everyday musings for extraordinary women

Coping with loss

20140410_230055I’m going to do something that’s very difficult and uncomfortable for me. I’m going to try to write about the kind of change that I really don’t want to write about or even think about. I tried to do it before, but it felt like I was peeking around the corner with just one eye open while gripping the wall to steady myself. I couldn’t take another step closer. I didn’t have it in me to even stay still long enough to focus on what was happening. All I could manage was a glimpse of it. Then, I had to turn away. But I can’t keep turning away and closing my eyes anymore. It’s all around me now. The loss of a loved one has a way of demanding your attention no matter how hard you try to turn from it.

This is the permanent kind of change my family is dealing with right now. Let me just get this out. My husband loss both of his parents in the past six months. It’s only been a week since his father transitioned. I couldn’t even cry until now. We were with his mother during her last stages in October. I tired to write about the experience we had with his mother (Mom Alice) at some point during the fall, but I couldn’t–not really. I just left it–unwritten. Now, here we are again, and I’m still unable to write freely about it. In fact, I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it.

But here’s what I can say…I don’t want my husband to feel that he’s alone. He’s the kind of person who has been there for so many others. He’s a truly giving person, and most of the time, I think he’s given to others while expecting nothing in return. Now he needs support. I’m hopeful that there are a least a few people who will show him the same kindness that he’s shown others. He has me, but I think he needs the comfort of more arms wrapped around him. He hasn’t said this to me, but I know.

I keep wondering what he’s feeling. He seems the same on the outside. He smiles the same smile I’ve loved from the beginning, but I know there’s something neither of us is experienced with underneath. We’re in unfamiliar territory. So I keep asking him. I keep watching him. I keep listening to him. I keep praying for us. I don’t want to push him to share if he’s not ready, but I also don’t want him burying his feelings too deeply either. As I said, this kind of change won’t allow you to turn away forever. At some point, it will catch up and you will have to turn to face it.

Change is in the air

20140408_200350Change is in the air, and I’m not just saying this because we’re finally thawing out and spring has returned. Although warming up to 70 and 80 degree temperatures is the kind of change I’ve been looking forward to for weeks. I’m talking about change that’s closer to home, intimate, and unique to you. I’m talking about when change becomes the central theme for an extended period of time in your life. When it touches multiple areas at the same time and forces you to stop right where you are because you’re held captive by the knowledge that the world–your world–as you’ve known it, doesn’t exist anymore. It seems as if everything you’ve known and grown comfortable with is different. Some of the differences can be easily explained–easy to get your mind around. Then there are nuances and unknown effects that you can’t begin to grasp. Things that you can’t know until you’re further down the road, unless you’re blessed with the gift of foresight. If this has happened to you, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If this is happening to you right now, then perhaps we can help each other find ways to cope with the changes that are currently playing center stage in our lives.

It’s funny really. I used to think that the most difficult thing is to know you need to change but not know how to actually do it or to somehow not be able to do it. This is when change is in your hands. You control whether or not it happens. However, now that I must face permanent family changes and career changes, I’m beginning to think that change that’s out of our control is far more challenging. This is when change is controlled by others or an external force or power. It’s when you can’t stop change from happening. You might not have even considered it. In fact, once you learn that it’s happening, you might not even want it. Nevertheless, the change will happen regardless of how you feel or what you think.

We’ve all heard the advice that it’s best to accept change, particularly when it’s beyond our control. In fact, this is an essential step in a healthy approach to coping with this kind of change. I understand this. I really do, but I spent most of October 2013 to February 2014 in denial and some level of fear about the changes going on within my family and at work. I was deeply bothered by not being able to do anything about the changes. I couldn’t even delay or alter the changes. All I could do was figure out how to cope, and if you’re like me, you don’t particularly care for being in situations where you feel a loss of control or powerless. It’s April now, and permanent change is still the dominating theme in my life. I believe that I’ve made some progress towards acceptance, but now I need to find the best ways to adjust to my new world. Perhaps you have suggestions or advice. I welcome your thoughts on this topic.

