"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."

This is a blog about widows,
mothers and daughters,
facing change and challenges
and receiving ordinary, everyday blessings that don't seem quite so ordinary anymore.
It chronicles the journey from grief into the restoration of what has been lost.

*** I am no longer actively posting to this site, so please come visit me at my new site ***

http://www.jrrmblog.com/ - "Starting Over ... Again"

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Having an End of Life Discussion

For many of us, it's difficult to have a talk with our family members about our "end of life" wishes.  We don't have to talk about it with them because, for some reason, we think that talking about it will:
  • upset them (or upset us)
  • make it happen faster
  • make it more "real"
  • make them think we are waiting for their death
We may think it's too soon to talk about death.  The truth is that it's never too soon.  The difference between a good death and a difficult death seems to hinge upon whether the dying person has shared their wishes.

Robby and I talked about our wishes, but (unfortunately) never in a very serious way.  Robby always joked that he wanted a black gospel choir to sing at his funeral.  He loved gospel music and grew up playing bluegrass and gospel, so it was an obvious choice for him.  Unfortunately we don't have any all-black churches or gospel choirs in the area.  But my daughter did find a recording of a gospel singer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe singing "Peace In The Valley."  We played it at Robby's service.

Knowing what kind of care your loved one wishes can make their passing much easier - for them and for you.  We (my daughters and I) were able to plan a memorial service that we knew would make Robby proud, from the music to the Marine Honor Guard to the BBQ and beer we offered at the get-together after the service.  We could picture him, watching the whole thing from heaven, smiling and laughing as we told stories and shared memories of him and all that he loved.

If you are wondering where to start, check out The Conversation Project.  Here you can find a starter kit that will help to break the ice, and make your discussion much easier.  You can also see what others have said about their final wishes.

It's never too soon to have a talk like this.  And it doesn't have to be a "grim reaper" talk.  Having these talks around the kitchen table, before the doctor's office or the emergency room, lessens stress for everyone.

What is something you would like to tell your family about your final wishes?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Six Small Steps to A Money Makeover

Here are a few more tidbits of information about managing our finances.  These can apply to anyone, widow or not.  Got them from the September 2012 of "O" Oprah Magazine.  I hope you find these helpful!  :)

Do This Now:
  • "Electronic bills are great - unless they are lost in a crowded in-box.  Set up a separate e-mail account (e.g. alexa.bills@emailhostdotcom) to keep your e-bills orderly."  -  Alexa Von Tobel, founder of the personal finance Web site learnvest.com
  • "Challenge yourself with a 21-day financial fast, during which you eliminate all spending except or the bare essentials.  Halting unnecessary purchases forces you to reflect on how much you consume."  -  Michelle Singletary, "The Color of Money" columnist for The Washington Post.
  • "Stop delaying your savings!  So many women say they haven't done enough research to enroll in a 401(k) plan, but it's far better to act now and tweak your allocations later than to delay building any security at all."  -  Mary Caraccioli, host of We Owe What? on the Live Well Network.
Do This Soon:
  • Step back and look at the big picture.  Fifty percent of your take-home pay should be allocated for essentials, 20 percent should go toward savings and debt, and 30 percent can cover everything else."  -  Alexa Von Tobel
  • "Keep a spending journal for 30 days.  A month's worth of data makes it easier to see where you can cut back."  -  Michelle Singletary
  • "Pick one intimidating financial situation - whether it's saving for a house or getting rid of your debt - and meet with a financial advisor.  You can find one through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (nfcc.org).  A single session can put you on the right path."  -  Mary Caraccioli
What's your favorite financial hint?  Share it with us so we can all benefit.  :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Put your wallet on a diet! - Money-saving ideas

Did you know you could save about $400 per month with just a few changes to your spending?  Depending upon how much you are spending each month (and we are already spending as little as possible, so I don't see how we could save $400/month) you can make a big dent in your expenses each month, and hopefully end up with a fatter wallet/bank account.

Here is the link to the site:  http://www.thebudgetdiet.com/cut-your-spending-by-400-a-month

I found this on Pinterest, and while many of the suggestions we have already done and/or they won't work for us (we live 10 miles from the nearest small town, so walking or riding our bikes into town for errands is not gonna be an option), there is a lot here to take from (and make changes with) for most people.

One thing I just got done doing - and this won't necessarily save money but I feel I am doing my part for the environment - is to go to www.DMAChoice.com and opt out of several kinds of junk mail.  You can go there and opt out of catalog lists, pre-approved credit offers, magazine lists, etc.  If it's clogging up your mailbox, you might as well get rid of it!

Another thing I am going to look into is getting rid of the "phantom" energy around our house.  I never thought about it, but by leaving my charger plugged in all time but only charging my phone at night I am wasting energy.  I need to go around the house and unplug chargers and appliances like that that may be "leaking" energy when they are not in use.  Maybe after a month or so of that I will have a pleasant surprise in my electric bill!

So what is your favorite saving tip?  What have you found you and your family can live without in order to save a little money here and there?  Share with us - and help us all to save!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What to say at a funeral ...

Or rather, what NOT to say at a funeral.  Maybe no one else will find this funny ... but I do.  People say some lame things to you at funerals.  Thankfully, nothing as lame as this was ever said to me!  :)

From "The IT Crowd" - a British sitcom

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Financial Tip #3 - Make an Emergency Fund

This is one of the best pieces of advice I got - set some money aside as an emergency fund for ... well, emergencies.

It isn't hard to do.  OK, in theory it's not hard to do.  But let's be realistic ... this can be a tough one.

Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

  • Set a target for the amount you want to have in your emergency fund.  I like to have $1,000 set aside - that way I know I am covered when the washer gives out/the roof starts to leak/the lawnmower needs to be fixed/the car needs new tires/etc.  And you know those things don't just happen one at a time, right?!  We all know appliances gang up on you, and tend to quit in multiples.  Having enough to feel comfortable with whatever the near future may hold goes a long way in making you feel a little more secure.
  • Reserve this fund for emergencies.  No, those darling shoes you saw on sale DO NOT count as an emergency!  Keep this fund "hands off" until you really need it.  If you're always dipping into it, soon it will be gone - and that kinda defeats the purpose of an emergency fund, don't ya think?!
  • Yes, this comes straight from "Mr. Financial Peace" himself, Dave Ramsey.  This is one of his "baby steps" in taking control of your finances, instead of your finances controlling you.  And the whole idea of putting together an emergency fund is predicated on the assumption that you are not using your credit cards, or limited their use dramatically.  Don't use credit cards as your emergency fund!  This will only lead you further into debt - it's just too easy to use those blasted things.  And suddenly EVERYTHING looks like an emergency (see above.)
  • Maybe you don't have your entire desired amount for your emergency fund at the moment.  Start saving it up -put a bit away each month into a savings account, money market, etc.  Somewhere that it's drawing interest (however little it may be) and that you can get at it quickly ... in case of an emergency!  Keep socking that money away until you reach your goal.
Then smile at the future!

"She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come."

