Thursday, August 28, 2014

Top Eleven Trips for Navigating the Rough Seas of Widowhood #4

If you're already a widow, this tip is too late.  (It was too late for me.)  I added this tip when I was speaking to a women's group because 50% of all married couples will someday lose their spouse. Keep that in mind.

I imagine most of you have some responsibilities in the marriage and your spouse has different ones, and often never the twain shall meet.  I strongly recommend, however, that you learn your spouse's jobs and switch places occasionally.  Then you won't be left like me, totally clueless when it came to my husband's chores.  I had to learn them afterward.  (No, that's not me changing the tire.  I wish.)  If you can't manage the new responsibilities, then hopefully you can hire someone to help.  I once passed a storefront office in New England called Rent-a-Husband.  I checked to see if they had

an office in Houston, but they didn't so I hired a handyman.  Actually I've hired various handypersons and haven't found the perfect one yet.

Good luck and take care.  Tip #5 will be posted next Thursday.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Quote for the Week

There would seem to be nothing more obvious, more tangible and palpable than the present moment. And yet it eludes us completely.  All the sadness of life lies in that fact.
        Milan Kundera

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge #1: Creativity

Isn't the Ice Bucket Challenge the coolest (No pun intended.) fund raiser you've ever heard of?  You do know it's a fund raiser, don't you?  It has raised almost $50 million for ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The "take the icy bath or write a check" was not an idea of the ALS Association.  It was, allegedly, launched by a young
ALS  sufferer named Peter Frates, who challenged athletes in the Boston area to take an ice bath to fund research on ALS and aid for ALS patients.  And then it seems the whole country joined in, from President George W. Bush to Jimmy Fallon to LeBron James.  I've been listening to a group of CD's on creativity from The Great Courses, and I think this is one of the cleverest and most creative fund raising ideas I've heard of, much more so than the typical "walk for..."   Yes, an article in Slate suggested it's simply a spin-off from those "jump-in-an-icy-lake" or "keep-your-hand-in-ice-water" challenges, but I think it's much more fun.

As for ALS research, I recently learned that Hadassah Hospital in Israel is experimenting with using stem cells in treating ALS, and one of their patients may be the first sufferer of this terrible disease to be cured.  Stand by for more info when it becomes available.

P.S. Would you choose the bucket of ice water or a check to ALS or both?  I'm afraid I'm wimpy enough to just write the check.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Top Eleven Tips for Widows/Widowers: Tip #3

When you're feeling overwhelmed with sadness, therapy may be the answer.
There are various options.  You may find solace in a group of people who are in the same situation as you.  Grief groups can be found at churches/synagogues, at hospice programs, at hospitals.  There are grief groups for people whose loved ones have died of a particular disease.  I found a leukemia/lymphoma grief support group after my husband died.  One caveat:  your goal in seeking such a group should be to come to terms with your loss and "graduate" from the group.  This doesn't mean you won't see the friends you've made there any more.  One plus about groups is that you may find friends to socialize with outside of the group.

If you're not a "group person," you may want to seek individual counseling.  That's what I did.  I began at the height of my husband's illness when I was so sad and stressed, I could hardly function.  That helped me then and in the time of transition when I first was widowed.  You can get referrals from your family doctor, from friends, from your spouse's doctor.  Just be sure you and your therapist are a good match.  If you don't feel comfortable during your first meeting, find someone else.

If nothing else, think about book therapy.  There are tons of books on widowhood--memoirs, advice for managing daily life, coping with grief--I probably read them all, or anyway, a lot of them.  I have a huge collection now of books about widowhood, and I'm always surprised when I'm lecturing and ask if people have read any helpful books and I get a lot of no's.  I guess it was natural for me to seek books.  No matter what stage of life I've been in--parenting, step-parenting, transitions, loss of a parent--I've always looked for books.  Some of my favorites on widowhood are:
     Widow to Widow
     It Must Have Been Moonglow
     The Five Ways of Grieving
     The Widow's Story

And no, I didn't include The Year of Magical Thinking--it is not one of my favorites.

Take care, and stop back next week for Tip #4.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Quote for the Week

To cease to exist creatively is but little different from ceasing to exist.
        Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Scams New and Old

Do you get calls offering to lower your interest rate on your credit card?  Once I asked for a live person and he immediately wanted to know my balance and my credit card number.  Like, Duh.  When I asked since he was calling about my credit card why didn't he already know the number, of course he hung up.

