Do I Say His Name ……

100_0637

…… too much?

You’ll have to bear with me …… because just asking this makes me cry.

I wonder …… do I mention Jim too much?
Not in everyday conversation with friends.
But in conversations with other men.

I have to pause every time I type that question …… because I really am shedding tears.
Jim is as much a part of me, as I am a part of me.
We met when we were 20.
We married when he was 23 and I was one month shy of 23.

We grew up together.
We thought we’d grow old together.

We really did grow up together.
We married one year after we graduated from college.
We were babies.
Though we didn’t know it.
And would’ve bristled at that thought.

We became parents at the age of 24.
We were so young.
We had our whole lives in front of us.
Or so we thought.

So now, when I find myself getting to know someone …… specifically, a man …… I find myself talking about Jim.
Not a lot.
But when a man shares a memory with me …… a memory that Jim shared with me …… I talk about that.
When someone shares something in common with Jim, I comment on it.

It’s not that I’m comparing the two men. I truly am not doing that.
It’s just that my past and Jim’s past are so intertwined, that I can’t help but identify with someone …… even if it’s from Jim’s identity.

Does this even make sense to anyone?

When a guy tells me that he loved growing up in a very small town, I can totally relate, because Jim loved that, too.
And I say that.

When a guy tells me that he loves “Caddy Shack”, I tell him that Jim did, too, and I recite Jim’s favorite line from that movie.

Is that too much?
It doesn’t feel like it …… at the time.

We grew up together. His past is intertwined with mine.

I’m not comparing one man with Jim.
I’m just noting what they have/had in common.
It feels natural.
To me.

But then I stop …… and wonder.
Does a man really want to hear about another?
Does a man realize that it’s not a comparison, but a likeness?

I don’t know.

I hope so, but I don’t know.

Yes, of course I miss Jim.
With all of my being ….. with all of my heart and soul …… I miss him.
But I don’t expect to find him in the form of another man.
I try not to compare them.

In mentioning him, I’m just thinking of the ways that they’re alike.
Which is a positive thing.
In my opinion.

But in the eyes of another man …… I don’t know.
Is it too much?

Should I stuff every memory of Jim way down inside?
Should I work hard to refrain from mentioning him …… and anything that they might have in common?
Should I shut the door on common memories?

I have to admit …… that I hate this part of “dating” …… of getting to know someone else.
I hate that I have to stop and re-think my natural response.
I hate that I feel like I should censor anything about Jim.

And I especially hate that I find myself in this position.
That, because he’s dead, I’m meeting men.
I.
Hate.
That.

But there I am.
Meeting men.
Trying to figure out what to say.
Trying to figure out what to share.
Trying to figure out what not to say.
Trying to figure out what not to share.

This is not where I was supposed to be.
This is not what I was supposed to experience.

But here I am.

It is what it is.

And I’m doing my best.
My best includes mentioning Jim.
It always will.

Maybe I’ll meet a man who’s ok with that.
Maybe I won’t.

Either way …… I’ll be ok.
Truly ok.

It is what it is.

Not Your Ordinary Camp ……

11742649_10153484440021506_5346746247907232280_n

…… is Camp Widow.

I know …… the name is suggestive of a hotel full of little old women, wearing black and sitting in rocking chairs.
Well, the word “widow” is suggestive of that.

Until you become one.

Not at first.
At first I think that most people hate that word. I did.
Because I wasn’t old and you’ll rarely find me sitting in a rocking chair.
My husband was dead, yet I still felt married to him.
I was not a widow, thank you very much.
I was not one of “them”.

Then came my first Camp Widow.
Only it wasn’t called that the first year. It was called the National Conference on Widowhood.
Yeah, we all know it was a blah name.
Which is why it was changed before the weekend was out.

The name wasn’t important to me.
The experience was.
It was full of laughter, tears and more laughter.
Outsiders would never guess what we all had in common.
Never.

