Saturday, December 31, 2011

Memories in a Box

Devil Dog - 1977

When my granddaughter was born in 2004 I joined the baby paparazzi.  I captured every imaginable expression Skylar made and once she started to smile, my camera seemed to deliriously snap away on it’s own.
Back then, the latest batch in my memory card would send me flying upstairs to crank out the photos on the brand new grandparent edition of the Canon printer.  Then, after an impatient drying time I would practically leap downstairs to show Jimmy.  He was thrilled and confused – I was never a ‘baby person.’  I guess, I hadn’t fallen in love with one yet.  Often he would look at my face flushed with affection for Sky and he’d say, “What have you done with my wife?”
Fast forward to now and I still take photos practically every time Sky and I are together – but this website is not The Grandma Show.  Shortly after it was live I intended to fill in the ‘photos’ section to highlight myself as an author and speaker and also show bits of my life.  Because POOR WIDOW ME is so personal, I assumed that that a reader would want to see a glimpse of the ‘players’ I write about.  I know I would.  I hope you do.
This forced me to go through my life in pictures.  I put it off until today.  It’s easier for me to go forward than backwards.  Just ask my shrink.  Plus, most of the pictures from the early 70′s and decades following are in the basement haphazardly thrown into big cardboard boxes.  On a full moon or some weird star alignment, I had put together an album or two, but mostly I’d be diving.
Many photos in frames are strewed throughout the house and because they have sat in their place for so long, they don’t jump out at me anymore.  They’re like a coffee pot always there on the kitchen counter.  Needing contenders for this web site, I methodically viewed each one, choice photos to begin with, took some out of their frame and lined them up as if they were competing in a beauty pageant.
And, then there were the photos from Jimmy’s wake.  Boy was I lucky that my kids had selected so many pictures of their Dad at various times of his life and had taped them on oak tag under plastic for the funeral parlor to frame for viewing.  Those were still in tact and I went through them…with a magnifying glass and a glass of Cabernet.
We were so ridiculously young; in many, we were even younger than our kids are today.  I saw the parade of my hairstyles that my son Doug says he is going to dig out and display at my wake.  I guess, it’s good to have a project and something to look forward to when your mother dies.
The clothing styles were silly, like costumes from an 80′s movie and some were costumes from Halloween parties – some at our house – In the background was the wall we painted neon yellow thinking it was cool and there was the organ that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry – the one that just couldn’t play ‘Old Lang Syne.’
One year I dressed up as a dog and Jimmy went as a Devil.  We sent our ‘Devil Dog’ picture (in the costume pictured above…but a different photo) to Drakes Cakes hoping they would use us in a commercial or at least send us some Devil Dogs. We never heard from them.
There were hundreds of photos of the kids at various ages, that recorded the normal Kodak milestone moments.  When parents say “it goes so fast” it’s because it goes so fast.
In many shots I was still wearing shorts.  I don’t remember my legs looking that good. Those days are over, but as I sat on the floor telling myself I really have to stop this reunion, I noted that I still look pretty good, not old yet…until I struggled to get up.
I stared at pictures of my friend’s son Joey, some as a little boy and in others he was teenager.  Just two days ago, he became a father.  When I congratulated him yesterday, I still called him Joe-Joe.
I braced myself each time I came across a little booklet of black and white photos knowing they were from the 1950’s, my childhood.  I threw them back in the box and out of my head.  We all heal and deal differently, right?
Many pictures were of old friends, some had died and others I had lost touch with.  We seemed to be laughing hysterically about something in every one.  And, practically everyone had a cigarette in his or her hand.
In some photos, I am the only one alive.  I sat and pointed, dead, dead, dead, dead, me. Family members – out-laws -who I no longer speak to looked happy, having fun with us at a barbecue or celebrating a holiday.  There it was – proof that we used to like each other and in some cases love each other.  Where did that go?  Where did theygo?
There was Fanny, my mother-in-law, now almost 94, young, animated and clear eyed and strong.  With each picture of Jimmy I checked the date and calculated how much longer he was going to live.  I’m not sure why I did that.
Couples who later divorced gave nothing away in these old photos.  They seemed devoted and loving.
Sometimes Jimmy and I smiled for the camera, a knee jerk reaction to a “Say Cheese” even though we were in the middle of a fight.  Of course, usually when we didn’t want to talk or touch or we were trying to find a creative way to say “I’m sorry” – there were no photos.   People don’t take a pictures during the miserable times unless it’s these days and you’re on a reality show.
The camera isn’t rolling when you’re fighting or crying as you put your dog to sleep or just eating a normal dinner and telling a wacky story about your day.  No one takes a picture of you making love – unless you’re Kim Kardashian.
So, I’m discovering that photos don’t really tell our story at all.  They jar our memory, but still it’s incomplete.  Even so, I’ll be filling up the ‘photo’ section on this web site soon.
I guess these snapshots to viewers will be similar to the ones that most of us post on Facebook hoping someone will care enough to notice that we still exist, that we’re not only a memory in a box.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fresh Starts

