Speechless

I feel like I should have something worth writing on New Year's Eve. But I don't.

I do have one resolution, however: It's small, but significant.

I am not going to spend time on the computer between dinner and the boys' bedtime: I need to give that quiet time at the end of the day to Rock and HardPlace.

Oh yeah, I'm also going to ellipiticize 3 times a week and lose some of the excess weight I'm carrying around. ::rolls eyes::

Does anyone else have a resolution, big or small, that you care to share?

Stainsdale Lake


After all the excesses of Christmas we decided to get some fresh air yesterday.

Hodge-podge, mish-mash, whatever

  • Why do I do it to myself? Why do I watch Ghost whenever it's on? When I know that those scenes toward the end, when Molly really believes Sam is there, that those scenes will make me sob and weep? I don't even LIKE the actors. When the movie first came out, I was unimpressed -- yeah a good chick-flick, but puh-leaze. So why do I watch it now, knowing that it will make me a blubbering mess?
  • This is the nicest, newest house I've ever lived in. Why doesn't it feel like home? When will it feel like home? I want to go home.
  • When Nick was alive, home was with him, wherever he was. I want to go home.
  • I need to update my widowblog list in the sidebar, but there are so many to add (and some that got deleted and want back on). How many widowlinks is too many?
  • Does anyone have the code for condensing my archives by year? so that clicking on "2006" would reveal my 2006 posts, so that they wouldn't be showing all the time?
  • I joked on Ali's blog that I was jealous of her awards. Half-joking and full serious. Part of me really is disappointed that I've never gotten any of those random awards bloggers give each other. Then I slap myself across the face and remind myself that I blog for myself, not for an audience, not for recognition and kudos.
  • My sister and BIL left their big-screen TV (5-ft diagonal) in this house before I moved in. I told them they didn't need to, I didn't want to have this thing dominating my living room. To get it off my hands, they're going to give it to their oldest son, who just bought his own house. I'm seriously bummed -- I've gotten used to watching my late-night movies on that nice big screen. I'm even considering getting a new one. Someone slap some sense into me, please.
  • I bought HardPlace Singin' in the Rain for Christmas; he's been watching it nonstop. I love LOVE LOVE that movie -- even after the one billionth partial hearing.

Have a guess





What connects these 4 images?

Five things

I felt like doing a meme today; I'd seen several that intrigued me in the last few weeks, but none inspired me this morning. So I went to The Daily Meme, and found this one:

Five things you want your kids to know before they grow up

1. That their father loved them so very much, that he still loves them, that they can ask him for guidance.

2. That their mother isn't perfect, but she loves them beyond the telling.

3. That they need to be good to each other, because only a sibling knows -- really knows -- where you came from.

4. That church is more than a place to run around and eat donuts.

5. That their wives will be happier if they pick up their toys and put their clothes away.


I am adding to this meme...


Five things you want to tell your children when they are grown up

1. That I would do it all over again.

2. Their whole adoption stories.

3. That some mistakes can never be undone.

4. That forgiveness eases most of life's pain.

5. To choose a career that makes them happy and a woman who makes them happier.


Five things you want to tell your children before you die

1. That I did my best.

2. To bury me with their father.

3. To read my journals when I am gone, to know my stories of love and loss.

4. To savor every moment with their families, because life is too precious, too short.

5. Where the buried treasure is. (insert evil laugh here)


Five things you want your children to know before they die

1. The satisfaction of a job well done.

2. The contentment of a good marriage.

3. The wonder/anguish/delight of parenthood.

4. The tenderness of God's embrace.

5. The pain of stepping on Legos in the middle of the night

================

I am tagging Ali, Betsy, CoolBeansMama, Michelle, and Mimi. Y'all know the drill. Post back here when you've done the meme, and tag five other people. "If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged," does NOT count!

If I didn't tag you, and you want to do the meme, knock yourself out! Either post your answers in the comments or post in the comments that you did it in your blog.

Keep your head down

In my first months of widowhood, I imagined my life as a sidewalk, with each square representing one page off a page-a-day calendar. The most horrible, most painful thing in the world was to look down that sidewalk, to see all those squares stretching as far as my eyes could see, and Nick wasn't standing in any of them.

So I kept my head down and focused on my feet; I didn't even have to look at an entire square, just the little portion that was right in front of me. Eventually, I was able to notice that there was grass lining the sidewalk; every once in a while I could see trees off to the side or flower gardens that brought a sweet aroma into my life.

