About Me

My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's my party and I can cry if I want to...

But fortunately, I may not have to cry this year thanks to Paula Hoerner and Cindy Johnson who are throwing me a girls only birthday party later this week. I'm not much of a "have a big party on my behalf" kind of gal...if Ken were alive, we'd get a sitter, I'd peruse Chicago Mag and then I'd pick a good restaurant and off we'd go. But you know the story: as it happens, Ken's not alive, and 5 months later upon me is the day that marks my very own entrance into the world of the living.

What better way to celebrate than with my friends. Without them, I'd really have reason to cry. Also, if you read the medical lit, there are just horrible statistics about spousal health after one spouse dies. My chance of getting sick has just sky-rocketed...but those social supports just might be the best preventive medicine money can't buy.

If you ever think there's nothing you can do when a friend has something horrible happen to them...or something bad...or even something just sort of lousy...here's what I've learned about the myriad ways people can help one another. While some are small and some are bigger gestures, what I've learned is that it doesn't really matter.


(by presenting this list I do not claim to be the world's greatest giver, but I have learned a lot from so many...most right here in Evanston IL, but some from all over the place):

1. Call
2. Call again (Don't know what to say? Try: what's going on with you?" or "I've been thinking about you.")
3. Keep calling (even if he/she doesn't call back)
4. Write a note
5. Write again
6. Keep writing
7. Send a package with goofy items
8. Send a gift certificate for: food, massage, movies, spa pampering
9. Bring chocolates
10.Offer to take a child out to do something (actually, insisting is even better)
11. Offer to grocery shop (once again, insist)
12. Go for a walk together
14. Throw a party
15. Invite your friend over
16. Invite your friend to dinner
17. Bring over a home-cooked meal
18. Organize home cooked meals
19. Take your friend out shopping for something fun
20. Go to the movies together
21. Invite a few neighbors to hang out together
22. Get a pedicure together
23. Find out what your friends favorite dessert/treat is then bring it by once in a while
24. Walk their dog
25. Insist on babysitting
26. Work out together
27. Give homemade cookies
28. Help organize something: garage, office, garden
29. Offer advice if you absolutely think it's required.

Here's what else I've learned after going through Ken's illness and then his untimely death...

To me now, I can't think of anything more important than the little and big things we do for one another. It's hard to feel like you can do right by everybody, but in doing right by somebody, you can make a huge difference.

Friday, June 23, 2006

...and your little dog too...!

Just how many losses can one family accumulate in the shortest possible period of time? Well, we're going to try and see.

Today I am driving out to the Woodfield Mall, meeting up at the Sears auto center, with Kim Bobka a dog trainer working with Airedale Rescue of the Midwest. Once there, I will give her our dog, our dog food, our dog bed, dog toys, and instructions for our dog. Our family of 4 people, one dog, will be down to 3 people, 0 dog. (With Natalie now in summer camp, we're temporarily at 2 people.)

Our dog Chloe attacked a small dog in our neighborhood park a couple of weeks ago. The little, old dog required 25 metal stitches.

It took me about 10 seconds to realize that Chloe's tenure with our family had come to an end.

Bringing Chloe into our family in March of 2003 was an act of hope for the future. Ken had finished his first round of cancer treatment the previous August, our beloved 1st airedale Haley had died in January 03, and even though we were concerned that Ken's cancer might be rearing its head again, we chose to imagine that this might not be the case...and so we quickly brought another dog into our lives.

From the beginning Chloe was a challenge: a dominant dog that wanted to be the boss. She required boot camp training and later an electric collar to try to wrestle her dominance down to the ground. Ken was her master...but soon the master was sick again...and again...and again...and then he disappeared altogether.

That's a lot of confusion for an animal that just wants to know who's in charge and what her job is.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Father's Day: No Dad

On January 14, 2006 my husband Ken died of complications from his second stem cell transplant. He had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in 2002. This blog Tales of Whoa describes my experiences and perceptions as a 44-year-old widow...charting a new life in mid-life. Ken's and my experiences from April 2005 through his illness, treatment, and then the aftermath of his death are described in detail on my previous blog which can be found at: www.caringbridge.org/tx/kenj. I continue my story here...

Ken's (Unsuccessful)Texas Transplant: The Aftermath

Our motto remains: FRIENDS ARE GOOD, AND FAMILY TOO!!!


Thursday, June 15, 2006 11:04 PM CDT

Tonight was the opening night of "Baseball in the Park" for our neighborhood. Everyone was invited to come play at 7PM in the newly named (by Charlie) "Ken Field". Such a great tradition, carried on by our neighbors Liz and Charlie Stone and supported by a whole cast of characters with beer, snacks, conversation...and, oh yes, a baseball game too. Guess who threw out the opening pitch...Mrs. Ken or should I say Ken's WIDOW. I have another friend who lost her husband when she was 36 years old...she told me she loved to use the word WIDOW just to shock people. I love her spirit. I also love that four years later she's sporting a new husband and a newborn baby...go widow go.

Alec had a tough decision to make since tonight was also the opening night of "Summer Chess at the Public Library", another regular summer event we've been waiting to begin. So he decided to spend half the night at the baseball game and the other half at the library playing chess. Good boy!

Then I had what I consider to be a great idea...what if, in addition to our lovely arc-shaped seating area on paved brick which we're planning to put in the park in Ken's memory, what if we add a couple of chess tables in the same area?

Next on the agenda is Father's Day. Yes, I've been planning again. We'll start the day with the Ricky Byrdsong "Race against Hate". For those of you non-locals, Ricky Byrdsong was a Northwestern University basketball coach, an African American, gunned down by a white supremacist on a mission. So this race is in his memory. I figure since my kids have had such a lousy break, it's not bad for them to see that they haven't been singled out for special punishment but that bad things do happen...and then we have to go on and keep on and race on and join in and so on.

Later in the day, we'll meet up with Paul and Rebecca and Ken's parents at Tommy Nevin's Irish Pub. Ken just loved to take in Irish music there so I think it will be a fine way to think about him on Father's Day, our mouth stuffed with fish and chips and music in our ears. Irish music touched Ken's soul. It really made him happy.

And if you might be wondering HOW I AM, I will say that I am sadder now than I've been in a while. I now believe that Ken is not coming back...and summertime which normally makes me so happy and has been for so long now filled with such good times and happiness is a cruel reminder of all that used to be. When we take our traditional trips this year to the Laurentians north of Montreal and then Rockport Mass, we'll all be revisiting years of happy memories without for me the most important person there.

Along with the swimming and the cooking and the canoeing and walking and hanging out, this year we will carry out Ken's wishes to have his ashes scattered in these two places where he spent almost every year of his whole life vacationing and having a good time with people who mattered so much to him. In a final written note he even left a message to our kids: "You can choose a place for my ashes too, even if it's a place that I already chose, that's OK."

Who but Ken?