My father-in-law, Charlie used to say that New Year’s Eve is for amateurs. People who rarely go out during the year “doll themselves up” to let loose. “What’s all the fuss about?” he would shrug. “It’s just another day.”
Each December 31, we would quote him, and obviously, I still do, but I love New Year’s Eve so, of course, we’d do something fun to celebrate.  Jimmy was enthusiastic, too.  He would say, “I always get the last word, “Yes, dear.”
For me, it’s not just New Years that’s exciting. I even get a tiny surge as I turn the calendar to a new month. Starting fresh with a clean slate is wide open to possibilities.  And, Mondays, also – most dread Mondays.  Not me.
Of course, I don’t have a 9-5 workweek.  I don’t wrestle with that kind of stress.  I’ve heard that the most common day for a heart attack that kills you is Monday at 9 AM.  This is why I chill out Monday mornings and stay in my pajamas as long as possible.
Over the years, our New Year’s Eves varied and like everyone’s lives, some were memorable and others not.  Still, wherever we were for that launch of the new year, it was always a thrill to countdown from ten to zero and sing along to Auld Lang Syne.
We even bought an inexpensive organ one year and I practiced for weeks to learn how to play that song.  I finally sort of got it but it would have taken an awful lot of notes for any one to guess it on “Name that Tune.”  That stupid organ must have been broken.
There was nothing ho-hum about New Year’s Eve 1980.  I went into labor with my son and he was born on New Year’s Day.
Two years later, my father-in-law died on December 29th and ironically the family spent New Year’s Eve at his wake.  It certainly wasn’t “just another day.”
The world didn’t end and computers didn’t even crash as 1999 ticked to 2000 and, of course, everyone’s got a ‘where were you when’ story. Mine isn’t worth more than a  mention. We were on the Las Vegas strip feeling that scary Times Square squash from the crowd.
Fast forward to 2005, our last New Year’s Eve together.  We went to Atlantic City with with another couple.  Since it was the day before our son’s 25th birthday I asked him, “Doug, do you want what’s in the envelope or half my winnings?”
He hesitated because he knows that nine out of ten trips I lose.  Still, he grinned and said, “I’m going to go with ‘The Mouse.” (He calls me ‘Mouse.’)  He obviously inherited his parent’s degenerate gambling gene.  BUT – late in the afternoon of New Year’s Eve day when the others were napping I won $2700 in some silly slot machine that called my name.
The years keep passing, the calendar keeps flipping, and, yes, I have had some good times, even a meaningful one on a New Year’s Eve since then.
Next week I have no plans and that is fine with me. After mid-night, it will still be January 1st -  another fresh start.
Happy 2012 everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rain Woman

All my life I’ve been an idiot savant with dates. For some ridiculous reason if I hear your birthday once, I never forget it.
Some call me Rain Woman, although Dustin Hoffman’s bit with the toothpicks is out of my league.  I’m merely a single threat.  I do dates – nothing else.
Not long ago I ran into a family I hadn’t seen in years.  I had been fairly close to the wife, husband and their three kids.  I rattled off each of their birthdays — because I could.  One by one, they backed away.
My memory for dates doesn’t have a pecking order.  It can’t distinguish between people I love and a cab driver who possibly looking for a bigger tip announces, “Lady, today is my birthday!”
My 7th grade homeroom teacher, Miss Fine was born on February 9th.  I can’t get that out of my head.  I worry that data about a teacher long dead is using up space in my brain that I might put to better use.  In 1963 I resented Miss Fine for failing me in French all three marking periods and now I blame her every time I wander row after row in a parking lot searching for my car.
Just this past Sunday I was at a holiday party talking with my nephew’s live-in girlfriend.  I’d met her twice and if someone had a gun to my head I couldn’t tell him if her name was Alicia or Elise.
As I stammered with her name she was obviously put off until I said – “Okay, okay – I may not remember your name but know that your birthday is March 2nd.
She gasped.  I think I really impressed Alicia…or Elise.
I may not be able to fill in “Dear____” on her birthday card, but at least she’ll get it on time.
Trade-offs.  Life seems to be a series of trade-offs.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is Writing Obituaries a Dead Art?

I read the obituaries every morning.  Unlike the news which is depressing – these half page mini biographies are entertaining – if you read between the lines.  After all, it takes a skilled writer to transform an ordinary life to an extraordinary one.
My fascination with and appreciation of obituaries began when a million years ago I worked side by side with ‘Sandi Beach’ at a small Long Island radio station.  How small was it?   Fiddling with the radio, I couldn’t get a clear signal for the station until I was in their parking lot.
The phones rarely lit up with callers and when they did we would panic certain that the building was on fire.
Anyway, at the time I had a column in the Fire Island Tide and the paper and the station I believe were owned by the same people.  Sandi was dying (literally) and they brought me in to be a familiar voice when she left the building (literally again)
Sandi was so boring I actually thought she was kidding.  I cringed each time she read the ‘doings’ on Fire Island and ended with ‘be there or be square.’
I put on a pleasant expression because I’m a sensitive person aware that she probably wasn’t thrilled to see me sitting beside her just waiting for her to keel over and catch her headphones.
Her obituary in Newsday was glowing.  Without making stuff up, the writer wove a story of this woman’s life that could have been compared to Eleanor freakin’ Roosevelt.
I was aghast (odd word, but accurate) and I remember saying to my husband, Jimmy,
“If I died today, even with my minuscule accomplishments in the right hands my obituary would read like a life I wish I had led.”
Together we decided to save the clipping to call on that writer “when our time comes.”
And, then, when Jimmy did die, I was incapable of posting anything but a ‘notice’ – the hard facts, born, died and survived by.  I regret I didn’t give him a Sandi Beach send-off so I tell myself that for Jimmy there wasn’t a need to boost his life in the newspaper because he was extraordinary.
But, there is still time for ME!  Here I am getting older and a new year is just weeks away. New beginnings bring to mind endings and that I may need a little help for my life story. So, now each morning as I read the obituaries I’m going to make a note of who puffs up the dead person best.
Is this similar to financial planning?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

