Happy Thanksgiving!

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I have so much to be thankful for. Not just today, but always. My health, my happy and healthy son, my wonderful family, my amazing friends. The roof over our heads, food on our table, clothes on our backs. The daily norms that are so easy to take for granted. While it is easy to focus on the absence of those we love, today let’s be thankful that we were blessed with their presence while they were here and continue to be blessed with the memories we still hold dear. Today I wish you many things to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving with love, from our home to yours.

Helping Yourself Heal: An 11-part Series

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I made a brief mention a few posts back about a very big step I took recently: I started counseling. There are several things that pushed me to take that step, but my therapy journey is something I have decided to keep for myself. I share a lot on this blog, but some things are better kept close.

However, I am certain that along the way there will be valuable insights I’d like to share. Regardless of where we are on our “grief journey” (does anyone else kind of dislike that term?!), we can all learn from each other and support one another through this experience. That was one of the goals of this blog, connecting and sharing…and although I may have moved forward in many ways, I do still experience grief and I am still learning which coping techniques are best fit to help me carry this load for the rest of my life.

That said, I’d like to share something with you. My sweet counselor likes to provide resources for me and has given me several sources of literature on the topic of grief. If you are a widow involved in any sort of widow ‘group’ or follow the ‘widow circles’ online, you’ve likely read many already and know that some miss the mark, some repeat themselves, and some are cliche. But some are helpful, and one of the handouts I read through recently summed things up in very real practical terms (an 11-point list, to be exact). Having already lived through a lot of it (and still striving to reconcile some of it), I’d like to recommend these steps and examine them further.

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For 11 weeks, starting in January,  I will address each of the suggestions on the list, explaining why I think they are important and sharing my personal experiences with each. I hope this series will be beneficial to someone out there… I want you to know you are not alone, and there is hope. You can heal yourself. You can find happiness again. But please (and believe me here, because I have taken the long route), you have to do the work. You can’t avoid it or shove it down. Trust me, it will find it’s way back up eventually.

So, from an understanding heart to yours, let’s examine some ways to help yourself heal.

Helping Yourself Heal When Your Spouse Dies
a list adapted from Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph D.

  1. Allow yourself to mourn.
  2. Recognize your grief is unique.
  3. Talk out your thoughts and feelings.
  4. Expect to feel a multitude of emotions.
  5. Find a support system.
  6. Be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
  7. Take your time with your spouse’s personal belongings.
  8. Be compassionate with yourself during holidays, anniversaries, and special occasions.
  9. Treasure your memories.
  10. Embrace your spirituality.
  11. Move toward your grief and heal.

Please join me over these 11 weeks as we explore these areas of grief work and share ways to work through devastating loss. Let’s be open: share your experiences in the comments or with your loves ones, encourage other widows to tune into this series, and really look deep into your “grief journey.” Because even though we may not like that term, it is pretty accurate. It is a journey, and this trip takes work. But you don’t have to travel alone. Let’s wander together.

Big step – way to go :)

Found you through a link on AWP. I look forward to this 11 part series! Thank you for sharing what you have learned with those of us who are new to this journey.

[…] Welcome to the first installment of an 11-week-long series here on WSW called Helping Yourself Heal. In this series, we will be examining a set of practical steps that I have found to be helpful and relevant to the grief of a widow. (Read more about the origins of this list and my reasons for this series here.) […]

Random + TobyMac Weekend

How about a random update?

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This week is a busy one. Loads of homework, playing chauffeur to school and practices, getting my car fixed that decided to go on the fritz, disassembling my old bed, getting a new one set up, coordinating pickups for the things I’ve sold on Craigslist, baking for Little Man’s school Thanksgiving Feast, volunteering at said Feast, writing a research paper, all the while cleaning and prepping my house, packing, and getting ready to leave on a road trip. Oh, and let’s not forget errands, housework, and trying to get a few runs in there.

But even though my days are busy, they are a good busy. An oh-so-blessed busy. I’ve been taking some steps the past month or so to lighten my load, to simplify my life and remove some things that were weighing me down and putting pressure on my mind and heart. This, along with some other shifts in focus, has made me feel freer and more peaceful than I have in a long time. I’m feeling, dare I say, content these days. I don’t have everything figured out; hell, I barely have anything figured out. And for once, that is okay. I’m happy just to be.

