15 Things About Me.

I always miss the memo, but it seems like a lot of the bloggers I follow have answered the call, so I’ll play!

1. I’m a thief.  My rescue kitty was actually stolen from neglectful/abusive owners. I’m not sorry.

2. If I had to choose only one source of entertainment between music, television/movies or books for the rest of my life it would be books. Hands down.

3. Until November of 2011 through June of 2013 I always felt like a pretty lucky person.

4. Even on my darkest days I always found something to laugh about. It was usually grossly inappropriate.  I’m not sure if that’s a sign of sound mental health or I’m batshit crazy.

5. I never lived alone one day until I was 50 years old.

6. My fuckit list is roughly three times as long as my bucket list and I’m okay with that.

7. I will probably never jump out of a plane.

8. I cry hardest over movies where the dog dies.

9. Hurt one of my kids and not only will I curse you to the seven layers of hell I will create a few extra layers just for you.

10. I am geographically challenged.  I can get lost in my hometown and I’ve never left. True story.

11. I think FB quizzes are stupid but I do more of them than you might think.

12. I once got a nun to say F you.  Granted, she was a former nun but it still felt like a win.

13. I’m not easily impressed.

14. I feel lonely sometimes but it doesn’t bother me enough to do anything about it.

15. One of my children is alive today soley because her ability to make me laugh slightly outweighed her ability to piss me off.

Happy New Year

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Or as I like to say don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, ’13.   I’ve stopped greeting each new year with “it has to be better than last year”.  Actually I never did that until the end of 2011, again in 2012 and now .. well you get the picture.  Apparently the universe likes messing with me so I am keeping my hopes for the new year to myself. I won’t write 2013 off completely. It did bring the amazing gift of my first grandson and I’ve surprised myself with things I can handle that I never in a million years thought I could or would ever have to.  

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I say what didn’t kill me makes me want to mess someone up. Unfortunately there is no one to blame for any of it.  It’s just life and you know none of us are getting out of this alive.

Cheers!

My thoughts

… are kind of all over the place these days.   First of all the job. Yeah.  I may have made a mistake.  Probably should have let the dust settle a little bit.  I applied for this job exactly 3 weeks after my husband died. What the hell was I thinking?  I guess I panicked a little regarding finances, insurance, etc.  So.. here I am at 51 years old with 30 years experience working an entry level job for the insurance.  Don’t get me wrong.. the job is okay.. nothing terribly interesting, but busy and I like that. Love my coworkers.  The trouble you ask?  Somewhere along the way, during the shit storm what was my life over the past two years, I seem to have lost my filter.  Replacing it is on my short list (as in nevah gonna happen in this lifetime).  I simply don’t care what I say and to whom.   I just don’t. I don’t go out of my way to offend, but if you choose to be offended by something I say? Tuff shit. You can imagine how well that goes over in the work place.   One of my coworkers thought I was a bit on the prissy side until I let loose with a string of expletives. She was relieved.  It’s the hair. Fools em every time.

On  the home front. Ever wish you could have one more conversation with a loved one that had passed on?  Do you imagine it in your mind?  I have these little one sided conversations all the time with my sister and my husband (not out loud, I haven’t turned the bend completely).  They are usually mundane, every day things… nothing maudlin or sweetly out of character.  Today I wish I could ask my beloved why he kept certain items.  Like the princess tiara and the duck lips that sound like a kazoo. Yes. I tried them. Don’t judge me.  It’s been a stressful week. I think I will wear them to work tomorrow. The lips, not the tiara.  I’m saving that for special.

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‘In the Event of my Death…’

Reblogging this because it’s an important topic for all couples, regardless of your age, state of health, whether or not you have children. We had those conversations, mainly because of the sudden death of my sister and my cancer diagnosis. He, of course, was going to live forever. Being eleven years younger I always had a sense I would be widowed at some point until the events of 2012, which seemed to level the playing field a bit. And to Wife After Death, ask yourself what you would want for him, had you gone first. xxoo

Wife After Death

If you are lucky enough to still have your spouse intact, I have a question.

