Faith Blooming

rosesTen months in as of next week and change comes slowly. Little things need to be taken care of daily, shopping, eating, laundry, and then, suddenly I realize my car lease is up, ironically on the year anniversary of Gary’s death. I am proactive and start looking for my new car; something I have never navigated by myself, having a husband in the car business came in quite handy for the past 20 years.   Now I am trying to remember all those things Gary negotiated for us, the warranties, the car lease terms, the car accessories and interest rates. I am navigating the unfamiliar and while people do this all the time, I have never done this alone and I want to make a good deal.

I made it through another holiday, the romantic one I’d been lucky enough to take for granted for the past 37 years. I always had a Valentine and plans for dinner; most of the time we cooked it together at home. We spent quiet evenings at home, but enjoyed the company. This year I realized it is a good thing to be a kindergarten teacher on Valentine’s Day because it comes with the guarantee of little cards, some chocolate and lots of handpicked flowers. This year, the year I wouldn’t come home to roses, my daughters thoughtfully ordered roses. My daughter coordinated with my dear friend, who kindly delivered the roses to school, and I was moved to tears by the sheer thoughtfulness and love the act represented.

I long for ritual.  Every holiday is a pause in my path to acceptance, or at least acknowledgement, of my new life and after I’ve made it through the day, I exhale. The day after Valentine’s Day would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday. He died when he too young at 75. This past week was a double hit. After surviving the loss of romance, I woke up to the loss of the other man who had influenced my life.

This week I am tackling taxes, organizing my documents and doing my best to organize Gary’s tax documents. Cruelly I have to file joint tax returns for two years, reliving the past year and then next year, confronting the void of documents. We always worked as a team to assemble the paperwork, but truthfully, though I organized, Gary was the numbers guy. I am double checking everything.

People surround me, but many times, I am alone in this new life. Some days go by and everyone is involved in his or her own lives. I realize I have to find one, fill it up and think of myself, something a wife and mother rarely does. I am unaccustomed to putting myself first, but I have to learn to do this if I am going to survive. I am doing my best to stay in survival mode, dipping my toe into new things, dinner with new friends, figuring out how to negotiate a car purchase, and organizing my tax documents.

A Valentine chocolate came with this quote and I saved it, rereading it, and gathering faith. I am looking for the faith in the best outcome, the faith in the relationships I cherish, the faith in the possibility of a future.

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Filed under death, grief, Life thoughts

Life Goes On

fullsizerender-28It’s been nine months since Gary died and as I woke up early yesterday to get ready for the Women’s March in Los Angeles, I thought about how much has changed in these nine months. The 21st day of each month is a reminder that life can change in a moment, with a phone call in the middle of the night, with a doctor’s diagnosis, when a loved one is suddenly gone. Life can change in a day, with the unexpected results of an election, with the division of friends or family, with the looming uncertainty of the future.

Life goes on for me in a much different way than I could have ever imagined just over nine months ago. I’ve learned to live alone and when asked yesterday if I have plans for today I am reminded by my daughters that my tasks for today of doing laundry, writing progress reports, preparing for the upcoming week ahead and if the rain lets up, having coffee with a friend constitute “plans.” I had always thought plans were plans with others, with Gary or with friends, but now plans with myself are the new normal.

Life goes on in our country too, but in a much different way than I ever imagined it would be nine months ago when we were filled with excitement and enthusiasm about the possibility of the first woman president, with the hope for a different future for my daughters and future granddaughter. The realities of today are fearful monitoring of the news, trying to figure out what is real, and slightly terrified that some of what I hear could actually be real. Nine months ago hope was an electrifying force, today we have to muster up our own hope and courage to embody the change we want to see, that we need to see, that our country needs to survive.

Life goes on for me, with small changes at a slow pace. Learning to cook healthy food for myself instead of making do with a frozen waffle for dinner. Learning to go to sleep and to wake up alone and learning to live in the present instead of planning and hoping for a future. The future is an unknown commodity. My friend said to look for one bit of happiness each day and to gather those as flowers in a vase. My sister gave me a “happiness jar” to fill with little notes written when something good happened so I can reflect back at the end of the year, but I remember when the days had more than one happy moment and I didn’t have to keep count because I knew that more would come the next day.