I could lift my head a little and see a stretch of the sidewalk -- and it was okay. Nick still wasn't there but it was okay. Sometimes I couldn't bear to see the way in front of me, and I'd put my head back down for a while -- and that was okay, too, because I knew that there were trees and gardens and other people along my way.

These days, nearly 3-1/2 years later, I can enjoy the the walk -- the trees, the flowers, the people. I still see that sidewalk before me, and Nick still isn't in any of the squares. But I also see that the sidewalk doesn't run straight for ever and ever. There are turns and twists, and I have no idea what awaits me around the next corner.

Sometimes I stub my toe or get a leg cramp; or I get tired and hungry -- or just plain cranky, not wanting to walk anymore. So I don't! I lie down and look up at the sky above me; I breathe deeply and watch the clouds go by. And it's okay.

I posted this on the widow board this morning and decided to make it my blog entry for the day -- 'cuz sometimes I just need to put my head down.

A blogthing to confirm what I already knew...



You Had a Bad Year



Your year was horrible. There's no other way to say it.

A lot went wrong for you, and you're still recovering from it.

The good news is that things probably won't get worse for you.

So look forward to the new year, where things will hopefully be much better!

Happy birthday, Dear

I was settling in to write a blue post. Nick should be 48 today, and I will turn 47 next week. He was a year, a day, and a week older than I. No longer.

Then I read Ali's blog:
I've realised that Michael's death doesn't mean the end of celebration in my life. I still need to celebrate God's Christmas gift, my children still have a need to celebrate all things good with enthusiasm. My grief is real, but the world, thankfully, doesn't revolve around me. Then I thanked Jamie for caring because, strangely, having my grief acknowledged helps me to celebrate more wholeheartedly.

My family tends not to acknowledge grief. I ended our Christmas toast with a nod to those who weren't here but should have been, thinking of my brother and my husband. Everyone literally turned away; nobody looked at me. What a hollow feeling I was left with.

On the other hand, here in the blogosphere, my grief is acknowledged, so I can write about Nick's birthday with a sense of celebration.

Happy birthday, dear. I love you so much, and I give thanks for who you were to me and who you are to me. You lived a good and just life; you taught me to be my better self; and your love still guides me. You were a wonderful father, and your boys still need you; may your love for them grow in their hearts through this coming year.

You are loved, you are missed, you are remembered.



Today, of all days, I celebrate you and I thank God for you. Happy birthday, sweetheart. I made this post blue for you, as blue as your eyes, which still melt my heart when I see them.

Christmas 2007

Christmas 2004: Nick had been dead for just a few months. I was hell-bent and determined to have a "normal" Christmas for the boys, which meant that I declined all invitations to go elsewhere. We needed to be in our house, with our customs, and it was good. I wept, of course, but I was where I needed to be, and the boys seemed happy.

We went to Cousin Christy's house for the big family dinner with all of Nick's cousins, aunts, etc. Not one person spoke his name, not even his brother. I got lots of How-ARE-you?s, but nobody spoke his name. I was in so much pain and so angry: I wanted to stand up at the table and scream at them all, "Nick should be here, dammit! At least remember him, remember his NAME!" Instead, I simply left as soon as I decently could.

Christmas 2005: In some ways, the second Christmas was harder than the first, and in others it was easier. Mother came for Thanksgiving and stayed through the New Year and my birthday, so "home" felt like family, felt like party. Also, I'd found the board and made strong connections with some of the people there, so I didn't feel quite so alienated from the world-at-large.

But but but ...

This was real. This was really my life. Nick was gone. Dead. How could it be? How could it be possible? What was I supposed to do now?

Christmas 2006: It was crazy, hectic, and wonderful. Nick and I had said we would not travel at Christmas once we had children; and we didn't. There's nothing like navigating crowds and airports and parking garages with little kids and all their paraphernalia to kill the Christmas spirit! Yet, here I was, celebrating Christmas in Arizona -- the first time I had been with my family for Christmas since 1996.

My brother had decided to come off the mountain to spend Christmas in Arizona with our mom. Lawrence was bringing his whole family with him, including his two grandchildren. If he could drive down from Idaho in a beat-up minivan with five adults, a toddler, and an infant, I could fly from Maryland with Rock and HardPlace.

Oh what wondrous joy! What love! The last time my brother and sister and I had been together was in 2002, at our father's deathbed. This, THIS was simply wonderful. The one shadow over all was that Jane knew something was wrong, and it was the day after Christmas that she learned that the growth in her abdomen was a malignant stomach tumor.

