Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year to All

To all of you--

In 2010 may your burdens lighten, your sorrows ease, and may joy and happiness touch your lives.

Love and best wishes,

Thelma Z.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quote for the Week

When one must, one can.
Yiddish proverb

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Taking Stock

The most exciting thing that happened to me in 2009 was (surprise!) cataract surgery. For the first time since age four, I don't wear glasses. And after further surgery in August, I don't even have to wear them for reading. Know how you imagine everyone is looking at you? I was so sure when I went back to work after the operation that everyone would notice I wasn't wearing glasses, but the only person who did was the janitor at one of the schools I work with.

I had several articles accepted for publication this year: "The Possum That Changed My Life" which was published in the anthology This Path in August and "A Tale of Two Doctors: The Patient's Point of View" which will come out next summer in Survivor's Journal. Also had an essay "Do It Yourself, Mom" place in a contest. The essay can also be seen on at various times.

In 2009 I discovered The Transition Network, a dynamic group of women who meet monthly for conversations about life challenges. I've met so many interesting people through this group and published a piece on their national website about writing an ethical will. We also have a subgroup on death and dying. We call it Death, Dying, and Dessert.

I learned to play bridge (but poorly); my granddaughter turned 11 and sang a song in memory of her grandpa (mentioned in an earlier post), I visited my husband's family and his gravesite. Houston didn't have a hurricane this year, but we did have snow in December. Texas is going to the BCS Championship game; Roger Federer won the French Open (Can you tell I love sports?)

I miss Ralph every day--when I wake up and he's not there, when something goes wrong in the house (Right now a weird noise is coming from the bathroom, and I see a plumber in my future.)
I miss laughing with him, arguing politics (Our votes were always opposite). I miss his cooking, his willingness to listen. Sometimes I even miss his snoring.

But I've been blessed with a wonderful family and good friends, so I'm plugging along and looking forward to 2010.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Quote for the Week

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the blugeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.
William Earnest Henley

I have always loved this poem. Henley was ill with tuberculosis, lost his foot to the disease, but kept his courage. Saturday I saw the movie "Invictus" and was delighted to learn that this poem sustained Nelson Mandela while he was in prison. Hearing Morgan Freeman read the poem was a special treat. The movie was a bit predictable but it was uplifting. I love sports movies (though I had no idea rugby was so violent!). I highly recommend the movie.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Memories of a Marriage

Saturday was my wedding anniversary. It would have been our 39th. Even though this was a second marriage for both of us, we were sure we'd make it to our 50th.

December 19 isn't as hard for me as Ralph's birthday or the anniversary of his death. Saturday I went to a movie with two friends. We had lunch first at a little coffee shop in our neighborhood and there I ran into a business friend of Ralph's that I haven't seen in years. On any other day I wouldn't have thought much about it, but on our wedding anniversary it seemed special, as if I'd gotten a message from Ralph.

In the evening I picked up the picture of us taken a few months before he got sick, and then it hit me all over again that he is gone.

So I did two things. First, I used my cell to call our phone number. I still keep his voice on the answering machine (safer to have a man answer) and I call whenever I'm lonely and listen to him.

Second, I spent time remembering special times we had together. We met at a party, and he called the next day and asked me out. He was the first since my divorce and I started to say no, but then I decided he'd be good to practice on. Surprise! He was the real thing, not a practice guy. Two years later we were married.

I remembered once when we both woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep. We decided to go out for a very early breakfast and the only place we could find open was IHOP. That became our middle-of-the-night place from then on.

I remembered us going to a chili cookoff one day. I didn't want to go but Ralph said, "Come on. You'll get a book out of it." Sure enough, I came up with The Great Chili Caper for Harlequin Temptation. To help with my research Ralph joined the Chili Society and came home reeking of chili pepper and cigarette smoke after each meeting. We even went to the International Chili Cookoff in Terlingua, TX.

