Friday, December 13, 2019

December fun

December is rolling along and I'm rolling with it. Because it's the holiday season there have been a few fun events happening.

One of Taz's favorite things to do at Christmas was "adopt" a child or family that wouldn't be able to provide Christmas for the kids and help them. We did this almost every year, even the ones where we were struggling ourselves.

Taz grew up poor in France and always felt the sting of not having Christmas presents when all the kids around him did so he was determined to help other children so that they'd never have that feeling.

I also think he loved doing it every year because it meant he got to shop in a toy store and pretend to be a kid.

This year I decided to continue the tradition to honor his memory even though I'm struggling. I'm ok with no Christmas but I never want a child to feel that way.

Charlie got dressed up in her Santa's Little Yelper outfit (she had 4 Christmas outfits to choose from) earlier this week and we delivered presents to the motel where a bunch of families live full time because they can't afford the rent prices in the area. These are hard working families who still have fallen through the cracks.  I wish I could do more for them but I'm happy to have done my part...and Taz's.

My chorus sings Christmas carols around town all during December after the pressure of our concert is over. Here we are at the local hospital. I look forward to this all year. There I am on the left, in the green shirt and Santa hat.

I was especially happy to have my god daughters join me this year. Here is the oldest being goofy. She loves to sing as much as I do so I was really happy to share this experience with her. As a pre-teen she bores easily but she really seemed to enjoy this. I hope it inspires her to join a chorus when she's older. She already sings with her elementary school chorus; I love that she's getting started early.

And finally, there's an ugly sweater contest at work. Last year I didn't feel up to participating but this year I was ALL about it. I got my sweater early and couldn't wait to wear it. I even accessorized with the perfect beret. The skirt has bells so I jingled every time I walked. I was feeling sassy and jingly all day.

Unfortunately, everybody at work told me I was too cute to be ugly so my hopes for winning have been dashed but I'm always up for being called cute! I had to get gas for the car that morning and a group of guys in a pickup truck told me I was cute least that's what I choose to believe they were yelling out the window. ;-)

I was going to wear this to go caroling at the hospital but it was very hot that day, too hot for long sleeves and leopard print. Hopefully I'll get another chance when my friends and I go caroling through the neighborhood next week.

Taz loved Christmas and the entire holiday season. There were years when I didn't feel very Christmasey because of our financial struggles but he always wanted to celebrate. One year I refused to put up our big tree so he went out and got a little tree and decorated it while I was at work (he was home looking for a job) just to surprise me and remind me of the joy of the season despite our circumstances.

I think that's one of the benefits of marriage - you take turns cheering each other up, supporting each other. He wasn't always upbeat and cheery, he could go very dark, but never at Christmas no matter what was happening.

So, in that spirit, I'm having a holly, jolly Christmas this year even if it's just Charlie and me.

Monday, December 9, 2019

hell month is back

Well, a lot has been going on and I don't even want to talk about it but I've promised myself I will document my journey as long as it lasts.

What you may not know about me is that I was born late in life to my parents, they were more the age of grandparents to me and, in fact, I am basically the same age as my sister's 4 children so we all grew up together. My mother (their grandmother) took care of them a lot when they were younger because their parents were working and going to school which was nice for me because I had siblings to play with. Even after they moved away and we weren't able to be physically close every day she never forgot a birthday or holiday. I had grandparents who didn't give a fig about me, never sent me cards or presents, so I was envious.

While most people my age are dealing with parents in their 70s, my mother is 97. Yeah, that's old.

For most of her senior years she has been relatively healthy mentally but in the past year we have entered the dementia zone.

I think I talked about it briefly how during that horrific month of December last year she started having hallucinations and delusions and ended up in a lock-down psych ward at the local hospital and that's where I spent my Christmas. I still don't have total recall of that month. I was doing some serious grieving of my own for Taz, my entire world had been blown apart and my life would never be the same and suddenly I had to deal with the greatest crisis my mother had ever faced. I felt completely and utterly alone, not a single member of my family even cared about what was going on. I don't know how I got through it, I can't even let my mind wander back there because it's too awful.

Well guess what? It's starting up again! Aren't I a lucky gal?

After they pumped her full of anti psychotic drugs she stabilized enough to go back to her assisted living rooms. Well, not really, she had a bad fall and for a while it looked like she might die from swelling/bleeding outside of the brain...all that happening just a month after my husband died from bleeding inside the brain. Good times.

But then that didn't happen and eventually things got back to normal except that I could see a lot of decline in her mental capabilities. I kept up my bi-weekly visits, sometimes more often, but it was increasingly hard to talk to her because she would forget everything we said from visit to visit. But she never forgot the important stuff.