So THAT was why we had all come together: for Jane, for a family Christmas with Jane. Little did we know...

Christmas 2007: Lawrence had a fatal heart attack 5 days before Jane's surgery to remove her entire stomach. Nick is dead; Lawrence is dead; but Jane -- miraculously -- is alive. Mother has cancer, but she too seems to have been given a miracle of life. This may yet be her last Christmas, but it could just as easily be MY last Christmas. It's all a great mystery.

I sit here in my new house in Arizona. It does not really feel like home, but the boys are happy and I am content. A stillness fills my heart, a gentle acceptance of what has been and of what will be.

I still have a terrible ache for Nick, a longing that I doubt will ever recede. I think that I will never REALLY love anyone else, not with my whole soul, not with my whole being. Yes, I can love again, I have loved again -- but Nick took a part of me with him, a part that I can never give to anyone else.

=====

What happens to us as the years go by, as we move farther from that point of no return? We have our memories, but remembering seems like an illusion.

When I married Nick, my life as a single woman melted and became ancient history. When HardPlace was born, our life before children evaporated and seemed inconsequential. After Nick died, our married life seemed to fade into a dream.

Yes, I remember everything; I can call up images and moments and love and laughter and pain and tears. But they seem to be memories of another life, another person. What has happened to me, that the life I treasured so much, that I miss so deeply, no longer seems like my own?

=====

Back to Christmas thoughts: Maybe that's what human ritual is all about. We have rituals that mark unique occasions and celebrate an individual life, and we have seasonal rituals that bind us to the community.

We drift along our own course, remembering what was, noting what is, wondering what will be. Holidays, holy days, bring us into the Eternal Communal NOW. There is no question, there is no doubt, there is no illusion: There is simply NOW, HERE, US.

And isn't that the heart of Christmas? God is here, now, among us.


[Note: I don't have time to proof this or edit it for clarity, reasoning, etc. I may come back and fix it. In the meantime, I wish each of you a measure of the joy and peace that is Christmas.]

LMHR



The Paddingtons another Hull band (bigger than the Housemartins allegedly!) and below them The View who play wonderfully melodic tunes at 90 mph.

LMHR



The very wonderful Sonic Boom Six and Firecamp

LMHR


This is The Neat, a happening Hull band, notice Jim Sorrow lurking on the right hand side, he later joined The Paddingtons for a rousing rendition of Janie Jones.

Lights



Christmas lights in Queens Gardens and spotlights in the Hull City Hall.

White Christmas

Rock and HardPlace made a White Christmas for themselves!

We all miss Maryland right now -- it really doesn't feel like Christmas when it's 60 degrees in the afternoon. Buying a tree at Home Depot doesn't hold a candle to trudging up and down slippery hills and sawing down our own.

I bought the boys snowmen ornaments this year, because those are likely to be the ONLY snowmen they see this winter. Even so, they created their own White Christmas.

They took the cushions off the sofa and ... beat them against the coffee table. Dust! Dust! and more Dust! I rolled my eyes with dismay, but they were delighted and drew snowmen in the white layer on the table.

Love Music Hate Racism





I went to the Love Music Hate Racism gig last night, and despite poor sound it was very enjoyable, and at £3 a ticket it would be churlish to complain anyway. I got to see The Neat, Sonic Boom Six, The Paddingtons and The View. Also playing were a band called Firecamp, a group of 6 or 7 black kids from London who specialised in sharing 3 microphones and audience participation. Unfortunately when they came on stage, half the audience went to the bar, ah, the irony. Piccies may follow when downloaded.

I've been working really hard

and



  • It took 2 weeks of fiddling for me to be satisfied with the outside lights.
  • The garland is hung on the porch.
  • The wreath on the door is finally decorated
  • Garlands and snowflakes adorn the breakfast room.
  • The nutcrackers and bells are out.
  • The creche is on display (Rock loves moving everyone around!).
  • The tree is almost all decorated -- we do this gradually, adding a few ornaments every day, with the angel going on top after Midnight Liturgy.
and, wonder of wonder!
  • Presents are starting to appear under the tree.
Now I start the baking and cooking! The family is gathering at my place on Christmas Eve, and I am looking forward to hosting it. I'll be grilling a leg of lamb. It's the house specialty, but since my family has always been on the other side of the country, they have NEVER EATEN MY LEG OF LAMB!!! I can't believe it! And I am really looking forward to serving it.