My Teeny Tree 

On our last Christmas in 2005 Jimmy gave in and we got an artificial tree.  This was a huge moment for a man who had insisted for 33 years, “If we have a fake tree, what’s next? Fake food?”
Not only did the tree have to be real – it had to be gigantic – wide, full and tall, like a plus size woman with branches.  Our first two Christmases were in our studio apartment with an average ceiling height so we made up for it with a tree so wide that when we opened our sleeper couch each night the needles hung over our feet.
It took us years before we had a house that fit the tree and I have to admit that when we finally maneuvered the tree to just the right viewing angle it was magnificent.  It made a statement. And, the statement wasn’t ‘I have a small dick” believe me.
It was “I love this holiday because it represents family, food and friends and as Jimmy would say abbondanza! (Italian for abundance) He couldn’t get enough of all three.
It was a tradition for our family to go to the nursery together to pick out a tree and each year we looked forward to it being playful, joyful, and filled with eggnog delight.
I have no idea why that Norman Rockwell picture kept reappearing in each of our heads because the reality was that every year Jacki whined it was freezing and Dougie ran ahead and tripped over the tree stumps and Jimmy and I fought and shouted,’ let’s just pick something – anything  and get it home already!”
But, now in 2005 with the kids on their own and our little granddaughter just 20 months old, we found ourselves agreeing, You know, the fake trees today look real.  Maybe, 30 years of our feet finding a needle in May still buried in the carpet has been enough fun for us.
So, there we stood side-by-side in the now defunct Fortunoffs staring at rows of plastic trees decorated right out of a page of Home & Garden.  The piped in Christmas Music played and we hummed and mumbled some of the words here and there, aware, very aware that an era was over.
We questioned whether it was the trees on display were that gorgeous or was it the fabulous ornaments that the store decorator had used.
“If we hung these Lalique ornaments on my ugly Aunt Josephine and dressed her in green with her arms spread out even she would look Christmasy and beautiful too” Jimmy said.
We bought one, anyway.  It came in three pieces complete with stand. Easy breezy. When New Years rolled around, we put it back in the storage bag and there it sat waiting on a shelf in the garage for the next holiday season.
But, when the next Christmas came and my husband was gone I couldn’t put up the tree.  The following year I did, grateful that we had bought it together.  I didn’t have to buy the fake one and break our tradition alone.  It’s so silly what we think sometimes because by then, so much more, of course, was broken.
It’s year six this year and today I took out some old decorations and bought some new ones and placed them in different parts of the house and since neither Christmas Eve or Christmas Day will be here I put up a teeny little tree (pictured above)
I told my dog Tony “You see this tree, Ton?  That used to be the size of our top.”  Then, I scooped him up and even though Christmas music still stings a bit we danced together to I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Psychic in the Family

Several weeks ago, I moseyed into a neighborhood-clothing store for their promotional wine, cheese, fruit and cookies.  Who can resist a snack?   And, who doesn’t need a new-something-something?
God knows how many outfits I ruined trying them on with sticky fingers, (not the shoplifting reference) –  The owners had not thought this through. Retail is tough enough without adding on the potential for chocolate stains on garments that go over your head.  I felt guilty so I bought two tops.  Naturally, not the ones I tried on.  They were a mess!
Next to the dressing room, I noticed a sign up sheet to have your palm read, tarot cards, head scratched – you name it.  I peeked in the room. Two young girls who looked vaguely familiar – they probably went to high school with my kids.  They may have been part of the ‘study group’ who came over to our house while Jimmy and I were away, got drunk and threw up all over the carpet.  Now, they wore swami scarves and called themselves “Psychic Samantha” and “Telepathic Tiffany.”
I couldn’t resist. “Psychic Samantha” was adorable.  I sat opposite her and she began “Do you want your palm read or the tarot cards?” I chose the cards because I hadn’t washed my hands yet.
She looked deep into my eyes and all of a sudden, she was all knowing. She was no longer an entitled kid who got a brand new Mustang for graduation even though her grade point average was the speed limit.
“Do you want to know everything, good and bad?” she asked me in a creepy voice.
“Sure” I answered even though I wasn’t sure I was sure.
“You really must see a doctor.  Something is going on with you that needs immediate attention. I’m not kidding” she said.
I didn’t think she was kidding. Why would she kid about that, but none the less, she certainly had my attention.
“It’s probably something you can fix with medication, but I see you going from doctor to doctor.  I see it being a problem with your bones.  I feel it in my bones. She giggled. Check it out, okay? Mrs. Scibelli.”
“Sammy?  Is that you?” I thought it was you, but with the scarf and all…” I said.
We chatted a bit and I told her that my son Doug was still single, gave her his e-mail address and I briefly fantasized that Doug would marry her and at the wedding I would give a toast saying that my new daughter-in-law saved my life.  If not for her wise warning, I would be a pile of bones by now.
So, I immediately had a mammogram, a pap smear, a colonoscopy and a bone density test. Bingo!  All things clear but the bone density.  Not major, but Sammy nailed it with a result of BMD (bone mineral density) that is Osteopenia which is in between normal and Osteoporosis.
I just have to take vitamin D (that’s not really “medication”) and come back two years. The doctor could have checked off one year, so it’s really not anything.  But, somehow that gives Sammy even more credibility – she picked up something sorta kinda festering.  And I did go “from doctor to doctor” although, in truth I went to all these doctors because she pushed my panic button.
Oh, are Doug and Sammy dating?  Not yet, but doesn’t Samantha Scibelli have a nice ring to it?  And, how cool would it be to have a psychic in the family?  It could happen.  I think I feel it in my bones.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Happiness is Being Able to Write it In My Blog

At The Laughter For Life Club

So there I was yesterday driving to Bridgeport, Connecticut singing to the radio and looking forward to a speaking gig at The Laughter for Life Club, also referred to as the Happiness Club.  What could be bad?  Happy people are easy laughers and I was prepared, actually extra prepared because my expected audience (I was told) of 80 or so people were not widows.
Time spent varying my talk to fit these happy folks was well worth it.  Certainly other opportunities would come my way and now I am ready.
And, the process of preparing made me consider what made me, personally happy and what made me unhappy.  There were no huge surprises there, but it was interesting to re-look at my choices and wonder if I always chose happiness and if not, why not?
Having happiness on my mind, I asked Skylar, my 7 and a half-year-old granddaughter, “What do you think makes grandma happy?” Without a blink, she answered, “Seeing my face.”
Oh, God, just let me stay alive another five years to make that stick to her and then I can die HAPPY. 