Proverbs 31:25 (NIV)

What is your favorite financial tip?  Share it with us!  :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Financial Tips #2 - Online Banking

(Yes, this is me ... kicked back and doing my banking online.  Nope, just kidding!)

Dealing with all the changes and challenges of running a household myself, and having to re-arranging a budget to reflect a single income is stressful to say the least.  This coupled with the emotional upheaval of the past two years - stress magnified by 100.  That's why I want to share a few simple ideas that helped me in reorganizing our finances.

One of the most helpful things I have done when it comes to finances has to be paying bills online through my bank.  This has simplified things so much for me!  No more forgotten payments, no more late charges because I forgot to mail the check or couldn't find a stamp at the last minute.  Or because a bill went missing on my messy desk.

There are two categories I have set up with which to pay bills:  automatic payments and e-bills.
First  we'll talk about e-bills.

In the online banking section of my bank's website I have the option to signing up for certain monthly bills to be sent as e-bills; these are usually ones like my phone bill or credit card bills, and instead of getting a paper bill in the mail I get an e-bill notification in my email inbox. 

If you are banking online, look and see which bills are offered as e-bills and then sign up for them.  Your bill is sent electronically to your online bill pay section.  When you have a new bill your bank will send you an email to let you know an e-bill has arrived.  You can see and access your bill there, and set up the date and amount of the payment with just a few clicks.

I have set up automatic payments for such things as my monthly tithe to my church.  These are payments that are the same each month, like mortgage or car payments, or for credit card payments that are not offered as e-bills.  I love using this because I can set up a payment for a certain amount at a specific date each month, and then not worry about missing a payment or sending it late.

One word of caution - you still need to monitor your account!  I usually log in and check my account every other day or so, just to make sure that everything is the way it should be.  :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Finances #1 - Tithing And Giving As A Widow

Did this strike a chord with anyone? 

Tithing may be a sore subject with some people.  Others may embrace this philosophy wholeheartedly.  Either way, I want to write about what I believe ... and I believe this is an important part of your financial planning.

I have seen first-hand how important this piece of my financial puzzle has become.  It may not seem logical if you are in dire money straits to be giving away what you feel that you need to survive.  Why would God ask us to give to others when we are worrying daily how we will survive and take care of our family?  We are worrying about paying our bills, and the pastor just preached another sermon on the importance of giving.  No joke ... mine did, just last week.  That's what got me started on this post.  And trust me on  this ... it makes "cents."  Pun intended.  :)

Whether you use your Bible to justify it, or you simply feel like "you get back what you give" ... it is important that you are giving, even when you feel as if your budget is telling you that you can't afford to give.  I am not saying that you should just hand over all your money to a church or organization.  I am saying that you sit down, and determine what you are able to give - what you truly feel "led" to share - and then set that plan in motion.

Here's why I feel strongly about this:

  1. There are always people who are worse off than you.  If you have a home, sigh in relief and be grateful.  If you can put food on the table, smile and rejoice.  If you are wearing shoes right now, wiggle those toes and be happy.  God has provided your needs.  There are many who don't have the things with which you have been blessed.  This is not to make you feel guilty, it's to get you to realize that we often focus on our own wants (notice I didn't say needs) and we end up feeling sorry for ourselves.  Pity party in progress!
  2. God has provided everything we have.  We may think that we have worked oh so hard, and have met our own needs ... but just who gave you the skills you use to earn your paycheck?  Who gave you the breaks or opened the doors for you to prosper?  As Christians, we know that we are dependent upon God for our protection, our survival and our prosperity. 
Malachi 3:10 says, " Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."

2 Corinthians 9:7 says,"[So let] each one [give] as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."

 Luke 6:38 says "give and it will be given to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over it will pour into your lap, for by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return."
There are folks that say you must give 10%, others that say you must be "Spirit-led" and give what the Holy Spirit tells you to give.  I believe there is a difference between tithing and giving.  Tithing is a spiritual discipline where you set aside 10% of your income to give to God's work - essentially giving it back to God.  Giving, for me, falls under the heading of "Spirit-led" and is over and above the monthly tithing.  It's for those times of extra abundance, and when there is a special need presented that I can fill.

However you choose to define it, and whether you choose tithing or giving or both ... the important idea is to share with others what you have been given, and to give back to God some of what He has blessed you with.

You might wonder how you could ever give away what you need yourself.  I can tell you from personal experience that God does indeed "fill in the gaps."  Just like the story from 2 Kings 4:1-7:

1 One day the widow of one of Elisha's fellow prophets came to Elisha and cried out to him, "My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the LORD. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves." 2 "What can I do to help you?" Elisha asked. "Tell me, what do you have in the house?""Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil," she replied. 3 And Elisha said, "Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. 4 Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting the jars aside as they are filled." 5 So she did as she was told. Her sons brought many jars to her, and she filled one after another. 6 Soon every container was full to the brim!"Bring me another jar," she said to one of her sons."There aren't any more!" he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing. 7 When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, "Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and there will be enough money left over to support you and your sons."

As a widow, I need to live in expectation that God will act on my behalf - according to my faith.  God will supply my needs, according to my trust in Him.  My trust in His goodness and acts of faith, such as tithing/giving, will bring more abundance into my life.

Whether you are in a season of plenty or a season of want...the expectation is that you trust God. That you start with what you have, be willing to do whatever it takes, act believing God will show up and honor God with the results.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Financial Tips from a Widow's Point of View

I am getting inspired to write a few upcoming posts about financial matters.  Specifically, things that I have learned or that have helped me in getting through the minefield of juggling finances as a single woman again; having to adjust to not only a single income but added pressure in the form of medical bills, credit card debt, etc.

I hope that these tips will be helpful.  One of my goals in writing this blog is to share what I have learned, in hopes of helping someone else.  Or maybe starting a dialogue and learning something new myself!  :)

So stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Saying Goodbye with Hospice

We learned a few things about saying goodbye during our short experience with hospice.  The main thing I learned was that no matter how much time you have, it's never as long as you think.  You never believe how quickly the time slips away, even though you have been told how rapidly it will be gone.

Take that time to connect with your loved one where they are emotionally.  If they want to talk about memories, then talk about that.  If they want to have a heart to heart chat about their mortality, don't shy away from that topic.  Be honest and direct.  Tell them what is in your heart, and how they have impacted your life.  Tell them they won't be forgotten, and they mattered to you.  Most of all, let them guide the conversation.  Respond to what they have to share with you.

Robby and I never really got to have these talks.  Because of the tumor he really couldn't talk much from the time it was diagnosed, and it only got worse.  The hardest part was not hearing him say "I love you."  He was one of those guys that would tell me he loved me half a dozen times per day.  He would call to check in with me during the day, and he (we) never hung up the phone or walked out the door without saying we loved each other.  Not hearing that for such a long time, and at some point realizing I would never hear his voice again, was heartbreaking.

