Category Archives: death

Decompress a Boggled Brain

Let’s face it, some of us have this issue more than others.  It could be related to your lifestyle, age, career, family life, or just an occasional bumble in your normal schedule.  Sometimes it is a combination of all those things and is just plain hard to shake.

Maybe you’re like me and have a “to-do” list that seems like Mt. Everest x 3 and you feel like you’ll never get through it all.  When things seem overwhelming it can be hard to get motivated.   Sometimes you accomplish things but no one can tell.  If you spend 10 hours on paperwork, who is going to know except you?   That lack of visual accomplishment can make one feel as if they have nothing to show for their effort.

How do you prevent feeling overwhelmed?  When you want to throw up your hands and turn into a sluggish couch potato, how do you reverse the process?   You have to decompress your boggled brain.  Give it a break from life’s obligations.  Have some fun.

The time you spend decompressing the brain can be anything from a few minutes to a few days.  What I have found is that by taking a break I re-energize and am able to accomplish more than I would if I stayed on the straight-and-narrow work path.    It is easy to think “I shouldn’t be doing this” or “I should be doing this” because of that massive to-do list.   The trick is in the timing.Decompress - everyone needs time

I work full time as a paralegal.  I spend the majority of my workday at the computer writing pleadings, handling correspondence, and listening to people’s problems on the phone.  Very rarely is my to-do pile shorter than about 18″ in height, quite often it is more than that.  I do not leave the office at lunch; it is a one-person office and while eating I take calls or handle people as they walk in the door.  I decompress at lunch by skimming through Facebook and quite often spend time playing a game such as Candy Crush or Tetris Battles while eating.   Playing those games releases the brain from thinking.  Although the mind is active, it is relaxing.   I have found it to be a great way to re-power for the afternoon.

I am a photographer, and for the past three years I haven’t done much in the way of shooting pictures.  That is for a combination of reasons including working on cleaning out my parent’s home after they passed, a bad ankle that I finally had surgery on this past fall, and my own husband fighting cancer, a battle he lost 20 months ago.  I wasn’t going out and shooting because not only was it was physically painful to walk, but I also felt I have so much to do here at home that I should be here working, not out having fun.

So what did I realize?  I had lost my motivation.  I was here and getting things done, but not to the degree that I used to several years ago.   I lacked motivation and my productivity was down, which compounded my feeling of being overwhelmed.  I decided it was time to get out and participate in a few more things this year, attend more festivities and do more photo shooting.

Fun - give yourself permissionI will admit it was hard.  However forcing myself to get out and do things has been beneficial.  I am more physically active, which increases metabolism and energy.  I discovered I am happier by being once again out and about partaking in different activities.  The result is that I am more productive than I was when spending the entire weekend at home.  Why?  Because I have decompressed my brain so I am more relaxed, my energy level has increased, and therefore I am more productive.

When you are feeling sluggish, overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel and call it quits take some time to decompress the brain.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Filed under Activities, career, communication, Coping, death, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, events, habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, lunch, Meals, mind, time, Weather, work

Caffeine Addicted Ants

Saturday morning I was standing at my kitchen counter when a small ant walked by…just one, strolling along nice as you please.  Well he was, until I ended his tiny little life.  I wondered where he came from but didn’t give it much thought and went on with my day.

That evening I saw three ants on the counter.  What the heck!  I don’t have any open food, nothing to attract them.  Just who do they think they are invading my kitchen, and for what purpose?  It isn’t as if I have a feast laid out for the taking.  More like starvation mode when it comes to open food availability.  Yet there they were.  Were, as in past tense, I ended their lives abruptly.

Easter Sunday and the troops have gathered.  A little march of several ants daintily prancing across the back edge of my counter.  Time for major action.  I get out the bottle of Clorox Cleanup, their lives and trails are about to come to a chemically abrupt halt.  I plan to start my cleanup where I saw them.  They’re gone!  Where did they go?  Did they some how have a sixth sense about what my plans were and went into hiding?