After that first weekend of spending time with over 100 people in the same boat with me, the definition of the word “Widow” started to change.
I loved every person I met.
And I still do.
They are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
Each year I look forward to seeing them again. And again.
We love, and hate, the reason that we all love each other.

We are widowed.
And so much more.

Now I embrace that word. Because to me, “widow” means that I’m a survivor.
I’m still here.
And I’m strong.
I’m living as fully as I can …… because Jim can’t.
And because he loved me.
He would expect nothing less.

The definition didn’t change overnight.
It took time.
Sometimes it felt like forever.
I wasn’t always sure that I’d get to here.
Sometimes I’m amazed that I did.

And all of the time …… I’m glad I did.
For Jim.
For our kids.
And for me.

God is good.
All the time.

11039331_10153497985876506_87434504221236785_n

11063916_10153498966946506_8597829712560121800_n

11693953_10153496040656506_6754502779772791403_n

11760207_10153498966986506_2544967729289400308_n

11781595_10153494390316506_3600117441968513918_n

11800098_10153498921411506_2311862797977808262_n

 

Life Is ……

IMG_0665

…… something I never, ever thought I’d say again.
Ever.

Life is …… pretty darn good.
All in all.
All things considered.

I’m 7 1/2 years “out” from Jim’s death.
I will never be happy that he died.
Of course.

But I am happy.
Ironic, no?

Of course I’d give everything up if that would bring him back, but …… it won’t.
So I’ve chosen to move forward.
And to live life the way I would have wanted him to live it.
Fully.

I know that I am beyond blessed to be able to live my “after” …… my “second plan A” …… fully.
He’s responsible for that.
He planned ahead for the unimaginable.
He always took care of me …… of our family.
And he still does.
I will love him fully …… to the moment that I draw my last breath.
And beyond.

And who knows? I may love another man that same way.
I’m ok with that.
And I know that Jim is, too.

I’m in love with the city where I’ve chosen to live.
Beyond in love.
I am absolutely crazy about New York City.
Head over heels.

Who knows how long I’ll live here? I have no idea. I’ve learned to not plan too far in advance.
But right now, in this moment …… I want to live here.
And so I do.

I’m in love with all of my children and where they are in their lives.
It’s been a very, very long 7 1/2 years.
It’s been a long and arduous journey with some of them.
But right now, at this moment in time …… they’re doing well.
They are thriving.
None of them are perfect.
But neither am I.
And neither was Jim.
None of them live perfect lives.
But neither do I.
And neither did Jim.

I don’t wish for them to live perfectly perfect lives.
I wish for them to live fully, to live to their utmost.
I wish for God to lead them and for them to follow.
Whether they do or not is up to them.
I will love them unconditionally.
As a parent should.

I love being able to connect with widowed people.
I love helping them know that they are not crazy, wrong, or alone.
I love giving them hope.

I love that I’ll be doing that at Camp Widow West in a little over a week.
I can’t wait.

Life is something I never thought it would be again.

Life.
Is.
Good.

And I am blessed beyond measure to be able to say that.

Thank you, Jim.

Thank you, God.

Walking on the Surface of the Sun ……

…… is pretty much what walking around Universal felt like.
I kid you not.
It.
Was.
Hot.

But in spite of the heat, we had fun.
In fact, I would even dare to say …… that, aside from our very first family vacation, which took place back in July of 1993 …… this was the second best vacation we’ve had. Now, I have to tell you that back in 1993 we only had five (5) children, and everyone was under the age of 9. They were all at a great age for a vacation …… meaning that they hadn’t yet developed the whining reflex, nor turned into pre-teen/teenage grumblers. They were easy to please and were happy doing whatever we were all doing.
Ahhhh, the early days.

That was our very best vacation ever.
This was our second.
I learned that it’s great to live long enough to experience a vacation with adult children …… who are finding out that they like each other.
Will wonders never cease?

The only sad part is that Jim didn’t live long enough to experience it.
Yes, some would say that he still saw it …… that he knows how we’re doing.
I’m still not sure about that, though I’d like to think so.
I hope so.

