Monday, August 24, 2015

It's all about the LOVE

The week leading up to my wedding anniversary was a tough one ... lots of emotions ... both good and bad ... plenty of triggers.  Ups and downs.  Good news, bad news.  Life.  And melancholy became my companion.

Where was the excitement to work on my anniversary random acts of kindness (RAKs)?  It was such a joyful experience last year to share flowers and donuts and balloons at the hospital. But the thought of entering a hospital this week just became more than I thought I could handle. 

And then I ran into Dr. Gollard, Vern's oncologist, at Starbuck's. It's been nearly 5 years since Vern & I last saw him. I hesitated approaching him, but was encouraged by my friend (thanks, ML). I introduced myself and thanked him for the care he gave my husband - and he immediately said "Vern, what a kind man" and followed it with "Ohio State". He remembered!  Those two drove me nuts talking football at appointments when I was anxious to hear blood count numbers and stats and progress. But Vern loved him because of those conversations.  

And thinking about that short little conversation helped me to recognize how important it is to me that Vern be remembered. And why I include his name on our anniversary RAKs. They are a physical reminder of the love we shared, the love we continue to share. So I got out my stencils and pens and ink sprays and the little RAK cards my friend Laurie gave me and got to work.

But what to include inside these 50 little envelopes? What could make a difference?  And then I came across the More Love Letters website:   And I knew what to include.  

It's really that simple.  It's what the world needs more of.

So I began writing little love notes to anonymous people. I've joined the More Love Letters team and will be writing love letters regularly, but these little anniversary RAKs will just have a few important words for whoever finds them:  you are loved, you are beautiful, you can do this, you are amazing.  

And that's the thing ... I don't need to deliver them to a hospital. That was the right thing to do last year, but not this year.  I can place these in any number of spots ... tucked in with the canned goods at the grocery store ... dropped in a bin at Target or Hobby Lobby ... handed to the drive-through kid at McDonald's ... tucked inside a book at the library. Ready and waiting for whoever is supposed to find them.  

So I'll admit this here ... I did not distribute my RAKs yesterday. I spent the day in the house, with the blinds closed, in my jammies. All day. It was what I needed to do on that special day this year. Self-care. Yes, it's been nearly 5 years since my Vern left this world. But don't you dare say I should be 'over it'. I will miss him and the love we shared until the day I die. And it's OK. Really, it is. I'm not depressed. I'm living my life. I'm doing some really, really good things. These melancholy days just drop by every now and then - especially from August 23 to September 22 each year - and I must respect them. Remember them. Remember him.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fill your cup

Becoming a widow changes us. Quite an understatement, eh?

While most of the changes we experience are difficult ... the grief, sleeplessness, tears, financial issues, being the only parent, loneliness ... there are actually some changes that could be considered positive.

And one of those is our expanding empathy.
We know more now.
Granted, they are things we wish we didn't know ... but there's no turning back the clock.

We've seen and experienced things non-widowed people have not. And it allows us ... almost forces us ... to reach out and identify with our widowed sisters and brothers who come after us.

Now I've always been pretty empathetic - even before Vern became ill. But after he died, it seems my empathy level ratcheted up pretty high. Probably at a rather unhealthy level.

And doing all of the volunteer work that I do for Soaring Spirits ... well, let's just say I have hundreds of opportunities every single day to feel the pain of my widowed family.

And sometimes it gets the best of me.
My heart actually hurts.
Sadness envelopes me.
A heaviness overwhelms me.
I want to just climb into bed and shut the world out.

These past few days have been hard ones. Shocking and devastating news has rocked our widowed community. A young widow experienced her second loss when her fiance died. Another young widow lost her husband's brother in a violent tragedy. I went to the hospital to visit a member of my local widow group and found her in ICU and intubated. And I feel. it. all.

I guess the point of this blog post is the importance of self-care. We need to recognize when our cup is empty. When we cannot do one more thing until we do something - whatever that might be - that fills our cup.

I thought I had hit that point today after my visit to the hospital (the same hospital my Vern was in when hospice became our only option). Instead, I went to lunch with a friend. And had some laughs with my son. And had a wonderful online chat with a dear Widowed Village friend who has found some new happiness.  And my cup filled. Without me curling up in a ball alone in a dark room.

Our wedding anniversary is this Sunday. It would have been #46. I will once again do random acts of kindness to honor him and our love. 46 of them. And I will do 2 more for a couple of my widow friends, to honor their loves. I think my cup is going to get much larger on Sunday.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Lights! Camera! Action!