Lately I started getting calls from a person listed on my caller ID.  The first time, I answered, then I stopped but I noticed the call back number was only a few digits from mine, so one afternoon I called and left a message to quit calling me about credit card interest.  No luck.  I called again and left a message that I would start calling her.  I called a third time and she answered, said she'd heard my messages and had no idea how her number was used because she didn't work for a credit card company.  I still get calls from that number and sometimes from an out of state call that has the very same phone number.  So annoying.  You're wondering why I'm not on the do-not-call list.  I finally got around to registering after I got a weird call on my cell.

The call caller started by saying he was calling from the Treasury Department,  That got my attention.  Then he said I had been selected to receive a government grant of $8400 which I could use for anything except gambling and drugs and I would receive this grant in an hour by Western Union.  When I asked if he was from the government why did he sound like he was from a foreign country, he immediately hung up.  That must be a new scam because I've never heard it before, but it seemed eerie, like what did they want in return for this marvelous grant and who would fall for it?  I hope no one does and hopefully, now that I'm back on the do-not-call registry I won't get any more weird calls.

Stop by on Thursday for my #3 tip for widows/widowers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Top 11 Tips for Navigating the Rough Seas of Widowhood: Tip #2

The funeral/memorial service is over.  All the family and friends who've crowded around bringing comfort and casseroles and cookies have gone back to their own lives  and you're alone.  For me, that was one of the toughest times of my early widowhood.  So what's a widow/widower to do?  Wait for the phone to ring?  Wait for a friend to drop by to see how you're doing?  Sometimes the wait is long.  Too long.  It's too easy to be bitter because everyone else's life is going along just as it always has while yours is changed forever, too easy to become the reclusive widow/widower.  My advice:  don't, please don't.  Take the initiative.  Make the call.  Invite a friend out for lunch.  Invite another widow for coffee.  And you set the parameters.  If you want to talk about your late spouse, say so; if not, say so.  Friends may feel uncomfortable, unsure what to talk about.  Did you widows know that the healthiest women are those who socialize with other women?  For widowers it may be harder, but if you have family close by, get together.  Have a barbecue--isn't that what men are supposed to do?
If couple friends leave you out of plans because you don't fit in, think of asking a couple for dinner.  Remind them you're still around.  Sometimes it's not that they think you won't fit in but that they think you'd be uncomfortable.  Maybe you would be, but you never know.  On a trip to Spain a few years ago, I met a woman whose husband had died about the same time mine did.  She was with a couple that they'd often traveled with...and the next month she was going to Mexico on a solo vacation.
And speaking of friends, don't forget about furry friends.  My cat was one of my greatest comforts when my husband was ill and after he died.  If you don't already have one, maybe you need to adopt a pet to cuddle with and take walks with and teach tricks.  (My cat never learned a trick, but I had one long ago that did.)
My wish for you is to keep your friends close.  And please stop by next week for Tip # 3.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Quote for the Week: Prayer by Maya Angelou

Father, Mother, God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days
For then we have you to lean upon.
Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.
And thank you for your presence
during the holy days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.
For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.
For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.
Dear Creator, you the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give all the
world that which we need most--Peace.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Did you see Richard Linklater's movie Boyhood?  I think it's the only movie ever to get 99% on Rotten Tomatoes (If you aren't familiar with , you should look it up.
Anyway, Boyhood got so much hype I could hardly wait to see it.  It was filmed over 12 years, using the same actors, so you could see Mason, the main character, age from 7 to 19 and the adult characters age and put on weight.  Linklater must be incredibly patient to film over such a long time, and the actors must be available when he wants to shoot another episode.  So all in all, an amazing feat.
We see Mason as a boy of 7, curious about the world, and follow him until he's  a budding artist, starting college at 19, searching for the meaning of life.   I guess this is supposed to be a "typical American family,"  or maybe not.  We hear Mom and Dad arguing at the beginning.  Soon after, they're divorced.  Mom becomes involved with and eventually marries one of her professors, who turns out to be incredibly abusive, and she and the kids escape in the middle of the night.  Husband #3 may or may not be abusive, but he looks like a loser.  Meanwhile, Dad remains a presence in the kids' lives whenever he can,
The movie has some funny parts:  when Dad is giving a sex-ed lecture to the kids, and you can see the daughter cringing and probably thinking, "This is gross."  There are sad parts, too:  when the family is running away from the abusive step-father and the children realize they'll probably never see their step-siblings again.
The acting was pretty good, but the movie, at 3 hours, is way too long.  Forty-five minutes before the end, I started getting antsy and worrying if we were going to follow Mason perhaps until he was 35.  I guess it was supposed to just be a slice of life, but like most people's lives, there were a lot of boring parts.  Still, I'm glad I saw what one reviewer called the movie of the century.  I don't think so.  The century has barely begun and I'm sure there'll be lots of better or more interesting movies before it's over.
As we walked out, someone behind me was remarking that Linklater will probably be nominated for best director.  Did you see the movie or do you want to?  What do you think?  I'd love to know.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Top Eleven Tips for Navigating the Rough Seas of Widowhood: Tip #1