As their life draws to a close, people tend to withdraw.  They "close in" and sports, politics or what's on TV in the next room doesn't matter.  All that matters is the immediate, the physical.  I'm hot. I'm cold. I love you.  Do you love me?  Be present with them, and listen.  Be quiet and respond.  Hold their hand and let them know you are there.  That is the best gift you can give them as they die.  To be a witness to their life and their death.  And to make sure they are not forgotten.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Memories Are Made Of This

This song reminds me so much for Robby today - it was one of his favorite songs!  I got out the Dean Martin CD this morning as I was baking cookies to listen to it; Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin are my usual choices in the stereo when I bake.  :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fall Back Into Blogging Day 4 - Fave Fall Recipe

OK, this isn't one of my favorite recipes ... YET.  Only because I haven't made it yet.  But I am sure that it will soon become a fall staple around our house. 

Because you see ... we love cheesecake.  Yes, my daughters and I are in love with cheesecake.  I know it's certainly not the healthiest of treats, but there's just something about it that calls to us ... begs us to indulge.  So we do.  With great pleasure.


http://pinterest.com/jmerrell81/recipes-to-try/ - that's the link to my Pinterest board with all the recipes that I have been meaning to try.  You will find the recipe there.  Here's a picture too, BTW:

Doesn't that look yummy!
So what is YOUR favorite fall recipe or treat?
Leave a comment and/or link below.
Sharing is good.  :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday's "Fall Back Into Blogging" - Sweaters = Fall

One of the things that I look forward to most about fall is the chance to get my sweaters off the shelf in my closet and back into my apparel rotation.  I love the cozy feel of sweaters, and have since I was in elementary school.  There is something about their softness and warmth that reminds me of cool, crisp school mornings while waiting for the bus. 

School shopping for me coincided with my early August birthday, and my grandmother always insisted on taking me to lunch at the Tea Room in Meier & Frank (back before it was May Co.) - to her back then, it was the height of sophistication.  There I would invariably order a French Dip sandwich, and she would let me order a hot fudge sundae as a special birthday treat.  Then we would commence to shop for cute sweater sets, cable-knit knee socks and sturdy brown "school shoes."

I like scarfs now, too.  Never really thought much about them when I was younger, because they were always the heavy, cabled ones that your grandmother knitted (that would be my OTHER grandmother, because the one who took me school shopping didn't knit or sew or crochet), but as I get older a lightweight, pretty scarf appeals to me more and more each year.  So now it's time to bring out my sweaters and scarves in all their glorious colors and textures!  Yum!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday's "Fall Back Into Blogging" - What fall looks like around here

This a BEAUTIFUL photo of fall at Silver Falls State Park - about 5 miles from my house.  I cannot and will not take credit for this gorgeous photo - it is the work of Don Briggs, and here is his Photostream on Flickr; it is not to be missed!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday's "Fall Back Into Blogging" - School Memories

I am taking part in a week-long event through SITS Girls blogging network - and today is the day we write about school memories.  Think I can dredge up a few good memories from my long-ago past?  I hope so.

Although there are the usual gut-wrenching memories of awkward moments, and social faux pas littered about through my grade school and high school years some of my fondest memories are of the teachers that helped inspire and encourage me - and probably didn't even know it at the time.

There was Mr. Otter, who taught Jr. AP English.  During his course we were required to read several college-prep literary works, and then use them as writing assignments in our journal.  Often we took a book we had just read, chose a character from the story and wrote an essay to compare and contrast our life with their experiences.  Other times we made journal entries about more mundane matters.  I remember an entry of mine that talked about the trials and tribulations of auditioning for the lead in the winter musical, and then seeing the part go to someone who was so OBVIOUSLY less qualified than myself.  :)

Through all the teen angst that I am sure he had to wade through in our journals, Mr. Otter always found time to make encouraging comments.  At least I found his comments encouraging.  He told me (in red ink) that I had an engaging way of telling a story, and he felt sure that I should pursue writing as a career path.

I never really took his words to heart.  I was flattered and encouraged, and found as I progressed into college that his assessment of my skill was echoed by some of my professors.  But none of them every spurred me into writing as a career.  Maybe Mr. Otter would be happy to know, but maybe not surprised, that I have a blog (alright, honestly - who doesn't these days) where I dabble, composing my thoughts for others to read.  He has since passed away, but I would like to think that he would be proud me for putting myself out there with my reflections and musings.  And that he would be signed up as a follower of this blog.  :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Just saying "No" ...

Used to be so difficult for me.  I am a people-pleaser, by nature.  I have always had a hard time saying the word "no" ... OK, not to my kids (as I am sure they would tell you) but to others who would ask me to help with projects, take over lessons for them, fill in for them when they were too busy to do what they were supposed to, etc.

But I found out this week that my curse is being lifted.  I can now use the word NO and not feel sorry about saying it!

My mom called me on Tuesday night and told me that there was an important business meeting set up for the following morning in Salem at 8 a.m.  I work with my folks on the family farm, so it isn't unheard of for me to get calls like that.  I was expected to attend this meeting.  I didn't hesitate a moment - I told her that I could not make it at 8 a.m. but would be there by 8:30.  My daughter gets on the bus at 8 a.m. and Salem is 30 minutes away.  A few months ago, I would have told my mother I would be there  at 8 a.m. and then spent the next 1/2 hour worrying about how to make that happen, and then would have ended up calling my sister to see if she could put Youngest Daughter on the bus in the morning (thereby not only messing up our morning, but hers as well.)

I am so proud of myself!  And it didn't hurt a bit.

Another example - I am a member of the local fire department rehab team (we help out on the scene of large, multi-alarm fires by supplying food and water to the firefighters), and we have some training coming up over the next two months on Wednesday evenings.  I got an email this weekend from the director of our Sunday School program telling me that all the teachers (I am one of them) will have some special meetings about our new curriculum for the next 6 Wednesday evenings ... and some of those times will conflict with the rehab training for the fire department.  Without hesitation, I sent back an email explaining that I would be available for about half the trainings, but would not be available for at least three of them due to a prior commitment.  BOOM!  No guilt, no stressing over what I would do and how I would make time for both trainings.  Just explained the situation, and went on with my day.

This is so liberating!  I love being able to say NO with no guilt.  :)
Over the past two years ... well, almost two and a half years now ... I have been at the mercy of everyone else's needs and schedules.  Doctors appointments, radiation appointments, meetings with lawyers and bankers ... everyone it seems had a say in how I spent my day, my week, my month.  But now I am finding that its OK for me to say NO ... in a loud, clear voice ... and let it be.  Not feel guilty, and not stress about what will happen when I say NO.  I have dealt with enough ... I refuse to let others make me take on stress that is not mine in the first place.  That is my declaration for my life right now.  I will choose how my days will be spent, and how I will structure the hours in those days.

I feel stronger already!  :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Inspired by grief

I was checking out some other blogs by widows this morning.  I headed over to Network Blogs, where my blog is listed (see the link in the right hand column) and chose to follow some of the many blogs that deal with grief and loss. 

Morbid, you may think.  All of us wallowing in our personal grief, having a collective pity party.  No so!  I find that when I need encouragement and hope, the best place to go is my fellow widows.  We are a plucky bunch, tis true.

