Category Archives: Faith

Choosing ……

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…… to not be sad.

Is that possible?  I used to think, “Of course it is!”
You know …… back in my “before”.
I had no idea that sometimes …… you just can’t choose.
Until I couldn’t.

It seemed to last forever …… the days that I couldn’t choose.
It felt like forever.
A long, dark, cold forever.

But gradually the days became lighter and warmer and I found that I could decide.
Sometimes.
Sometimes turned into most times and most times is where I reside now.

I am able to choose to not be sad.

Which brings me to today.
New Year’s Eve.
I’ve hated New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day for ten years.
For me, it’s worse than the dreaded Valentine’s Day that widowed people abhor so much.
It’s an evening/day when you can feel like such a loser because you’re alone.
It’s an evening/day when loneliness feels magnified.
And trust me …… something as sucky as loneliness shouldn’t be magnified.

Christmas was great.
The apartment was full …… of people and noise.
Lots and lots of noise.
And fun.

But like every year, my children have returned to their homes and their lives.
As they should.
The silence is deafening.
On this night.

I know that for many people, the silence and loneliness on Christmas is worse.
And I know that I’m blessed each year to have most of my children with me for that week.
So I try to be mindful of that.
And thankful.

This year feels no different.
It’s New Year’s Eve and it’s quiet.
And a bit lonely.
I still hate it.

I wish he were here.

In spite of all that, I’m choosing to not be sad.
I’m choosing to be thankful.
Thankful for my children.
And their children.
Thankful for the love in my life.
For the friendships and the family.

Thankful that even though he’s not here …… he was.

But most of all …… I’m thankful that I can choose to not be sad.

Most of the time.

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New Year’s Eve 2006 — our last one

Ten ……

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…… years.

120 months.

3,650 days.

And 86,400 hours.  Give or take.

However you count it …… it’s a long time.
And it’s not.
It’s the blink of an eye.
The lifetime of a teenager.
A graduate to a parent.
A mother to a grandmother.
The end of what was planned.
And the beginning of what wasn’t.

Ten.
It’s not the horrible number that you might expect.
Which is odd, since most of the first five or so were pretty rotten.
But ten.
Ten feels …… natural, I guess.

I mean, of course it’s ten.
Jim died ten years ago, almost to the hour.
Ten long years that have flown by.
Ironic, I know.

So much has happened.
In the lives of our children.
In mine.
Many things have changed.
Some things have not.

My life looks far different from the life I had ten years ago.
And though it goes without saying (so why do I always feel the need to say it?) …… I would far prefer the life and plans we all had ten years and two days ago.
Far.

But, that wasn’t my choice to make.
And so this life, this ten year construction, is the life I have learned to choose.
And have worked hard to make.
This past year has been pretty awful at times.
My father died.
My house flooded, as did the homes of many of my friends.
I had to foreclose on our family home and then sell it again, for less than I had hoped.
I am selling my “flooded” house for about half of what I paid for it.
But, through all of this, and more …… I’ve been good.

Nothing that happened has been worse than what happened ten years ago.
Nothing.
The death of half of you gives you perspective.

Our children are good.
Our grandson is amazing.
Life has moved forward.
Sometimes good.
Sometimes not.
But the good has mostly outweighed the bad.

And the best thing of all …… is the love Jim gave.
To me.
To our children.
To his family.
To his friends.
To our community.
To God.

God has multiplied that love.
In my life and in the lives of our children.
In more ways than one.

So yes, it’s been ten challenging years since I last kissed him goodbye.
Ten years where some dreams have died and others have been born.
Ten years of missing him.

But this year, on this day, I am celebrating his love.
That love has made me who I am.
The love that gave me our children.
That love will never be gone.
Even when I am.

Long live love.

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Thankful ……

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…… yes, I can say that I am thankful.
Beyond thankful, actually.

In spite of all of the crap that’s happened these last ten years.
And truthfully, because of all of the crap that’s happened these last ten years.