Not to be deterred I started at that end of the counter and began my chemically enhanced assault on their chosen trail.   I began a clean and search mission to determine what was attracting them.  My first thought was the catch trays on the toaster.  Nope, no ants there, but they are now clean and empty.  They weren’t attempting to invade my candy dish of Werther’s Originals, nor were they near my dish of York Peppermint Patties.  These ants obviously don’t have a sweet tooth.

I’m working my way across the counter, moving things, spraying with Clorox Clean-up and wiping everything down.  The smell of the bleach in the product should help to deter the ants, at least for a small while.   I haven’t seen a single one as I’m cleaning.  Where did they go?

Then I move the coffee maker to spray the counter underneath it.  Wow!  Numerous ants under the machine happily milling around.  When I had a pot of coffee run over there must have been some on the bottom of the machine when I moved it back into place, and it had created a dried puddle of coffee on the counter.  That is where the ants were congregated.

I would have never suspected ants to be congregated in mass proportions under a coffee machine.  Is it the coffee they are attracted to, or the caffeine?  They were not inside the coffee grounds, only under the machine.  How were they consuming or transporting that sticky residue?  Does the caffeine give them a nice burst of energy like it does some humans?  One thing I do not want is ants operating on high energy in my house. Ant drinking coffee

Those ants experienced a very sudden chemical bomb delivered via spray bottle filled with Clorox Clean-up.  If anyone feels sympathy for them, it was a very quick death so suffering would have been minimal and death instantaneous.  In fact the ants died much faster than the removal of the stain.  As difficult as it was to clean up, I can’t imagine how those ants were getting any benefit from it.

The good news is I have not seen a single ant since Easter morning.  Either I have killed them all off (as if I really believe that), or they no longer have a purpose in traversing my counter.  Of course they could be lying in wait, hoping for another coffee run-over.

Summer hasn’t even started yet, so I doubt I will be lucky enough not to see those pesky little critters again.  When I do the first place I will check is the coffee maker, chemical bomb in hand, ready to inflict mass destruction on their invasive little bodies.   I think a killer instinct in me has emerged.

 

 

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Filed under bugs, Cleaning, death, Discoveries, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, spring, summer

A Year Of Changes

learn-free-to-be-meIf you have been a reader for a while you know that my husband, Ron,  passed away December 7, 2015 and since that time I have been adjusting to living on my own.  In reflecting on myself now, plans for the future and introspection of the past I have learned a few things.

I am capable of living alone, and doing it comfortably.  When I met Ron I was 19 and living at home with my parents.  I got married,  moved in with Ron and had never lived alone.  I originally found the idea of living solo terrifying but had no choice.    What I have learned is that living on my own has its benefits.  I can set the thermostat where I want and it stays there.  I can blast the radio at 2 am if I chose without having to worry about disturbing anyone else.  I can eat what I want when I want and not have to worry about anyone else.  I can re-arrange and hang photos and other artwork on the walls, removing things that were never my choice to begin with and adding new items that appeal to me.   I can move, add,  eliminate or change anything I chose without wondering if another person is going to like the change.

learn-to-be-happy-aloneAlthough I never paid attention to our finances and had no interest in knowing about them, I am perfectly capable of paying bills, applying for mortgage modifications, listing property for sale, and making decisions on financial assets.   I’m not blindly doing what Ron told me to do as he was dying.  I’m evaluating my own circumstances and making a decision that I feel comfortable with.   My goal for the future is to learn how the stock market and investments work, to understand how to diversify and what everything means  so I can make informed choices.  Hopefully  I will get a grasp on this within the next decade.  I’m really walking in uncharted territory here.