I came across a blog by someone who is definitely "Not Your Average Widow" - that's the name of her blog, BTW.  Our military connection (both our husbands served in the armed forces) was what drew me first to the blog, then the fact that she is 3 years into her journey - not as new to this journey as I am, but someone to whom I can definitely relate.

Her post entitle "Project: Unleashed" caught my attention.  And sparked something inside of me.  I have been feeling many of the same things she speaks of in her post.  So I am posting her link here:

Please feel free to check out this post, and her blog.  :)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Here's a great blog I found ...

I have been following this blog for a short while now, and I wanted to share it with you.  I won't spoil it by telling you too much about it; just say that the posts are funny and very touching.  So here it is:

The Real Full House

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lesson #3 from the Garden - Sometimes You Just Need to Start Over

I had such high hopes for my garden this year.  I started planning for it in January.  I went to the local farmers co-op and get seeds, and Youngest Daughter and I spent a Saturday afternoon planting seeds in little paper cups and plastic trays.  We set up a cardtable near a sunny window, and kept the soil moist for the seeds to germinate.

Sprouts started growing from all the cups and plastic trays.  Everything was going fine.  But then I wasn't able to get a garden plot tilled up for awhile, with the weather so wet.  By the time I got the soil ready and got the sprouts in the ground it was too late.  They didn't survive.  I had such great plans for a big garden, but they all just withered and died.

So now I had a choice - give up on a garden for this year, or try a different approach.  Off to the farmers co-op again, this time for 4" vegetable starts.  I came home with two cucumber plants, two cherry tomato plants, two "pear" tomato plants, and two canteloupe plants.  Put them in the garden and prayed for the best.  And they took off and grew!  Everything grew and then outgrew the space I had alloted it.  The cucumbers took over, the tomatoes outgrew their cages, and the canteloupe plants are spread everywhere.


So what has all this taught me?  I see a parallel with my situation - having to "start over" in many ways.  Seeing something you have planned and work toward and hoped for wither and die.  Like my future with Robby.  We had so many plans and dreams for the future.  We were working so hard to put together a good future for us and our daughters.

When Robby proposed to me, his question was "What are you doing for the next 50, 60, 70 years of your life?"  We had planned on spending a lot more time together.  We only got 20 years.  A lot of people would say to be thankful for the time we had together.  That is one of the things that people say to those who are grieving - thinking that "looking on the bright side" will somehow make it better, and the grief will be easier to bear.  And I am thankful for the time we did have - but I still grieve the time we DIDN'T have together.

But having to start again in the garden has made me realize that sometimes you just have to begin again in other areas of life.  And sometimes when you being again, your harvest is even greater than it might have been originally.  I am still waiting to see what kind of "harvest" God will bring about in my life.  :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lesson #2 My Garden Taught Me This Year

Well, I told you about the cucumbers in my garden yesterday ... today it's the tomatoes.  I love tomatoes, and this year I planted four tomato plants.  And they are growing great - the best they ever have before.  They have totally outgrown their cages, and are expanding everywhere.  And they are loaded with little green tomatoes.  But here's the kicker - up until yesterday, they were all GREEN.

Loads of little green tomatoes, covering the branches and vines.  It's there - so many little tomatoes, just waiting to be harvested.  But they aren't ripe yet.  And I hate waiting!  I can remember the taste of those fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes from last year, and I want to taste that again.  But they aren't ready yet.  And I have to go out, day after day, and look at little green tomatoes.

Can you guess what this is teaching me?  Yup - patience.  Two weeks of waiting patiently (more or less) for the tomatoes to ripen.  Hearing how everyone else is seeing their gardens come alive with produce, and trying to be patient.  Waiting for these tomatoes reminds me of having to sometimes wait for God to work in our lives - seeing the work begin, knowing that there will be "fruit" produced, but having to wait for the end result.  Wanting so much to see the "harvest."

It's like waiting for the restoration that God promises us.  The restoration from the grief and the pain.  God promises that He will restore to us what has been lost.  We know it will happen - we trust Him to keep His promise.  But we must wait.  And that takes patience.  Unfortunately, something I have in short supply too often.

So God uses my garden to teach me stuff.  :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lesson #1 My Garden Taught Me This Year

Here is the first lesson in which God used my garden to remind me of something important.  He used cucumbers to do it - God can be SO creative sometimes.  And He has to be creative when teaching me - sometimes very random things get used by God, and that's all part of the fun of being His child.  :)

This year my cucumbers have been growing like gangbusters.  Last year it was zucchini, this year it's cucumbers.  I only planted two plants, but they are taking over the garden.  I don't have much planted in there - at least, not much that has survived to grow and produce anything.  I have four tomato plants (two cherry tomato plants, and two "pear" tomato plants), a couple cantaloupe plants (which right now have about six little melons growing on them) ... and the two cucumber plants which are conspiring to take over the world.

So I went out there about a 2 weeks ago, and started looking for cucumbers.  I'm thinking there HAS to be some produce in amongst all those green leaves.  There had been so many little yellow flowers, and there still were many there.  So of course some of them had to have matured into cucumbers by that time, right?  I started poking around the edges and lifting a few leaves - nothing.  I'm not seeing anything that resembles a cucumber.  So I get discouraged and go inside, wondering what's going on.

Next day - go back out to the garden.  This time I am really curious - where are those cucumbers?  So I get more aggressive, starting to move the vines around and getting into the center of the plants.  There they are!  I had to get down in there, because there was so much growth (it seemed to be all leaves and vines) but there they were - three perfect cucumbers.  Well, as you can see from the photo they weren't really perfect.  But they tasted perfect in a salad that night!  :)

OK, so here's what those cucumbers taught me - since you've stuck with me through this blog thus far.  I learned that even thought we don't see the "fruit" (or veggies) that we are expecting to see in our lives doesn't mean it's not there.  We may have to look a little closer and investigate a little harder - but it's there.  It may remain hidden for awhile.  We may not be sure it's there, or we may not see it there on the surface.  But it's there.  Just like the work that God is doing inside us as we walk through the hard times that we experience.  We sometimes get through a tough time, and having been told that God is using this season in our life to produce the fruit of the Spirit, we start to ask God, "OK, Lord - where is it?  I don't feel any different.  I don't see this great and wonderful work You have been doing in my life and/or in my heart.  What gives?"

Maybe we just need to be patient ... which brings me to my next blog for tomorrow; lesson #2 that my garden has taught me this year.  :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Talking about Death to a Child

Kids are intuitive.  They pick up on things we don't expect them to - and often we are amazed (perhaps chagrined?) at what their minds absorb and their mouths then say.  We pride ourselves on sheltering them from issues we feel are "too adult" for them - and then find out after the fact that they have perceived what's going on anyway.  :)

As much as we would like to shield our kids from death, they will be exposed to it.  In many ways, they are exposed a little every day.

