Sunday, June 24, 2018

I *DO* have what it takes!

Well this post almost had a completely different slant. I was feeling rather blue last night and started writing. But after typing all of those hard words, I couldn't get them to work the way I wanted to present them. So I decided to sit on it overnight and just go to bed. 

There are a couple of important lessons I learned by that action.

One is that it sometimes helps to just write the hard stuff out. Just write and not share. You can choose to delete what you wrote if it was on the computer. Or burn it if you wrote it on paper. Or paint over it if you wrote it in your journal. Or even just leave it there for your own future reference to honor those feelings. Because we do get to feel whatever we feel ... and it doesn't matter whether others would understand it or be comfortable with hearing or reading it.

The other lesson is that my 'perfectionism' saved me some embarrassment. I'm grateful for that. Really grateful. I did not need to share all that I had written. Too honest. Too raw. Too vulnerable. If only Vern was here. He would listen. He would understand. He would help me answer my own questions. Actually, he would take one look at me and just know I was struggling. But then most of what I wrote about would not even be a concern if he were here.

So I made a choice when I woke up today. We each get to do that, ya know?  Choose how we're going to react to things, choose what we will focus our attention on, choose to fix the things in our life that hurt our hearts - or choose to walk away from those things.

And rather than posting the words I wrote when I was feeling all sorts of hard things, today I'm sharing this beautiful song I heard for the first time this morning. You can add anything you want for yourself after those two powerful "I am" words.  And those are the words that I - and you, too - need to embrace every day.

Today I am choosing kindness. And love. And I'm saying thank you. I started that last week but spent today finishing it. I'll be headed to the Post Office in the morning with a nice stack of those things to send out into the world. I'm hopeful putting these good things out there will shift my focus and help to lift this weight from my heart.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Saying Thanks

A week has passed and I haven't mailed that thank you letter to Dr. C. So I decided I needed to finish it today so I could get it in the mail in the morning and it will be there waiting for him on Monday. There were a few details I wanted to include that I needed to check on to refresh my memory, so I opened up my CaringBridge Journal link to get the info ... and now it's well after midnight and I have a pile of wet Kleenex next to me. Sigh.

I'm truly grateful I kept that journal. Each year, during the days leading up to Vern's passing, I find myself reading the whole thing - yeah, all 4+ years worth. Today I just searched for my entry on May 7, 2006 and then I remembered that Dr. C had also assisted during the abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery Vern had in September 2009. So I scrolled through the pages to get to that date. And I was surprised to see the date that surgery was held: September 22, 2009.  One year to the day before Vern died. I don't think I've noticed that previously - or I had forgotten it if I had.

So tonight I read each of my entries from that final year. And I also remembered all of the things I didn't write down. Gosh those were hard, hard days. And worth the tears I shed tonight.

I was also reminded of other doctors I should have thanked. Were they perfect? Oh, gosh no. But each of them did what they thought was best to give Vern more time. More time with me. I am grateful for that time, regardless of how hard it was. And a couple of them really did show they cared about us as people, not just as a very ill patient and his caregiver/wife.

So I'm finishing my letter to Dr. C. And then I will write letters to Dr. G and Dr. L ... Vern's oncologist and infectious disease doc, who were with us from the beginning through to the end. They may never read them, but I will have sent them.

On what ended up being Vern's last birthday I asked those he taught or coached to share a special memory of him and received so many lovely notes. What a blessing it was to be able to share those words with him.

Do you have people in your life you need to thank?  Maybe it's time to do just that.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Are you ready for a 'time out'?

We sometimes get so busy with 'stuff' that we miss those beautiful fleeting moments that come our way. Maybe it's time to give yourself the gift of a 'time out' to take stock of what's happening in your life. All of the good things. Good people. Notes received. Words said. Experiences.

Close your planner.
Turn your to-do list upside down.
Step away from the computer.
Set your phone down.

You can do that ... just for a few minutes.

