Thursday, March 13, 2014

I'm a Widow - Now What?

My husband died last month after his year-long brain tumor battle. In the course of one year I went from a happily married wife to a widow. Just like that. I'm a widow.

Now what?

We knew my husband wouldn't survive his brain tumor because no cure exists, but we hoped and prayed for more time. We just wanted more time. Last year was a blur of doctor visits, prescription medications, radiation and chemotherapy appointments, MRIs, hospital admissions, insurance claim phone calls, and a host of other illness-related tasks.

Last year I had to learn how to care for a husband with a terminal illness. This year I have to learn how to live without him. Last year I had to tell my children their father was going to die. This year I have to remind them he's not coming back. Last year we learned how to adapt to a constantly changing schedule. This year the stillness is unsettling.

My kids and I are learning how to cope with our "new normal." It's a daily challenge to figure out how fill the huge, gaping void in our lives. It's also a daily challenge to figure out how to navigate widowhood. Do I still wear my wedding ring? Do I fill out forms as Mrs. or Ms.? Do I keep my wedding photos on display? For how long?

At times like this, I continually recite the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I cannot change that I'm a widow. Now I'm praying for the serenity to accept it. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Happy Sounds

Sorry for the posting delay.  I haven't had much to say. Our lives have been turned upside down by my husband's brain tumor diagnosis and there are only so many ways to put a positive spin on the devastating situation we find ourselves in. In my quest to find something to say I realized it's sometimes best to say nothing at all and just listen instead.

I've been listening to the sounds of my kids' laughter more than ever now. Normally, their silliness and excessive giggles are annoying. I'm talking annoyingly excessive giggles. Parents, you know what I mean.  Like, the cackles and hilarity that make it difficult to drive when we're in the car.  Or the howling and shrieking that make dinner less than enjoyable.

But, lately, I've been listening to the sheer delight emanating from their belly laughs. I see the I-can't-breathe-I'm-laughing-so-hard look of bliss on their faces. The other day in the car when the cackles started I didn't bother to tell them to take it down a notch. I didn't bother to ask them to be quiet.  It's useless anyway. Even if they try to be quiet, the giggling under stifled breath almost always escalates into a fit of laughing frenzy. 

I wondered why the hell we are always asking kids to be quiet when they're happy?  Why do we ask them to lower their decibel levels when they're laughing?  It's crazy isn't it?

So, I just started laughing, too. In the car that day I realized we've had so much sadness lately that it's hard to find the happiness. It's hard to find the laughter. I have to search for it, but my kids know it instinctively. They know how to be genuinely happy because life hasn't beaten the hopefulness and joy out them.  Well, I can choose not to let life beat the joy out of me either. I can choose to laugh instead.

Now, when I listen to my kids' laughter (I mean, really listen) and join in, I feel the joy. I feel elated and happy, but most of all I hear potential. I hear the potential of them (and me) finding a way to deal with the hard times. Th potential to find a way to heal.

Laughter really is the best medicine.

Monday, September 2, 2013

No More Back-To-School Blues

I am officially ready for school to start.  I don't have any of the back-to-school blues like I've had in previous years.  As much as I love spending time with my children, it is imperative for all of us to get back to a routine.  A schedule keeps us all in check and school is the only way to get back on any sort of schedule.

We thrive on routine.  The only way we can accomplish our tasks is to know what is expected of us.  Tuesday is piano practice.  Wednesday is math tutor.  Saturday is football practice, etc. Living with a schedule makes it infinitely easier get our jobs done.

I realize that during the summer it's OK for the kids to have downtime and to play and to be free.  And, we've done that. We took lots of trips this summer, spent good, quality time together and enjoyed ourselves.  We crossed things off our summer to-do list and feel confident starting September that we don't have any lingering "should haves" to drag down the end of summer.

But now it's back to business.When the bell rings and the children burst into the halls ready to start the new school year, I will join other parents breathing a collective sigh of relief.  For the first time ever I won't have any back-to-school blues. I will send my kids off to school with a kiss and a smile.

My first order of business is to take a nap. A very long nap. I think I deserve it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Addicted To Electronics


the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma

I took my boys' Kindles away for an entire week and threw in a ban from the Wii and TV for added measure. I've had it up to my eyeballs with the tug-of-war between using their Kindles and doing "something else."

I've kept a pretty tight lid on electronics in our house for a very long time.  The boys never had a Nintendo DS.  We didn't jump on the iPod Touch bandwagon even though it seemed like every one of their friends had one.  It took awhile before we even agreed to get a Wii, but we relented because we were interested in the family games we could play together.  The boys even had to earn enough money to buy their own Kindles.  But once the "electronics bug" hit our house it's been a battle ever since.

In the past I've had a camp mom summer schedule mapped out that keeps us pretty busy, but the evil brain tumor has interrupted our regularly scheduled programing. I'm working now and even though Mark has an opportunity to spend more time with the boys this summer, their activities depend on his energy level.  Plus we still have doctors appointments and chemo schedules to adhere to.  Our summer is just different this year.