I remembered our collection of oxymorons, Ralph's special turkey dressing recipe, his penchant for feeding stray cats, his geeky habit of keeping pens and pencils in his shirt pocket, our bluebonnet trips every spring, and on and on. We had a good life together. I'm only sorry it wasn't longer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More on Getting Through the Holidays

I thought I'd add an extra post this week. Here are some tips on getting through the holidays from a psychiatrist friend.

Give yourself permission to cry if you have to, need to, want to.

If your budget is tight (and whose isn't these days? )think of passing on a favorite book, an album of family photos, or some other special possession instead of buying a gift for a friend/family member.

Keep your home full of light. This is the dark time of year in which Seasonal Affective Disorder can hit you and heaven knows, we don't need another way to be depressed. Lots of natural light combats SAD and lifts your spirits.

You would have given your spouse a gift if he were still here, so spend some of that money by contributing to a charity in someone's name instead of buying something for them.

Donate to the library for a book dedicated to your spouse.

Together with your children or grandchildren, give a gift donation for a needy child. I give my granddaughter a check to donate to a charity of her choice each year, with the stipulation that she write a letter explaining why she's donating to them. Two years ago, she wrote the sweetest letter to the Leukemia Society. I made a copy and framed it. It brought joy to my holiday as well as helping fight the disease my husband had.

Hang a stocking for your spouse and ask friends/family to fill it with notes about your spouse. You may cry as you read them, but they'll be "good" tears.

And of course, get plenty of rest, eat healthy snacks (I know it's impossible with all those holiday goodies)and exercise--walk somewhere that was meaningful to you and your husband.

And finally, please don't spend the holiday alone.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quote for the Week

What lies behind us and what lies befrore us are small matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those of us who walk through the widowsphere have rough times, painful times behind us. Times when we lost the person who mattered most. But I know that no matter what happened then or what will happen in the future, within all of us is a core of strength. It's kept us going when we wanted to give up, give in. I used to fall apart over the smallest thing; now that I've experienced the "biggest thing," the loss of my husband, I feel I can handle just about anything, don't you? We're all stronger than we ever imagined. Because we had no choice, we kept going and we'll keep on going.

Have a good week, and give yourself credit for being a survivor. See you in seven.

Book Therapy for Widows: 2

At this time of the year it's comforting to have a book whose author understands what you've faced. Here are some of my favorites:

Healing After Loss by Martha Hickman, Collins Living, 1994. A colleague sent me this soon after Ralph died. That was one of the nicest things anyone did for me. Daily meditations on loss, short enough to read in a couple of minutes.

Companion Through the Darkness by Stephanie Ericsson, Harper Paperbacks, 1993. Lyrical musings about widowhood.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner, Anchor, 2004. A classic. You don't have to be Jewish to learn from this book.

Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, Riverbend Trade Books, 2001. An inspirational book, not just for widows. One of my very favorite books.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quote for the Week

A Prayer for Courage
Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
But to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stifling of my pain,
But for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies in life's battlefield
But to my own strength.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved,
But hope for the patience to win my freedom.
Grant me that I may not be a coward,
Feeling your mercy in my success alone,
But let me find the grasp of your hand in my failure.
Rabindranath Tagore

Sunday, December 6, 2009


On Friday, December 4, Houston had snow. Real snow. All day. White flakes drifting down, piling up on roofs, in gardens, on fences.

In the past 100 years it has snowed only 35 times in this part of Texas, and never this early in the year. We made the national news.

The next morning when I went out to pick up the paper, snow still glittered in the sunshine, the remnant of a memorable day.

Five years ago, the last winter before Ralph died, we had snow on December 24 and 25 At midnight Ralph and I ran outside in the chilly air and stared at the beauty around us. A white Christmas. Probably Houston's one and only. It's a lovely memory, and I wish he could have shared this snowy day with me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Quote for the Week

I've decided to post a quote every Tuesday. Here's the one for this week:

When you come to the edge of all that you know, you must believe in one of two things: There will be earth upon which to stand, or you will be given wings.
Author Unknown

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