In every species from humans to fruit flies, women outlive men.  Yes, even the majority of the annoying little fruit flies you see flitting around you at a picnic are female.  Just today I received an article saying that by age 65 half of all American women will be widowed.  And if that's not sobering enough, last fall a study from Harvard about the "widowhood effect" made the news.  Because of the stress of losing a loved one, the bereaved spouse has a high chance of dying within six months of losing a mate.  I wasn't sure I believed that so I asked a funeral director if she thought it was true.  She said, "Absolutely."

In view of all this information I've come up with (apologies to David Letterman) my top eleven tips for widows.  I'll be posting one each Thursday.  Some are aimed at new widows, others are appropriate for veterans like me or for people who aren't widows at all but would like to know some of the things I didn't know until the worst happened.
So here we go with Tip Number One.
You know how, when you board a plane, one of the flight attendants (or sometimes a recorded voice) gives that speech you've heard a thousand times so you know it by heart.  Know how s/he always says, "In the event of a loss of pressure, oxygen masks will drop down.  If you're sitting with someone who needs assistance, put your own mask on first before helping others."

Of course if you're caring for a loved one, you want to do the most you can, but think of yourself, too.  It's hard to be a competent caregiver if you're not at your best.  And it's hard to be what I would call a "successful widow" if you let your health deteriorate because it's too much trouble to get that mammogram, schedule your annual visit with your internist or gynecologist or dentist.  It's easy to skip that exercise program that used to keep you in shape.  It's easy to forget to refill your medications or even to take them.  And cooking for one can be heartbreaking.  Grocery shopping can, too, when you see couples shopping together or you pass an ingredient in your spouse's favorite dish.  So you skip meals, live on snacks or fast food takeout--not a good idea.  Widowhood is tough enough without letting yourself get sick because you let yourself get run down.  About cooking for one:  I always figure if you cook for yourself, you'll probably have leftovers for the next day.  Amazon has lots of good books on single person cooking:
Going Solo in the Kitchen;
Help--I Gotta Cook It; \
Serves One:  Simple Meals to Savor When You're on Your Own

Take care, and come back next Thursday for Tip #2


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Quote for the Week

"Life is like the Hokey Pokey.  You have to put your Whole Self in."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Books of July

Beautiful Ruins--a beautiful book.  A beautiful movie star appears in a small Italian village and sets a young man's heart pounding.  She's stays at his shabby hotel and this thrills him, too.  But she has a secret.  The book shifts from their meeting 50 years ago, just after WW2, to today's Hollywood, where a young man pitches a movie idea to a has-been producer.  And yes, these two parts are related and as the book proceeds you learn how.  I highly recommend this book.

If you enjoy inspiring sports sagas, you'll enjoy this book about the American crew and their unlikely appearance in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  And you don't have to know anything about rowing (I didn't) to find this book fascinating.  Most of the story centers on Joe Rantz and his dream of being part of the University of Washington varsity crew.  You'll marvel at his courage in overcoming a gruesome home life and cheer him and his crewmates on.  Brown intersperses bits about the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and Hitler's Germany.

A book club selection that I really didn't want to read because all I knew about it was that Joan Crawford, my least favorite actress, played the title role in the movie, which came out in the 1940's.  Mildred was a tough broad, ahead of her times.  She's forced into making a living for herself and her daughters and she becomes a success and then fails but you feel at the end that she'll make it again.  And oh yes, she has to deal with her spoiled, nasty daughter.  I give it a B-.


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