This morning, as I was sifting through all the morning stuff on the internet, it occurred to me that I hadn’t been here in a little while. Nothing personal, I’ve just been busy.  So logging in the blogs I like to follow popped up and I saw that on one of them, she wrote about her niece’s husband dying in a car accident a couple of days ago.  3 years ago, I would have thought “oh that’s so sad” and moved on. Possibly saying a prayer for her family, but not much more.

It’s strange how life affects a person. After reading what she wrote, I dissolved.  Anytime someone I know, whether in person or virtually, suffers the loss of a loved one, it throws me back 2-1/2 years and I know what they feel- for the most part. Everyone’s reaction to an extreme loss like that is  little bit different, but the mental and emotional chaos that results, all that “what the hell just happened” and “God, make it stop” is something I can relate to and there is nothing quite like it.  Remembering weeks and weeks of “please let this just be a dream”, of people’s sad looks and offers of help (that I rarely accepted, being all Tough and Independent and such), all those things I never thought would happen.

One of the best comforts when I was trying to wrap my head around what happened with Himself, was the presence of other people who’s been through a similar circumstance.  I was told that it didn’t matter how a beloved dies- whether it’s in an instant, or over a long period of time from illness, it is still a shock, still something to wrap your mind around, and you still need people.  There was a woman in our church who’d lost her husband a few years prior, and she held my hand for weeks after, constantly reassuring me that I would live through this, even when I’d forget to eat or sleep or breathe, and look what happened: I lived through it. It sucked. I cried, slept, threw things, insisted God got this all wrong and I was meant to be half of a pair of old people, started to think maybe God knew what He was doing even if I didn’t agree with it, got things worked out (for the most part) and now, even though occasionally I disagree with God about the wisdom of putting me on this path, have started to accept that this here is the path I’m on no matter how much I still hate it.

The fact is, being a widow stinks. It’s a label no one wants to have, for a club no one wants to be in. It’s sometimes very lonely, often frustrating, and in the long run, forces you to grow up in a direction you’d never anticipated.  Sometimes it’s really hard to sit in church and see the older couples who’ve been together forever. I resent it. It’s not fair. (says my inner entitled self). But then, was it fair for Jesus Christ to be punished for what everyone else in the world did?  To my knowledge, he only complained about that once, and only briefly.  In Luke 22:42, as He was praying in the garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified, He said “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” . That was something I had to remind my self a LOT.  I said, freqently “It is what it is”, and “God knows what He’s doing, even if I have no clue”, and Hebrew 12:1 helped me plow ahead: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”

My widow friend told me that one early on, when I was missing Himself so deeply that I couldn’t think straight.  Himself is a part of that cloud, cheering me on as I blunder my way through the rest of my life.  Perseverance is a necessity born out of need to live, and desire to flourish.  Seriously, if the only thing good that comes out of losing Himself, is the ability to help someone else (however feebly) who’s lost their beloved, then I will have made something useful out of the event.  I will never be able to say I’m glad it happened. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully be able to “Thank You God, for this path You planned out”, or quit getting dizzy and sick when I read about someone else being forced onto this road.  At this point, I’m starting to be able to say “you can do this.”.

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I finally bit the bullet and hired a guy to come deal with this jungle I loosely call “my yard”.  He looked at the back yard and opined that it might need a bushhog. Yes. It’s that bad.  The front yard is just tall and certain parts need a good weedwhacking. Letting the yard go is one of those things that just…snowballs.  I am looking forward to it being NORMAL…not looking like something where you might find a car on blocks that you forgot about.  I make up all sorts of excuses that sound like “school” and “work” and “broken mower” until it gets to the point people say things like “bushhog” and point to stuff growing up the side of the house.  I didn’t know the cost of stuff like lawn service, so it was easier to just ignore it all. Only, when I’ve been gone a week and have to drive through the neighborhood to get to my house, and I notice all the trim and tailored yards, it makes my own…let’s call it “meadowlike” or maybe “EPA Protected Wetlands” (the front yard can get a soggy spot when it rains a lot. Which it hasn’t been so that isn’t a logical excuse anymore) yard look that much worse and I feel  like I’m THAT neighbor. The one everyone averts their eyes to as they drive by.   I keep hoping they’re thinking “poor widow, doesn’t have time or whatever to take care of the lawn like she used to.” But I know they aren’t because no one really KNOWS I’m a widow except my 2 next door neighbors.  One of them has been very kind in allowing me to borrow his riding mower some, but I feel bad about doing that.   So, I hired the service that cuts the grass of the other next door neighbor. I figure, if he’s in the area, why not do both.