As a result, the boys have been playing more Minecraft on their Kindles.  While the game itself isn't inherently bad, it has become an addiction that needs to be stopped.  Like now.  They roll out bed and grab their Kindles because it's the first thing they think of when they wake up.  Like I used to do when I smoked.  The first thing I did after I woke up was grab a cup of coffee and a cigarette.  I remember the cigarette addiction.  It's powerful.  It's all-encompassing.  I'm not sure the pull of playing with their electronics is any different.  When you're addicted to something you want to do it all the time

I don't mind their occasional Kindle use.  I don' mind that the games they play encourage critical thinking and using their imaginations to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world.  What I don't like is the panic that sets in when I tell them it's time to turn the electronics off.  There has to be a balance between growing up in an electronics generation and doing things that require critical thinking outside of a hand held game

We decide to take an electronics break and go for a bike ride Saturday because the weather finally cooled down a bit and it was a beautiful day.  However, the complaining and whining from my ungrateful children ruined what could have been a fun day outside.  The bike trail was too long.  They were too hot.  Their legs were tired.  The sun was too bright.  And on and on and on.  So, we packed up our bikes and came home. 

After we got back I asked the boys to give me their Kindles which started their week-long electronics ban.  I don't reward bad behavior and their actions have consequences.  So, their whining and complaining cost them their Kindles.  Hit 'em where it hurts.  

Luckily, the boys do like to play outside.  Given the opportunity to start a game of wiffle ball in the backyard and playing on the Kindle, they would choose the wiffle ball game every time.  But we haven't seen a lot of kids in our backyard lately.  When no one is playing outside, the boys instinctively turn to their Kindles as something to do to pass the time.  Now that their Kindles are off limits they managed to figure out a way to play wiffle ball with two people.  They took bike rides around the neighborhood and played basketball in the driveway.

A lot of fighting ensued (they are brothers after all) so they also had to figure out how to get along or end up alone in their bedroom. Because each boy would rather eat nails than admit to being at fault, their alone time led to reading more books. Which led to trips to the library to get more books.  Which led to talking about the books they were reading and naming characters and describing the  main conflict is in the story.  No electronics required.  Even though they can technically read books on their Kindle I encourage reading real books with real pages from a real library.

Nicholas said to me after a few days on his Kindle ban, "you know, Mom, I don't really need to play games on the Kindle when I have books to read."  Bingo, kiddo.  You don't need the Kindle.  It's a nice thing to do once in awhile, but it's not a necessity every minute of every day. Plenty of other opportunities for fun exist when encouraged to use our imaginations.

One of their more creative and humorous ideas for fun was using construction paper and markers to make picket signs that said, "No More Rules!" and "We Want Our Electronics Back!" They taped their signs to yardsticks and marched through the living room protesting their electronics ban.  While I gave them kudos for creativity, the ban is still in place :)  After their protest, they went off to play tag in the backyard.

We are still trying to find the right balance.  It's hard to raise unplugged kids in a plugged-in world.  Hard, but not impossible.  Looks like an occasional electronics ban might be a step in the right direction.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I Feel Your Pain

I cringe when I see the dates of my last posts because I'm reminded of how much has been going on in the past few months and how little time I've had to tend to things like a simple blog post.  I think about writing a lot but rarely have the time to just sit down and do it.

I don't wish what we're going through on anyone and I won't lie and say it hasn't been hard. This cancer business is damn hard.  I don't know how my husband does it when he's strapped to a table getting gamma rays beamed into his skull or how he forces himself to swallow a chemo pill he knows is meant to kill his cancer cells but brings with it a host of unpleasant side effects.  I don't know how he gets up every day ready to do battle with a monstrous adversary that threatens to engulf his brain.

People say to me, "I don't know how you keep it all together." Well, that makes two of us.  I don't know how I keep it all together either.  Seriously.  No idea.

But just because you can't imagine being in our shoes and you sympathize with our struggles it doesn't mean we want to stop hearing about yours.  More than once I've had friends start to tell me about a really bad day or a troublesome event but stopped short saying, "well, this is nothing compared to what you're going through..."

It doesn't matter if you're upset that your kid failed his math test or if you're mad at your husband because he didn't take the trash out.  I still want to hear about it.  We all have problems that require solutions or at the very least a sympathetic ear.  There is no need to try to compare your situation with mine because battles are battles regardless of the level of discomfort.  

I know it's easy to think, well she has it much worse than me so I shouldn't complain.  But, I want to know what's going on in your lives.  I want to hear about the math tests and the trash still sitting in your garage on trash day.  I know how those seemingly little things can transform into really big things when you don't talk about it or get it off your chest.

We all have struggles of one kind or another.  Please don't think that because my struggles seem so much larger than yours that your struggles don't matter.  They matter.  You matter.  I feel your pain.  As a matter of fact, I would rather feel your pain than my pain.

So please don't say, "well this is nothing compared to what you're going through..." and stop telling me your stories. I want to hear your stories.  I need to hear your stories.

When you tell me your kid failed another math test or your husband went out with the guys and the mice got into your trash in the garage, believe it or not  I'm probably thinking I don't know how she does it.


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