"Children are Aware - Long before we realize it, children become aware of death. They see dead birds, insects, and animals lying by the road. They may see death at least once a day on television. They hear about it in fairy tales and act it out in their play. Death is a part of life, and children, at some level, are aware of it.
If we permit children to talk to us about death, we can give them needed information, prepare them for a crisis, and help them when they are upset. We can encourage their communication by showing interest in and respect for what they have to say. We can also make it easier for them to talk to us if we are open, honest, and comfortable with our own feelings - often easier said than done. "

When talking with children, many of us feel uncomfortable if we don’t have all the answers. Young children, in particular, seem to expect parents to be all knowing - even about death. But death, the one certainty in all life, is life’s greatest uncertainty. Coming to terms with death can be a lifelong process. We may find different answers at different stages of our lives, or we may always feel a sense of uncertainty and fear. If we have unresolved fears and questions, we may wonder how to provide comforting answers for our children.
While not all our answers may be comforting, we can share what we truly believe. Where we have doubts, an honest, “I just don’t know the answer to that one,” may be more comforting than an explanation which we don’t quite believe. Children usually sense our doubts. White lies, no matter how well intended, can create uneasiness and distrust. Besides, sooner, or later, our children will learn that we are not all knowing, and maybe we can make that discovery easier for them if we calmly and matter-of-fact tell them we don’t have all the answers. Our non-defensive and accepting attitude may help them feel better about not knowing everything also.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Helping Teens Cope with Death

Here is one I haven't had to deal with as much - teens and death.  My oldest daughter was 19 when Robby died, and Rachel was 8 so we skirted the volatile teen years for the most part.  But helping teens deal with death is a little different than explaining death to a small child.  There are not as many questions, but the loss is just as profound.  They understand more about what's happened, but still need loving adults to help them through the many emotions that are sure to bombard them.

Here are a few hints about helping teens cope with grief:

Many Teens Are Told To “Be Strong”

Sad to say, many adults who lack understanding of their experience discourage teens from sharing their grief. Bereaved teens give out all kinds of signs that they are struggling with complex feelings, yet are often pressured to act as they are doing better than they really are.
When a parent dies, many teens are told to “be strong” and “carry on” for the surviving parent. They may not know if they will survive themselves let alone be able to support someone else. Obviously, these kinds of conflicts hinder the “work of mourning”.
Teen Years Can Be Naturally Difficult

Teens are no longer children, yet neither are they adults. With the exception of infancy, no developmental period is so filled with change as adolescence. Leaving the security of childhood, the adolescent begins the process of separation from parents. The death of a parent or sibling, then, can be a particularly devastating experience during this already difficult period.
At the same time the bereaved teen is confronted by the death of someone loved, he or she also faces psychological, physiological and academic pressures. While teens may begin to look like “men” or “women”, they will still need consistent and compassionate support as they do the work of mourning, because physical development does not always equal emotional maturity.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Answering Questions Children Have About Death

Kids may have a lot of questions about death.  I know Rachel did.  She was 8 years old when Robby died, and even though she didn't ask many questions early on, she has asked many questions over the course of the past year (and asked some questions more than once.)  Her biggest fear was that something would happen to me, and the question she asked the most was "What will happen to me if you die, Mom?"

Here's a book that might be helpful for those who are answering questions and trying to explain death to a young child:

Here are some typical questions that may be asked by the child when a parent has died:

Is death like sleeping?
Death is different from sleeping. When you go to sleep your body still works. You still breathe and your heart beats and you dream. When a person is dead, his or her body doesn't work anymore. Remember that children who are told that death is like sleeping may develop fears about falling asleep.

Why did they die?
If the death was from an illness, explain that the person's body couldn't fight the sickness any more. It stopped working. Make sure your children know that if they get the flu or a cold, or if mom or dad get sick, their bodies can fight the illness and get better. Their bodies still work. Explain that people do not usually die when they get sick. Most people get better. If the death was from an accident, explain that the person was hurt so badly that his or her body stopping working. Explain that when most people get hurt they can get better and live a long, long time.

Will you die? Will I die?
Children are looking for reassurance. Let your child know that most people live for a very long time. Children also need to know who will take care of them if a parent or guardian dies. Let them know who to go to for help if there is a family emergency.

Did I do or think something bad to cause the death?
Maybe your child had a fight with the person who died. Maybe your child wished this person wasn't around to get so much attention from other family members. Maybe your child said, "I wish you'd go away from me," or even "I wish you were dead." Reassure your children that saying and wishing things do not cause a death to happen.

Will they come back?
"Forever" is a hard concept for young children to understand. They see that people go away and come back. Cartoon characters die and then jump up again. Young children may need to be told several times that the person won't be back ever.

Is she cold? What will he eat?
Young children may think the dead body still has feelings and walks and talks under the ground. Some children might imagine a cemetery as a sort of "underground apartment complex." You may need to explain that the body doesn't work anymore. It can't breathe, walk, talk or eat anymore.

Why did God let this happen?
Answer questions related to God and your faith according to your own beliefs. You may also want the counsel of your clergy. It's okay to not have answers for everything. Children can accept that you, too, have a hard time understanding some things. It is best to avoid suggesting God "took" someone to be with him, or that "only the good die young". Some children may fear that God will take them away too. They may try to be "bad" so that they won't die, also.

Returning to School
Going back to school following a death can be difficult. You can make this easier by helping your children with possible answers to questions and remarks. Schoolmates may not always be sensitive to your children's feelings. Tell the child that, if they don't want to, they don't have to answer questions. Explain that others may be uncomfortable talking about the person who died. Your home can be a place where you and your child can talk about and remember the loved one. You may want to talk with the school principal, your child's teacher, the school social worker, or counselor, to plan for a surviving child's return to school. You may also want to discuss what information you would like shared with his/her classmates.

Taken from How Can I Help Young Surviving Children

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Reaching Out To The Hurting

(Found this on a website recently, and wanted to share it.  I have included my own perspective in parts.  It all rings true - and it speaks from my heart.)

Reaching Out to the Hurting

There she is, the newly widowed mom. Your heart hurts for her, but you don’t approach her. You just don’t know what to say. She looks your way and you pretend not to see her. You see intense grief in her eyes and you look away. You feel guilty and squeeze your husband’s hand. Seeing her awakens a fear that you have tried to keep buried—fear that something similar could happen to your family. It is natural for us to feel these emotions and pull away. It is difficult to know what to do and what to say to someone whose spouse has died. I have been on both sides of the situation and I implore you to let God expand your comfort zone and reach out.

Each individual’s grief is unique, yet every widow and widower is struggling to figure out how to function as half of a couple. One of the many intense emotions is feeling alone. Widows and widowers don’t want to be pitied. Instead they long for friends that are willing to encourage them on their journey.

Don’t avoid the widow or widower.
It communicates that no one cares. No matter the reason, we feel forgotten and abandoned.

Please pray and let the widow or widower know that you are praying.
Many, many times the prayers of my friends, as well as other Christians I have never met, have carried the girls and me through intensely emotional times. Knowing others were praying gave me the strength to keep breathing and continue putting one foot in front of the other.