So, for all of you parents of teenagers …… or children who act like teenagers (God help you) …… there is light at the end of the tunnel/teenage years.
Trust me …… if nine (9) people (more like 8 1/2 since Little Bit was there) can get along (for the most part) on vacation …… there’s hope for you.

We all flew to our various homes yesterday. Son #3 and I flew to Houston, where I left my suitcase packed, did laundry, and packed another bag.
Oh, and we picked Gracie up. She was pretty excited to see us, though I know that she had a great time with my friend Amy and her family. I have no doubt that her two daughters spoiled Gracie Lou and treated her wonderfully. Which made it easy to leave her in their hands.
But I was glad to have her back.

We left for the airport at 7:00 this morning.
Yawn.
And now Gracie and I are both happily ensconced in our apartment in NY. I spent the better part of the afternoon unpacking and organizing everything.
It’s great to be back.
So very great. :)

Gracie did well on the flight today.
Gotta love those doggie sedatives.
Very much.
:)

So here are random pictures from the trip.
Enjoy.
Or just click away now.
I wouldn’t blame you.

This is in Diagon Alley from Harry Potter World.
The dragon spits out fire every 10 minutes or so.   Which is kind of cool.
IMG_0511

It stormed the first two afternoons, but only for a short amount of time.  The second day it started to hail as we returned to the hotel from the parks.  This is a piece of hail.  On a very hot afternoon.   So very weird.
IMG_0534

This was the sunset after the hail storm.  It was lovely.
IMG_0539

This is a pitcher of booze from Margaritaville.  Hopefully you recognize the lyric to the song.  If not, you can Google it.                                                                                              
Or not.  
Whatever floats your boat.
This was a very good margarita.
Or three.
IMG_0560

This is one of the roller coasters at night.  We rode it more than once.
I love a good roller coaster.
IMG_0581

This is the fireworks show on the 4th.  They have fireworks every night, so I don’t think these were anything special, but they were still good.
IMG_0582

This is Daughter #2 with Little Bit.  He was pretty wonderful the entire time.  Especially when you consider the fact that he was in a stroller on the surface of the sun for three days.  He never got upset while in the parks.  And he enjoyed the pool.  As did all of us who swam every afternoon.
IMG_0594

That’s all of the pics.
At least for now.
Hopefully that didn’t bore you to tears.
If it did, sorry.
Not really.

Just be glad that I can’t figure out how to upload my videos.

So, I Wonder ……

…… what the statute of limitations is for “widda brain”.

For those of you uninitiated in this “club”, consider yourself lucky for an altogether different reason: being widowed affects your memory. Big time.
Like we needed something else to kill off our brain cells.

All kidding aside (for the moment), when you first experience “widda brain”, it’s hella scary. Sometimes terrifying. You forget whole conversations. Overnight.
You forget meeting people.
You forget the paragraph/sentence you just read. Three times.
You forget appointments.
Or you go to an appointment …… a week early (not that I’ve personally experienced that … <cough, cough>).
You lose large chunks of time.
And wonder if you have Alzheimers.
Or a split personality.
It really is very frightening.
Until you find out that it’s a “normal” effect of grief.
For quite a while.
Or maybe that’s just me.

So I’m not sure how long I can claim W.B.
And when I just have to admit that I’m an idiot.
Who should maybe stay in one place for more than a month at a time.

Tonight I had plans to go with a friend to an event for the women in our church here in Texas (just in case you can’t keep up with me, either). She was going to pick me up at 6:00.
I had just finished getting ready at 5:30.
At 5:32 my cell phone rang … it was a number I didn’t recognize so I did what I always do with those calls.
I ignored it.
My phone sounded out the voice mail alert, so I picked it up to listen.
The caller was a woman I’d never met, telling me that she was at the restaurant where we were supposed to meet … at 5:30.
Oh.
My.
Word.