As I pulled up to the address in Bridgeport, I saw a large apartment building beyond the security gate.  I asked the guard, “What kind of place is this?”
“Assisted living” he said.
I immediately texted my kids,  Is this an intervention?  Are you hiding here and going to pop up and sign me in?
I parked the car.  The light rain that had felt cozy along the way was now a downpour, a sign of doom and an extremely unhappy situation for hair at the tail end of a Brazilian straightening.
I was early for the 2 PM event although in this facility I was probably late for a nap.  I maneuvered myself around the wheelchairs and walkers and I hid in the Ladies Room. I passed the time  looking in the mirror, shaking my head and making a mental note to make sure my long term insurance was paid up.  A young woman walked in and for a moment I was excited until I realized she was someone’s aid.
Finally, I came out of hiding and looked at the spot I was to speak.  It was a pleasant enough open area, sort of like a big living room with nice bookshelves and couches.  Folding chairs were added on like you’d arrange if you were expecting company except all the furniture was facing a podium.
It was ten minutes to showtime and the room was empty.  The Laughter for Life Club has a speaker the first Tuesday of each month and I found out later that  the advertising for me had said, Tuesday the 4th and it was the 6th.  Naturally all the people from the ‘outside’ were confused.
Soon one couple did show up.  Grateful for an audience, I greeted them like old friends.  It was their second marriage. They told me that they he had been married for 60 years and she for 50 years and together they were married for 8 years.  I did the math quickly and they each had to be 140.
As the three of us sat there, at least I got to tell them the moment from my book called “Growing Old Together” about the couple in their 80′s who I envied because I assumed they were together since birth until the woman corrected me with, “Honey, we’ve only been married for 3 years.”
This lovely couple listened and smiled at me politely. Then, they looked around the room at all the empty folding chairs and couches and back at me with eyes that spoke the familiar, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
I left them for a moment to stand at the podium and asked the young woman setting up the cookies and lemonade if she would please take my picture, the one posted at the start of this blog. Hey, a photo opt is a photo opt.  In truth, I didn’t give my talk at the podium.  As the residents dribbled in and the room filled with twelve people, I turned one of the couches around to face them and be closer, still holding the mike. (necessary)
I began by saying how this set up is so similar to FDR’s ‘Fireside chats.’  Their long-term memory nodded knowingly and we were off to a steady start. I got a few laughs and I couldn’t help but think of the wonderful comic Mickey Freeman who died recently – He’d play all the nursing homes and say, “I killed. there wasn’t a dry seat in the house!”
Much of what I had planned to say was not going to go over well and as I briefly turned over each index card, I was tempted to toss the inappropriate ones in the air like David Letterman does.
I intended to close with number five from something I found on the internet – the deathbed regrets confessed to a hospice worker.  Obviously, that was a card that would have burst into flames had I read it to them.  I had chosen it originally because number five was about choosing to be happy.
I want to share it with you – just because.  To read all five:
This was written by hospice worker Bonnie Ware.
5. I wish I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have sillyness  in their lives again.  When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
All in all, the hour passed surprisingly fast and luckily none of the residents did.  Some stayed for cookies and we talked a bit.
But, what made the day all worthwhile was the woman who pushed her walker towards me and said, “I’m sorry I fell asleep, but what I heard I liked very much.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

When Your Daughter Turns 35…

Me and Sky
Oh, my…there is no amount of Botox or Restylane or any of the fillers on the market today that will transform me to 45 now that my daughter is 35.  Her big mouth gives me away, not to mention my face that screams 50-something.  I know I’m old because I’m happy at 61 that some may guess I am ONLY 55.  Yikes!
Tonight we all went out to dinner to celebrate my daughter turning 35.  Oh, and just for the record – no – even at 35 we are not friends. If you’re friends with your adult daughter you give up the right to tell her – among other things – that her skirt is too short.
There we were – our family – Fanny, my mother-in-law, my son, Doug, my nephew Chuck and my daughter’s boyfriend, Angel.  Oh, and that real angel, my little granddaughter, Skylar, who I take every opportunity to tell that she can do and be anything that she wants to be.   Tonight she responded by bombarding me riddles and hopping on and off of my lap. Hey, she’s only 7 and a half!
My own words made me wonder, though, what would I have done differently with my life if I was back at 7 and a half and from a sane, loving family?  I’ll never know…but I do know that at least I was aware enough to recognize the right man when he came along.  I grabbed him and married him at 22 and started popping out a family four years later.  Voila…there they were tonight…at the table…That wasn’t a mistake.
I don’t remember why, but at some point during the evening Doug quoted comedian Louis CK .  “You’re not a real woman until a little person comes out of you and then walks all over your dreams.”

Did that happen to me? Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No…Who knows?
do know that I’m still here and hopefully I’ve got a few good years left to maybe, just maybe, do something semi-sensational and put a positive dent into a few lives.  And, how lucky it was that my son brought  press-on mustaches so we could take these goofy pictures to capture the moments that keep us young and silly and smooth out the wrinkles naturally.
Still, tick-tick-tick…ahhhhhhhh!
Doug, Skylar & Jacki in photo

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Are These the ‘Good Old Days?’