I need to go through The Jungle and make sure there aren’t any errant car parts, bricks, or other mower-trashing items.  I mean…it’s the least I can do since he is risking life and limb, taming my back 40.  Ok not really 40, more like Back 1/2, but still.  I don’t want to be here when they come because it’s embarassing.  I know, everyone says “oh I’ve let my back yard go before, how bad can it be?”  When the yard man says “bushhog” it’s pretty bad. At least there aren’t any cars on blocks. That I am aware of. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t one, only that I don’t know about it because it’s been a good 2 years…seriously…since I have investigated the back yard thoroughly.

You see, Himself’s workshop is back there.  It’s very quiet these days. No sawdust or grinding noises. No Robert Palmer on loud so as to be heard over the noise of shop equipment.  None of that, and it hurts. Still, even 2-1/2 years later. That’s how it is. Time and healing and stuff, but some things still hurt and there isn’t anything that can be done about that.  It helps to imagine that Himself has access to ALL the best equipment now, along with all the time in Eternity to perfect his joinery and choose the perfect pieces of quartersawn oak without the frustration of ugly crooked pieces. That’s how I like to imagine him, it’s what gives me a sense of peace and comfort, to think of him having Eternity to work, no frustration or running out of time, and maybe even The Great Carpenter there with him, bouncing ideas off each other, laughing and planning stuff.

Anyway, the yard will look like someone who cares lives here. That will be nice.


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Seriously, click on the video link…

The week has been eventful, in so many ways. I’m going to list them starting with..let me think about it for a minute…

Ok last week, I had several projects to present for school. Those went very well. Of course they did, I’m an overachiever, trying to make up for the underachieving of my Youth.  Then:

Sunday morning, #4 said his stomach was kind of hurting. I asked where, and he put his hand over the lower right part of his gut. Hm, I thought. He allowed me to mash around on it, and then flinched when I hit that part.  Hm, I thought. It could be gas but it could be Something Else. But he didn’t seem to be in agony, and he had work that day, so I sent him to work and I went to church. When I got home around 12:30 he texted and said he was in real pain, and was coming home. Hm, I thought. I’m taking him to the ER because it could be his appendix. The ER was quiet so he got right in. Blood was drawn, belly was mashed, and the doctor said Hm.  While we waited for results from the bloodwork, 7 people were brought into the ER by ambulance, including a few nasty traumas. I know this because our little room was near the back door and we saw the EMTs and gurneys go by. Hm, I though. That’s going to delay things.  Eventually blood work was finished (inconclusive) and the Dr. had #4 undergo a CT scan. I was able to video #4, under the Influence of Powerful Narcotics, imitating the CT machine.  Click on that because I haven’t figured out how to format it so I can embed it here. I’m just proud to know I can say things like “format” and “embed” and know what I’m talking about, sort of.

By 6pm Sunday, he was being wheeled into the operating room, for an appendectomy.   I kept thinking “thankYou, God, for modern medicine and doctors” because what if…so many what ifs. What if this were 200 years ago. What if I didn’t know the symptoms of appendicitis? I’d totally thought he had gas.  What if we lived in the middle of nowhere without transportation. So. Many.  And yet, none of those. Thus, he’s here at home, mildly sore with 3 holes poked in his belly (laporoscopic surgery…amazing).  He can’t lift anything heavy, and can’t work for a while, so What If he’d been married with a family to support? but he’s not, has a stable roof, food, and care. The best possible circumstances, given the circumstances.

Only, I had a final exam scheduled for Monday, with a kid in the hospital and no time to prepare because I also had a big project to turn in and another one to present. So, while he was in pre-op I emailed the instructors and told them the situation. They got back with me and said not to worry, I could do all that later. Family First! they both said. I’m going to make it all up tomorrow, now that #4 is stable and eating and not really in pain and capable of tending to himself for a couple of hours (plus #2 is here Just In Case)

While in the waiting room during his surgery, I was having a few flashbacks to the last time I was there- Himself was being frantically worked on and in the process of dying. So I was pretty uncomfortable. Several friends showed up, one with food and a deep understanding of how uncomfortable I must be. I did a fairly good job of Holding It Together…I think. It’s what I do when others are around. When I got home (no, I didn’t sleep in the hospital room. He was doing fine and at 18, wasn’t required to have a family member there. They promised to call if anything happened) I collapsed, and was exhausted but tense and unhappy. The next morning when I got there, he was dopey but relatively comfortable and was able to leave by 11. Amazing isn’t it…how short a hospital stay can be.  I remember as a kid, that an appendectomy meant a week in the hospital, with a big ol’ scar. Now? an overnight, and 3 tiny scars. He was disappointed. He wanted a big ol’ scar.