Please reach out.
Many people often think family and friends have been reaching out to the grieving family, but fewer people are reaching out than you think, especially after the first three months as well as after the holidays are over. Don’t expect widows and widowers to seek you out. Grieving itself is intensely draining. We are also juggling work, helping children with their grief, legal and financial issues, and many other situations that we must face without our spouse. We have already felt family and friends pull away and we don’t risk being hurt again. You need to be the one to approach the widow or widower. What do you say? “We’ve been praying for you and the kids and I was wondering how you are really doing?” Then really listen. Or “I don’t know how you feel or what to say. But if it’s alright I’ll just sit here and let you know I care.”

Don’t be afraid you’ll make us cry.
Our tears don’t mean that you have hurt us. Our grief is our constant companion. Tears just mean our spouse was very special to us, and we miss them immensely. Let us feel it is okay to cry. Offer us a tissue, squeeze our hand, or put your hand on our shoulder. Better yet, weep with us.

Please speak our spouse’s name.
There is a special comfort to the girls and me when someone speaks Robby’s name, especially when they share a good memory or what they miss about him. Hearing my spouse’s name on the lips of others is like warm sunshine on a cold cloudy day; it’s soothing to the soul.

Don’t say “Call if you need anything.”
Often we don’t know exactly what we need and even if we do, it is very difficult to ask. Instead offer specific help. “I made a double batch of lasagna; I’ll bring it over around five.” and then include the recipe. “Could my son come mow your lawn or shovel your driveway?” “We are on the way to the park. Could your kids come with us? You could come along or enjoy some quiet time at home which ever you prefer.” “Could my husband and I come over and see how we could help you get the house ready for winter?” Sit by us during the choir concert or soccer practice, or at church. It is comforting to not sit alone.

Please keep your word.
Not keeping your word implies the same thing as avoiding us. Children are keenly aware of those who show they care, and those who don’t. Their whole world has turned upside down when a parent dies. Their security is shattered. Their trust is shaken. Their emotions are as tangled up as a ball of yarn. Show them they can count on you.

Don’t give advice unless asked.
Trust me, unsolicited advice is always in abundance for widows and widowers. Everyone else seems to know what to do about things we are unsure about. Our whole world has been turned upside down. We have had something happen that we did not have control over and are trying to listen to how God wants us to handle things. The more unwanted advise, the harder it is to discern God in it all.

Don’t judge our children.
As I said before, their emotions are a tangled mess. Sometimes their grief comes out as sadness, but often it is masked in anger, rudeness, depression, hyperactivity, or inattentiveness. Events you may consider normal in your everyday lives could be a grief trigger for our children. Again, don’t pity them. Be kinder than necessary yet lovingly firm.

Please share your spouse.
Let me clarify this. Don’t jump to conclusions or assumptions when a widow or widower talks to your spouse. We are used to hearing a different gender’s perspective on various issues. Letting us talk with your spouse in an appropriate setting is very helpful. I am very grateful to the ladies who have let me talk with their husband’s about lawyers and legal matters as well as landscaping and cars without jumping to the conclusion that I was a desperate woman trying to steal their husbands.

Please remember.
Special days like our wedding anniversary, anniversary of the death, birthdays (the missing spouse’s too) Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and holidays are especially difficult. A call, a small gift, a card, or email around these times is very meaningful. Before I was widowed, I thought after a year things were better. I now know that grief has no timetable. Like many widows and widowers, my first year was about survival, making it through all the “firsts” without my husband. The next year will be one of harsh realities that my husband will never be here again. I still have days when grief waves overwhelm me and my mind gets blanketed by fog.

Please continue being there.
We need to talk and share. We need friends who will listen without judgment and refresh us with their prayers and encouragement. We need friends who rally us to press on when we want to throw in the towel.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Learning to Breathe Again"

Find it at Amazon.com

There is a book that I have been meaning to find - it's written by Christian singer Tammy Trent, and it's called "Learning to Breathe Again."  I found a bit about it online, and wanted to share what I had found.  My next stop is the website of the local library, to see if I can't reserve this for the next time I venture in there to pick up a DVD or book.  :)

"Christian singer/songwriter Tammy Trent and her husband had a fairy-tale marriage, right up to their romantic vacation to Jamaica in September 2001. But on a routine diving excursion, her husband Trent never resurfaced and was later found dead, changing Tammy's life forever. She took a year off from music to grieve and begin healing, and is now using Trent's story as part of her testimony and ministry. Tammy tells her story in her brand-new book, Learning to Breathe Again, in which she tells of their wonderful romance, Trent's tragic death, and how she has been picking up the pieces since.

In the following excerpt, we pick up the story two weeks after Trent's death and shortly after the funeral, when Tammy is returning to her Nashville home. She had asked a neighbor, Shannon, to pick her up at the airport and take her to the house.

We didn't say a lot on the ride from the airport. But when we pulled into our neighborhood, I began crying. Shannon reached over and took my hand, but neither of us said anything. She pulled into the driveway. "Are you sure you don't want me to go in with you, Tammy?" she asked.
"I'm sure. But thank you, Shannon."

"If you need anything, you know I'm here." She lived just a couple of doors away.
I nodded, thanked her, and gave her a hug.

Then I punched in the code to open the garage door. Hearing the familiar noise as it rumbled up, a morsel of memory flashed through my mind: Trent and me coming out through the garage, carrying our luggage to the car, big smiles on our faces and happy to be on our way to Jamaica.

My eyes fell on Trent's yard shoes, lined up next to the door leading into the house. He wore them when he was mowing the grass or working outside, and he always took them off before he came inside. I looked at those shoes and pictured Trent leaving them there, lifting out one foot, then the other.

I opened the door and stepped into the house. Everything was exactly as we had left it. There was the DVD lying out beside the TV: Patch Adams. We had watched it together the night before we left for Jamaica. Trent loved that movie, and we had both wiped away tears at the end, where Patch loses the love of his life.

I walked quietly through the house. I didn't weep uncontrollably, but the tears rolled down my cheeks, and occasionally I covered my mouth to keep from sobbing aloud. I sat down in the living room and looked around, then I got up and walked through every room on the first floor.

Finally I started up the sixteen stairs, clinging to the stair rail to pull myself up every step. I stepped into our bedroom and looked around at everything as though I'd never seen it before. And yet it was all so familiar: the pillows arranged just so on the bad, the picture on the dresser, Trent's underwear on the floor. I smiled, remembering how I'd said, "Honey, pick that up," but in the rush to leave that morning, he'd obviously forgotten it.

In our bathroom, I rubbed my hand along the big bathtub we'd shared so many times. I imagined Trent sliding under the surface, holding his breath. There were candles all around the edge of the tub, and I noticed a little matchbook leaning against one of them. Not knowing why, I opened it up, and there, in Trent's writing, was a message to me: "Hi, TT!" He'd drawn a big heart around the words.

It was as if he had left that little matchbook for me to find at exactly that difficult moment. My heart lurched, imagining him writing the words.