Ten years ago today I had no idea that my world was soon to be turned upside down and inside out.
I had no inkling that my heart would be ripped out of my chest and that my future, my dreams, my expectations would be ripped out right along with it.
When I think back to the “before me”, I am wistful.
I’d like to be her again, just for a moment.
Innocent.
Content.
Loved.
Secure.
Naive.
Happy.

It’s taken much time, but I am able to say that I’ve regained some of those things.
I’ve had most of them back for more than a few years.
I’m content with the life I have now.
I feel mostly secure. Not totally, but mostly is much better than not at all.
And I’m happy.
Again, not the same happy, but happy nonetheless.

It’s been quite a road.
A tough road.
A shitty road for the first few years.
If you don’t believe that, or can’t comprehend it, then I invite you to go back in time …… all the way back to 3 months before Jim died.
Back when I first started a blog to write about the humor of raising six kids.
That’s all it was.
At first.
It changed very quickly.
You can find it here: http://txmomx6.blogspot.com/2007/09/what-heck-am-i-doing.html

Thanksgiving is usually the time that the sadness/grief starts creeping back in. It’s the beginning of what some of us call, “the death march”. Thanksgiving was like the beginning of the end …… 10 years ago.

This year …… Thanksgiving has been a really nice day to hang with 5 of my 6 kids, and my parents. A day to be thankful for all that I have.
And all that I had.

My life looks nothing like it did 10 years ago, three weeks before Jim died.
But it’s a good life.

I couldn’t have said that 7, 8 or 9 years ago.
Again, the road to here was sometimes horrific, often times shitty, most times lonely.
In spite of that, I kept putting one foot in front of the other.
I didn’t always move forward. Sometimes I moved backwards several feet. Sometimes I just laid down in the middle of the road, bereft and without enough strength to even raise my head.
But …… slowly but surely …… I got from there to here.

Don’t get me wrong …… I’d still prefer that Jim were here along with my “before life”.
But that’s not an option.
And never will be.

So I keep moving forward, and am thankful for each day and each person in my life.
I’m thankful for the ways I’ve changed because Jim died.
I’m content with my life that I live without him.

My heart is full as my 3 year old grandson comes over, takes my laptop away and crawls into my lap …… making me take a break from writing this post.

I love my life.
It’s a life I wouldn’t have if Jim were here.
It’s a life I have because he isn’t here.

It’s not a life I would have chosen …… but it’s a life for which I am eternally grateful.

So on this Thanksgiving Day …… I thank God for my family, my friends …… my life.
And I thank Jim …… for my “before” and for my “after”.
Because he’s a huge part of both.

 

Apartment 8J ……

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…… it’s time for me to tell you, my first NY apartment, goodbye.
And while I feel a bit emotional …… there are no tears in this goodbye.

That’s because I have nothing but great memories with you.
You were my first NY home. And while you were small-ish, you’ve slept over 10 people at a time.

You turned out to be in a terrific building where I’ve made some great friends. You even welcomed one of my widow friends last month, making my life even fuller.
I didn’t think that was possible.

You were never just an apartment …… you were home.
You helped me fulfill a dream that Jim and I started talking about …… but never got to do. Together.

You made it easy for this “Texan” to make the leap and start her “Second Plan A” …… all on her own.

You been a home to two of my children, a couple of cats and a couple of dogs.
You’ve hosted Christmases and Thanksgivings. All very full and somewhat cramped, but joyful and memorable.

I only have one regret about leaving you.
And that’s because of your name.
I wish I could take your name with me.
You see, your name is more than a letter and a number.
To me.
And to our children.

Your name immediately told me that this was the apartment for me.
Your name took away any nervousness I felt about choosing you.
I will never forget you …… because of your name.

8J.
J for Janine.
And Jim.

8 for our family.
There were 8 of us.
I love the number 8.

So thank you, 8J.
Thank you for helping me to know, and feel, that New York is my home.

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I Feel ……

…… that I am at a loss.