My Snow Story

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Now that the sun has returned and reminded me that winter won’t last forever, I feel so much better.  The last two weeks have been tough for those of us who live in southern states like Georgia.  If you’re like me, until recently, you could count the number of times you’ve felt temperatures in the single digits and the number of times you’ve seen snow, sleet, or icy weather conditions on one hand.

Two weeks ago, I didn’t think much about the winter weather conditions predicted for Atlanta and the surrounding areas.  But then the snow began to fall fast, stick, and accumulate, and within just a few hours, the sky darkened, the temperature dropped, and everything changed.  Suddenly, I realized that even though I was safe at home and my husband and children were engaged in their routine evening activities, there were dangerous and scary situations developing on all major interstates and secondary roads all around us.  If you turned on a television, checked a notification from any news source, or spoke with anyone living in the Atlanta area, you know what happened.  I don’t need to rehash it.  It was an all out crisis for the city and the state! Little did we know what was headed our way the day before…

1/27/14

At 1700 hours, all members of the family were home and confirmed receipt of a winter storm warning for our area.  The children had received word in the hallways and when their teacher’s back was turned during class.  I had received notification by phone from my mother along with explicit instructions regarding preparation.  The husband had been made aware of the hazardous weather coming our way when he came upstairs after finishing his work day.

At 1900 hours, it was agreed that a trip to the neighborhood grocery store was while not desirable, indeed necessary.  A short list was prepared, and we hustled up the street to acquire the goods and hopefully, to avoid any issues related to scarcity.  Once the oldest son and I arrived at the store, things did not go as planned.  We forgot all about our list and proceeded to walk up and down each and every aisle in the store.  There was absolutely no rational reason for abandoning our list and acting as if there was no plan at all.  We watched people load up their shopping carts, but we pushed our nearly empty cart from one end of the store to the other, barely touching anything.  You’d think that we’d have focused on getting critical items such as water, peanut butter, nuts, fruits, granola, cereal, bread, and an assortment of other non-perishables.   That would’ve made perfect sense, but we just strolled about as if it was just another Monday evening at the grocery store.

At 1945 hours, we checked out, returned home, and unloaded a single shopping bag of what we felt were essential items for surviving a snowstorm:  Pop Tarts, Lunchables, and a jar of Smucker’s Jelly.

At 2000 hours, the husband announced that he would be in charge of rations if we found ourselves snowed in for multiple days with no power and limited food and water.

At 2001 hours, I took an inventory of foods that could be eaten I if we lost power.

2% Milk–2 cartons

Almond Butter–1 jar

Almond Slivers–.50 bag

Apples–6

Biscotti–1pint

Blueberries–1 container

Bread–2 loaves

Cashews–.25 can

Cereal–4 boxes

Cereal Bars–6

Chocolate Candy–.50 bar

Chocolate Cookies–8

Crackers–2 boxes

Granola–.50 container

Greek Yogurt–10

Ice Cream–1 gallon

Jelly–1 jar

Lunchables–6

M&Ms–.50 jar

Peanut Butter–2 jars

Pop Tarts–2 boxes

Prunes–4

Rice Milk–1 carton

Sorbet–1 pint

Soy Ice Cream–3 mini sandwiches

Soy Milk–.50 carton

Soy Yogurt–6

Sparkling Water–3 bottles

Tuna–3 cans

At 2006 hours, I seriously wondered whether or not I should hide all of the foods I like in the house where no one would think to look.  I mean really, I was in a house with an ex-military man and two male teens, who eat just because the food is there. No one was going to stop to think about the vegetarian in the house.  Clearly, I needed a strategy to survive.  I had to think quickly…