So I've been looking forward to a quiet and more pleasant holiday season. I did end up enjoying my birthday, in fact, I had just gotten home from my last post-birthday outing (movie with my kids) when I got the calls - my mother has started having hallucinations and delusions again and now she's added wandering. She would get up, this woman who has barely moved from her bed for a year, and go out walking the halls of her facility even getting on the elevator because they found her on a different floor. She told them she was waiting for a man to come by who was going to propose to her even though he'd been married 4 times before. She always has very complicated back stories for her delusions.

Obviously this wasn't safe for her (the wandering, not the fake proposal - I would love it if someone would marry her and take care of her!) and after getting her checked out for potential infections which could be causing this (no infections), they determined she needed to move to the nursing home part of the facility and out of assisted living. We had entered the final chapter.

Of course all of this would be easy if she could just move and everything stayed the same but, of course, there's money involved and she doesn't have any (which may explain why my family stays uninvolved) so suddenly I have to do a bunch of running around trying to secure a funding source. If only I had leave at work so I could get paid but I used all of it with my broken arm so all this running around is costing me money I don't have.

And then there's the issue of cleaning out the rooms she's just vacated. I have been given very little time to do it because she's being charged for every day the room isn't released. But darned if it isn't pretty hard to pack up boxes and move furniture with just one arm. I've been told by the doctor not to carry anything more than 2 pounds with my bad arm until he gives the all clear. So I worked in her rooms both Saturday and Sunday (spending gas money to drive 80 miles each day) and it still doesn't look like I've done anything. And I don't want to just let it all be trashed because she's still alive and will be upset if she thinks it's all gone so I have to take much of it home to my house to store it until she no longer is aware.

And then there's that - I visited her both days and she still recognizes me but she doesn't have context for what year it is or anything that's happened in her recent life. She asked me if I was married because she doesn't remember Taz even when I showed her a picture. And it just broke my heart to have to say out loud, again, what happened to him. I burst into tears and I haven't done that in a long time. It still didn't make much of an impression on her except then she started the endless asking if I had a boyfriend, was I dating, do any of my friends' husbands have friends they could introduce me to, was I bringing a date for Christmas dinner, etc. I finally had to tell her that there was absolutely no one out there who was even interested in dating me to get her to stop. And that hurt...because it's true.

But the worst was yesterday when I went to visit her again after packing up a box - I can only drag one box out to the car at a time and it's so hard to pick it up to get it in and out of the car. I wondered if she would remember I'd been there the day before. She not only remembered, she had somehow convinced herself that I was coming to get her out of that place and take her back to live with me. She was crushed when I told her that wasn't going to happen.

And then I felt awful.

No matter how old you are, there is just something about hearing your parent say your name in that disappointed voice that is like a knife through your heart. She kept asking if she was ever going to get out of there. In her mind, she was living a normal, busy, productive life just yesterday and then suddenly she's forced into this. She doesn't remember that she's basically been bedridden for years now. She needs 24 hour supervision and I can't do that and work to keep a roof over my head.

It's not like it's been an easy road with my mother all these years, she has always been a difficult person, but at least I always had Taz to talk to about all of it. He was amazingly understanding and would let me pour all my frustrations out and then hold me while I cried, telling me one day we would be free of the burden and could just have fun together without that obligation. Now I'm doing this completely by myself and I seriously don't know if I can. I've tried so hard to be strong through everything that's happened this past year but going through this on my own is almost more than I can bear.

I think I need a Christmas miracle. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


So here's the weird thing - I'm single.

Yes, I know I've technically been single for over a year now but it's only recently that I've actually started to *feel* single.

And yes, I know I've talked a lot about being ready to date again and all that but I'm not sure I actually felt single at that point, I just felt lonely.

But recently there's been a subtle shift in my head and I'm coming to accept my singleness. Not thrilled about it, as you can imagine, but acceptance doesn't have to mean you're happy about what has happened.

I think it all really hit me in the head when a co-worker started giving me tips about how he used to get through the holidays as a single person. He figured I needed to know these things because I am now...a single person.

Yuck. I liked being married. The last time I was "single" (as in not in a relationship, not necessarily as in not being married) I was 20 and a virgin. Yes, I was a late bloomer. Don't judge. I have said it before, I was a very good girl.

That was a hell of a long time ago, let me tell you. I almost don't remember being single except for the sense of isolation. I didn't enjoy singlehood at all. I certainly didn't take advantage of it.