I’m at a loss for words.
I’m at a loss for feelings.
I’m at a loss for some kind of permanence in my life.
Something to anchor myself to.
Other than God.

Yes, God is my anchor …… most of the time.
See? I’m going to open myself up here.
Again.
Hopefully you won’t take advantage of the openness and preach at me.
Because I’m being honest.

And maybe this is just me.
In fact, it’s probably just me.
But as I told one of my daughters last week, after learning that my father had died …… and that it will cost over $150,000 to put my house back
together …… sometimes I just can’t pray anymore.

It doesn’t help that I’m watching a telethon right now to help the victims of Harvey and Irma.
I’m ugly crying as a result.
A result of the telethon and of my feelings, which I guess I’m finally feeling.

I know without a doubt that I am beyond blessed.
I didn’t lose everything.
I lost the house that I had.
But I didn’t lose anything in it.
It can be fixed.
For a price.

No one I love died.
My family is safe and well.
I didn’t lose much, really.

But many of my friends are now homeless.
Car-less.
Clothes-less.
Memento-less.
And my heart hurts for them.

It also hurts for all of those who lost so much in the past few days.
It feels like our world is spiraling out of control.
That many of us are losing our sense of permanence.

My heart hurts for the relationship I never really had.
My heart hurts for my sister, who has spent her life seeking love and support from a man who couldn’t give it.
My heart hurts for that man …… who spent his life missing so very much.
My heart hurts because sometimes …… life just sucks.

Not always, thankfully.
But sometimes.
And sometimes …… so often and so long that it’s difficult to see a way out.
Or a way through.

I am so thankful for all of you who comment and who tell me that you feel (or have felt) the same way.
Bless you.
You help me feel so less alone in the suckyness (yes, I know that’s not a word).
I appreciate all of you and thank you for your words.

I want you to know that I don’t feel this type of loss all of the time.
Or even most of the time.
But sometimes.
And sometimes is sometimes too much.

I miss him.
Always.

Sometimes the Only Thing You Can Say Is ……

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…… shit happens.

That’s all I’ve got right now.
It has happened before in my life.
It is happening now.
It will happen again.

The one thing I’ve known for almost 10 years is this:
there are worse things that could happen.

The home I moved to Waco from is flooded.
Thank you, Harvey.
You suck.

There’s nothing I can do right now.
I can’t get in. Lots of people can’t get out.
My friend who rents this home from me had to swim out of the house with her son and two dogs.
In over 5 feet of water.
I am beyond thankful that they are safe.

Yes, I’m grateful.
But I also have a confession to make.
And it won’t be popular.
So if this offends you, I’m sorry.
It’s just my reality.
Which changed dramatically on December 18, 2007.

I’ve been on Facebook almost constantly since Harvey hit Houston. It was the only way to keep up in real time with my friends and neighbors in my community.
It was hard to keep looking at the growing devastation, but it was necessary, too.
The rain has finally stopped, but they’re still letting water out of the lakes and reservoirs, which is what caused the flooding in that area. So it might get worse before it gets better.
There is a long, long road ahead for so many of my friends.

So here’s my confession:
I tend to cringe every time I read a post from someone whose house stayed dry that says, “God is so good!”
It’s not that I don’t believe that God is good.
I do.
But I don’t believe God spared one house over another.
I believe that shit happens.
And sometimes …… it doesn’t.

I know that people who write that don’t mean to insult anyone whose house flooded.
But, in my opinion, it is an insult.
My house was flooded.
Does that mean God wasn’t good to me?
Does that mean that God was upset with me?
Does it mean that you’re more faithful/religious/better than I am?
Does it mean that you’re a better prayer than I am?

I don’t believe for one minute that you think that.
But it feels that way.
Just as it feels that way when someone claims God/prayer saved their loved one through an accident/illness/catastrophe …… but didn’t save mine.

I don’t believe that God brought Harvey to us.
I don’t believe that God spared your house because you prayed for him to do so.
Thousands of praying people lost their homes and/or belongings.
Many praying people lost their loved ones in this storm.