Anyway, that’s what happened over Sunday and Monday.  Drama and laundry.

And today?  It would be our 31st wedding anniversary.  It is #3’s 3rd anniversary and his 26th birthday.   #3 came here Sunday because “little brother, Mom…I can’t stay away” and we went trhough some stuff, including one of Himself’s cigar humidors.  Looking through that, and the cigar bands (he saved them), coming across a picture of us on our honeymoon, all that was kind of emotional. So. Much. Emotion.  #4 is taking me to a movie today, because I’m doing all his laundry. I need that- a 2 hour escape into another universe, with popcorn and coke.  Because…I need a break from all this.


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Mind boggling

once again, I am amazed by the technology we have at our fingertips.  Truly amazed. I want to say those things like “kids these days don’t know how good they have it” and “when I was a kid we didn’t have (whatever)”

Mind you, I am not pining for the Good Old Days. I don’t miss the manual typewriter on which I learned to type. Nor the white-out, nor having to retype the entire paper because of one or two misspelled words in the first of 29 paragraphs. I do love me a computer with spell-check and the squiggly blue underline that questions the grammar of a sentence. Often it’s just as I want it to be and I tell the blue line to take a hike, but sometimes it is helpful.

I am amazed and delighted by very pedestrian appliances like the washing machine.  I know, everyone I know either has one or has access to one and they aren’t remarkable at all. But think about it…without them you’d be slapping your underwear in a river, or rubbing them up and down on a board in a bucket. Now? No. you throw them in a barrel, add a scoop of soap and punch a few buttons, and 45 minutes later you have clean clothes. You can even throw them in another barrel, punch a few buttons, and 45 minutes later have dry clothes. Having to fold them, in the grand scheme of things, is hardly even worth mentioning. Even if you have 19 kids. (if you have that many kids, let the older ones do it while you go do something else.)

We have (for most of us) access to food. Or we should. I have read about the Food Deserts in major cities and let me tell you, with as much as we have in this country, with trucks and farms and everything, there should not be a food desert anywhere. It shouldn’t exist. I read about people who were doing something about that here: Veggie Van.

But I have to tell you, the thing that amazes and delights me more than anything, is the ability to talk to people IN REAL TIME from places on the other side of the world! CRAAAZY! Ok, I had a pen pal for many years, I wrote about that a couple of posts ago.  And I wrote about looking for another one. I found several, and have some fantastic correspondence going on now. Some of it is on the website where I connected with them, a couple of them are via email, and one is snail mail (she collects stamps and loves the Art of the Written Letter).  Over the past few days’s I’ve had an ongoing conversation with a gentleman from Bhutan, who wants some help with his English grammar. Mind you, school is taught in English over there, but he has recognized that his grammar isn’t perfect, and as a teacher, he wants to improve it. In the mean time, I am trying to learn a couple of words in Dongzkha, but given that it is a very tonal language, and one tone wrong could mean a completely different word, it is very difficult for me. I will be happy to be able to say “hello” and not “you smell funny”  How amazing is it that I can converse about language, philosophy (he’s Buddhist) and child psychology with someone who’s 10 hours ahead of me? Nuts. that’s what it is. Beautiful mindboggling nuts.

A man in Brazil is teaching me very basic Portuguese in exchange for learning how to ask for directions and order from a menu in English.  A woman in Japan wants to know how to make tacos and I want to know how to make gyoza. Another woman in Siberia (Yakutsk) taught me about the Summer festival in her town, called Yssyakh, and showed me pictures of it. It looks a lot like our Native American pow-wows. A woman in Rotterdam and I talk abut our kids. My world has expanded outside of this little town in this small part of the country.  I have, of course, always known there was so much out there, and I love to read about it, but to get to talk to someone and learn that Tomar cafezinho, Café da manhã is the first thing I would say in the morning, if I lived in Sao Paolo, brings the world a little bit closer.

There is a degree of sifting through the sawdust required, in order to find some real people, but it doesn’t take long to figure out how.

One of my classes in school requires videos to be made, demonstrating particular types of management tasks- like disciplinary actions (they aren’t called that), or final warnings, before a firing (it’s not called that). Using the camera on my laptop, editing on the computer, and downloading onto Youtube are all part of it. Think about it. I can write a script on my computer, print it out, and then record it. Then I can tell my computer to save it someplace Out There, and my instructor can look at it, record the grade on his computer with comments, and I can look at that. All within an hour’s time, with him over there and me right here. Crazy and Amazing.