Well my Amazon Prime order has arrived, so it's time ... time to face my fears and try doing a video. I ordered an inexpensive tripod (so I can shoot further away and a little above me (cuz I've been told that is more flattering LOL) and a cool little bluetooth device that allows me to start and stop the video from where I'm seated.  Who knew?  I sure didn't.

But since I agreed to join Brave Girl University, it's something I have to do ... and soon. I'm still struggling with all of this, but I believe opportunities are dropped in our path for a reason and we must be listening ... and brave enough ... to follow where they take us. So I'm working on some content and will do some video intros and see what comes of it all.

If you'd like to save a spot to find out what BGU is all about, just click on the link below this photo and it should take you to a page to leave your email address that links to me if you should decide to sign up for BGU.

Yes, that means some $$ could come my way if anyone signs up using my link - but that is not why I'm doing this. We reach a lot of widows through the Soaring Spirits programs (Widowed Village, Camp Widow, Widow's Voice), but there are so very many who never find us, who don't find a group that can support them during their grief.  While most of the Brave Girls are not widowed ... unfortunately, many will be one day ... or someone they care about will become widowed. So my little corner of BGU will provide them with a space to connect with others, to learn that they are not alone, to find their tribe. (And I have committed to donate any funds I receive to Soaring Spirits International. One more way I can give back to an incredible organization that helped to save me.)

I am not a fan of being photographed and usually shy away from it whenever possible. So this video thing is a really, really big deal for me. Can't say conquering some of my insecurities about how I look was on my bucket list, but I guess it will be a good thing for me to have in my pocket.  Ok ... time to tackle this video thing.  Wish me luck!

Monday, August 3, 2015

I Can & I Will

Oh boy - I said yes ... and now the self-doubt has settled in pretty hard.

There are so many incredible teachers offering their existing classes and creating new classes for Brave Girl University (BGU) ... that part is pretty darn exciting. I'm already a subscriber to the Brave Girl Soul School, so that means that starting September 1st I'll also have access to all of these other classes at no additional cost!  Pretty awesome!

But seeing all of these amazing people share that they will be offering classes in BGU is really intimidating.  They have a following. They already have a presence in the Brave Girl/online art community.  Where do I fit in?  I'm not an artist.  I don't have any existing classes.  Can I do this? Will what I offer be of any value to anyone?  Sigh.

Where is my guy when I need him to boost me up and tell me I can do this?  Oh yeah ... he died ... and that's the only reason I've been asked to participate in this new adventure.

So enough of this not feeling good enough stuff. I'm a Brave Girl. I'm a widow. I'm a survivor. I have valuable resources to share with my widowed friends.

I've ordered a tripod and microphone for my iPhone. I've kept a notepad with me constantly to write down ideas and thoughts ever since that initial contact from Melody. I won't try to be like the others. I won't do any comparing. I will just share what I've learned along this road that has taken me from devastating grief to a new life that has purpose. I will share my heart and soul with the widowed community I love. And make sure they know that they are not alone ... in what they've experienced, how they feel, how others treat them, the struggles they endure every single day.

Yeah ... I can do this.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Opening a New Door

To be honest, I wasn't entirely confident it was the right time for me to retire, but I now have no doubt whatsoever that it was absolutely the right time. I've been busy! Too busy for a job!

Lots of traveling - Camp Widow in Tampa, a beautiful Florida wedding of two dear widowed friends, Sister Camp in the Ozarks, Handmade U in Nebraska, Whimsical Women in Costa Rica. Mixed in there was some heavy work updating the Widowed Village website and moving 2500+ blogs from the Widow's Voice site to the new Soaring Spirits website, along with the monthly postings of all of our regional group meetings on two websites. I was so busy, it didn't feel like I was retired at all.

And that concerned me.

I had the Camp Widows in San Diego and Toronto to prepare for and attend, but the second half of 2015 was going to be much quieter. Would that be a good thing for me? Would I revert back to the cocooning I used to do on the weekends?  I wasn't sure.

And then I heard from Melody Ross ... yeah, THE Melody Ross, Brave Girl extraordinaire!!!  And she wanted me to join her new adventure BRAVE GIRL UNIVERSITY as a mentor/teacher for widowed Brave Girls.  If you know me really well, you know my self-confidence could use some work. So having Melody seek me out felt really, really good. Could I do this? I think so. Did I want to do this? YES!

The package with all of the details arrived the day before I flew off to San Diego for Camp Widow. Initial course content is due August 15. I don't have a website, I don't have any prepared content. Is this even possible? So I asked Melody & Kathy if there was any wiggle room to have my content come on after the September 1st debut. And they said 'yes'!