I can now run a riding lawn mower, a weed wacker, call a plumber, take vehicles in for routine maintenance, find and hire repair persons for things such as air conditioning. However I have no intention of learning to run the snowblower.  That thing is just too big.  I’ll kill myself shoveling first.  I even look at the Harbor Freight and Tractor Repair sales flyers now in case there is something I need.  Okay, I’ll admit my big purchase this year was two tarps, but we all have to start somewhere.  learn-dance-in-the-rain

One big surprise, I like to cook.  I know that sounds funny after 34 years of marriage, but I thought I didn’t like cooking.  I have been cooking for myself for a year now and I realize  that I like it.  For the majority of our marriage Ron did all the cooking.  Over the years I told people didn’t like doing day-to-day rush home from work an cook a meal, but I liked doing the larger family meals.  I recently said those words to someone but later in the evening it occurred to me that the statement isn’t true.  I don’t mind cooking for myself at all.  I love grilling entire meals in the summer months.  So why the change in my thoughts?

learn-something-newWhat I have discovered is that it wasn’t the cooking I disliked, it was that Ron always had a criticism of some sort and tended to hover, questioning why I did things the way I did, telling me I should do things differently than I did.  Nothing was ever quite good enough, there was always a “why didn’t you…”  Basically, he thought I should cook just  like him.  After a while I tired of the negativity and simply walked away and left it to him.  He cooked, I cleaned up, and it worked.

Since Ron’s passing I have discovered that I enjoy cooking.  I like throwing foods together to see what I like, mixing different combinations.  If they are all watching from above there are three cooks in heaven that are probably surprised at what they see.

I would say Ron is probably shocked at the things I fix; that I enjoy the cooking and especially like grilling.  My Mother-in-Law is probably happy to see me not measuring, just dumping in many instances.  I learned early in my marriage that if you called her for a recipe she didn’t measure, it was  “till it looks right.”  My father was a great cook.  When he saw me go into the basement and gather an assortment of ingredients, throw them into a pot and end up with a soup he was probably going “hell ya, that’s the way to cook.”  One of my greatest memories is when he cleaned out the refrigerator and made “chili” with the leftovers.  How many people have eaten chili with spaghettio’s floating in it?  I have!learn-who-you-are

When it comes to traveling alone I have mixed feelings.  It is nice because if I want to wander around and/or make frequent stops to take pictures I can do that without any complaints.  Ron and I were both photographers and did that all the time, but the average person does not take pleasure in such activities or delays.

On the other hand, traveling alone can be lonely.   If taking in a tourist attraction, such as wandering a museum or park, you are always alone.  No one to talk with, share discoveries with.   You are always eating alone, and so I always dine with a book.  There is no one sharing your hotel room, no one to sleep with. Maybe we shouldn’t go there.  Let’s just leave it at that.

So learning about me happened by learning to live alone.  What a difference a year has made.  The good, the bad, the indifferent.  What have I learned? I had a fantastic marriage.  I will have a fantastic future.  Different than I planned, but that’s okay.  I have made decisions that a year ago I would not have made.  I have made changes in my life that a year ago I would not have made.  Life was different then.  I was different then.  I am happy with my life, and that is all that matters.  Whatever happens, whatever life throws in my direction, I am ready.  Bring it on!

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Filed under anniversary, Coping, death, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, food, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, Meals, memoir, mind, reality, time, vacation

Reflecting on the Reasons

On Thanksgiving Day my cousin, Michelle, who lost her husband to cancer about a month ago, had a post on Facebook stating how Charlie had loved Thanksgiving, had been the main meal planner, did the shopping, cooking,  and eating.  Not only was she grieving the loss of her husband, but their family tradition every year involves going around the table and each person saying what they are thankful for.  Michelle posted that she wasn’t sure how she would answer this year because every year she always said the same thing…her family, her job, the love of her amazing husband and that he continued to kick cancer’s butt.

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  Michelle and Charlie – Photos “stolen” from her Facebook Page

This year Charlie didn’t kick cancer’s butt, it kicked him.  Hard.  He was still working about two weeks prior to his passing.  He went down fast.  When I read her post I didn’t even hesitate, I just started typing.  My comment to her was:

“I know what you are thankful for, it is the same thing I am thankful for.  Neither Charlie or Ron are sick, nauseous, in pain, or in any way suffering from that horrid disease.  Maybe they have found each other in heaven and are getting acquainted by trading photography tips and stories.” 