I can warm up food in the microwave, using the same bowl I’m going to eat it from, without dirtying up a pot.  I can go to the store and buy something by sticking a piece of plastic in a little box and it takes some numbers out of my bank account and put them in the store’s bank account.  (has it ever occurred to you our financial system is nothing but a bunch of numbers that get switched around and traded for eggs or gasoline?) (this is why I like to barter. It’s more concrete and I like concrete)

Even medical stuff! My little dog, Rusty, has back pain from time to time.  I can take him to the vet, where a technician gets a wand and waves a red light over his back. I swear that is all it looks like. I stuck my hand in the red light and didn’t feel a thing. But I could see him visibly relax. So I looked it up. And yes. There’s some science behind it. Amazing. Who figured that out?

Cell phones, bluetooth stuff, wireless internet, gracious…internet PERIOD…wireless or not. Think about it! We live in an amazing world.

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You know how sometimes it just HAPPENS? That sort of CLICK moment that has it all come together and takes a nebulous idea floating in your head and turns it into something with handles that you can actually develop into something real?

See, I’m in school studying Business Management. I like it but have been a little bit dissatisfied because it wasn’t teaching exactly what I was hoping for. That’s ok, it’s not their fault and I can see the value in what I’ve learned.  But, it wasn’t the precise thing that  fit the educational hole that needed to be filled.

However, (tell me you didn’t see that coming!) this morning, as I was sitting in the Dr’s office waiting to get some labwork, I was reading through the local city magazine. You know the kind, where someone’s recipe for watermelon pickles is featured, and the newest director of (whatever) is introduced.  So I was reading about the newest director, and amongst his credentials was listed “Certification in Non-Profit Management” and I was like…”BOINK” and decided to investigate such a thing because I was unaware it existed.  May God richly bless the inventor of the Internet (pretty sure it wasn’t Al Gore) because not only could I investigate, but should I choose, I can also take the classes at my leisure and in my pajamas.

you see, the non-profit arena is where I want to work when I move to The New Town.  I don’t KNOW if there will be such a job waiting for me, but I firmly believe that God has all this in hand, and He hasn’t messed me up yet.  I am pretty confident that I just got a God-boink on the head about this, because not only do such programs exist online, some of the really credible ones (Duke University, Cornell, etc) are also affordable for my budget.  Mind you, some of them are so unaffordable they might as well be offering gold plated dentures to go with, but whatever. I can get a certification from a credible source and wouldn’t that look nice on a resume!

I’m not interested in getting wealthy. I want to earn enough to pay the electric bill and eat sushi once a month.  I want to work with people who need some help, because inevitably doing that helps the helper as much or more than the helped is getting helped. And God knows I need some help.

I perused the curriculum at the Cornell program, and found that a great deal of what I’m learning now will be of great benefit toward what I would be learning there. How nice to know what I’m learning is useful!

I’m finding this all very exciting (if you can’t tell). After talking to the person there, and seeing how the program is set up, I can wait until determining if Accounting will kick my arse the way Algebra did before I take on any more courses. If I can manage it ok, I’ll start with it in the Fall. Because it’s online and a Con Ed course, it will be able to move to Alabama with me and I can keep going, or take a break in the middle of it to move, then pick back up, or whatever.

Just knowing that there is stuff I can do to progress in the education is exciting. Thanks, God! For the boink!

Sherchle art design illustration man GIF

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2 steps forward, one step sideways

…or maybe back…no, not really back. Just sideways.

Independence Day was Himself’s favorite holiday. Loud noises, grilled food, patriotic celebrations. He loved this country and with all it’s flaws, celebrated living here.  He said, since we had no daughters, that he knew our kids would be spending the major holidays with the wive’s families. That’s how it happens. Once someone gets married, the big ones tend to be at her family- Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter…and he and I would have to find our own way those days. No big deal, We Had Plans.  He was going to claim Independence Day as the one day that would be ours. Family Reunion Day, with everyone here, massive grill-out and grandkids blowing things up in the front yard. He had visions of sitting on the front porch in our rockers, benevolently supervising while sons grill the meats and daughter-in-law arrange the bowls of potato salad and cole slaw on the rows of picnic tables.  He had it all worked out, this idyllic scenario…Coleman coolers of sodas and beer, pitchers of iced tea, someone having to run up to the store now and then to get another bag of ice. Babies. All worked out and it was going to be Perfect.