Inside our walk-in closet, I pulled a bunch of Trent's clothes off the hangers and sank to the floor, burying my face in them. I lay there a long time, weeping and trying to breathe in Trent's scent, trying to feel his presence again in those rumpled clothes;

A little bit later, I walked into our office. I started the computer, and as the screen lit up, I caught my breath when I saw a little yellow square in the lower left-hand corner. It looked like a sticky note stuck there on the screen, and it said, "Tammy is who I dream of. Can't wait to see you."

Can't wait to see you.

I sat there, stunned, by the messages Trent had left for me to find. First the matchbook, and now the computer. I was amazed at how Trent continued to comfort me, even from heaven ..."

Here's the site where I found this excerpt.

You can find Tammy's book at Amazon.com

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

And the grief goes on ...

In a previous post I talked about the vacation that my daughters and I just returned from ... a week of sun and fun in Southern California, seeing Disneyland and many other fun attractions - and making memories.

But now we are home, Oldest Daughter has returned to college and Youngest Daughter is still enjoying another month of summer before school starts.  I am back to work, having done all the laundry that required doing and weeded the garden that grew dramatically while we were gone.  OK, honestly I've only partially weeded it so far ... but I'm working on it.  :)

Last night I sat down after Youngest Daughter was in bed, and put in a DVD to watch.  It was "P.S. I Love You" - a poor choice for the night, it turns out.  It's always been a favorite, but for obvious reasons has been hard to watch for the past year or so.  Well, I tried it again last night - and the pain was still there.  Cried and had to turn it off after about the first 30 minutes.  Still reminds me too much of the pain of losing my husband.  I have found that I am still on this road of grief ... or should I say, I had a pitstop in Grief-ville last night.  A reminder that it's not over yet.  Far from over ... but getting better.

So here are some thoughts to share, for those who are on this road along with me:

"Your Grieving Heart" - Recover From Grief website

There are three major points for you to keep in mind as you go through your "work of mourning":
  • You will have your own unique way of expressing and experiencing grief. As long as it is changing, and moving, and "fluid", it is normal grieving.
  • WHAMO! Brought to your knees again by intense grief. And you'll wonder if you are making any progress at all. You are. The passage of time assures this.

    the roller coaster ride of grief
  • It really will come to an end. In it's own time. You will come back to life with loving remembrance in your heart, ready to embrace life again without your beloved at your side. You will gradually feel stronger and more in charge of your life. It really does end.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Family Vacation - Check!

Well, it's been my goal to have a vacation this summer with my daughters - and I can cross that off my list now.  We had a great vacation to Southern California, and did all the usual stuff people do when visiting there - Disneyland, California Adventure Park, Universal Studios, Knott's Berry Farm and SeaWorld.  You can read all about it in my new blog (yeah, decided to put up a new blog about traveling with kids, etc.)

Travel Mom

Please check it out and tell me what you think.  Any ideas or tips you have for traveling with kids, family vacations, etc?  Please share!  I would love to hear from you.  :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Gotta Get Me Some Stilettos

I am sharing with you a great book that I read recently.  If you are a widow (or know a widow) you will want to read this book (or share it with your friend.)  Here it is:

This is a great book - very honest about what it's like to be a young widow who is raising children.  Here are some of the reviews for the book, taken from the Amazon.com website:

"Carole Brody Fleet is changing the face and style of widowhood. It's a very unique look at an unusual problem these days that is affecting a lot of women." - Deborah Roberts, Correspondent, ABC News', "Good Morning America Now"

"Motivational speaker and coach Fleet, who was widowed at 40 and has since made numerous guest appearances on television and radio, offers a guide for women who have also experienced the loss of a partner at a young age. Fleet's presentation is frank and interspersed with bits of honest humor. The text is easy to read, with charts and tips sprinkled throughout. Fleet, with psychotherapist Harriet, provides information on how to organize details such as funeral arrangements, wills, social security, and insurance at a time when organization is the last thing a new widow may want to face. She discusses emotional, physical, and spiritual health and finishes by focusing on living the rest of your life. This is a book about hope, and women will want to read it and share it with others, regardless of marital status or age. An essential addition to every public library" - The Library Journal

"[The] author has created a wise and practical guide for young widows on how to recover, cope, heal, and find a fulfilling life." - Orange Coast Magazine

"Carole Brody Fleet offers advice and humor in the book,' Widows Wear Stilettos...' to help young widows cope with loss." - The Orange County Register

"A young widow holds out a helping hand to others who have lost their husbands" - The San Diego Union-Tribune

Most of the books that deal with widows and "widow-hood" that I have heard about or checked out from the library are geared toward those who are widowed later in life, whose children are grown and out of the house.  This book is unique in being practical and yet sensitive to the concerns of younger widows.  There are many stigmas still associated with being a widow, especially when you are "younger"  (can I still count myself a a "young widow?"  I guess according to this book I can.)

My biggest "take away" from reading this book was to remember that there are many "armchair quarterbacks" out there that have lots of advice - but you need to trust your own instincts and your heart.  Grief is a tricky emotion and only YOU can (and should) make the choices about what's best for you.  And it gives you practical tips about dealing with some common problems associated with navigating this time of grief.  Let me know what you think about the book!  :)

Here is Carol's blog as well:  Widows Wear Stilettos blog

Why is this so tough?!

Why is it so difficult to have a regular mealtime?!  We use to do that.  We used to have a regular time when we would sit down together for a meal.  Breakfast used to be a no-brainer.  I had that handled from early on when the girls started school.  Robby never had breakfast with us because he was usually out of the house early for work, and not much of a breakfast eater anyway. But it was heathy and on the table before the girls left for school.  And dinner, although sometimes hit and miss, was usually accomplished with a minimum of fuss.  We managed to spend most nights eating dinner around the same time, even if it wasn't always while gathered around the dining room table.  So what has happened to this once-capable mom?

I am told by the experts (whose helpful advice I read in so many books on death/grief/loss) that it's one of those things that happens when your world is uprooted like ours.  And yet having a schedule and routines is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your child, especially when things are in an upheaval.  Aaargh!

Here's what THEY say (you know - the experts):

"Create Structure -
Structure can be a huge source of comfort for kids. Do what you can to stabilize your routines, including your kids' nightly bedtime routine1, so that they'll have a general idea of what to expect from one moment to the next. Simple consistencies like serving meals at the same time each day can also help to create a stable atmosphere even while your emotions remain turbulent."

I try - honest, I do.  Menu plans have been researched and printed.  They don't last long; that's just not how we roll.  We are more of a "seat of the pants" family at the moment.  Whatever is in the fridge or cupboards is fair game for mealtimes.  Healthy eating is an elusive dream most of the time, although I honestly do try.

Bedtime has been easier to maintain.  For whatever reason that is an area where we are able to stay structured.  And that has been good for Rachel, even though she has been more anxious about me leaving the room at night when I tuck her in bed.  She gets out of bed more often with the usual myriad of excuses - not every night, but more often than she would normally.  And it seems like the only time she wants to talk about what's bothering her is at bedtime - and I hate to cut her off when she is trying to share with me something of importance.  Overall however, bedtime is the least of my worries.