After I posted the above response the reality hit me.  I may have used my ankle surgery as an excuse for choosing to spend the holiday solo, but the reality was I didn’t want to do the meal preparations alone, at least not this year.  Ron and I had always prepared it jointly.  I stuffed the bird and baked the sweet potatoes.  Ron did the potatoes, sometimes re-baked, sometimes mashed, sometimes both.  Ron made the fruit salad.  I did the green bean casserole.  One of us made the gravy, and the list goes on.

Last year I did it all alone, but that was different.  Ron was too sick to participate in the preparations in 2015, but he was still here.  He came to the table, had a few bites of food, and went back to the couch.  Austin (our 9-year old grandson) spent most of the day sitting next to Ron.  Eleven days later Ron was gone.

I realized that regardless of how well I have adjusted there will be moments when things hit me, and sometimes I won’t realize it at the time.  What I posted to Michelle in the comments is true.  I am glad that Ron is no longer struggling to swallow, weak, or sick from the combination of chemo and the disease itself.   I have moved on with my life, I have made the adjustment to being alone.  How do I know?time-dont-rush-anything

Another question that Michelle had posed to me a week or two earlier was how I handled going through Ron’s belongings.  She was struggling with that step.  My answer, you will know when you are ready, because it will be just another task, not an emotional roller coaster.  I only recently started cleaning Ron’s clothes out of the closet.   I told Michelle that I hadn’t unpacked the bag of Ron’s clothes I brought home from hospice the day he died until a few weeks ago.  That bag had been in my closet unopened for 11 months.  I was finally ready.  No emotions, just clothes to put away.

Everyone is different and processes loss at different levels.  From time to time there will probably be something that triggers a memory or an emotion.  We are, after all, human.

So in answering my cousin’s post in an effort to help her cope with her loss, I gained insight into my own reasons for being so adamant about not preparing the meal this year.  Next year will be different.  If I don’t have people here I will be gone and doing something.  Possibly volunteer at a kitchen that provides meals for the needy.  Home alone will not become a habit of mine, of that I am certain.

 

 

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Filed under cancer, Coping, death, decisions, Family, Holidays, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, Meals

Up and Back in a Day

This past Saturday was emotional, enlightening, fun, and exhausting all rolled into one.  A couple weeks ago I wrote about my cousin losing her husband after a lengthy battle with cancer in Feeling Their Pain.  The funeral was set and I debated for a week whether or not to go.  I wanted to go, but I have a lot going on and I was juggling the loss of an entire Saturday to travel and attend v. being able to get things accomplished around home.  I didn’t want to later regret not going so I went.

It was a beautiful fall Saturday in Michigan.  The visitation was scheduled for 10:00 am, funeral for 11:00.  I set my alarm for 4:00 am and was on the road at 5:15 am for the four hour drive.  I watched the sunrise through the passenger side of my vehicle as I traveled north on I-75.   A quick fifteen minute stop in West Branch gave me the opportunity to re-fuel the vehicle and myself by way of coffee and pumpkin donuts.  I was in Traverse City at 9:30 am.  death

The funeral was held at the Reynolds Jonkoff Funeral Home in Traverse City, the same place my Grandmother’s funeral was held years ago.  A beautiful, historical home that lends itself to comfort for memorial services.  Photo boards and memorabilia of Charlie’s life were on display, and a slide show of photos played on the screen.  Always smiling, always clowning around and being silly, that was Charlie.

I was greeted by family I rarely see and met some I have never seen.  It is hard to maintain contact with extended family when we all live so far apart.  Facebook is a blessing in that regard for helping people to stay in touch.  Charlie’s widow, Michelle, and I had not seen each other since we were children, but we recognized each other immediately.    It had only been six days since Charlie passed and Michelle was struggling emotionally.  We held each other and cried together, Michelle because the pain was new, me because I was reliving the pain through the memories this setting brought on.  I left her a card in which I enclosed the poem I read at my husband Ron’s burial, If Tomorrow Starts Without Me (see below).