Well, we all know how that’s working out.  Yesterday was kind of…not that at all. And I missed him. I know #4 did as well. He said as much and had to leave the house to spend time with his brothers. For all I know they all missed him, but #4 was the only one who said anything. I spent most of the day with a friend. We had brunch (mimosas!) and went to see Wonder Woman, and then a nice long girl-chat. I came home to #4 griping that I wasn’t grilling anything, so he and I scrounged up chicken and corn on the cob, and #2 found some sad potatoes and made a potato salad. Together the 3 of us cobbled together a semblance of a July 4 meal, and then they left. I got a text apology from one of them for abandoning me, but I understood. I’m not the only one feeling the loss around here.

Today feels heavy with the loss, but I’ll be fine. In a little while I’m going into town to help tend some children. Hopefully there will be a baby there I can squish, but if not, there will be others to play with. Little kids just want to play and be loved, and I can do that. Then there will be the ubiquitous schoolwork, which is stellar at gettting my mind out of the gloom.  I am helping to write a Manager’s Training Manual, and today the work involves how to work with Unions and Other Protected Groups. I haven’t even started the research on that, but Google Is My Friend.

So, that’s today, folks. July 5, and a whole different form of independence. It’s unwelcome, but I have to deal with it, because it’s reality.

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Some Are Silver and the Others Gold

Remember that song everyone sang in childhood “Make new friends, and keep the old, some are silver and the others gold”?

Well, back in November, the pen pal I’d had for 40+ years passed away. I still miss her. 40+ years of letters back and forth from Australia, growing up, being teenagers (and all that misery), jobs turn to careers, getting married, I had kids, she became a Professional Extra (no seriously, in movies, she’d be one of those in the background, or maybe have one line), we’d send each other interesting stuff…well, after she passed away I felt like something was really missing. Not a giant hole like the one Himself left, but a hole nonetheless.

I’d found her address through a Pen Pal service set up by National Georgraphic, for kids like me to find kids like her and learn more about the world. Of course this was all pre-internet, and even after internet and emails, we continued to write letters, with stamps, that took a month to get there.  We both enjoyed getting those letters so much.  I kind of think we grew up together, even 10,000 miles apart.

So, in the interest of meeting new people from other parts of the world, I’ve joined a pen pal service. Now, lest you get all worried about The Vulnerable Widow Being Taken Advantage Of By Predatory Men, I’m not stupid about it.My privacy is soundly protected and I’m good at figuring out who’s worth my time.

So far, I’ve talked to people from Australia, Switzerland, Bangladesh, a couple of women in Canada, a retired train engineer from England,and several VERY brief conversations with men claiming to be Generals In the Army of America.

That’s right. I’ve been contacted by 3 Generals who don’t know English grammar nor spell properly.   When they claim to be a General, I look up the Department of Defense records of who’s what,  and wouldn’t you know it, twice the said General didn’t exist, and once he did exist (and profile picture matched on one on the penpal page) but since the one who existed is the Commander of the Korean forces, and he was claiming to he all lonely in Afghanistan, he got a brief lecture on lying and the felony that was impersonating an officer. I haven’t hear back from him. I did hear from someone military (who wasn’t claiming to be someone special) and asked him about it. He was alarmed that it was happening and said something about “Stolen Valor” I learned something new that day, but I don’t think the impersonators were American as their syntax was off.

Anyway, I’m meeting some people around the world and it is interesting.  The Australian is a retired American who immigrated there and is traveling all over, taking pictures.  The Swiss person is an inventor (I’ve looked him up), The Bangladeshi is a Human Rights attorney (he’s telling me hair-curling things, and says people in the US complain too much).  The high-speed train engineer is a self described “old goat who likes to talk to people and wants something to do in the afternoons while his wife watches her stories”  We talk gardening.  There are a couple of women who are fairly recent widows (about the same time as me), and we talk our walk, and it’s lovely to have someone to discuss things with, and possibly share ideas and solutions.  There’s a Japanese woman my age with whom I exchange recipes, and an Indian woman who likes to talk about kids.

You can tell when someone’s faking it. So don’t worry about me.  I’m having a great time and collecting a long list of “People Blocked”.  As long as they respect my privacy, and don’t get pushy for imformation, I will respect their situations and ask questions, learn new things, and get to connect with people all over the world.

My boundaries are expanding, and I love that. There are so many people, cultures, ideas, languages (the Japanese woman is teaching me some stuff), and yet, most of us are regular people who are interested in other people and places. The internet is an amazing thing.

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