Life goes on for our country because we, the people, are our country. We gathered together yesterday by the hundreds of thousands, in Los Angeles, the count at 750,000. We stood in massive crowds, peacefully, smiling at each other and chanting together, holding amazing signs with heartfelt messages. We walked through crowded downtown streets, on a sunny day, a break between rainstorms, warmed by comradery and basking in hope. We took a break from feeling alone, from watching depressing news, and made our own news, together.

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      photo credit Nicole Weisberg

Life goes on for me, for my daughters and my family. We made it through the holidays and move towards the last few landmarks to come before reaching the year anniversary. We find some moments of togetherness, some happiness and are adapting to this different life. New things now seem important, the new responsibility of maintaining the rights that were not in jeopardy nine months ago. We have created some new habits, checking in on each other more often, letting each other know we are home safely at night and saying goodnight. It’s good to have a close connection and to feel cared about in a world that can feel isolating.

Life goes on for our country and today as storms pound through Los Angeles, I smile thinking about yesterday, when we were smiled upon by the first sunny day in a week as we marched. The weather paused and gave us hope on a hopeful day. Today everything is washed clean and I hope our momentum continues and elevates. Today we must continue our search for truth in the midst of “alternative facts,” for hope on the other side of this despair and for unity to emerge through the tactics of divisiveness. The Women’s March gave evidence that we are not divided by religion, race, gender or politics but united in our belief that our desire for democracy, for a free country and for love to win as the power to heal us.

Life goes on for me as I crave real talk, the kind of talk that is deep below the surface. Through the connection to others, to those caring people in my life, I have avenues for my raw feelings, my bubbling emotions and worries. For those brave enough to jump in the deep waters of connection, I am grateful. A friend said that these nine months are beginning to be enough time to give birth to a new and active movement within me. Just as with bringing my daughters into this world, nine months seemed to fly by, but nine months also seems like forever.

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Filed under change, death, Election, Family, Life thoughts

How to Make a Fire

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“You need to teach me how to make a fire,” said my middle daughter as we enjoyed the warmth of the fire on a shared New Year’s Day evening. But it was more than that. It was about learning to use kindling, soft pine logs and finally larger more solid oak logs to bring a glow to the room, to provide warmth and ambiance. It was about sharing a space that felt like family. I know, because it is the way I felt when I learned to make a fire back in my 20’s when Gary taught me. My dad occasionally lit a fire, but it was Gary who loved fires and I still crave the warmth and the glow.

The holidays have passed and the memories have joined the others now. The image and scent of sweet potatoes adorned with marshmallows, the corn flake topped string beans, the simmering latkes, the sweet crumble-topped cranberry-pears, bakery goods from Bea’s Bakery and the pot roast recipe created by my Auntie Joyce and made a million times by my mom, complete with carrots, onions and potatoes in gravy, requested and deliciously remembered now. The holidays trigger emotions too and longing for the holidays of the past when everyone was here, but we go on and create new and different traditions that bring the cozy joy of sharing with family and friends.

How do we pass on our traditions to our children? It’s more than telling them about how we celebrate; it’s about embedding the sights, sounds and smells associated with family. The house is decorated with relics of the past, preschool painted dreidels, menorahs made of felt, elementary school laminated holiday poems, holiday lights and the three little Hanukkah mice my mother gave me, one for each daughter. The smell of burning candles, the anticipation of small, secretly selected gifts opened together, eliciting small tears of joy. What makes the holidays real is the togetherness we share.

My job as a mother began more than 32 years ago, but as a mother, once you sign on, that’s it. I’ve taken it seriously from the start feeling that as a mother, my primary jobs were to take care of my daughters, pass on everything I know to them, pass on all family traditions and of course keep them alive. My daughters appreciate their handmade (by dad) dollhouses, the quilts I made for each of them when they turned nine and the special quilts made of all of the sweatshirts collected from ballet, music and theater performances over the years.

Making a fire. Beginning with the kindling, then the soft pine and finally the solid oak. This is what it takes, and the reward is so great. The warmth, the glow, and a place called family.

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Filed under Family, Life thoughts, Mothers

Getting Through

you-are-here

2016 was a year of getting through things.