So now I'm most certainly not 20. Being single at that age was the norm, most of my friends were too. Being single at NOT 20 doesn't feel at all normal. Although I know there are a lot of older single women out there, most of my friends are married so I'm an oddity. The only other widows I know locally are senior citizens and I'm not there yet. Their situations are completely different from mine.

I feel like I should embrace singleness now and yet I really don't want to. I think my strength is in being a good partner and I know someone would be damn lucky to have me.

We'll see.

And for the record, I kind of feel like a virgin again, is that weird? I don't feel like this will benefit me or make me at all desirable on the dating scene. So yeah, I'd better come to terms with singlehood because that's probably going to be my label from here on out.

Monday, December 2, 2019


Can you believe it's December already? This year has actually flown by. I'm not going to lie, I'm glad November is over; it wasn't my favorite month although there were parts of it that were magical. There were other parts that almost did me in.

I've already started my December with a bang - last night was my Christmas concert. I've sung with a local chorus for the past 3 years and we do 3 concerts a year plus a couple of local holiday (Memorial and Veterans Day) appearances.

I love to sing, it's my #1 passion. Taz definitely supported it, he bought me a keyboard when I first got back into singing and when I joined this current chorus he did a lot of research to buy a special folder to hold all my music during concerts. It's really nice too, everyone asks about it when I use it.

I was definitely thinking of him when I got the folder out and started putting my music in order last night. It wasn't going to be my first appearance without him (that was Veterans Day in November) but it was a big deal going to a concert without him. Always before he'd accompanied me to the rehearsal a couple of hours before the concert and just stayed so he got to hear all our music several times in just a few hours.

The picture above shows me getting ready for the concert. Unfortunately my hair doesn't easily hold a curl so wearing curlers was kind of for nothing. The curls fell out within 5 minutes but it was really cute for those 5 minutes! I consider myself a pretty girly-girl but I have to admit that hair sometimes defeats me.

My singing season isn't quite over yet. We have lined up a few caroling gigs throughout December. Last year, in the midst of all the sorrow, going caroling was about the only normal thing I could do and I clung to it like a lifeline. I barely had any energy, I was drowning in grief, but singing the Christmas carols that Taz loved was the one thing I *could* do. I would show up, sing and then slip out the back before anyone could talk to me. I could barely hold a conversation without crying but I could sing.

This year I'm much better but I still look forward to each caroling event. I even have a couple of special, funny, over the top outfits picked out. Singing brings me joy and it brings joy to the listeners as well. We'll be singing in a couple of retirement homes, to the patrons of a homes tour around town and then, finally, in the hospital.

My beloved god daughters are going to join me at some of the caroling events and I'm thrilled to be sharing my love of music with them.

December and all the joys of Christmas are calling.

Monday, November 25, 2019

second year

Well, I survived last week. Not only survived but I thrived, I'm happy to report.

I was busy every single day of the week except for Thursday. Work was a little stressful but I had fun activities every night to look forward to so I didn't dwell on anything I can't change.

My friends went all out to throw me a Hello Kitty birthday dinner. It was awesome and perfect especially since the majority of my guest list is under 12.

On my actual birthday on Wednesday the kids took me mini-golfing. Taz and I used to play whenever we got a chance back in Virginia but I hadn't played in...oh, maybe 20 years so I was a little rusty and I was playing with only 1 least those were all the excuses I used until I realized I wasn't all that bad. I didn't win but I wasn't really trying. Next time I'm going to scrape the floor with all of them. Win or not, it was fun, pure fun. On a day I had seriously considered just ignoring, a day that was full of pain just a year ago, I chose to look past all that I've lost and focus on what I've gained.

I can't promise it'll work all the time and I can't promise there won't be days I'll want to bury my head in the blankets or smother myself with a pillow but at least for this past week, I'm ok. Not that I didn't cry every single day of last week - I did. The pain was just as raw and searing as if it had all just happened. But after a big cry, I'd dry my eyes and go on to the next fun activity.

And now the second year begins. When my dad died, almost 3 decades ago, I found the second year was even harder than the first. I think that's because I unconsciously set a goal of getting through the first year and when I did, there was a fleeting moment of feeling accomplished and then I realized there had been no point. I got to the end of the first year and what was my prize? Years and years of the same. Let me tell you, that was depressing and it set the tone for the second year.

So I've been very careful not to fall into that trap. The first year wasn't a goal, I've never forgotten that nothing changes after the first year except that now I can never think about what he and I were doing this time *last* year. The only prize I got for surviving the first year was a whole new year, decade, life to survive. Yippee.