It's strange, though, to be hosting Christmas this way. Nick and I always observed the Nativity Fast, which means no meat or dairy for 6 weeks, until after Divine Liturgy on Christmas Eve. Our Christmas Eve dinner was always a very modest soup and salad. The boys and I have been abstaining from meat (for the most part -- it's really hard when we're the only church-goers in the family), and I am so looking forward to ending the Fast with a Feast.

But it will be odd to Feast before Liturgy. Actually, I'm not even sure about Liturgy ... as far as I can tell, the Byzantine Catholic Church we've been attending as their Midnight Liturgy at 7:00. Ugh. It makes me very unhappy -- and adds to my already-existing dissatisfaction with the parish. I may take the boys to the Greek Orthodox Church instead, for MIDNIGHT liturgy -- but then we wouldn't be able to partake in communion, and THAT would be wrong. Ugh Ugh Ugh.

Ahhh, well. It's beginning to FEEL a lot like Christmas, and that's what's important right now.

Like sister, like sister

Any who know me know that when I have decided to do something, NOTHING will dissuade me; and when I have decided NOT to do something, NOTHING and NOBODY will make me. It must be a family trait.

My sister had a doctor's appointment set for this past Tuesday; the doctor rescheduled it for today. Jane canceled it. I want to strangle her, or at the very least hogtie her and forcibly drag her to the oncologist.

BUT ... I understand her reasoning.

1. It's probably just stress.
2. Since my mom's surgery was successful and since she's stopped drinking wine, she has not had the pain and discomfort.
3. She has her 1-year checkup and full battery of tests next month anyway.
4. If the cancer is back, it will be in her liver and it will be incurable. One month won't make any difference.
5. If the cancer is back, what SHE doesn't know won't ruin EVERYONE ELSE's Christmas.

So she is content to wait, to have a month of not knowing. I get that. But I'm still furious with her.

Thiiiiiis close

That's how close I am to leaving the board that has been my salvation since Nick died. It was a place of healing and camaraderie, with the occasional fruitcake to keep things interesting. But now, it's so full of viciousness and spite, with people setting themselves up as judge, jury, and executioner.

I'm not even sure I have much to contribute there anymore; I feel so alien now. I won't leave -- at least, I won't "announce" that I'm leaving -- because I know that I can offer some comfort and humor. But jeez, these people need to grow up and get over themselves.

Just another one of those things

I'm watching The Return of the King on TNT, the only installment of The Lord of the Rings that I don't have on DVD, so I've seen it only once.

In the theater. With Nick. It's the last movie we saw in the theater. It may even have been our last get-a-sitter-and-go-out date.

Three years, four months, and some days later, unexpected triggers can still bring me to tears, can still make me miss him, can still make me sob with loss and sorrow.

I'm glad for this blog, because until I actually started writing this tonight, all I felt was a vague wistfulness. But the act of writing brings it all to the fore with such clarity, allows me to name the sorrow and in so doing, release it.

I am so very tired of all this.
It's been a rough week, and I don't want this blog to be litany of complaints. So I haven't written anything. Let's just say I'm glad this week is behind me.

On the positive side, the house is starting to look like Christmas! And I think my Christmas shopping is done. And I've decided to scrap sending cards this year. Now comes the fun part: wrapping and baking and cooking and celebrating family.

Duffy - Rockferry

Already been on Lozman's blog but deserves a second hearing.

Local Authoritarians

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been visiting you as often as I used to. Much of my blogging was done during breaks and at lunchtime whilst at work. Sadly, the Local Council (for whom I work) have decided to restrict access to certain websites, of which my blog and consequently others appear to be on the list. This means most of my blogging will now be restricted to weekends. I will of course find some equally petty way of getting back at my employers!

Soul


Thought I'd pop into St. Mary's Church on Lowgate to redeem my soul, but not enough time left this year apparently.

Will it never stop?

We all drew a collective sigh of relief after my mom's surgery, and our hearts soared when the surgeons said they were confident they could cure her.

Now it's Jane's turn. Again. She wasn't scheduled to go back to her oncologist until February, but she called yesterday to get in to see him ASAP. She told me today that she hasn't been feeling well, and she's been feeling worse. It could be stress. She has very little energy. It could be stress. She's losing weight. It could be stress. Her ... umm ... output is irregular. It could be stress.

It could all be stress. Or it might not be. Her appointment with the oncologist is on Tuesday, not for another week.

So for the next week, we get anxious again. Dread builds up again. Fear grows again. Hope and joy go down the tubes again.