As we were raising the kids, I assumed that it was ‘our time’ because the older generation told us so.  Yesterday, on Thanksgiving Day, I heard myself parrot this to my Goddaughter, Katharine, who is pregnant with twins.
“I’m sure it’s going to be hectic, honey, but try to enjoy it.  It’s your time and it goes so fast.”
Then I wondered if it’s really possible to press pause and soak it all in.  Can we recognize ‘the good old days’ as they are happening?  Another thought popped into my head. Something may be at risk here.  If we look  back and label ‘the good old days’ will it stop us from believing that ‘the best is yet to come?’
I poured myself another glass of wine and noted Katharine was drinking water.  I loved being pregnant, (when else can you do nothing and be so productive – after all, you are making a human being!) but I love wine, too.
I left the kitchen, walked into the living room, and looked at my son, a 30 year old man.   I see him and I see the future and that feels right.  I don’t miss Dougie, my little boy, I guess because it was a gradual growing.  Doug caught my eye, winked and smiled. After dinner, our plan is that he and my nephew and I are off to Atlantic City together.
Six Thanksgivings have passed since my husband died and we never picked up our old tradition for that day again.  Each year my kids and granddaughter and nephew and I are ‘taken in’ on Turkey Day by my very close friends Connie and Trifon and their tribe.
At first we felt like orphans, our noses pressed against the window, but we’re comfortable now and tease them – “Hey, can we have a drumstick to go?  We’re spending the rest of the holiday at a Blackjack table.”
So, I question tradition.  What is it, after all when this year even our substitute tradition has changed.  And, it wasn’t just the skipping off to a casino…
This year my granddaughter, Skylar spent Thanksgiving with her father, and his girlfriend and her family complete with new ‘cousins’ and ‘grandparents.’  To spin the positive for Sky I tell her that the more people who love her, the better, but I leave off how permanence can be fleeting.  My little girl is aware of this already, though.  At seven, she learned it way sooner than I did.
My daughter Jacki opted to be with her boyfriend’s family for the holiday.  It’s good for her to watch and learn the dynamics of a possible new brood.  And, next year, who knows?
So, did I have a happy Thanksgiving this year?  It was fine enough.  Maybe the trick is to just keep making memories and maybe one day we may actually refer to today as ‘the good old days.’

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Alone Again, Happily…

Friends and family are so concerned about me “being all alone in that big house”  that when they visit from out of town they stay with me and willingly give up room service, mints on their pillow and they unselfishly abandon all sense of privacy…theirs andmine.
It’s a freakin’ love fest each morning to witness the parade of cheeks with sleep lines and lips with no lipstick stumbling down to the kitchen in their pajamas or whatever odd combo of tee-shirts and sweatpants they decree as comfy sleep wear.  They greet me with “This is so great to see you first thing in the morning!”  Luckily, their bleary eyes can’t tell that at 7:00 AM I’m not quite ready for my close-up.
But, I’m gracious and accommodating –because my mother was not.  She had a strictly enforced ‘kitchen closed’ sign and by the sad hunch of my father’s shoulders I suspect soon after I was born she also shut him out of the bedroom.   In those days, a visitor to sleep over?  Take my place, pleeese.
For whatever shrinky-dink reason, once Jimmy and I were married our house became the place to stay and despite the missing silverware from time to time, he and I always enjoyed the late night talks and the early morning coffee with strange feet in slippers resting on the coffee table.
I still love company – please don’t write in or call and say, “Whoe…I thought you enjoyed our little visit.”  I did.  I’m just glad it’s over, that’s all.  I’ve gotten used to the quiet and being able to say to myself, I ran out of peanut butter…who cares?  That’s so much more relaxing than standing in the supermarket texting “Do you prefer chunkie or smooth?”
And, even after guests go, they leave behind a phone charger or favorite blouse and this bed and breakfast has to mail it back.
One of the short moments in POOR WIDOW ME is:
Living Alone
The ice in the glass had melted, but it was still there on the kitchen table.
Nothing moves if I don’t move it.
-    -    -   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   -
Today I might phrase it more like this:
Living Alone (I wish) 
The ice in the glass had spilled all over the night table leaving a big fat ring that will never come out.
Thanks for ruining my stuff.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

What is Normal, Anyway?

