Monday, December 31, 2012

Time to Make a Difference

The last day of the year was always when I'd take a look at our finances to see what donations we were able to do for the year. That all stopped while Vern was sick. No time, no extra dollars. I believe it's important to "pay it forward", to "make a difference" if we're able ... so I'm once again spending New Year's Eve deciding where I can give. There are many worthwhile non-profits out there, but Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation/Camp Widow/Widowed Village are at the top of my list. They were there for me when I was at my lowest point. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week I could log into Widowed Village and find someone who "got it", someone to chat with, someone who listened, someone I could encourage. Priceless. Thank you, Robin.  Camp Widow helped me to grow, to learn that I could step outside my comfort zone by going somewhere that I knew no one. They provided me with the resources I needed to move forward, and they provided an opportunity for me to meet some of the wonderful folks I had gotten to know online. Soaring Spirits is the mother organization of both Widowed Village and Camp Widow. Michele's vision of providing peer-based support for those who are grieving is focused on hope and healing. If you're able to help, please consider a donation to this amazing organization.

Widowed Village Donation  This link is to Robin's Widville-specific donation page

Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation Donation  Soaring Spirits is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization

So this is my third New Year's Eve without Vern.  In our younger years, back in Michigan, we used to go out with several other couples to a fun celebration with a band and dancing and party hats and horns (and alcohol). Seems like a lifetime ago. I guess it really was.  After we moved to Las Vegas, we settled into a quieter routine (yes, there's some irony there, I know). Just us, together. Sweet times. Tonight will bring a quiet entry into the new year. Alone physically, but not really. He's always right here with me. In my heart.  Wherever I happen to be.

I had this photo put on a 16x20 canvas last year and it's up on the fireplace where I can see it from where my laptop sits (I admit that I spend most of my at-home hours in this spot). Vern's a little scruffy, but it was a perfect day. He was able to get into his Mustang and we took a drive on a beautiful April day in 2010. When we got home, I asked if he felt up to letting me take some pictures. He was tired and he had to use his walker, but he managed to make it up to his rose garden. I ran into the house to ask Jer to come out so I could snap this photo. I had no idea that my love would be gone just 5 short months later. Make the best use of the time you have ... there are no guarantees how many days any of us have left.

Speaking of making a difference ... this year Brave Girls Club sure did it for me!  They're not a non-profit, so no donations to give (well, I have been known to gift a class or two to special people) ... but they have just announced something we can all do to make a real difference in this world.  Please click on this link, watch the video, and make some Truth Cards. They've provided a pdf that has everything you need to do that. And just think about how those brave sisters in Manila will feel when they see your card.  What a way to bring in the new year!

Brave Girl Truth Card Exchange

P.S.  And just so you know ... I have slept better and longer since clearing off the bed. Who knew?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Word for the Year

I've never been very successful with my New Year resolutions; stopped doing them years ago. But earlier this year I selected a word for the year ... just one word to keep in mind as a sort of intention for the year. My word for 2012 was Brave ... and it really was a brave year for me. Perhaps not risky brave, but I did things that were hard for me, things that I had put off, things way outside my comfort zone. Here's my list:
  • Emptied storage shed full of memories
  • Went alone to a show at the Smith Center when a friend cancelled at the last moment
  • Flew to Charleston, stayed at a B&B for first time, toured the city alone
  • Drove from Charleston to Myrtle Beach for Camp Widow East
  • Drove Vern's Mustang to San Diego for Camp Widow West
  • Visited our special Crystal Pier (this one wasn't too successful, but at least I did it)
  • Attended Brave Girl Camp!
  • Went to Dr. Gollard's office
  • Drove to Big Bear for a widow's retreat and ziplined while there
  • Decorated my Christmas tree
  • And today ... I finally cleared off Vern's side of the bed
The bed thing might take some explaining. I slept in Vern's hospital bed or his recliner out in the family room for 2 months after he died. And when I finally decided I could venture into our big king-size bed, I had to pile stuff up on his side in order to stay in there. Yep ... that stuff has stayed there for over 2 years.Tonight will be my first time sleeping in that big bed without something alongside me to hold on to. Now that's brave.

Think I need to add another bullet to my list:
  • I've survived another year without my love
So I'm thinking my word for 2013 is going to be Believe. I do believe that next year will be a good one for me. I believe that I will finally get this house cleared out and create the space I need and deserve to live in. I believe that I will begin to eat healthy, start walking, lose weight, get more sleep. I believe that I will make a difference. That's a pretty good start, don't ya think?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Oh yes!  The sparkles have returned! I honestly did not even think about them this year. No expectations at all.  But when I opened the door at 4:30 this morning there they were in all their splendor. I cannot tell you what those things mean to me. Yes, it's the connection to Vern - to the first time I saw the sparkles just days after he died; how they made me feel they were a message from him that all was well. But now they also remind me that I'm not as alone as I sometimes feel. That someone out there cares enough about me to do this each Christmas. It is a beautiful Christmas gift and one that I cherish.