Government Health Warning


Do not double click on this picture, you might catch what I've got!

Up with the cock

I took this at 10 am this morning, maybe he got up at 4.00 this morning to watch the boxing too.

Haiku for the moment

What could smell so sweet
as a rain-drenched Christmas tree
brought inside with joy?

What could sound so clear
as two sister's wine glasses
toasting stunning news?

What could taste so good
as savored morning coffee,
relaxing at last?

What could look so pure
as tears on my mother's face,
first allowing hope?

What could feel so whole
as kneeling, face on the floor,
whispering, "Thank you"?

How can words describe
what is unbelievable?
unfathomable?

Mother's surgical oncologist and her senior partner visited her yesterday. They stood on either side of her bed, each holding a hand, and told her that her prognosis for complete recovery is real and probable.

Paradigm shift

One of the surgeons is using the word cure in his conversations with us. He thinks that there is a good likelihood that the next round of intense chemo could cure Mother, not merely buy her a little more time.

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas



and I miss him so much.

All the organs of the body were having a meeting,trying to decide who was the one in charge.'I should be in charge,' said the brain,'Because I run all the body's systems, so without me nothing would happen.
''I should be in charge,' said the blood ,'because I circulate oxygen all over so without me you'd all waste away.
''I should be in charge,' said the stomach ,'because I process food and give all of you energy.
''I should be in charge,' said the legs,'because I carry the body wherever it needs to go.
''I should be in charge,' said the eyes,'Because I allow the body to see where it goes.
''I should be in charge,' said the rectum,'Because I'm responsible for waste removal.
'All the other body parts laughed at the rectum and insulted him, so in a huff, he shut down tight.
Within a few days,the brain had a terrible headache,the stomach was bloated,the legs got wobbly,the eyes got watery,and the blood was toxic.They all decided that the rectum should be the boss.
The Moral of the story?
The ass hole is usually the one in charge!

It's been a loooooong day

... and I'm too tired to post much, but I do want to thank you all for your support and your prayers. I have no alternative other to believe that your prayers were answered.

The surgeons were able to remove almost all of the cancer; my mom will have another round of chemo treatments and more surgery. Her prognosis is better than any of us could have hoped for. Originally, the doctors gave her 12-18 months to live; now, they say she has a 50-50 chance of recovery.

It's all a mystery.

Thank you again for your compassionate prayers.

-- Alicia, with gratitude in her heart

Tomorrow

My mother's surgery is tomorrow.

Wait with me.

Out of left field

I'm sitting here watching Cold Case in reruns, and a wall of grief and loss washes over me. But this is not the grief of widowhood; rather, it's the grief of barrenness.

A thug's mom had been killed when he was 3, and the autopsy showed that she had never borne a child. It was a kick to my solar plexus: If some archaeologists dig up my bones ... they'll know. They'll know that I never carried a child in my womb, that I never gave birth to a baby, that I never that I never that I never...

And I start weeping at the thought that these hypothetical archaeologists won't know the truth. My miserable remains will be categorized and documented by some flunky post-doc: "Caucasian, female, approximately x years old at time of death, no pelvic striations indicating childbirth, evidence of arthritis and bursitis, no broken bones, lots of dental work ..." Just a simple physical fact. But they won't know the truth.

They won't know the yearning, the years of tears, the longing.

They won't know that this Caucasian female was NOT barren, that she WAS a mother. A mother who loved her children fiercely and passionately, who wept with heartache over them, and laughed with sheer delight with them. They won't know how fruitful my life and love have been, they won't know...

Of course! The tears and pain shift. It IS my widowhood wailing.

Nick knew. Nick knew my pain, my tears, my yearning. He saw my joy, laughter. And he shared in my transformation. This man who knew me and loved me through and through -- and through so much -- is gone. And nobody will ever know that part of me again.

Different days, different rules


On Tuesday the postman left a parcel on our windowsill because it was too big to go through the letter box, and presumably he couldn't be bothered to write out a card and take it back to the sorting office. The fact that anyone could have walked off with it, I guess, wasn't important to him.
On Wednesday we got 2 cards through the door, a parcel for us, and a parcel for Luke who uses our house as a postal address. When Luke went to collect his parcel, yes you've guessed it, they gave him ours.

Sick

Really sick
Puking-my-guts-out sick
Pooping-my-bowels clean sick
Two days sick
Blyeah

Thank God the boys haven't gotten this.

All expressions of sympathy are welcome.