Radiation, surgery, death, a memorial and the scattering of ashes

It was a year of new financial responsibilities and for letting go of things.

It was a year filled with loneliness.

 

There has been the first anniversary, birthdays and holidays without Gary.

2016 was a year of disappointments and lost elections, the loss of hopes and fear for the future. This was a year when so many left the planet.

2016 was a year of new things, new babies, weddings, new experiences, new responsibilities, and new goals.

This was a year that started with hope and ended with uncertainty, with many people afraid to look forward.

We must move forward, so for 2017, I will look forward to good health, success, more writing, learning to play the ukulele, growing friendships and savoring my family. I look forward to finding a landing-place, with hopes of creating a life that feels full.

In 2017 I hope for a better world that resonates with peace, with compassion, with humanity.

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Filed under change, death, Life thoughts, New Year's

Hawk Watching & Halos of Light

hawkYesterday, marking 8 months, sent the hawk to watch over me as I sat at my desk, paying bills, checking the emails coming in and contemplating my life as it is now, a long floating journey to an unknown landing. The hawk, who usually lands at the top of a nearby towering pine tree, landed in the tree closest to my window, closer than ever before, and sat contemplating me in between gazing at the landscape. I felt protected somehow.

Each month that goes by brings new challenges and just when I think I’ve gotten a grip on things, a new mess is dumped in my lap. Does it really take a year to get things straight? I’ve been told many times to wait a year, that it takes a year to get used to things, to settle things and to figure out a new place in the world. It feels like forever at eight months.

The hawk stayed watching me for over an hour perched in the tree. I felt his presence and it was somewhat comforting, making my day less lonely. The house was busy last weekend, with a visit from my eldest daughter and my youngest, my little granddaughter. It was family filled, busy, chaotic and reminiscent of the many family gatherings over the years as we all came together to introduce little Margie to friends and family. My daughters surprised me for my birthday with a homemade chocolate raspberry cake (our family birthday tradition) and everyone sang. During the singing, as Nicole videotaped, she noticed a halo of lights moving around me and near the cake. Of course it was a reflection of the candles, but yet, it hovered near me, above me and next to me during the singing of Happy Birthday. It startled Nicole and when we watched the video the next day, we were all a little teary and speechless.

fullsizerender-28Sometimes there are things that can’t be explained. Sometimes the longing for what was is overpowering. Birds appear, Honda Pilots escort me as I drive, lights appear, and yet, as I fall asleep asking for a little help getting through all that I am dealing with, it is harder to feel the connection. I want to believe that I can communicate with my partner of 37 years because how can such a strong connection be gone, even with the separation of time and space? It seems so much stronger than that.

I am dealing with the messes, the stuff, the remnants of odds and ends left undone in the wake of a sudden departure. I am tired of “adulting” as Danielle calls it. I am tired of being the only one to deal with the complications in my life that used to be shared. Divide and conquer. Now I’m left with cleaning up the works in progress that Gary left. My life, without these, seems painfully simple and I suppose one day, it will be.

The holidays are a particularly challenging time when the aloneness is in juxtaposition to the blatantly obvious togetherness and celebrating going on everywhere. It is possible to feel alone even in the middle of a group of people and it is especially hard during this solstice, the darkest days of the year. The cold, dark night sends me to the couch to get under a blanket and zone out watching television.

I am looking forward to the return of the light, the coming warmth and the signs of spring to come. I am hoping that I can have a rebirth too, and enter into a life that feels more like I fit in somewhere, that I can make new, happy memories and land on a solid foundation.

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Filed under death, Family, hurdles, Life thoughts

Dodging Acorns

img_2689If life imitates art, then I guess it can also imitate fables like Chicken Little. My life is a lot like that lately and I find myself dodging acorns. On many days it feels like the sky is falling and I’m looking for someone to tell so that I can be reassured that it isn’t really falling, it is just life. Life with it’s suddenly appearing hurdles and inconvenient inconveniences. As my sister reminded me, there is never a good time for an inconvenience.

These minor annoyances aren’t the real acorns, the real acorns are the larger life hurdles that pop up suddenly when I realize there is yet another new situation to navigate such as negotiating a car repair, or taking the trash out every week. These things aren’t huge, but they are new to me because I always had a partner to share the responsibilities of keeping a home.