      “Life isn’t a bowl of cherries- deal with it.”  ~ Mean Jean, 2006

All the widows in the bereavement group groaned as the leader said, “I know you keep waiting for your life to get back to normal, but the reality is what you consider ‘normal’ is no more.  Now the challenge is for you to find your ‘new normal.’
This was five years ago but I can still see Ruth, the widow who sat next to me, practically jumping out of her chair to shout “I object” like she was in court demanding to approach the bench.
I remember thinking, Get a grip, lady and while you’re at it change your f%$#@ seat!  I don’t need Perry Mason to be sputtering and spitting all over me.  Hell, I’m grieving, too, you know!
I have no idea what happened to Ruth and if she ever found her ‘new normal’ which is as elusive as the “G spot” but for her sake, I hope she’s found one or the other or both.
Ruth never would have survived the techniques of Mean Jean, my one-on-one bereavement shrink.  If there is a ‘snap out of it school of shrinks Mean Jean graduated with honors.
She was typically rough when she brought up ‘the new normal.’  But since she often used fruit to explain life I found her gruffness entertaining, not to mention, healthy.  I always left her office craving a banana.
“Listen up, Pumpkin” she’d begin. “Life has thrown you lemons. Yes, it’s the pits.  Why? For one: Life is not a bowl of cherries.  For two: Refer back to the lemon analogy.”
Mean Jean’s mantra was, “Did you feel peachy all the time before your husband died? Of course not. Well, now you’re going to have many more of those crappy days.  Deal with it.”
It’s been years since I’ve gone to Mean Jean, although, I always think of her when I bite into an apple – or if I hear the word ‘delicious.’  Macintosh doesn’t come up very often.
“New normal doesn’t come up in conversation often either, but I’ve figured out and maybe you have, too, that’s it’s something that just sneaks up on us as we are busy living our life.  The flavor from the gum is gone and we keep chewing and don’t even notice.
And, today, I noticed just a little bit.  I was on a tour of my friend Barbara’s walk-in closet.  She’s a real clotheshorse and she was showing me something she had just bought.  I glanced to the left and noticed men’s shirts and pants and suits and ties.  Quickly, the Nancy Drew in me assessed that must be her husband Michael’s’ side of the closet.
I felt an immediate twinge – an awareness that Jimmy’s clothes are gone and this is what our closet used to look like.  (except my husband was a bigger guy and he had less clothes…I guess, factoring that in equals everything out and so Michael and Jimmy took up the same closet space.)
The point is the twinge didn’t last.  Even last year it would have lingered.  Today it was gone and replaced with How did I manage to fit my clothes and his clothes in the same closet?  There may have been a hint of boy am I lucky to have all that space to myself about to surface but I’ll never admit to that.
So, have I found my ‘new normal?’ Well, after all is said and done, as I write this, it’s Saturday night and most of my friends are out with their couple friends.  It would be beyond weird for them to call and say, “Why don’t you and Jimmy join us for dinner?”
And, it’s okay.  I know I said it was okay long before it was okay, but now it truly is okay.  It’s normal for me to no longer be part of a pear.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

For Adults Only

 Amazing–I couldn’t play the piano BEFORE my husband died…
Traveling alone feels natural to me now.  How did that happen?  It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote Three in a Row, a moment in my book that describes how foreign it felt to me to be the odd one in a row of three sitting on an airplane.  In part it reads:
“I looked over at the seat next to me and saw a woman my age resting her head on her husband’s shoulder.  The only arm I had to rest on was the armrest, and I was sure all eyes were on poor widow me.  I stood to stretch, and scanned the rows of people, three across.  A couple and an odd one were in each row.  Now I’m the odd one.  Then I saw a row where no one seemed to know each other.  I guess people do travel alone…I just never thought about it before, like so many other things.  Being cozily married had, in some ways, kept me insulated and smug.”
My crackerjack editor, Randi Cushnir, warned me that a reader might have a hard time believing that a woman who is past the ‘age of awareness’ (I think legally that’s seven) counted on a husband to print out her boarding pass and she needed his engineering skills to finesse 15 pairs of shoes, 4 pocketbooks and 9 outfits into her carry-on.
Randi didn’t feel it was in my best interest that I project a clueless and helpless image. I get it.  And, she was right 95% of the time with that kind of stuff.  Yet, in my travels (alone)  I’ve talked to dozens of widows who admit that they finally feel self-sufficient and capable for the first time in their 60-something lives.   They are excited to participate in life as an adult.
They also revealed to me they are enjoying ‘something’ more than ever.  I am sorry that I can’t share what that ‘something’  is because I’m sworn to secrecy.  Hint: rhymes with Rex.
Perhaps that was off-track.  The point is many of us baby boomers who got married young stayed babies.  When our husbands died we were suddenly lifted out of our highchairs and plopped into the driver’s seat.
Of course initially our heads spun around but in time we saw there is no denying that Cabernet tastes much better from a wine glass than a sippy cup.
A toast:  ”To being a grown-up.”

Saturday, October 08, 2011

All I Wanted Was a Pen

I knew I needed help organizing my home office when I couldn’t find a pen.  At first, I rationalized that maybe I didn’t really need a pen – my lipstick was nearby and so was the pencil the kids and I used last weekend to keep score for miniture golf.  Then, I felt that cramp in my foot that makes my toes curl and stiffen and is so painful it must mean that a blood clot is gearing up to travel to my brain and kill me. 
If that happened, I suppose a pen isn’t what I would be needing, anyway, but it got me thinking what I think fairly often since I lost Jimmy – If I die my kids will have to wade through everything to get the house in shape to sell –  after –  of course – they have that one last party.   
Part of me said, so what? but the other part that is the ‘Gallant’ to my ‘Goofus’ won out and I called Cynthia, a professional organizer.  She had an opening the very next day, a cancelation.  I was a tinge suspicious of my ‘luck’ especially when she suggested that the first thing we try to find  is not a pen, but my checkbook. 
I kept my judgement to myself, however, something I learned to do after I once announced a little too loudly, “the cleaning lady must have stolen it.”  And, I followed it up with, “I don’t have to keep my voice down.  She doesn’t understand English!” 
Cynthia put together a filing system for me and we filled up many many hefty bags with  notes I couldn’t decipher to people I couldn’t remember.  She was an amazingly strong woman who insisted that she carry all the bags to the curb herself.  My job was to pose for the above photo.  What you don’t see is me trying to get up. 
Another thing you don’t see is my neighbor’s eager and hopeful faces one after another  as they tried to quiet their excitement to ask  ”Are you moving?
What they really wanted to say is: “What is wrong with you? What do you need this house for?  You’re all alone.  You’re all alone. You’re all alone.”
I heard them loud and clear – This is life in suburbia.  Everyone wants the widow to either to sell the house to a young family with small kids for their small kids to play with or the next best thing is a family with a daughter who is babysitting age. 
 I know this is true because in my other lifetime I would have looked at me and felt – time for that 55 and older community, Sweetheart.  Come on. Get on the bus.
Gee, hefty bags really bring out the worst in people…all I wanted was a pen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Two Cents about Two and a Half Men

Jon Cryer & Me – June 2011   
Like 28 million other viewers, I was eager to see how producer Chuck Lorre handled this season’s first episode of “Two and a Half Men,” knowing Charlie Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper, was killed off and replaced with Ashton Kutcher. For the record, I’ve been a huge fan of the show for all eight seasons. And I can’t say Monday night’s episode wasn’t funny.  It was, opening at the funeral with Alan Harper (Jon Cryer)  trying to give a serious eulogy, and all the women who ‘dated’ Charlie yelling out, “A sad day? Speak for yourself,” or “Charlie was a giver?  Yeah, he gave me herpes.”