Do you ever discuss, you know, the D word? Is ‘death’ part of your warm, couply vocabulary, or is it one of those subjects like exes and the fact that it took him SO FUCKING LONG to propose that is never broached?

Even after He was critically ill, and the click-whoosh of His mechanical heart valve kept me awake at night, my husband and I never discussed what would happen in the event of the other’s death. It was taboo, I guess because it had almost been reality and neither of us wanted to think about the what ifs.

Besides, that Registrar in the hospital, the little fella with whom I high-fived like a fucking cheerleader when I saw him months later in the heart clinic, stated quite clearly that Mark ‘would have a normal life span’…

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Don’t ask

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Oh, I don’t mean you. You can ask me anything.  Don’t Ask is the red banner I imagine has been placed prominently across my medical file and/or employment files at my local hospital.  I had my 6 month check with Oncology yesterday and all is well on the cancer front, though apparently I am working on an ulcer. Maybe.  Or more likely my body is just reacting to the absolute clusterfuck my life has been for the past 18 months or so.   While discussing the possible causes of the stomach pain I’ve been having (yes.. I “went there” and anyone with a past diagnosis of cancer knows exactly where “there” is) and how I’m not sleeping much these days, I mentioned my husband had recently passed away.  It was exactly a year ago since she asked how my summer was going and I reported that my sister had just unexpectedly passed away.   Her face.  I almost felt sorry for her.    I was told I am doing “remarkably well” whatever that means.  Am I supposed to open a vein every time I tell someone new?  Wear widow’s weeds?  Image

As I was leaving she mentioned again how remarkably well I seem.  I told her I had no choice and she said “you can always crumble”.  I told her “not yet”.  Besides I got shit to do. I’ll schedule a break down for another time, thank you.

Last week I had a job interview.  The first step was a telephone interview with all of those ridiculous getting to know you questions.  Then I got to do it again face to face.  Things were going well until the interviewer asked “what is the biggest personal challenge you have had to face in the past year and how did you handle it?”  So, I told her.  Tissues all around.  This could go either way.. a pity hire or a big red banner across my file that says. Don’t Ask!   I’m okay with either.

I used the kitty graphic because those crazy eyes are exactly how I feel these days but the graphic below speaks to me.  I hope it speaks to you too.

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Did you think I was avoiding you?

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In the grocery store?  I was.  I have been doing okay with most things.  Taking care of the usual necessary arrangements. Switching accounts and bills over to my own name.  Making arrangements to have all of the things done that I never had to worry about before.  I can have lunch with friends and talk about what happened. No problem.  Lately, though, if I see someone I know in a store I want to hide. I try not to catch their eye.  I turn down an aisle whether I need anything in it or not.  There are two kinds of people I see at the grocery store.   The ones I haven’t seen since the funeral and the ones I haven’t seen or heard from at all. As when my sister died, this is summer vacation. People are away. I really don’t want to be explaining what happened in front of the frozen peas or breaking down in the wine section (that just looks bad on so many levels). So if I give you a small wave and then turn away, please don’t be offended. And please don’t go out of your way to catch up with me in Dairy. Neither one of us will leave there feeling very good.  Instead of socializing I walk through the store like a ghost, picking up this and that, putting most of it back.  I buy tons of vegetables and fresh fruit and days later throw most of them away. I pick up packages of snack foods he liked to take to work and then remember that I just cleared all that out of the house and it all goes back. Cereal?  I don’t eat it, yet there are a 1/2 dozen boxes in my cupboard at the moment.