During the ceremony the Obituary of Charlie Jokinen was read.  Charlie grew up in grew up in Bobcaygeon, Ontario and the stories shared by his best friend from childhood were filled with humor; good memories of a wonderful person in his youth.   Michelle’s daughter, Nicole, talked about what a wonderful, accepting person Charlie was when he came into their lives, and how despite his struggles with cancer always attended her sporting events, concerts, and other activities of youth.  I learned that Charlie and my husband, Ron, were very much alike.  Both loved photography, being active, loved life and family, and were always smiling.   It was a wonderful testimonial to a life well lived and a person well liked and loved by all.

Following the ceremony was the procession to the Memorial Gardens where Charlie was laid to rest beside my Uncle Lee and Aunt Jesse Hilts, who were laid to rest beside my maternal grandparents, Ralph and Grace Hilts.  They are all located not far from the graves of my paternal grandparents, uncle and parents.  After a short grave side service during which Michelle lowered Charlie’s ashes into the ground, we proceeded to the Grawn Baptist Church for a luncheon and fellowship with family members and friends.

About 2:30 I hugged Michelle goodbye before getting on the road.  We promised to stay in touch and get together for a weekend.   We now have a common bond not shared by our siblings or other cousins.  I did manage to accidentally announce my departure rather loudly.  As I was walking across the lot to my car I somehow managed to activate my car alarm.  Nothing like a bright red car with the horn blasting and lights flashing to signal the end of a memorial luncheon.  I glanced around, thought I was safe from anyone having witnesses my blunder and got into my car.  Then a grey pickup pulled in next to me, it was my cousin, Iva, and her husband Milt.  I rolled down the window and Milt congratulated me on adding a bit of humor to the end of the day.

I took the more scenic, leisurely route across the state on my way home.  This served two purposes.  It allowed me to enjoy the beautiful northern fall scenery with an occasional stop to take photographs, and the climbing in and out of the car into the cool air helped to keep me awake as I drove.

It was not until I got on US-10, an expressway, that the length of the day made me drowsy.  I know that if I keep busy it helps me to stay awake and the singing and dancing in the car while driving wasn’t doing the trick.   I finally made a stop and picked up a highly nutritious snack at Speedway gas station of a spiced pumpkin cappuccino and a small bag of crunchy Cheetos.  I know, individually they sound yummy but as a combo it sounds horrid.  Remarkably it wasn’t, so go ahead and give it a try sometimes.  It did work in keeping me awake as I stretched that bag of Cheetos all the way to I-69, which marked only an hour more to go on my route.

I arrived home around 7:00 pm.  A tiring day but I am glad I went.  It was good for Michelle to have me there.  It was good for me to be there.

funeral-whentomorrowstartswithoutmepoem

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Filed under cancer, celebration, Coping, death, Family, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, travel

Feeling Their Pain

It has been ten months since my husband, Ron, passed away following a fifteen month battle with cancer.  I am doing well, and moving forward in my new life.  I have a cousin…or actually a first cousin once removed if you want to be technical, whose husband has been battling a rare cancer for nine years and is now in the final stages, losing his fight as well.

thankful-for-every-momentI was reading Michelle’s post on Facebook yesterday.  Many notes of sympathy and prayers.  They know her, they know her husband Charlie, they know what a great couple and wonderful marriage they had.  I, on the other hand, have not seen Michelle personally in years.  We were together as children, but not as adults.  We are in contact only by Facebook now.  However, I can truly feel her pain.

As I read her post I could feel the helplessness at watching a man who has lived an active, positive life quickly deteriorate into a person who is lifeless, sick, unable to manage even the simple things in life.   There is no “fix.”  You are moving toward the end and you both know it but don’t really want to say it.  You are losing the person you thought would be there for decades more.   It is an emotional situation like none other you will ever experience.  You aren’t losing a grandparent, parent, sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, or child.  You are losing a spouse.  It is different and only those who have ever experienced it can understand what a different loss it is.