I know it's not easy to shut out all of the 'noise'. We're always on the go. Something always needs to be done. Deadlines must be met. Places we need to be.

Being in the midst of all of that busyness can cause us to miss so much. And we can instead focus on the negatives. Taking a little time to think about those special moments that drop into our life can make such a difference.  Embrace them.  Feel them.  Be grateful for them. Maybe even write them down in a journal.

I have had many lovely moments arrive during these past seven days and it was wonderful to take some time today to be grateful for each one of them.

- Spent an evening with some widow friends that brought me much laughter and some great entertainment.  Thank you, Debbie & Annette.

- Did a small act of kindness for a dear friend and his parting words are etched on my heart.  Thank you, Greg.

- Had lunch with a friend who let me share my story and listened.  Thank you, Catherine.

- Stopped by City National Arena and enjoyed watching the little ones put on their skates and gear and take the ice like professionals. Thank you VGK for bringing the love of hockey to our little ones.

- Joined thousands of other Vegas Golden Knights fans downtown for the Stick Salute. Thank you, Team, Turk, GMGM & Mr. Foley. Thank you for what you've brought back into my life.

- Had to write a 200 word bio for the Brave Girl Symposium directory and asked my son to read it. He gave me some really valuable constructive criticism and I'm much happier with the final product. Thank you, Jer.

- An old friend called - we lived in the same cul-de-sac during 5th grade but then I moved away for a bit and we lost touch. We ended up working together many years later, but then I moved to Vegas and she moved to Massachusetts. This 'catch up' call was filled with all sorts of really wonderful goodness.  Thank you, Bobbie.

- Did an anonymous Twelve Days of Christmas for my neighbor who lost her daughter unexpectedly this summer. She eventually figured out it was me and returned a couple of the baskets I had left on her doorstep for me to use again. When I got home I saw she had slipped a note inside. Such beautiful words.  Thank you, Nancy.

- I confirmed that Dr. C is still practicing and I'm writing him that thank you letter. Twelve years late, but I have a feeling he might just need to hear my words now.  Thank you, Dr. Cottrell.

It's been a busy week, with Camp Widow prep and a bunch of Brave Girl-related deadlines but taking these few minutes to remember exactly how I felt when each of these things occurred was well worth the time. Give it a try.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tell Your Story

I met a friend for lunch today - the teacher whose classroom I visited this year. We had worked together at the Water District years ago and hadn't had a real conversation in a very long time. And what a gift today was. We caught up on things and then she asked me about Vern and how he was diagnosed ... and I shared. And shared. And shared. And bless her heart, she listened and let me talk. I can't remember the last time anyone asked me to share my story. Or perhaps someone did and I did my normal thing and turned the conversation back around to them. But today was different. She listened. She asked questions. She shared, too. And it was beautiful. Thank you, dear Catherine.

This just reinforces how very important it is to be able to tell our story. To speak their name. No matter how long it has been. It felt so good.

And there was another revelation today. I'm going to write a letter to the vascular surgeon who held Vern's heart in his hands and brought him back to me after he bled out two days after the initial cancer surgery. It happened way back on May 7, 2006 and I know he may not remember ... but I suspect that he will. I think there is some kind of connection that occurs when a doctor saves someone's life like that. My conversation with Dr. C popped into my thoughts the other day out of the blue, so I googled to see if he was still practicing; it appears that he is. So today when I shared with Catherine what happened, it reminded me that I had wanted to contact him or write a letter. To thank him. I can still remember the exact moment when he walked into the waiting room. He said my name and walked right over to sit down next to me. He touched my hand and said that Vern was alive but he had gone into cardiac arrest, died on the table and he had been able to bring him back by pumping Vern's heart with his hands. He also shared that Vern had been given 4 units of the wrong blood during the chaos that occurred in his MICU room while he was bleeding out. He didn't need to share those details, but he did. It's some kind of sign, I think, that I need to thank him. Twelve years later. But perhaps it's important for him to hear it now.  I will do that this week.