Yesterday was the one month mark.  We (the girls and I and my mother) went out for lunch and a movie.  We had a nice time. The movie was good. Exciting even.  I had a lump in my throat through most of it.  He would have liked it. He might have even stayed awake for the whole thing.  I don’t know why it made me sad.  I didn’t even particularly like going to the movies with him.  Because he always crowded me .. you know the type, taking up all the arm space on both sides.. and then would fall asleep.. only to wake up at various points during the movie wanting to know what happened.  He did the same thing when we watched movies at home. We had this routine.. me:  “are you up for a movie?  can you stay awake?”  him:  “sure”.. me:  “well, I know you’re tired and I don’t mind waiting until the weekend” him:  “just put it on”  him (5 minutes later): snoring.  I would spend the first half of the movie nudging him and the 2nd half hoping he wouldn’t wake up and start asking what happened. And after the movie ended he would get his second wind and spend hours on Facebook posting obscure music videos.  Nevertheless, we had a fairly long list of shows that we watched together, usually a full season at a time through Netflix. I guess all couples have their thing.. marathons of Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Shameless, Boardwalk Empire.. was ours. Interestingly, he could stay awake though all of those, but if I put on Weeds (at his request) he would sleep through most of it.

I can talk about how he died.  I can talk about what to do with his things, should I sell this? donate that? save it for the kids?  Those conversations feel normal. Doing groceries, making dinner, choosing what to watch on TV..those are the things that can have me reaching for an Ativan.   He loved to eat and I loved to cook.  We had an unwritten rule as a family, once the kids were old enough.. everyone pretty much fended for themselves for breakfast and lunch, but dinner was eaten at the table as a family every night.  Even the grown up kids were expected to be there if they were living here or visiting.  And we would hold dinner until they showed up.  We didn’t eat in front of the TV.  Over the past few years, if he was watching a game or we were just relaxing I would sometimes say.. “do you just want to eat in the living room?” .. it became a habit.. maybe once a week, but the majority of the time we still ate dinner as a family at the table.. even if it was just us two.  The table now holds a small stack of magazines (I guess I should cancel those subscriptions) that I have no interest in but can’t throw away, my ironing board and iron, a vegetable steamer and assorted other flotsam and jetsam of my life at the moment.

When my sister passed away we would talk about what the loss meant to each one of us, but the one I could hardly talk about without breaking down was her live in boyfriend.  She died in their bed in the home they had made together.  I couldn’t stand the thought of him being there alone, returning home to the emptiness. He had lived in the house alone before he met her but she had definitely made her mark on it.  I could not imagine what he was going through. It felt so much worse than what the rest of us were.  And now.. less than a year later I am in the same exact position (Dear Irony, I am no longer your biggest fan).  But strangely, I feel more anxious when I am away from home than when I’m here.  I do force myself to leave every day for one errand or another.  Baby steps. One foot in front of the other. Apparently that’s how you move forward.

A friend asked me the other day if I was mad at God.  I said I didn’t dare be mad at Him, I would be afraid of what He had in store for me next. We both laughed. I wasn’t kidding.

Navigating a new reality

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I’ve been pretty silent on the blogosphere. I’ve reblogged a few gems from some of the smart ladies that I follow, but otherwise have not had a lot to say. Mainly because life was becoming blissfully normal and really, who wants to read about the day to day musings of a 50 year old woman?  Nothing to see here folks.   I had planned to blog on the one year anniversary of my sister’s death.  That is coming up  on July 10.  Actually I planned to reblog the post I made about 10 days after she passed.  It’s not like anything has changed in that regard. She is still gone and we still miss her.   I was contemplating an update when I see my oncologist in July.  Truthfully I don’t expect anything new to come from that visit so unless something horrifying or hilarious happened on the way to the center it would be a pretty boring entry.

What I never in my wildest imaginings expected to be blogging about is the unexpected death of my husband.  On 4/29/13 we welcomed his new grandson in Texas.  On 6/1/13 we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary with a trip to the coast that included eating lobster and looking for “treasure” in flea markets and antique shops. I looked for things to sell in my ebay business. He looked for vinyl and other collectibles that he could display in his “man cave”.  On 6/5/13 I spent the day setting up a charity lawn sale and when we both arrived home at the same time I told him I was too tired to cook and asked him to pick up sandwiches.  He did and we had a quiet evening.  He called a close friend and talked for a time, then called his son.  About an hour and a half earlier than he normally went to bed, he announced he was “freezing” and was visibly shivering.  I felt his forehead.. no fever. He was not sweating.  He had no other symptoms.  We both went to bed and slept normally. The next morning we were planning to visit our daughter in law before she flew home (she’d been here for a funeral) so he had the day off. We both slept a little later than normal.  When I got up he was in his recliner under two blankets. I asked he if was still cold and he said no, just achy and really tired.  While I made coffee he got the paper.  He didn’t touch his coffee or the paper and at one point just got up and went back to the bedroom. I asked if he’d gone back to bed and he said “for just a bit”.  I checked once, he was on his side facing the wall.  Fifteen minutes later I heard what I thought was loud snoring and went in. He was now flat on his back. I could not rouse him. I could not move him.  He appeared to be choking so I called 911.  While on the phone, he stopped breathing.  He was gone. Just like that. The EMTs were there in minutes and worked for over 45 minutes.  On 6/6/13 @ 8:26 a.m. my life changed forever.