Brave Girl University (BGU) is going to be amazing. It will include Melody's Soul School courses along with the addition of an incredible community of teachers offering their art and life classes. If this piques your interest, please click on the photo below to 'save your spot' to see what is in store on September 1st. No obligation by clicking and adding your email address; it will just show that you learned about BGU from me. I hope you'll join me there!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Lesson Learned

My little pity party yesterday has given me yet another life lesson.

When searching for the meaning of Pura Vida to include in yesterday’s blog, I also came across this one:

Pura vida! Means that no matter what your current situation is, life for someone else can always be less fortunate than your own. So you need to consider that maybe...just maybe, your situation isn't all that bad and that no matter how little or how much you have in life, we are all here together and life is start living it "pura vida style".

I almost used it, but decided to go with the other, shorter, one.  It wasn't long after posting my blog that I received an urgent message from a Widowed Village friend that there was a new person in distress in the chat room. So I hopped on over there.

… and there was the lesson.

After things settled down, it was a real smack upside the head moment for me.  I can’t reveal the particulars, but less fortunate?  By miles.  And then I spent some time in Widville reading blogs and posts and got even more of those ‘smacks’. 

OK, Lord, I heard ya.   My “situation isn’t all that bad”.

And with His help I will be able to tackle each of the things that took me down this week.  A family issue,  my health, my age, the house, the mess, the feeling I’m being cast aside in a certain area of my life that I’ve devoted a lot of time to … yep, I’ve we’ve got this.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pura Vida!

If you follow me on Facebook you know that I spent 10 days in Costa Rica last month. What a beautiful country ... fabulous resorts, gorgeous beach/ocean, spectacular rain forests, amazing waterfalls, beautiful people. I traveled alone, but met up with others who were attending an art retreat there. I ate some meals with them, ate some alone, enjoyed the retreat and took some tours ... a sunset sail and snorkeling (first time for me!), Blue River, Monte Verde cloud forest, Palo Verde National Park, Arenal volcano rain forest.  A simply amazing experience where I felt Vern right alongside me all the way.

Pura Vida! ... I couldn't tell you how many times I heard or uttered those words.  (And not just because it was the name of the drink I most enjoyed at the hotel.)  The words literally mean "pure life", but it goes beyond that. It symbolizes the idea of simply enjoying life and being happy ... ah ... sounds so easy, eh?  But it was ... there.  Not so much ... here.

I returned home to some drama, a massive volunteer project, a messy house, overgrown yard, house issues.  Aaacckkk!!!  The thought of running back to Costa Rica definitely crossed my mind.

But I stayed, of course.

And here I am 3 weeks later and I’m in a funk. Haven’t been feeling great, not eating properly, not getting things done, tears popping up easily. And I spent most of the past two days just laying in bed, doing nothing, letting some crazy thoughts take root. Feeling I want to just hunker down as I did those early months. Wrap myself up in my little cocoon and keep the world away.

I know that’s not the healthiest way to deal with … ok, I’ll say it … depression … but it has worked for me before. The difference now is that I know I will be ok. I just sometimes need to give myself this little break. Close myself off by just not being available to always saying 'yes' to whatever is asked of me. Because I know I can't say 'no'.

So today I did not attend my local regional group meeting (I'm sorry, Rose, Ann, Lupe). Instead, I took my cup of hot tea out to the pool. Sat down on the edge and stuck my feet in the water. Opened up the lovely Bella Grace magazine and gave myself the gift of peace. 

... until I looked closer at the pool and realized the in-floor cleaning system wasn't working and it desperately needs a replastering and weeds have taken over the backyard, too. More things to add to the to-do list.  Sigh.

And then a mockingbird decided to start chattering ... and that reminded me of how much Vern loved those birds ... and that brought tears because he should be here.  A good ol' downpour. Guess that is what I needed because I did feel better after.

I've 'mostly' stayed offline today. I've worked a bit on my Bible journaling and some artsy stuff and then decided it was time to write a blog. It usually helps me to put this stuff in writing and just be done with it. 

My life is good. And I'm ok. I know I am lucky to have a paid-off house and a pension check, unlike so many of my dear widowed friends. I am grateful for what I have. But sometimes ... just sometimes ... I get so tired of having to always be the cheerful one, the positive one, the put my troubles aside one, the whatever anyone who reaches out needs one. It's who I am and I know I can't change that. So today I'm giving myself a gift. In the words of my favorite Brave Girl class ... I am closed for restoration. Today is all about me.  Dianne will return tomorrow ... or maybe Monday.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It's May ... again

It's May ... and, as has happened each year since Vern died, melancholy envelops me. This year it hit me with an overwhelming exhaustion, and I recognized the trigger.  Nine years ago today (9 years?!) we heard the word 'cancer', with surgery the next day, the bleed-out, a big mistake in the OR, followed by 4+ oh-so-hard cancer years. May brings remembrance, questions, what ifs, should haves.