I had completely forgotten that a mutual friend introduced the two of us over email …… because this woman is a widow who doesn’t know any younger widows.
And we did indeed make plans to meet for dinner.
Tonight.
At 5:30.
I need a brain transplant.

Thankfully, my friend is/was very gracious and thought the situation was pretty funny.
I admit that I had to laugh.
This is my life.
A lot of the time.
Thankfully I have yet to find my keys in my freezer.
Yet.

I called my new friend back and told her I’d be there in 15 minutes …… and I was.
In spite of a very long train.
Of course.

And we had a great visit.
She now knows a younger widow.
I hope to help her meet the women in our “Circle”.
As well as get her to Camp Widow in Tampa.

I also got to say hi/bye to a couple of friends who ended up sitting at a table next to ours. They’re moving to Guyana.
And you thought New York was far from Texas!

I’m now going to change gears and post random pictures from the past few weeks.
Just to catch you up on a few things.
I bet you can’t wait.
:)

I took this from my rooftop in NY.  By the pool.  Whoop!

IMG_0149

This is the back view of the dress that I wore to the Tonys.
You know …… THE Tonys.
Quintuple Whoop!!!!!

IMG_0383

And yes, this is the front.

IMG_0384

This picture was taken at a restaurant called Bare Burgers.  Their lighting is upside down lamps.
Which is pretty dang cool, is it not?

IMG_0411

This is the King, in “The King and I”, Ken Watanabe, posing with fans after the show.  I didn’t see the show on this evening, but just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  He took time to take pics with several people.  Which was very nice of him.

IMG_0418

This is at the IMAX where I watched the 3D version of “Jurassic World”.  I thought it was kind of cool/fun.  If you ignore the fact that almost everyone is eaten by a dinosaur.  Which was a whole lot more believable than Bryce Dallas Howard running through jungles and the entire picture in a tank top, a skirt and 4 inch heels.
Sheesh.

IMG_0429

This is Gracie, trying to show me that she’s ready to go to Texas.
I guess.

IMG_0445

This is the picture I took at the closing of our family home last week.
And yes, that’s a mimosa.
And no, I didn’t cry.
I just took deep breaths.
And drank a couple of those.

IMG_0453

It’s been a busy couple of weeks down here.
I did the closing, went to a couple of doctor appointments, had blood work done (whoop?), had an MRI done on my aching shoulder, purged a lot of “stuff” from my closets, bathroom cabinets and garage, and replaced an AC/furnace.  The entire thing. (Well, *I* didn’t do the replacing, I just watched for 8 hours and paid for it …… which is easier written than done.)
I spent my birthday/Father’s Day with my parents, going to a movie (the new Avengers …. don’t bother), dinner, and then another movie (“Inside Out” … go see it!).  And I talked to my kids.  It was a good day.

Now I’m in the middle of getting ready for a trip to Florida with all six (6) of my kids.  Plus Little Bit. Plus one Significant Other (not mine).
If you’re keeping count, that’s that nine (9) people.
Or 8.5.
Don’t be jealous.

We’re going to brave the heat and the crowds at Universal.  And hopefully hit as many roller coasters as many times as we can in a 72 hour period.
More or less.
As well as pool time.
I’m excited about it and am really looking forward to spending time with these fabulous people.           Hopefully I’ll get lots of great pictures.                                                                                                     Unless “widda brain” prevails.

So it’s anybody’s guess.
Whoop!

Sunday Was Just Short ……

…… of a miracle.

Not because it was my birthday, though birth, in and of itself, is always miraculous.
(Please accept my apologies if you just gagged. I did, too.)

Not because it was Father’s day, though it’s difficult a day for many people I know.

It wasn’t a miracle for those two things alone, but their occurrence together induced the miracle.

The miracle was this: I made it through that day …… through those two occasions …… without a tear.
Not one.
My eyes didn’t tear up at all.