Then there are the larger acorns looming ahead, things I will encounter soon, negotiating a car deal, going through every item in my house in an effort to “downsize,” finding a home, packing everything in my home and moving. I thought many of these decisions would be things Gary and I would be deciding together, like where we would go on our next vacation, but in this new life, the one where I am alone, it’s a new, unfamiliar game.

I try to remember to take one day at a time, or sometimes an hour at a time. I navigate running into well-meaning friends and acquaintances that hug me and ask how I am doing when my only answer is a slight smile and tear-filled eyes. I get through each day, but I don’t see a future yet. I get through each day but the days without plans are hard. I get through each day, but I don’t have a lot to look forward to at this point. I’m working on those positive affirmations. I’m making lists.

Things I am grateful for:

A comfortable place to live

Food to eat

My friends and family

A rewarding job

My health.

 

Things I am learning:

To change heater filters

To add washer fluid to my car

To handle car repairs and maintenance

To make a fire and enjoy it alone

To eat dinner alone

 

Things I want:

A home.

A life with purpose.

A life filled with friends and family.

A clear sky, or at least one with very little chance of acorns.

 

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Filed under change, death, hurdles, Life thoughts

The World has Changed in Seven Months

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                         Looking for light.

Today marks seven months that Gary has been gone and in those seven months everything has changed, in my life, in the country and in the world. Nothing is familiar and nothing is the same, holidays coming and going like mountains to climb and descend. The anticipation is somber and the days are long. Seven months ago the embrace of family and friends provided some security in the foreign world in which I was now forced to live. I gathered courage from their encouraging words: “You’re doing so well” and “You are so strong.” The truth is I am not so strong and much of the time paralyzed with the insurmountable tasks of unraveling my formally entwined life. The truth is there are many lonely days and nights as I learn to live alone and to be alone. The truth is that I cannot see much point (or fun) in cooking for just me and I miss cooking and eating together with Gary. I haven’t figured out how to have purpose and I spend evenings watching mindless television. The best I can do is take myself to yoga to practice breathing.

I have tried, over the past seven months, to focus on moving forward and to feeling gratitude. I have expressed gratitude to my family and close friends. I write about gratitude and make lists of things I am grateful for. I am very grateful that Gary did not suffer for long and that we, his family, did not have long roles as care givers, watching him drift away. I try to remember how much worse it could have been and I know others who did have to suffer much more. I am grateful for my job and to be part of a caring community. I am grateful to live in California for many reasons, but to be honest, the climate in our country, the overwhelming negativity and hatred expressed by so many, has hit me hard and like others I know, has intensified the grief cycle I was already immersed in.

It is hard to believe it has been seven months. It was somehow easier at first when I had so many tasks to take care of. I could lose myself in the busyness of it all. Now, those things have settled down a little and I find myself face to face with the holiday season. Normalcy, with Gary barbecuing turkey and thoughts of him making latkes next month, is gone. I haven’t found a new normal yet. I haven’t figured out how to do more than exist and get through each day and am floating without a landing in sight.

I think that now many people share these feelings. Of course there are many others alone, those who have also lost loved ones and those who are separated from loved ones, but now there are also many who have lost faith and confidence in our future as a country. Families are estranged and friendships are strained. For me, an already sensitive person, it sometimes feels like a very heavy burden. Life can change in a minute and there are no guarantees. Life has changed dramatically and each of these many minutes over the last seven months have felt like a trip into a dark tunnel that I travel hoping to see if there will be any light at the end.

Life certainly isn’t perfect, including relationships. Governments aren’t perfect either, but somehow losing the familiar, the known, someone who honestly cared, is a difficult idea to comprehend. The loss of hope, optimism for the future, the future as we expected it, is a crushing weight and wearing a mask of positivity can be exhausting.

Seven months, from the hope of springtime, to the darkness of winter. The months come and go and I long for the light to return, for some sign of hope and the chance that things can feel normal in a way, a different kind of normal, but one that sits comfortably and allows enough space to breath in and then to exhale.

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Filed under change, death, Family, hurdles, Life thoughts