If the power goes out, do not hesitate.  Grab the soy ice cream and chocolate cookies first.  Leave the regular ice cream, sorbet, and yogurts of any kind behind.  The yogurts are packed with protein, but you’ll get over it and even make up for it with almonds, cashews, and granola, oh my!  Peanut butter, yuck!  Let them fight over it because almond butter is way better with crackers and sparkling water will be perfect to wash them down.  When they go for the 2% milk, grab the rick milk, at least one box of cereal, and an entire box of Pop Tarts.  They aren’t as quick as you.  By the time they divide up the milk and other refrigerated items, you will have already moved on to the chocolate candy bar and M&Ms.  They probably won’t even remember that we have these goodies.  If one of them spots you going for the chocolate candy, just run.  Run upstairs to your room and lock the door.  After you’ve hidden everything, negotiate half-heartedly, and then give up.  Unlock the door and go about your business as usual until everyone is asleep.  Then, go back to the kitchen and eat the blueberries.  You know they can’t last very long unless you store them outside on the patio in the snow, and let’s face it, you’re not going to do that.  Suck it up!  It’s about survival.  They’ll be alright.  You’re leaving the apples, biscotti, bread, cereal bars, jelly, prunes, tuna, and even some soy milk along with other eatables.  They’ll figure it out. 

At 2008 hours, I snapped out of it and settled into my normal evening routine just like everyone else in the house.

1/28/14

At 1030 hours, I received a call from my mother, who let me know that it was snowing in Cartersville, which is about one hour north of Atlanta.  I was working from home and felt quite distant from whatever might be happening outside.  Plus, what happens in Cartersville…well, you know the rest.  I remained unfazed.

At 1130 hours, the first snowflakes were seen falling outside my window.  I immediately contacted the husband to urge him to leave his client meeting immediately, and sent a text message to the children to alert them to be ready to leave school when he arrived.

At 1430 hours, no one had made it home yet, which was crazy.  The distance from the school and house is 4.91miles or 12 minutes.  I was still working.  There didn’t appear to be much snow on the ground outside, so I began to wonder.  What was taking so long?

Over the next few hours, images of people sitting in their cars, bumper-to-bumper, going nowhere began to flood networks.  My own family finally made it home after being stuck on Peachtree Street for three hours.  One of my cousins didn’t make it home until midnight after spending seven hours on Georgia 400, and my nephew almost got stuck at school overnight.  It turned out that we were the lucky ones.

Needless-to-say, my light-hearted attitude from the day before changed significantly after seeing the impact the weather had on our city.  I’d definitely learned my lesson.  When reports of another winter storm headed our way were announced earlier this week, there was no playing around.  Just as before, we headed to the neighborhood grocery store and shopped for essential items for surviving a snowstorm, but this time we came home with much more than Pop Tarts, Lunchables, and a jar of Smucker’s Jelly.

Holiday Blues

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We’re already three weeks into the new year, and I haven’t even begun to get on with the few things I need to focus on this year.  It’s not that I’ve been sitting around doing nothing, but I haven’t exactly been making a serious effort to tackle my to-do list for 2014.   Instead, I still can’t believe the holidays are over and that January is coming to a close.  Time seems to be moving too fast for me, and I want it to slow down or at least back up a few weeks, back to the holidays.  I think I’m going through some sort of post-holiday blues.

Feeling a little worn out or down the first day or two after the new year is probably not uncommon, but it’s been three weeks!  “Come on,” I yelled out loud to myself last week when I finally decided that the holiday decorations had to come down.  It’s telling that as I boxed up the ornaments, trees, and jingle bells, I didn’t want to do it.  I really didn’t want to close the boxes and put everything back in the storage room, but I made myself do it anyway.  I can still see my little tree sitting on my desk sometimes.

Then I had to deal with the holiday movies I recorded on the DVR. I’m sure that in most households holiday movies are nowhere to be found by the third week of January, and I know this is probably normal and healthy.  Yet, I couldn’t make myself delete them, not until after I’d closed the boxes on the decorations.  Once the decorations were gone, I sat down, scrolled through the list, and one-by-one, I watched my favorite holiday movies disappear from the screen. Right now, only two remain, and I have no plans to delete them anytime soon.

It’s funny, I didn’t have the same problem with the music.  I stopped playing holiday music a few days after the new year without too much difficulty.  I can only assume that this is because I started playing it on October 1st and after three months, well, it’s probably time to listen to something else.  You’ll still hear me hum a few favorite melodies from time-to-time, but I’ve moved on to other genres.

It’s Saturday night, and I haven’t let those holiday movies go.  They jump out at me every time I scroll through my playlist.  I must confess that I’m watching one right now.  Perhaps I need a cup of strong, hot tea (Yogi St. John’s Wort Blues Away) to help me get over this, but for tonight, I’ll continue to enjoy my holiday movie and pretend that it’s still the middle of December.