Another good thing today was that I asked Catherine if she'd be able to connect me this Fall with that sweet little boy in her classroom who loves the Golden Knights. And she can!  I want to give him tickets to one of the hockey games so he can see a game in person at T-Mobile. My heart just knows that this is what I need to do and that it will be very important to Levi.

So today was a really lovely day. Important conversations. Important decisions.

Saturday, June 2, 2018


My 2018 word is Renew and I can honestly say I don't feel like the same person I was back on January 1st. My regular readers know that the year started off kinda hard with me having some very unexpected feelings that forced me to do a ton of work figuring things out. It was not easy. And I wrote several blog posts as I worked through all of that.

That same month brought me the Vegas Golden Knights and - wow! - what a difference they have made in my life. I never expected a hockey team to bring me such joy, but they sure have. I just know that Vern is loving watching me enjoy this new passion of mine. My love for this team has actually given me a place to put all of those emotions I still don't quite know what to do with. Let me just say that you probably would not recognize me by my behavior at a hockey game.

And then I hit 67 ... ugh. That is a number that in no way defines me. At least in my head. Perhaps in rebellion to that number (but more honestly just because I didn't want to spend my birthday alone) I accepted that offer to have drinks with a friend so she could introduce me to new guy.  And that led to that first date. Over 7 years since Vern died - and 49 years since I last dated back in high school.

I had a nice time. He's a very nice man and he's lived a very interesting life. Dinner was great, the conversation was comfortable and easy. But I didn't feel a spark or any desire for a relationship to grow. And I didn't get the impression he felt it either. We parted after dinner with a thank you and a hug. He's traveling for the next six weeks and mentioned reaching out when he returned home. I figured he was just being polite and did not expect to hear from him.

And I felt some relief about that actually.

But then our mutual friend called to let me know that he likes me and he will be calling when he returns to Vegas. Sigh.

What to do?

I do not want to hurt his feelings.
I do not want to lead him on thinking something more could develop.
I do not want to ....

Oh boy.
So how vulnerable do I want to be here?  I started this blog to be a lighthouse to the caregivers I met in the online cancer groups. I knew that many would soon be joining me and felt it would help me to write and them to read of my experiences. And now I write for my widowed friends who are experiencing these 'do I date or not' feelings, to let them know they aren't the only ones thinking and feeling these things. So I guess I need to do this. To be vulnerable. 
So my dear *single* widowed friends, these vulnerable words are for you.

I guess it really comes down to intimacy. I just cannot even imagine it, and I do not want to.  Even just kissing. That was my test, you know. Could I imagine kissing new guy? No, I could not. No spark. Or I'm just not ready. Either works for me.

I just don't think dating is for me. It feels like too much work. And I can't help but make comparisons to Vern - and that's not fair. I know that I do not want to date just for the sake of dating. I cannot date more than one person at a time. And I surely cannot sleep with someone without being in love with them.

Perhaps someone will come into my life down the road that will create that spark and allow me to be brave enough to step into that light. I think I'm open to that now. I think I could even want that. But I need that spark. Even if that's not realistic to expect. It happened with Vern. We both felt it. Immediately. 

I will tell you that I did enjoy those few days before the date of thinking 'wow!' someone likes me, maybe even cares about me. I've missed that and it did feel rather nice. And part of that has stayed with me, making me feel a little more confident about myself.

So if new guy contacts me when he gets back in town, I will tell him that I'm just not ready to date. I'll thank him for being kind and willing to allow me to test the waters. I'm comfortable with this and hope that he will be, too. There's plenty of women out there ... in fact, I wish there was a way to introduce him to some of my widow group members. Hah ... ok, I won't go there.

So I've been feeling pretty good about this decision. It feels right. For me.

And then tonight a friend on Facebook was pulling cards for people and this is what she pulled for me.

Geez universe. You're killing me!