This is my third Christmas without Vern. The first one was a blur, just 3 months after his passing. Last year was rough, but this year I was able to decorate the tree. Progress. Not sure I'll ever get back to how I used to feel about the holidays, but I'm now able to hope that may come eventually.

People who haven't experienced the loss of their spouse tend to expect that as time passes we will return to our 'before' selves and everything will be just fine. Ah, if only that were true. The missing doesn't end no matter the passage of time. And it's just not possible to ever go back to our 'before' selves. This experience changes you. Dramatically. No way to get around it.

But in the midst of all the grief and tears and aloneness and change ... little miracles find their way. The gift of sparkles is my miracle. Thank you, bless you, my dear anonymous friend.

The "sparkles" story:
Last year's blog post
December 25, 2010 blog post
CaringBridge post October 1, 2010 (last paragraph)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I did it!

As promised ... here's the photo of my decorated tree! I posted it over on Facebook, but know I have a couple of people who check in here that don't do FB.  I need to get a new tree skirt, as my red & green one just won't work with this beautiful new color scheme - so I'll do that this weekend.

The photo does not do it justice. It sparkles all over.  Ah, sparkles. Those of you who have read my blog from the beginning (or followed my Caring Bridge journal) know how very special sparkles are to me. They represent Vern and love ...

... and this tree just radiates LOVE. Big, huge hugs and kisses to Kathy & Melody of Brave Girls Club for their gift of love that gave me back my Christmas joy.

Here's a close-up and yet it still doesn't capture the beauty.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree ....

Well ... I really did think I was going to get the tree up this past weekend. I was out and about on Friday, meeting a friend for breakfast and joining my Brave Girl campmate in the afternoon for some art and conversation (oh, and a little wine, too).  I felt good ... energized, ready to face all that the holiday does to me. I actually even thought about putting up TWO trees! I asked Jer to bring in our old tree and ornaments, and I planned to head out Saturday to purchase a new clear light tree for the Brave Girl ornaments.

And then the stomach flu hit and I didn't leave the house until returning to work Monday morning.I felt physically ill and then added some emotional illness to that by spending Saturday reading through my CaringBridge journal. Sometimes you just need to let the tears flow.  And I decided I was being a bit overzealous with the idea of two trees. What on earth was I thinking? My old tree and box of memories remain in the storage shed.

I had posted in here that I would put up a tree. And I added a comment about it on my Facebook page, too. Oh the pressure!  Well, the flu was my excuse for not getting it done over the weekend, but now I needed to face this challenge. I had to stop by Big Lots on the way home from work to purchase some ornaments for our office tree and I decided to pick up one of those cheap trees with white lights so I could just get this done. I pulled the $25 tree out of the box when I got home and started laughing. Oh boy. This is a very sad looking thing, isn't it?

I nearly put it back in the box to return it, but decided to try fluffing up the branches and it has started to look a little better. And I have some garland to add and those wonderful Brave Girl ornaments, so maybe this will turn out ok after all. And working on the tree isn't making me sad. Perhaps buying this sad little tree was the right thing to do. It has given me something to care about.

It's now 11pm and time for me to head to bed, so I'll finish it up tomorrow. I'll post a photo of the finished product, I promise. It's a step forward, regardless of how sad or happy the tree ends up looking. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's time

The holiday season has been difficult for me since Vern died. I expect it and admit that I've pretty much tried to ignore it - feeling that was the best possible way to make it through until January 2nd. No shopping, no decorations, no gifts, no Christmas music. Just keep ripping those pages off the calendar to get through it, while putting on that ol' happy face for everyone to be reassured that I'm doing just fine, thank you.  Looking back at it now, I realize handling it this way was probably not the smartest thing for me to do. Pushing all the holiday festivities aside was just one more thing to add to my loss column. 

While at Brave Girl Camp in August I decided I was strong enough, brave enough, to put the tree up AND to decorate it this year. It is time. And it just might bring me some unexpected joy to deal with the memories during this hard season.   But now it's December and the tree still  hasn't made it out of the storage shed. My resolve to do this was beginning to wane ... and what did I receive? 

A surprise package from my amazing Brave Girls ... beautiful, sparkly snowflake ornaments for my tree. Full of memories, yes ... but those memories remind me that I am loved, that I am strong, that I can do this. So the tree will be going up this week, and the nativity set is coming out of the box, too. I may even make a batch of my pecan tarts.