And perhaps this year's melancholy includes a bit of post-retirement loss, too. I said often during my final weeks on the job that I didn't expect to be remembered, that it's normal that work goes on when someone leaves and they are forgotten. I guess I wasn't quite as prepared for the 'forgotten' piece as I thought I was.

I choose to put on the brave, positive public face and do my grieving privately. I'm traveling, I'm co-leading a local widows social group, doing LOTS of volunteering for Soaring Spirits International, taking online classes, attending women's retreats. All good stuff. Really good stuff. But regardless of all of the activity and the passage of time, I still miss him. Miss the life we had. Miss the life we should be living together right now.

In an effort to "one day ... find myself alive again" - I was blessed to attend two retreats last month that filled my soul and connected me to loving, beautiful, creative women. As I enjoyed the beauty of the Ozarks and the Nebraska farmland, I felt Vern with me. Seeing the beauty through my eyes. And that brings me peace. As I prepare to head to Costa Rica this week, a trip we thought we would do together one day, I know he would be proud of most of the things I've done during these past 4+ years spent alone. I truly believe that living my life well honors him. So "I will survive until I survive".

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Retirement Thoughts

Yep ... that's me ... a retiree. Today.  Wow.

I've felt pretty 'giddy' these past couple of weeks as I've weeded out piles of stuff collected over the years and counted down the days. But today was a little bit hard. Felt weepy when I woke up, tears on the way into work. Decided to make a stop for coffee to get myself together before venturing into the office. And then I realized it wasn't leaving the organization I've worked for these past 29 years that had me tearing up. It was that Vern is not here to share this important milestone with me.

We had such wonderful plans for our retirement years ....

So I will move into this new chapter of my life ... without him by my side, but with him in my heart.

And I do have plans ... a trip to south Florida to share in the joyful marriage of an especially dear widow friend, soul care at a retreat in the Ozark Mountains, an art retreat in a fabulous old barn in Nebraska and an amazing retreat in Costa Rica.

I've accepted additional tasks in my volunteer role with Soaring Spirits that will keep me plenty busy, along with travel to our remaining 2015 Camp Widows in San Diego and Toronto.

I have several online art classes I've signed up for but not started ... I will get started now.

I have numerous books I've purchased that haven't been read ... I will read daily.

I have 30+ years of 'stuff' in this house that needs to be weeded out ... I will simplify.

I think I'm going to need to live to be at least 100 to accomplish all of this.

* * *
I don't like good-byes. I'm not especially comfortable in the spotlight and there are some other personal reasons involved that caused me to request no official office farewell. But I did receive many lovely emails, cards, gifts, phone calls, visits and hugs from my co-workers this week. My heart is full and it is good.

Before leaving my office, I changed my voicemail message to one explaining I had retired and who to call now ... and ended with Mary Oliver's quote:

Think about that for yourself ... and do something to make it happen.

Friday, February 13, 2015

J O Y ?

2014 flew by quite quickly ... with some really good things that happened and some not-so-good.  Just like each year, actually. For all of us.  But we survive ... and we do our best to thrive in spite of all that life throws at us.  I think I've done a pretty decent job of thriving.

I've learned so much during Vern's illness, death and these alone years that have built up my armor to protect me from any serious injuries due to hurtful words and actions. And that is what helped me find my Word for 2015. It's certainly not one I was initially comfortable with. But it kept coming to me as the one I was supposed to choose for this year. To be honest, my personal definition of JOY is not the same in my 'before' and 'after' since Vern died. But if I adjust the meaning of the word to this ...

... well then, that's something I can relate to. So JOY it is.

And since this year also brings my retirement, I'm thinking JOY just might be the perfect word. 

I started writing this post in January but it got sidelined with all of the Camp Widow volunteer prep, so here I am now ... just two weeks away from my very last day of work. It feels good. It feels right. I'm ready to leave all of the experiences of these past 29 years of my work life at the doorstep of the Water District. I won't have to be 'that' Dianne any longer. And while I struggled with the loss of my 'Vern & Dianne' identity, this one is going to be pretty easy to let go. I feel good about all that I accomplished during those years and I'm now ready to start living the rest of my "one wild and precious life"!