Within hours my house was full of family.  My kids stayed with me for  more than 2 weeks (leaving in stages).   I had some wonderful quality time with the new baby.  I hated to see them all go, but my new reality involves living alone and doing for myself. I would love to hide under the covers or sit back helplessly and let others do for me, but that just prolongs the inevitable.

On the practical side there are decisions to be made, bills to pay, I had to buy health insurance for the first time in my adult life as we were always covered under his work plan (thank God I’m through with the expensive part of cancer treatment). I’m looking for work because even though my small business is making money, working alone is very isolating.

I guess I do have plenty to say after all. Huh, who knew?  Those of you who followed my journey through breast cancer are invited to follow my new journey through early widowhood.  I promise it won’t be all doom and gloom.  As is typical in our family there have been some hilarious moments that have you laughing/crying at the same time.

Remind me to tell  you about the financial institution that had me convinced someone had stolen my husband’s identity, had named names and was insisting I file a police report.  Only to find out it was their mistake after all (which I had been telling them for 2 days).  That’s a long story for another day.

They say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.  He can stop any time now. I’m not the bad ass He makes me out to be.

In spite of it all, I remain mainelyhopeful.

Happy Together

Last night we were at a waterfront concert seeing the Happy Together Tour with the Buckinghams, Grass Roots, Gary Puckett,  Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees and Flo and Eddie of the Turtles.  Aside from my daughter I was probably the youngest person there!  When the performers would ask “What were  you doing when this song was a hit (in 1968, 1969! ?)” while most in the audience were in the  service or high school/college I was in the first grade.  I thought it was pretty funny that even with my (new!) gray hair I was one of the babies in the crowd.   We almost missed the show.  Youngest daughter (Thing 3) was in charge of the tickets. She was the one that first heard of it and talked her father out of his credit card to buy them. They were electronically sent to her email account.  All summer we were all thinking the concert was Sat, the 28th.  She thought it was at 5:30, I thought 7:30.  I asked several times this week for her to check. She finally did. Last night at 6:40.  We live an hour from the venue. Her father was out mowing the lawn and was very hot and sweaty. I had been doing housework. In 10 minutes we had both showered and changed while she printed off the tickets and away we went.  I said we would miss most of the show, not be able to park, etc. etc., but we wanted to see at least some of it for the 150.00 we spent on tickets.  We got there at 7:50 and had only missed some of the first group (The Buckinghams) and miracle of miracles there was a (free!) parking space right at the gate!!  We had front row seats.  The bands were awesome. Was Gary Puckett always so dramatic?  At the end they all performed together.  It was a great night out. My daughter snagged a guitar pick from the Grass Roots guitarist and she and my husband both got Mickey Dolenz autographs.   Since we missed dinner, on the way home we stopped off for a plate of eggs and finally got to bed well after midnight.