Then when his TV mother, Evelyn (Holland Taylor), stood up like Mama Bear to demand they give her son “some respect,” she just couldn’t help the barracuda real estate broker in her from taking over and letting the crowd know she was selling Charlie’s beach house and that the flyers for the Open House were in the back of the room.

Did I laugh?  Sure I did, because there she was staying true to character, even at her son’s funeral.  And that goes along with what I often say about grieving – we’re all still always who we are, and our true selves peek out when we least expect it.  I’m never the one to say “too soon.”In fact, the day of my husband’s funeral, as I was getting dressed I was thrilled to notice I’d lost weight. And later put that moment in Poor Widow Me, and gave it the title, “I Lost My Husband & 3 Pounds.”

I also remember, when sitting in between my son and daughter in the very first row at the funeral, thinking, This is probably the only time in life we don’t want the best seats in the house. But I didn’t whisper that to my kids, or to the line of people who came by to offer their condolences, partly because my life isn’t a sitcom, and mainly because the next moment I was overcome with emotion.

And that’s what I feel was missing from last night’s “Two and a Half Men” episode…genuine emotion. To me it cried out for at least a little hint of reflection, that could have then moved right into something funny. As Alan sat on the couch holding his brother’s ashes, he could’ve spoken a bit longer, and more from the heart, to Charlie, and that would have been the moment. Then the new guy, Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher), could’ve still interrupted, and the ashes still could’ve flown all over, just as they wrote it…grief relief bringing it back to comedy.
I keep thinking now about the episode years ago from “All in the Family,” when Edith Bunker died and Archie went upstairs to their bedroom and saw her slipper under the bed.  He lost it.  It was heartbreaking and yet sweet to see what we viewers really knew all along – that with all his bravado, he truly loved her.
And I’ll bet the Archie Bunker character didn’t lose any fans that day; he probably gained them. But that was the brilliant Norman Lear, and this was Chuck Lorre, who likely, in an attempt to diss Charlie Sheen, ended up compromising his show. That’s how I see it, anyway.
Please click on this YouTube video to see the final minutes from this episode of “All in the Family.”
Would love to hear what you think…   

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I've Moved On

I don't even know if anyone will come to this blog anymore - who will read this?  I've directed everyone I know to my new website/ - and now it also clicks through from  But, will that stop me from talking? I go...

As you know, I started this blog just a couple of months after my husband died and here it is almost five and a half years later.  I've moved on - in so many ways.  These days I talk with new widows and I remember feeling those feelings but sometimes it's like I didn't live it...someone else did.

We hold on to what's familiar.  For me, at first it was my marriage and now it's my independence.  My new blog, "Widow Bits" will be a new direction and that feels good. It feels natural.  

Thank you for following my 'story' - Some of you were kind enough to let me know, in your own way, that you found something in it that shifted something in you.  That was the best. It never got old to hear.

Well, that's it for here - moving to a new place and hoping you'll come and visit. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Welcome to my new blog

This is just a quick “hello” and to say I’m happy you dropped by, and hope you’ll come back often.
Some of you may have followed the blog I began in 2006, just months after my husband died, and I’ve kept it updated, until fairly recently.
Now it’s time to start a new blog for a new site, as much of the content in is now in POOR WIDOW ME, my just-released book. So “Widow Bits” is a fresh start.
I’ll be traveling the country the rest of this year, talking to widows and widowers and bereavement groups, and I’ll report back in here what other widows are feeling and experiencing.
I would also love to hear some of YOUR experiences. I’ll include your concerns, funny stories, moments and questions in future blogs, so if you have anything you want to say, or ask, please reach me through the Contact Page, comment space here, or on Facebook.
I also want to let anyone know, who doesn’t already, that Camp Widow,, is branching out to now also have an East Coast gathering, which is scheduled for April 20-22, 2012, at the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort.
In my next blog I’ll be writing about the August 2011 Camp Widow Conference that was held again in San Diego. Each year it gets better, just like we do…

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A New Website...almost

Hey everyone - been away finishing up my book (will be available soon) and getting ready to do a fun workshop at Camp Widow in San Diego.  Will be back give more details about my new website and blog...

Thanks for stopping by...

Sunday, June 05, 2011

People Assume...


~If I look great, I feel great.

~Divorce is the same as death.

~ A loss is a loss

~The man I’m with at the movies must be my husband. Oops.

~I’m ready to date.

~ I want to date.

~ I’ll never get married again.

~ Of course, I’ll get married again.

~ I will sell the house.

~ I will never sell the house.

~ They know how I feel because their cat died.

Any others you can think of...send them along to me and I'll add 'em!   Thanks!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Time Sensitive Material

Today I got a piece of mail that was addressed to my husband who has been deceased for five years.  On the envelope it read; 

                 "Time sensitive material."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mean Jean's Thoughts on Widowers

It seems like the entire Tri-state area is asking me if I have a boyfriend." I said.

Mean Jean, my bereavement shrink responds with a snort and then she shakes her head and she says,

“If you were a man you’d be remarried already or certainly on your way.”

“I know” I answered. “On average men remarry at two years and women at five.”

“Do you know why that is?” she asked


“Because men are babies.” Mean Jean gave me that huge grin where she shows all of her teeth. I made a mental note to make a dentist appointment.