Alone on Christmas?

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Yesterday, I was feeling a real lack of Christmas spirit in my city, but I had a change of heart by the time I reached my parent’s home, which is about an hour north of where I live.  I made a stop at a grocery store in town.  My parents live way out in the country, where you can’t see your hand in front of your face after dark.  Town is about 20 minutes away without traffic.  You’d never think this place is right outside of Atlanta.  It’s a world unto itself.

It was raining hard.  In fact, it was already flooding in some areas.  I really didn’t want to stop, but I needed to get a few things.  As soon as I walked through the door of the grocery store, I was greeted with a smile and a compliment on my shiny santa hat.  This surprised me because I didn’t think it was anything special.  I picked it up a year ago somewhere just for fun, but I smiled back and thanked the lady.  On every aisle there was someone ready to help, and it turned out that I did actually need help.  I couldn’t find the sun-dried tomatoes or soy nog on my own, and you already know how I feel about soy nog.  I appreciated having someone nearby, who could direct me to the right place in the store.

“Can I help you find something?”

“Are you finding what you need?”

“Good evening.”

“How are you this evening?”

“Are you ready for Christmas?”

“Love the hat.  Where did you get it?”

“Have you finished your shopping for Christmas?”

No less than 10 people offered help or greetings to me, and I was only in the store for 30 minutes.  By the time I made it to the checkout, I was feeling quite relaxed and cheerful.  Then, something else unexpected happened.  The cashier helping me began to chat about her day and went on to say that she’d be spending this Christmas alone for the first time.  She added that her daughter had been telling her how she could expect being alone on Christmas to be awful.  I was touched that she’d share something so personal with me, and I was struck by how her daughter’s statement was so obviously affecting her in a negative way.  She seemed a little sad, and I wanted to say something that would help her.

I followed my own intuition and told her what came to me.  I suggested that she plan her day.  I told her to do something special for herself.  I remembered reading an article about how people are choosing to eat out on holidays instead of cooking at home.  So I encouraged her to consider eating lunch or dinner out at a restaurant.  She was concerned that they would all be closed, but I assured her that this was not the case.  I told her that a quick search online for restaurants open on Christmas would help her decide on where to go.  Then, it was time for me to go.  She wished me a happy holiday, and I wished that she would find peace and happiness of her own this Christmas.

For anyone who expects to face Christmas alone this year, be adventurous. Embrace whatever your situation is and make it into what you want it to be.  Let go of whatever is supposed to be.  It’s good to create your own new traditions.  Spend your time alone if you wish or get out of the house and set yourself free.  You never know who you might meet on Christmas.  Know that you don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to be.

Related: Atlanta restaurants open on Christmas Day 2013; Tips for spending holidays alone; 50 Tips on how to enjoy holidays alone

Silver Bells

cars-christmas-city-decorations-lights-people-Favim.com-54675I’ve been on holiday since Friday.  So I really should be all smiles, especially since I’ve been watching holiday movies and listening to holiday music almost every waking moment.  I can’t get those holiday tunes out of my head.  Seriously, my singing and humming have become the soundtrack for family life around here.  Mundane activities such as making up the bed and washing dishes, both of which I can’t stand, have been re-imagined as auditions for the lead role in a holiday musical.  Each day has become more festive around the house, but outside is a different story.

With just three days left before Christmas, I expect to see signs of the season everywhere. A day spent out and about the city at this time of year should be alive with colorful window displays, strands of blinking lights, bright tree-lined streets, cheerful seasons greetings, and even a few unexpected surprises that remind us that there’s still good in people.

I confess that these were the things I hoped for when I asked my sister to take off work and spend the day with me this past Friday.  I told her the plan was to start with breakfast, do a little shopping, take care of a few errands, and be open to try new things and go wherever the day took us.  It was a given that the day would be relaxing and filled with holiday fun.

Here’s what actually happened.