Since I’m having radiation daily, not to mention the emotional upheaval of the last few weeks, I’ve been very tired. I planned on a quiet, restful Saturday so I would be fresh for the concert and a nice dinner out.  In order for that to happen I didn’t stop all day Friday. I cleaned the house from top to bottom, did all the laundry (including hanging it out), the daily one hour round trip for treatment, did  groceries, and spent several hours at my desk.  Just as I was about to take a hot bath and relax, we were flying down the highway to a concert.  I’m glad I ignored my knee jerk reaction to stay home and just let the two of them go.  All my life I’ve been a planner (and bit of control freak) and I’m sure I’ve missed out on a lot of fun because I hadn’t planned it ahead. I’m the least spontaneous person I know.   Maybe cancer has given me a gift. After all, I didn’t plan on having cancer or spending the better part of a year fighting it, but there it is. It hasn’t stopped me from living my life. I’ve just made room for it (for now).  I didn’t plan on losing my sister in such an unexpected and heartbreaking way, but that happened too and we are dealing with it and going on because we have no choice.  One thing she always did was make time for fun and family, even if it meant letting things go that she was just too tired to do like housework or staying on top of other responsibilities. It drove me crazy at times but I’m so glad now that she knew what was important. Certainly not planning out every minute of your day/week.

Thank you, Debbie, for that. And…well.. Fuck you, Cancer.  (no one really thought I would thank cancer, did  you?)

It was always Debbie and Susie

Growing up we were Debbie and Susie. Two sisters, one blond and one brunette, two years apart. Like all sisters we played together, fought bitterly, made up, giggled, plotted, fought some more and managed to reach adulthood without killing each other. I was the master at pushing her buttons until her son came along and installed new ones.  He came along exactly 6 weeks after my first daughter so we experienced first time motherhood together.  As we raised our families the arguments were fewer and further between but we could still piss each other off like no one else could.   We both recently started watching Dark Shadows on Netflix. She was many episodes ahead of me and wanted me to catch up. Watching reminds me of when the show aired originally.  I was 3 or 4 and she was just starting  school. I would stand in the window and watch for her bus.  When “my Debbie!” appeared, I knew it was time for Dark Shadows. We watched together every afternoon.   In the last few years Debbie has gotten to experience being a grandmother to 3 adorable little boys.  It made me laugh when one of them would refer to her as My Debbie.

Debbie was diagnosed with Lupus when she was in her 20s.  She was never exactly healthy, but never really had any of the bad flare ups you read about.  She suffered from terrible migraines, but so did my mother and myself. She had a lot of rheumatoid symptoms and was on pain medication most of the time. But during all that she raised her son, returned to school in her 40s, got her teaching degree after subbing for many years and was excited to land a job teaching 7th graders.  I thought she was insane for picking that age group. She loved every minute of it.

When I got my cancer diagnosis she took it harder than any of us.  She cried so much that at one point I told her to “dry up” or I wouldn’t talk to her.  She didn’t cry in front of me again, but I’m sure she still shed plenty of tears.  The day of my surgery she received a call from her doctor who had been going over some recent lab work.  At that point she had been experiencing horrible infections for months and antibiotics were not working. He suspected CVID (common variable immune deficiency). None of us had heard of it but she met with a specialist who agreed and wanted to start her on infusions of intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) as soon as the following week.  A little Internet research prompted her to ask for a second opinion as this treatment would be administered once a month for the rest of her life.  The 2nd doctor would not agree with the diagnosis until he ran his own tests.  Each time it would take weeks to receive the results, at which time he would decide one more test was necessary, then one more.   By the time the diagnosis was confirmed, treatments were agreed upon and the insurance finally approved them (but only for 3 months) it was 7 months since the original diagnosis. She had two treatments and was feeling better than she had in a long time. Then, one week after the 2nd treatment she passed away in her sleep. It was July 10.

My last entry on this blog was July 9. I was outraged that my radiation had been cancelled and I was going to have to tack one more day onto the end of my treatment.  She read the blog and called me to commiserate.  We spoke for over an hour. She had had a relaxing day reading in the sun. When I saw her over the weekend I had loaned her a stack of books and her plan was to alternate one book for pleasure with one for her curriculum planning.   18 hours later I was standing over her bed where she looked like she was sleeping peacefully, curled up on her side like she had slept every day of her life.  It’s been over 10 days and it still doesn’t seem real.

I returned to treatment Monday, now a full week behind schedule.  I commented how f’ed up it is that cancer treatments feels like a return to “normal”. She would have appreciated that, along with the black “fuck cancer” bracelet I have taken to wearing every day.

I miss my Debbie.

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