But yes - YIPPEE! I have a whole new year to live my life, to make Taz proud, to make ME proud. I am not going to waste that feeling sorry for myself or even feeling sorry for Taz that he's not getting those chances. Of course I'm sorry that he isn't but I choose to believe he's having a way better time up there in Heaven than he ever did down here.

I feel strangely optimistic about 2020.

Friday, November 22, 2019

the day

This time last year I said goodbye. Most people think this is the hardest day of the year for me but that really came last Friday, the anniversary of the day we had our last conversation and he went off to work and was lost to me forever. But I got through that day and I'll get through all the others. I lost a lot last year but I've gained a lot too. I have a local support system that I didn't have before. I have the joy of being in the lives of 8 children ( 4 local and 4 in West Virginia ) and watching them grow and loving them so much. I have such a great family, both my chosen family and my birth family who are coming to visit me this weekend. I know who my friends are and who I can count on...and I know how to say goodbye to the ones that haven't been there. I don't know why but I have great optimism about 2020.

Monday, November 18, 2019

birthday week

In my family we've always celebrated Birthday Month because most of us were born in November. My sister started the idea and she was the one most invested in it. I used to like to talk about birthday month but I never expected (and never got) a month long celebration.

Of course last year my birthday was completely forgotten as Taz was in the hospital and, actually, my birthday was the day I had to make some hard, horrific decisions. 

So you can imagine that I've not been much in the mood for celebrating my birthday this year, it's now (and forever) tied to things I don't want to remember...even though I can't help it.

But friends were urging me to celebrate and after much waffling back and forth I decided that if I was going to celebrate a little, I was going to celebrate a LOT.

And so, this is BIRTHDAY WEEK!

It started small - a friend asked if I wanted to do anything on my actual birthday and I originally said no. Then another friend asked if I wanted to come over for dinner the night before. I was in a better frame of mind at that time so I said yes. Then the first friend was rather confused why I would do something with someone else and not her so I ended up having something to do on 2 nights this week. 

I have family coming into town for the weekend so suddenly I had plans on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday so it seemed silly not to extend the celebration to the whole week.

Yesterday (Sunday) was the kick off. I was by myself all weekend but I didn't think it was healthy to sit around and think too much (I actually took myself to a movie Friday night since that had been such a hard day and I knew I needed to get out of the house after work) so I decided to spend Sunday visiting one of my favorite Florida towns.

First stop was a favorite French cafe. They just installed lots of outdoor seating, very Parisian, but it was only in the '50s on Sunday which is VERY cold for Florida, so I definitely felt better in the cozy interior. They had it all decorated for Christmas and were playing French Christmas songs interspersed with Dean Martin and Michael Buble. Normally I do not like too much Christmas before Thanksgiving but yesterday it felt just right.

 Everything looked amazing, I was very tempted by a lemon tart.

But then my eyes saw the croissants and pies. Oh, so many choices. It was hard to stick to one thing.

Just then the front door opened letting in a huge gust of chilly wind and I knew what I had to order - onion soup!

And continuing on that theme I topped it off with a hot chocolate. Look at that whipped cream! It was heavenly.

I seriously love that cafe. Taz and I watched it being built a couple of summers ago and visited many times. It was either our first stop when hitting town or a great place to have dessert after having dinner at the Singaporean restaurant in town...which is gone now. 

The food is awesome, the decor is beyond charming, the little library in the back is the perfect place to spend an afternoon but the thing I love the most is the bathroom.

Yep, you heard me right - I love their ladies room. Which is an unusual thing to love, right? But they have a mirror in the bathroom that is pure magic. I never look tired or old in that mirror, no wrinkles or bags under my eyes.  I always make a trip to the ladies room there, even if I don't really have to go!

After filling up, I went next door to my favorite shop in the world. It's one of those vintage emporiums that rents out space to many vendors. 

You never know what you're going to find there. This time I found a giant seahorse. Actually, it was a pair of giant seahorses. Aren't they adorable? I'm sure I need them but I'm not exactly sure where I would put them so I let them stay in the store this time.

I did, however, decide that a necklace needed to come home with me. I can't afford anything, I shouldn't have spent the money (even though it wasn't that much) but gosh darn it, it's my birthday and nobody else is around to buy it for me.

I know, it looks like a rosary and I'm not even Catholic, but I used to have a collection of ornate and/or rustic crosses (I still have it but it's in storage in California and I'll probably never see it again) so maybe this is the start of a new collection. It makes a cool necklace.

After all that fun I was ready to go back home and hug Charlie...and take a nap. I'm still pretty worn out at the end of the each day. I look forward to the day when this arm thing and all the pain is a distant memory and I feel 100%.

But, not a bad start to BIRTHDAY WEEK!