  • Sister encountered psycho, ex-friend at cafe we chose for breakfast and handled it like a pro.  Despite the sticky residue left over from their last conversation, sister smiled and gave away a hug, too.  Unnecessary drama avoided.  Holiday cheer up.
  • Tried a new cocktail and discovered that even though the description “spicy, slightly sweet” was intriguing, it was best not to make Bulleit Rye Whiskey my new thing for the season.  No need to purchase a bottle.  $27 dollars saved.  Holiday spirit down.
  • After going in and out of many stores and finding nothing under $24 dollars, decided cool stocking stuffers for teens were overrated.  Reverted back to plan A–travel size toiletries, socks, underwear, and a couple of candy bars.  Holiday gifts done.
  • Deviated from to-do list of errands to go pick up fried fish on the other side of town and spotted eye lashes on a car.  Genuinely confused by it.  No mistletoe.  No reindeer antlers.  No snow flakes.  Holiday decorations nowhere to be found.
  • Saw random guy walk out of the mall, go to his car, stand next to it, and undress. Granted, he didn’t get completely naked.  He was bare from the waist up.  But why?  He pulled his shirt over his head and acted as if it was the most normal thing to do.  There was no reason for that kind of exposure in the middle of the parking lot.  His belly was as big as Santa’s.  I’m sorry.  It wasn’t right.  Childhood memories of Santa forever altered.
  • Fled mall flasher and was greeted with road rage all because of an attempt to switch lanes.  It was unclear what the young man yelled as he swerved and pulled up beside us. One can only imagine.  Holiday gone off the rails and over the cliff.

I can hear that old song now…Silver Bells.  Silver Bells.  It’s Christmas time in the city.  But after a day like Friday, I have to say it’s hard to tell that it’s Christmas time in this city.

20131129_174608

Let’s flip the calendar back to Sunday, November 24th, which was the last day I posted about my Nanowrimo 2013 status.  At the time of my post at sunrise on the 24th, my word count was 40009.  I was confident that I could reach the 50K goal by the November 30th deadline, even as I gathered my things to head to the ship for a 7-day cruise for Thanksgiving.  I was so excited to be leaving, it was all I could do to manage posting something before my family and I boarded the ship.  Needless-to-say, my word count remained unchanged on Day 24.  Who could write?  There was just too much to do after we boarded the ship.  One glass of champagne, okay maybe two or three, and I was officially on vacation, taking in the sights, chatting up strangers, and getting in those last calls to family members before shutting down my cell phone and any other communication avenues.  Day 24 was fabulous!

Then came Monday.  Since the ship was rocking more than we were used to and the weather was cooler than expected, I did a little writing…for like 30 minutes!

Day 25:  40530 words

Tuesday was a repeat of Monday.  The ship was still rocking and rolling.  We had to turn away from Nassau.  The Captain said it was just too dangerous.  Thanks Global Warming!  This meant I really had no excuse for not writing.  I was so proud of myself.  It was easy.  I wrote a little, played a little, wrote a little more, and played harder.

Day 26:  42098 words

On Wednesday, the sea was calmer.  The sun called to me.  I answered.  Enough said.

Day 27:  42829 words

By Thursday, I was barely able to focus on writing.  It was Thanksgiving Day, and I was in full cruise mode by that point.  Writing was the last thing on my mind, but I did a little anyway.

Day 28:  43674 words

When I opened my eyes on Friday, I knew I had to get focused if I had any hope of meeting the 50K goal.  We had plans to go out dancing later, and it was definitely going to be a late night.  I docked my ipod, turned up the holiday music, added libations, and called on my Muse.  I had my best day ever for Nanowrimo!  6344 words in just a few hours.  The best part was how I was able to enjoy my husband’s company, our environment, and write at the same time.

Day 29:  50018 words

I did a happy dance and closed my laptop.  I considered purchasing one of the internet packages offered by the cruise line in order to validate my novel, but I chose not to do it.  The one good thing we do on our cruise vacation is unplug from the internet.  As much as I wanted to “win” Nano this year, I couldn’t bring myself to link back to the world in the middle of my family vacation.  It would’ve been too tempting to take it further.  Then, I would’ve had to wrestle my husband away from his work email.  No, it just wasn’t worth it.

So I won’t be sporting the winning banner for Nano this year, but I still consider myself a winner.

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