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This weekend Little Man and I had a special adventure: I took him to his first grown-up concert! The JoyFM is a local(ish) contemporary Christian radio station that has been such a blessing in the past few years. When we aren’t listening to what Little Man calls “Mommy’s songs” or “the kids songs” on the iPhone, we are listening to The JoyFM.  Little Man knows all the words and we have some serious singalong jam sessions in the car pretty much daily. :) One of his favorite artists is TobyMac, who sings Little Man’s favorite song ever. So when we heard that his Hits Deep tour was coming nearby, I knew we had to go! The concert was Sunday night and I made a little adventure out of it, staying over in a hotel after (even though we were only an hour or so from home) and playing hooky from school yesterday. Little Man had a BLAST!

intermissionduring intermission

The lineup was great: Capital Kings (I definitely have to get more by these newcomers, loved them!), Chris August (He voice is even better live and he is so funny), Colton Dixon (Yes the guy from American Idol, he had great energy), Jamie Grace (She is so down-to-earth and has such talent for 21!), Brandon Heath (He is so amazing live and felt very genuine), Mandisa (Holy wow this woman has some spirit and what.a.voice. No words!), and of course TobyMac. I love what TobyMac did with this tour; he really brought everyone together, with each artist introducing the next and all of them coming on stage at random times to perform some amazing unexpected duets. TobyMac himself is so genuine and has an awesome heart for God with the right attitude about it. I loved him back in his DC Talk days and I just love what he has done with his new direction. There was so much spirit and fun in this concert. And oh man, his Diverse City Band is insane (in a good way).

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Even though the concert didn’t get out until nearly 11pm (4 hours past his bedtime), the kiddo was up and dancing the entire time! He told me the next day that he was wishing that TobyMac would see him so he could go on stage too, haha. He had a little fan club in the seats around us, with some of the adults cheering him on. My cheeks hurt from smiling at how he was getting into it, and several people stopped us on the way out to say how much his enthusiasm touched them. I tried to get some of his ‘moves’ on camera:

After crashing late that night, we made a fun day out of our extended weekend the next day. We savored a sugar-laden breakfast, took a trip to the Museum of Science and History, went to the mall for lunch and a stop at the bookstore (and bonus!photobooth fun), and then finished up the afternoon at the movies and Starbucks. It was pretty much awesome, as evidenced by the Little Man’s prompt passing out in his carseat on the way home.

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This mini-adventure blessed my heart so much. Having some quality time with my kiddo, letting go and living in the moment, smiling and singing my heart out and acting silly: all of it just added fuel to the ‘happy fire’ that has been growing in my heart, and I am carrying that into my busy week. I am so blessed to have this life, the trick is to have the perspective and ability to see it for what it is. We all struggle, we all have rough patches and pain and sadness and experiences that wreck us. But we also all have something beautiful: this day and a God who loves us. And really, that is all we need.

You and little man’s faith really inspires me. I’m so glad you had this trip together and he got to experience some of his faith through music.

Just being – working on that too. Take care!

Sarah

What a beautiful post! I am so happy to hear that you and your little guy had an amazing time. I loved his dancing! You inspire me so much everyday to just live in the moment – feel blessed everyday and for that I thank you!

25 Ways You Know You’re a Mom

25 Ways You Know YouYou know you’re a mom when…

  1. You find yourself humming the theme songs from Nick Jr. shows while cleaning or showering.
  2. Baby wipes, toy cars, bandaids, and crumbs have slowly taken over your purse.
  3. Your hugs can solve any problem.
  4. “Slow down!”, “Because I said so!”, or “NOW.” come out of your mouth at least once a day.
  5. A peaceful, sleeping child has brought tears to your eyes.
  6. You look forward to alone time but then have no clue what to do when you get it.
  7. Sleeping in means 7 AM.
  8. You have zero privacy during any activity that occurs in the bathroom.
  9. ‘Treats’ are a food group.
  10. You know the excruciating pain of stepping on a Lego or Hot Wheels in the dark.
  11. A shy smile and wave across the park makes your heart swell.
  12. You talk about yourself in the third person (‘Mommy said..’).
  13. Flying to the moon, being chased by a dinosaur, and fighting an evil villain are just part of a normal Tuesday.
  14. You beam with pride over crayon drawings and words only you can read.
  15. A blankie-carrying PJ-clad kiddo ends up in your bed at least once a week.
  16. You’ve used the words “potty”, “boo boo”, or “num nums” to adults.
  17. Your head snaps up the second you hear a cry of “Mommy!” anywhere.
  18. You run toward sudden appearances of bodily fluids instead of away from them.
  19. Holidays are magical again.
  20. Silence is simultaneously glorious and terrifying.
  21. You’ve heard your mother’s voice come out of your mouth more than once…
  22. …and you finally understand she was right.
  23. More than once a day, you think you are doing it all wrong.
  24. More than once a day, you’re overwhelmed by how much you could love such a tiny creature.
  25. You are exhausted, unsure, happy, overjoyed, hopeful, impatient, frustrated, and in love; and you wouldn’t change it for the world.

This post is a response to the weekly Writer’s Workshop over at Mama’s Losin’ It!. Learn more about the ‘pretty much famous’ weekly prompts here. This week I chose: ‘You know you’re a mom when…’

P.S. Have you asked your question yet?? Please do!

