’t know this woman but I do know what it’s like. I know how much it hurts. Big time. Down to the very core of your being. But I also know there are moments, many moments actually, over the past two years when I have been the recipient of great kindness. Kindness I never imagined truly existed. Kindness that makes it possible to get out of bed in the morning.

So yes, widowhood does suck. But people don’t (always). And kittens? Well, kittens never suck …. (yes, I am still on the kitten kick, these two are coming to live with me …. alone no more! )….

Me and My soon-to-be New Roomies

Nothing Better Than A Sunday Like Today

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I know so many people who dread Sunday as it signals the end of the weekend and the return to the workweek. I am not one of those people. Raised in a Roman Catholic family, Sunday was ALWAYS a day of rest. We would get up and get ready for church… having gone to Confession the night before — yes, every week. You haven’t lived unless you have experienced the rites of the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance (aka, confession) on a weekly basis. And think about it. Seriously, as little kids, what “sins” could you have possibly committed that were so heinous that a weekly trip to the confessional was required? It seems someone in the church hierarchy, and our parents, thought us little monsters needed a weekly dose of whoop-ass, RC style.

I still snicker when I think of part of that ritual. You see, we attended a church where the confessional was WAY up the very long aisle and in the sacristy (behind the altar). We would wait in line for each new sinner to go up, start the prayer “Forgive me Father for I have sinned,” admit how long since their last confession (on the off chance you missed a week), and then launch into the list of sins for that week. At the end, one more prayer and then the verdict … usually a series of prayers including, for some reason I still don’t understand, a large number of “Hail Marys.”

My brother, Ned, was a tiny fellow. And something about confession scared the crud out of him. I suspect it’s because he was quite the sinner. I know this as every Saturday, little, tiny Ned would walk WAY up that aisle to the sacristy, and assume the position (that sounds horrible, doesn’t it? If you’re Catholic, you know what I mean. If you’re not Catholic, as you went into the confessional you knelt down in front of a screen, separating you from the priest and, allegedly, shading your face, as well as the priest’s). Having assumed the position, Ned then launched into the prayers and his litany of sins. Unfortunately for Ned, he was so nervous that rather than the traditional low, almost whispered, rendition, he would speak loudly. Very loudly. So loudly that we heard each and every one of his transgressions – as did my mother.

It was hysterical. The poor kid could be heard admitting to the number of times he lied and the number of times he swore. Apparently my brother had quite the potty mouth. I don’t remember hearing it directly but I sure heard him telling the priest. My mother tried to help the kid out, not wanting to embarrass him, by strongly suggesting he lower his voice. But no matter the warnings, nerves always won out and he would fold like a cheap suit — reciting LOUDLY his sins. Tough luck for him but it made our Saturdays more amusing.

Anyway, that was Saturday night prep for Sunday morning torture. But the torture only lasted about an hour and then there was the stop at the “Variety Store” for the newspapers and, if we had behaved in church, donuts from the bakery. Quite the treat. Once we were home, the race was on to get out of church clothes and into play clothes. Play clothes were essential as the next activity was watching wrestling on tv while Mom put the finishing touches on Sunday (noon) dinner.

I have to wonder what network wizard thought to schedule WWF on Sunday mornings, but it was brilliant. Nothing like enormous men jumping around a ring to erase the church doldrums. Of course, my brothers inevitably got into re-enactments which lead to even more hijinks. I still remember getting “clothes-lined” trying to walk through the living room. It was harmless. It was fun. And it was followed by a big dinner and then an afternoon free from any chores. Sundays were heavenly.

I am thinking of all of this as today was another heavenly Sunday. I did get up with a list of things I probably should have accomplished but, instead, I had a day of things I wanted to do. I went to church. I took myself out to a lovely brunch. I did some marketing. I started a great soup in the slow cooker. When that was all done I decided to take a little nap (my very favorite Sunday activity). I was awakened by my brother (the loud sinner) and his son stopping by to visit. We decided to head out for Sunday night dinner and an ice cream treat. We had laughs and, did I mention, ice cream? They went there way and I came home and watched the movie “Saving Mr. Banks.” And now I’m writing. Could it possibly get any better than this?

What a great day! Have a wonderful week, friends.