Monday, September 28, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane

"My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing;
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take
No matter where it's going."
"Travel" by Edna St.Vincent Millay

This Thursday I'm leaving for two weeks in Spain.

I've always loved to travel. Ralph and I took many memorable trips together. We chuckled at the antics of penguins in Antarctica, stood on the plaza at Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico during an eclipse of the sun, rode in a hot air baloon in Utah, strolled along the Seine, the Thames, the Mississippi.

Even though he's no longer with me, I still love traveling, whether it's fifty miles from home or across the world. Traveling brings me joy. It gives me something to look forward to. Planning a trip is almost as much fun as the trip itself. And then there are the photos, the souvenirs to take out and laugh over for years to come.

I'm traveling to Spain with my sister. We share a remarkably poor sense of direction and have gotten lost together in several states and a number of countries. This trip probably won't be any different.

"If God had really intended men to fly,
He'd make it easier to get to the airport."
George Winters

I have an ambivalent relationship with airports. On the one hand, I am fascainted by all the people coming and going. On the other, I really don't trust the air transit system. If they can make you late, they will.

I've had some bizarre experiences in airports, especially in Paris Charles De Gaulle airport is my nemesis. Once I was strolling happily along, wheeling my suitcase behind me and then I stepped up on the bus, caught the suitcase on the step, fell forward flat on my face...and broke my nose. How many people can boast that they broke their nose in Paris?

But that was only the beginning. As my friend and I followed the lady from Air France through the airport (Did it ever occur to her to get me a wheelchair? Nope.) we decided to get a cart for our luggage. We pushed it onto the moving sidewalk and at the very end, the cart caught on the sidewalk and fell over, my friend fell on the cart, I fell on her, and the people behind me fell on me. My elbow still shows the scars. We continued on--miles and miles, it seemed like--De Gaulle is a laaarge airpport and finally arrived at the medical office. By that time my face was black and blue and my arm was dripping blood. The lady at the desk gave us a blank stare. "Did you want to see a doctor?" she asked. Duh!

The next time I flew through Paris the terminal had to be evacuated because someone left an unattended suitcase. Long story short, I missed my plane. "You should have gotten here earlier," the gate attendant snapped. Another woman and I trudged to the Air France counter and finally managed to persuade them to book us on the next available flight. (I cried.) Then we decided to have lunch. "I guess we should introduce ourselves," my compansion said. "I'm Louise."

"I'm Thelma."

At least we made it home without driving off a cliff.

I'll leave you with another quote and my hope that you, too, will travel, across the International Date Line or around the block. Adventure awaits. See you when I get back.

"When you set out for Ithaka,
Hope your road will be a long one,
Full of adventure, full of discovery..."
from "Ithaka" by C.V. Cavafy

Monday, September 21, 2009

Letting Go

To live in this world
You must be able
To do three things:
To love what is mortal,
To hold it
Against your bones knowing
Your own life depends on it,
And when the time comes to let it go
To let it go.
From "In Blackwater Woods" by Mary Oliver

Soon after my husband’s death I took the first steps toward letting go. At the suggestion of a friend, I joined a grief group. In fact, I joined two.

The first was a disaster. I took an instant dislike to the facilitator, who began by informing us in a rather smug voice that she’d never experienced a loss. She appeared to be in her late forties. Wow, I thought, haven’t you ever lost a pet? A favorite teacher? A best friend? Was there ever a relationship in your life that failed? Losing a spouse or close family member is the greatest grief, but come on, lady. No grief at all? My annoyance increased when she answered the one question I asked with a shrug. I wanted to march out the door, but I stuck it out until the end of the session. Needless to say, I never went back.

The second group, led by a hospital chaplain, was completely different. Members of the group had suffered varied losses—a runaway son who was found dead, a beloved parent, a life partner. Several of us had lost spouses.

As we talked about our losses and the ways we were coping, the group leader surprised me by saying, “How lucky all of you were to have loved someone enough to grieve their loss.” That statement turned grief on its head for me. Yes, I was sad, but Ralph and I had loved one another deeply, had shared so much, had made memories for me to cherish. Those words became my comfort during the darkest days. I hope you find them helpful, too.

Have you attended grief groups? Were they helpful? Let's talk about them.

See you in seven.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Hello, it's a "sort of" fall day in Houston, just the first tiny cool breeze after a brutal summer. Fall is my favorite time of year, or it used to be before my husband's illness and death. His first symptoms occurred in late September 2004. By the end of October he was diagnosed with leukemia and the next October he was gone. So now fall is bittersweet for me.

Life is like a mosaic. Hundreds of tiny pieces fit together to form a pattern, and when one piece disappears, the entire pattern has to be reshaped into a new one . You can't just slap the tiles together and forget about the missing piece. It takes time to reposition, rethink, reorganize. That's what widowhood is, the rearranging of a life into a new meaningful whole.

I think I've done that, that I'm whole again. And then the first hint of autumn pricks my heart and reminds me I'm not quite as finished as I thought.

But I'm working on it. I hope you are, too. See you in seven.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I am a member of a club I never wanted to join: The Society of the Recently Widowed. If you're reading this, you're probably a member, too.

Widowhood puts us in good company. In nearly all species, from humans to chimpanzees, from chickens to even fruit flies. females outlive males. I thought I had outsmarted biology by marrying a man five years younger. I hadn't counted on cancer depriving me of my spouse. But what seemed like an annoying sore throat was the first symptom of acute myelogenous leukemia, an insidious disease that would claim my husband's life in less than a year.

So here I am four years later, a veteran widow. I'm on a new journey, and this time I'm going it alone. I hope you'll join me as we explore this territory we've been thrust into. We'll focus on the gaffes, glitches and gripes as well as the growth, goals and yes, the gratitude we experience as we navigate this path. We'll make some wrong turns, explore new vistas, laugh and cry together. We'll focus on the practical--cooking for one, for example--the emotional--how you make it through the holidays--the enrichment of our lives and many other topics.

Welcome! Please let me know where you are in your journey and what you'd like to discuss.
I'll be posting every week. See you in seven.

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