I’ve known her for years now so I’m almost positive that her bark is bigger than her bite.  I keep this in mind as I try out some sarcasm on her.

“Men are babies you say? Is that professionally speaking?”

“Actually, yes it is. I’ve been in the bereavement racket for 25 years now.

When I retire I’m going to write a book. I think I’ll call it,

Don’t Flatter Yourselves Ladies…Men just can’t be Alone."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cheating by Quoting Maya Angelou

Okay. Okay...obviously I didn't write this and I'm not black and six feet tall and a genius as Maya Angelou is.  Just thought poor widow me would pass it along ~ fun to give inspiration~ And, I did add the pink...that practically makes me a co-author! 


money within her control to move out
and rent a place of her own,
even if she never wants to or needs to...

perfect to wear if the employer,
or date of her dreams
wants to see her in an hour...

a youth she's content to leave behind....

a past juicy
enough that she's looking forward to
retelling it in her
old age....

a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra...

one friend who
always makes her laugh.. and one who lets her cry...

a good piece
of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her

matching plates, wine glasses with stems,
and a recipe for
a meal,
that will make her guests feel honored...

a feeling of
control over her destiny..

how to fall in love without losing herself..

how to quit
a job,
break up with a lover,
and confront a friend
ruining the friendship...

when to try harder... and WHEN TO WALK

that she can't change the length of her calves,
the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents..

that her
childhood may not have been perfect...but it's over...

what she
would and wouldn't do for love or more...

how to live
alone... even if she doesn't like it...

whom she can trust,
whom she can't,
and why she shouldn't take it personally...

where to
be it to her best friend's kitchen table..
or a
charming Inn in the woods....
when her soul needs

What she can and can't accomplish in a day...
month...and a year...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Facebook Meet Ups

I had exactly three dates before Jimmy and I began to “go steady.” Each one was under fifteen years old. No one was driving me into a secluded grassy area to have his way with me and it was unlikely that a pimply, goofy teen was going to sprinkle my milkshake with Ruffies or Special K. I doubt they would have known what to do with me, anyway.

These days I’m approached on the Facebook private message board. Here’s the latest.

“Hi Hot Mama – let’s get to know each other.
      Ever been to Ontario? Come and visit.”

       Johnny the Junk

Since it is the social network I figure I should be social. I respond:

Hi Johnny the Junk,

   What a cute name! Are you in the recycling business?
   Oh, about the ‘Hot Mama’ I was a hot mama, but I’m
   way past menopause now. I used to keep my windows
   open in January. It’s a miracle my husband didn’t die
   of frostbite.

   About visiting… great idea! Tomorrow I’ll load up the
   truck with my 7 grandbabies, pack a duffle bag and zip
   up to Ontario to spend a few weeks.

   P.S. You’re not a lunatic, are you? Just checking.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Widows Reveal: Why I HATE to DATE

Yesterday's entry was quotes by widows who love to date. Today, we spiral down to the reasons widows HATE to DATE.  As before, my two cents will be in red.

                      Widows Reveal: Why I HATE to DATE

"How could I get naked in front of someone new? Have you seen my thighs?
  _Diane, Grand Rapids, Michigan Yes, Diane...keep 'em covered!

"I just want a friend to go dancing with.  No sex.  No man will go for that."
_ Shelly, Boston, Massachusetts  The invention of Viagra killed that...

" I could never wash another man's socks." How about his underwear?
 _Barbara, Washington D.C.

"What will my kids say?"  I want a new Daddy?
_Judy, Long Island, New York 

"I'm afraid he'll get sick and I'd be stuck taking care of him. I'll never be a nurse again!" 
_Pamela, Denver Colorado

"I still think of myself as married." 
_Caroline, Bethesda, Maryland

"F R E E D O M!" Oh, my...that was a happy marriage...
_"Debbie, Parsippany, New Jersey

"I couldn't go through losing another love."
_"Gerry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"I see my friends' husbands.  I don't want one of those."
_Carol Klein, Washington, D.C.

Comments are appreciated...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Widows Reveal: The BEST Part of Dating

 I thought I'd start out with the positive today, and tomorrow post widows response to reasons NOT to date.  Just so you know, eleven women gave it a thumbs up and nine said, "No way." 

 In some cases, I couldn't resist commenting.  My two cents is indicated in RED Hey, I get comments here all the time, right?  

Widows Reveal: The BEST Part of Dating:

"I'm part of the couples club again."
    _Lisa, Boca Raton, Florida

"A free dinner is a free dinner."  Bitch!
   "Teri, Fort Lee, New Jersey

"My friends don't give me that 'poor Sarah' look anymore." 
      _Sarah, San Francisco, California

"Holding hands" 
        _Missy, Sugar Land, Texas 
Sweet - must be because she's from SUGAR Land.

"It makes me happy to make someone smile." 
  _Sherry, Roslyn, New York
Yuk! More sweetness...I'm at risk here to get diabetes. 

"Sex - Sex - Sex!"  Slut - Slut - Slut
   _Marilyn, Minneapolis, Minnesota

"He fixes things and I don't have to wait for my son to come by." 
  _Cheryl, Nashville, Tennessee
  Doesn't she know a handyman?  
  Doesn't she own a hammer?  
  Her son might visit more often if she didn't put him to work.
"Someone to talk about my day with."
   _Stephanie, San Diego, California

"Being held.  I miss being in a man's arms."
 _Wendy, Studio City, California

"It's hard to be that woman alone entering a room full of people."
  _Josephine, Huntington, New York

"Some of them tell me I'm pretty."    
    _Teresa, Melville, New York  
Wait, I think I know Teresa.  She's not that pretty.                                                                                    
Comments are appreciated!