I realize that most people wouldn’t see that as a miracle …… but I also know that most of you reading this …… know that it is.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel my heart tug a couple of times when I thought of Jim …… and of his absence. But I immediately turned my thoughts to the memories of him, instead of dwelling on the empty space he should be filling.
And I smiled.

I still miss him every day.
I will always miss him.
I will always wish that it had been me who left, while he stayed and did a better job of parenting.
Of being a better person.

But here I am.
And life is good, most of the time.
I am happy, most of the time.
And I’m thankful that I’ve reached the point where I can choose to sit and cry over Jim’s absence, or I can choose to sit and remember him, remember us …… remember all of the good stuff.

I’d much rather smile than cry.
Mostly because I’m an ugly crier and you can tell I’ve been crying even an hour after I stopped.
It’s a curse.

So anyway, I’m thankful for the miracle I experienced on Sunday.
I’m thankful for the father that Jim was to our children.
And I’m thankful for all of the birthdays I had while he was here.
(I’m not thankful that he’ll always be much younger than me now ….. that’s just aggravating!)

All this to say …… when you can …… choose to smile at the memories, rather than cry at the loss.
When.
You.
Can.

It Is SO Freakin’ Hot ……

…… here in Houston that I am loathe to even open my front door.

If you could see the actual temperature you’d think I’m a huge crybaby …… as would I.
That’s because it’s really only 84 degrees. Usually, temperatures in the low to mid-80’s are almost delightful.
At least that’s how I feel when I’m in 84 degrees in …… oh, let’s say …… San Diego, northern California, New York …… even the middle of a desert.

But here in Houston, 84 degrees feels close to what I would consider hell to feel like. That’s because it’s 84 degrees with about a 12,254% humidity.
And no, I’m not exaggerating.
Much.

It’s so gross to wake up in the mornings and not be able to see sunlight because every window in your house is covered with water from the humidity.
Not to mention the steam that rolls off of the streets and sidewalks.
Don’t you wish you were here now?

There’s a huge, almost-private, pool behind my house. I can’t even begin to summon up the energy it would require to walk back there because HUMIDITY!

Enough about the air you could drown in.

Yesterday was a good day.
It was my birthday.
Since it’s a birthday that’s past my 29th year, we’ll just leave it at that.

I got Skyped, Face Timed, texted and Messaged by my kids …… so that was a win. :)
My parents came into town and we went to a movie (the new Avengers movie — avoid it), then to dinner, and then we decided to go see another movie that could redeem our two hours lost to the Avengers. We saw “Inside Out” and did indeed redeem our day. It’s very good. For all ages, but most especially for adults. I love Pixar because of that.

So all in all, it was a good day.
In spite of being one more year further away from 29.

In fact, when I opened my Face Book page last night and saw the hundreds of Happy Birthday messages from family and friends, it became a great day.
It’s nice to feel special at least one day of the year.
No matter how far I am from 29.

I’d love to post a picture of a doe standing in my yard, eating leaves off of a tree right outside my window yesterday …… but ever since Apple updated the last IOS system …… and changed iPhoto into Photos …… my pictures from my phone aren’t uploading onto my computer.
Not to be a whiner, but …… I hate Photos.
With a passion.
And when I went on line to find some help, I found out that I am not alone in this hatred.
Not by a long shot.

I’d love to know why the technology giants canNOT live by the credo, “If it ain’t broke, DON’T FIX IT!!”

So you’ll just have to imagine a lovely doe standing under a tree in my back yard.
And then imagine Gracie growling and barking her head off at it.

And then you can imagine Gracie noticing that two dogs are on a TV show, and then going nuts barking, growling and running over to the TV to try to get at them.
I have that on video.
Which may never see the light of day.
Thank you, Apple.

That’s it for now. I need to start a packing list for my vacation with my six, plus Little Bit, plus one significant other, to Florida next week.
Where, hopefully, our lungs won’t fill with water every time we take a deep breath.

Maybe I should go buy some scuba gear for us to walk around in.

Later, Peeps.
:)