Great list! I can relate to all…especially #10!

Tristan

And this is what you should expect very soon. :)

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Yes, yes, and yes! I love that you were able to capture both the hard parts of motherhood along with the magical parts!

NaNoWriMo’13

Yesterday was November 1, and with that came the start of National Novel Writing Month! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, or just NaNo to participants) is ‘a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30.’ You can’t start before Nov 1, and you can’t edit as you write. It’s very fast-paced, an exciting way to either pound out that novel you’ve always wanted to write or get your creativity flowing stream-of-conciousness style.

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I participated in NaNo for the first time in 2007, while we were living in Okinawa. My sister introduced me to it and I loved the idea of a creative challenge. The Hubs picked on me about ‘my novel’ all month; you have no idea how many times I heard various bits from this that November:

But by the end of the month, he (and our friends) were cheering me on and on the last night of November, I surpassed the 50k word goal and won. It was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, even though I didn’t actually finish the story (an awfully awesome Lifetime-movie-esque love story named ‘Almost November’). I’ve actually never gone back to look at that story until today while writing this blog post, and now I see so many aspects of my life at the time infused in it. Maybe one day I’ll refine and finish. Here’s a little excerpt of that novel:

“Do you see it?” Dave grabbed Bella’s finger and used it to point at the sky. “That cluster of three stars right there.”

“Ohhh, those! Yeah, I see it!”

“That’s Orion’s belt. If you look on either side, see those little stars? Those are his arms, the ones below them are his feet. See him now?”

“Yeah!” Bella laughed with excitement, stretching her arms over her head.

Dave rolled over onto his side and looked at her.

“Hasn’t anyone shown you a constellation before?”

“Nope.” Bella turned and propped her head up on one arm. She picked a blade of grass from the ground beneath them and poked the tip of Dave’s nose with it. “I’m from the city, remember. I was lucky if I saw any stars at all.”

Bella rolled back over onto her back and stretched out on the grass. She gazed up at the stars above where she and Dave lay in the park. The bustling sounds of the village hummed softly in the background and the crickets chirped songs from the lush green surrounding the park. A soft breeze gently blew over them, fluttering a lock of her hair across Dave’s eyes.  Bella turned her head toward him and smiled as he picked it up gingerly and played with it.

“Dave,” she said quietly.

“Hmmm.”

“Do you believe in fate?”

Dave brushed her hair across his cheek, like an artist with a paintbrush.

“Yes and no.”

“What do you mean?” Bella asked, staring at the sky.

“I think you decide your own fate. I think there are some things that you can’t control, that life just throws at you. But you have to decide what to do with them. You can control your own direction, you just have to handle what life gives you your way, ya know what I mean?”

Bella scrunched her brow thoughtfully.

Dave released the lock of hair as she turned onto her side again and faced him.

“Sometimes I wonder if I am strong enough to steer things my own way.”

He touched her cheek softly, brushing her skin with his knuckles.

“You have a silent strength that I don’t think you have recognized yet, my Bell. That is one of the things I love about you.”

Bella caught his gaze and stared at him intently, trying to tell him with her eyes everything she couldn’t say.

“And the fact that you see that is one of the things I love about you, Dave.”

Every November since I wrote that story, I have thought about participating again (I even came really close back in 2011) but something has always stopped me. This year, it is finally perfect timing. After feeling creatively blocked and overwhelmed by other things in life, having an open-ended creative challenge like this will give me something to accomplish without too much pressure. And the process may be helpful for me in other ways, since I am writing about a widow. Here is the brief synopsis of the novel (the only plan I have, since I am totally pantsing this), tentatively titled ‘Wanderlust’:

Life as Eloise Barrett knew it died six months ago. After the tragic loss of her husband, Eloise feels trapped in a life she doesn’t understand anymore. So she takes to the road, clothing and memories stuffed into the back of an impulsively-bought Airstream, desperate to discover herself and her new life somewhere along the way.

This is NOT going to be a fictionalized version of my own personal memoir, at all. But I do intend to draw inspiration from my own feelings a widow to fuel the perspective of my main character. I think the process of writing her adventures will help me explore some of my own grief in a rear-view-mirror kind of way. It should be interesting to see what comes of it. And perhaps as I see where her dreams and plans take her as the story develops, I will discover some of my own. I have no expectations for a finished novel at the end of the month, nor do I plan to do anything with the writing when I am done. But who knows, maybe it will turn out to be a gem.

Have you ever heard of NaNo? Are you participating this year? If so, be my writing buddy! I love swapping encouragement. I’ll be posting small excerpts and word counts throughout the month here on the blog too. Here’s to a month of creativity!

Tristan

Very funny video and go for it. Looking forward to read you.

Wohoo, go you and FINISH NaNoWriMo again! It helped me get some chunks of the memoir finished, but I never completed it. I hope you can again!