We are in a state of flux right now - and have been for awhile.  And I guess that's OK - for now.  The watchword these days is "adapt."  We extend ourselves grace, and know that we may never even come close to being a normal family again.  But we do alright.  I suppose if by "normal" you mean functioning, then we are doing just fine.  Considering everything, we do indeed manage to hold it together.  And it does get better - I am counting on that, as I hold onto God's promises for all of us.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Slowing Down - Learning to Balance

It's been tempting to try to maintain our usual hurried pace this past year.  But I have learned a BIG lesson - we need to take time to heal, and that means slowing down.  If we are going to allow God to heal us individually and as a family we must give Him the time and space that He needs to accomplish that.  But you'd think I had never heard the verse, "Be still and know that I am God."  (Psalm 46:10)

I wonder if I have been running away from my grief, trying to bury it in a rush of activities?  You are supposed to try to maintain routines and schedules while you are grieving, to have a sense of normalcy after a tragic event.  This helps to stabilize us and gives us comfort.  But at times I think I have used that advice as an excuse.

I need to learn balance in this area.  I am just now (a year after Robby's death) realizing that I need to work at slowing down more often.  I guess I have always subscribed to the idea that you should "burn out instead of rust out."  Now I know that neither is a good option.

I have allowed Rachel and Becky more time and space to slow down than I have allowed myself.  I figured they would let their grief and subsequent healing guide how much they wanted to be involved in as far as activities, school events, family events, etc.  And that has worked very well.  They tell me when enough is enough, they don't feel like attending a certain event or activity.  Rachel used to take dance classes - every year for the past 3 years or so.  This fall when sign-ups came around she wasn't interested, so we dropped it and I didn't push.  Now that we are in summer vacation, she is asking what kind of sports or activities she can sign up for in the fall.  She needed this school year to get back some balance, and to push back from what may have been too much activity.

I haven't extended myself that same courtesy, it seems.  At least as far as guilt-ing myself into doing it all.  I have been trying to maintain the same pace as always, and feeling guilty whenever I didn't meet my own insane standards. 

I find myself now becoming more picky about the social activities in which I take part.  And I am (FINALLY) not feeling guilty about that.  Before, if I chose to turn down an invitation I would stay home - and feel guilty.  Now I can just stay home - and leave off the guilt.  Yeah for me!  I'm learning.  :)

I never used to get up early just to have time to myself.  But now I find I am enjoying getting up earlier and having a quiet house to myself, whether that's to read a chapter in a book or just enjoy a cup of tea - or both.  I am finding such a blessing in slowing down and taking quiet time just for myself.  The healing is occurring.  :)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Gotta love the family!

One thing that I am finding to be very helpful in dealing with my grief and the grief of my daughters is my family members, and our closeness - not just in proximity, but emotionally, too.  We have always been a close-knit family and I am so thankful for that now.

It's tough being the only parent.  I am the most important adult in my daughters' lives right now, and that can feel overwhelming at times.  There is no one to "back me up" when it's time for discipline, and no one to share the joys and small victories with either.  It is very lonely being a widow.  Sure, during the day there is lots of hustle and activity. Lots to be done and distractions are easy to come by.  But when the house gets quiet and dark - that's a different story.  My tears tend to catch up with me in the shower, when I am getting ready for bed each night.

It's important for my daughters (and for me) to have other adults in their lives to help and support them over this difficult time.  And let's not kid ourselves - "this difficult time" is going to be around for awhile.  Every time there is a new milestone reached, there will also be a look backward, wishing that Dad was here to be a part of it.  We carry that loss forward with us from now on.

But having their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins close at hand helps to let them know they are not alone, and there are others looking out for them as well.  One of Rachel's biggest fears has been that something would happen to me - that she would lose BOTH her parents.  Making sure she knows that there are family members that love her and would take care of her, should something happen to me, has helped a little to allay her fears.

We are blessed to have my brother, my sister and her husband, my parents, and close family friends whom we consider family all nearby.  The guys are on call whenever I need help with the lawnmower, or a garden tilled, or advice on how to pressure wash the house or start the Traeger grill.  And there are cousins nearby for the girls to hang out with, and enjoy some time away from Mom and her harping at them.  :)

You can't pick your family - God does that for you.  I think He did a pretty good job in my case - I feel very blessed!

Monday, July 2, 2012

In case you were wondering ...

About the title of this blog.  You already must have guessed that this is about grief and loss, and surviving all the challenges and changes associated with that state of being.  So it probably won't surprise you to find that the Bible verse referenced in the title is about widows and the fatherless:

Psalm 68:5

New International Version (NIV)
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling. 

OK, that takes care of the verse part.  Here is the definition of "Restoral":

: an act of restoring or the condition of being restored: as a: a bringing back to a former position or condition : reinstatement <the restoration of peace> b: restitution c: a restoring to an unimpaired or improved condition

It's a noun, and means restoration, but it's an older form of the word.  And I like old words.  :)

So my daughters and I are trusting God for these promises:  that He will be a father to them now that their earthly father is no longer here, and that God will also be my protector and defender.  AND because of His great love, He will restore to us what has been lost, over and above what we expect or deserve.  How's that for a great promise!

So there you have it - why this blog is called what it's called.

New Beginnings at mid-year

This is a new beginning for me.  July 2nd, 2012.  It's been just over a year since my husband, Robby, passed away and I became a widow.  I am hoping this blog can benefit not only me, but others as well.  For me, I want this to allow me to work through some things as I slowly "hunt and peck" out my feelings and struggles.  And believe me, when you are raising a young child (and a not-so-young child) as a single mom after 20 years of marriage - there will be struggles.  Lots of them.

For others, maybe this can become a window into what it's like to put the pieces back together again.  Trying to make all the right choices, and shouldering all the consequences alone.  God has taught me so much over the past year - well, two years actually.  Ever since Robby was diagnosed with a brain tumor in June 2010, and then his passing in June 2011 and the year since then, my dependence upon God has deepened tremendously.

We had a BBQ over the weekend that mirrored the BBQ we had last year after Robby's memorial service.  Robby passed away on Father's Day last year - needless to say, June was a tough month for my daughters and I this year.  But his birthday was June 30th so we had his memorial service, followed by a BBQ for family and close friends, on that day last year.  This year we repeated the BBQ and were blessed to have several family members join us.  Earlier in the day the girls each made a stepping stone in honor of their dad for the new flower garden we are planting.

It's been a year of great changes.  Well, great as in BIG, not great as in good.  But overall, we have made it through the year in the best shape possible.  It's still a long road - contrary to popular belief, there is no set time limit on grief.  Grief continues to haunt for a long time, although things do get easier (THEY say) as time goes on.  All the first-year anniversaries and milestones have passed.  We are settling into our "new normal" - seems like our normal changes periodically.  Just as soon as we would get used to changes in Robby illness that first year and adapt to those, something else would happen and we would have to adapt again.  And the past year without him has been no exception.  Change is the rule around here, but we are not a Marine wife/daughters for nothing - we improvise, we adapt, we overcome.  Life goes on, and we know that God holds us in the palm of His hand.