I don’t believe in a God who cherry-picks whom to help.
I don’t believe in a God who gives us what we ask for, like Santa.
I don’t believe that prayers are granted because you prayed harder.

I believe in a God who loves us, no matter what.
I believe in a God who is sad when tragedy occurs.
I believe in a God who will carry us through the darkness.
But we have to go through it.

And I believe that shit happens.

Thirty Four ……

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…… years ago today we were married, Jim.
Thirty four!!
I should be teasing you about being so old now.
But you’ll never be old.
You’re frozen in time at 47.
Fair?
Nope.
But it is what it is.

I had an apartment full of kids this weekend, which is always wonderful. This visit was no different.
J-Bear really saw NY for the first time. He’s been here several times but this was his first visit to really “see” things. And he seemed to have a blast. He was exhausted in the evenings, if that’s a clue. I wish you were here to have carried him on your shoulders through Times Square. Or Central Park.
He loves the Park.

We walked all over the city, saw a few shows, ate some great food, and just enjoyed spending time together.

The worst thing about having the kids visit? Watching them leave. But you knew that because you felt that way, too, when the girls would leave after a visit from college.
Daughter #3 and her hubby were the last to go. I decided to go see a movie before they left so that I wouldn’t be the one left alone in the apartment.
It’s the little things that help.

I’ve been emotional for a week.
I’m guessing that I brought a lot of that with me from Oregon.
Do you know that my father is dying? Are you aware of that up there?
Do you know that I’m trying my best to be there for him, to help him if/when he needs it?
Do you know that it feels like it’s slowly killing me inside?
I decided to extend my stay in NY so that I can just have some time to myself before I head back.
I also decided (with the help of Daughter #1, God bless her) to head back to Texas after her visit in July. That gives me a set date and something to look forward to.
It’s exhausting, draining, sad, and horrible to just sit with someone …… not knowing when something will change. Not knowing if tomorrow will be worse than today.
Just …… not knowing.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t go back, it just means that I emotionally/physically can’t stay in that kind of atmosphere for an indeterminate amount of time.

So today should be our anniversary.
My heart hurts.

Today is my father’s birthday.
That, too, makes my heart hurt.

I do remember all that we had, Jim …… the good along with the bad. We were blessed to have so much good.
And so I do focus on that when this day comes around, when you’re birthday comes, the kids’ birthdays, etc.
I do.
I was beyond blessed to have you for as long as I did. I will never stop thanking God for the gift of you.
I don’t expect, nor do I want (at this point in time) to have that with anyone else. I’m good.
Truly.

Or, I thought I was until this past Thursday, when I took D#2 to see Josh Groban (her celebrity crush) in “The Great Comet of 1812”. I was enjoying it more this second time …… until I notice during intermission that Katie Couric was sitting in front of me. With her husband. The husband she married in the not-so-distant past after being widowed for a couple of decades.
I could no longer focus on the show.
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They held hands through the rest of the show, sometimes both hands.
They smiled, laughed and giggled secretly together.
They enjoyed each other.
They truly love each other.
You can see it in their eyes.
And man, do I miss that look.
And holding those hands.
Telling those jokes.
Whispering to you.
Just sitting next to you.
Knowing you’re there.

I cried through the rest of the show, knowing that the people next to me thought I was bonkers.

And when it was over, I hesitated but then gathered my courage …… and I tapped Katie on the shoulder. She looked at me with uncertainty for a moment and then moved in closer so that I could whisper in her ear.
“I just want you to know that, speaking personally, you give widowed people hope.”
She pulled back so that she should see me, see the tears running down my face and then said, “I’m so sorry”.
“Yeah, me, too. But thank you for this, and him (pointing to her husband)”
“Life does go on.”, she said. I nodded and smiled.
“Yes. Yes, it does.”

So Happy 34th, Jim.
I love you so.
My life is moving forward.
In most ways.

I miss you tons,

Janine