I typed a reply, relying on my experience.  I had to cut it short.  I was sitting at work and almost started crying because I really can feel what she is going through.  What did I tell her?  Cherish the memories, remind him of those things.  Tell him it was a great marriage.  Tell him you will be okay.  Those are things that will bring him peace as he moves toward the end.

She is going through the hard part.  Then there is the adjustment period following the death.  But as time passes she will be okay.  She will live a new “normal” life without Charlie.  She has a positive attitude and her new life will also be positive and good.  How do I know?  Because that is what I am doing.   I’ve been there.  I can feel her pain.  I know she will persevere and move forward.  That is the type of person she is.

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Filed under cancer, Coping, death, Family, Illness, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality

Swearing at Your Deceased Husband is Okay

It has been seven months since my husband passed away and I am handling it very well, except for those times when I get frustrated and swear at him.  But that’s okay.  Keep in mind if anyone else did it I would probably kill them, at least verbally.  I lived with him for 34 years, I have exclusive rights.

Only someone who has ever lost a spouse can understand the roller coaster of emotions you deal with.  People will say they understand because they have lost a grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, child, etc.  They may feel sympathy for you, but they can’t understand fully.  Losing a spouse is different.

EPSON MFP image

Ron and I approx. 1980

So why am I swearing at him?  Because it keeps me emotionally on track.  Because it relieves frustration.  Because it helps with mourning at unexpected moments.  Because it is my exclusive right and I sometimes utilize it as an emotionally stabilizing crutch to help me maintain focus.

What am I swearing at him about?  That depends on what I am doing at the time.  As I am riding the lawn mower around our backyard that has numerous things to go around, and then a tremendous amount of edging I have said on numerous occasions “dammit Ron, all I can say is I know you designed this thinking you were going to be taking care of it, not me.”    It helps me to focus on what needs to be done and set goals for getting the yard in order.   It helps me to remember that he never had any intention of me having to handle the yard work.  That was his area.

When I’m going through things he purchased at garage sales, estate sales, or scrapping and I look at the price tags on some of the items I say “dammit Ron, I hope you didn’t pay that price for this.” and “dammit Ron, why did you spend so much money on this stuff.”  I could have used the money more than the stuff, but I know he had a goal in mind of reselling those things in a booth at the Eastern Market (huge farmer’s market in Detroit) or at flea markets and that was his goal.  Everyone needs goals, and he had good intentions before the cancer took them and him.

EPSON MFP image

Ron and I October 2015

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  The biggest one though, is the one that is most important.  You see in addition to a huge accumulation of stuff I need to get rid of, my house is full of Ron…photos he took, photos of him, things that we did, things that we purchased…memories.  So, when something hits me and I’m having an emotional moment, I put my fingers on his chest/body on one of those photos and say “dammit Ron, why did you have to die?”

So now you now why it is okay to swear at your deceased husband.  As his surviving widow  you have the exclusive right to verbalize your frustrations at your new life, at the things you must now tackle, at the emotions that go along with the grieving process, at the frustrations over their death.  It is your exclusive right.  Enjoy it and use it to the fullest.  Your sanity depends on it.

 

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Filed under cancer, Coping, death, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir

Trying to Juggle but Falling Behind

I have always been a fairly organized person.  Someone who gets involved in clubs and takes on a board position and/or committee chair person.  I commit to things and meet my commitments.  Busy is Better!

Lately I was struggling to get things done, and found some items on my to-do list week after week.  What happened?  Why was I suddenly falling behind, not juggling my life the way I always have?  Then there was that moment, the flip of a switch, the lightbulb came on and I figured it out.

I am no longer juggling just my responsibilities.  I am also juggling those of my deceased husband, plus the additional phone calls and paperwork that have to be done to get everything transferred into my name, his name removed from things, etc.  Then of course there is the learning curve in which everything he did takes me a considerably longer amount of time because I don’t have a full grasp of it yet.  That is improving, but it is a process.

Every process, every learning curve has its bumps in the road.  There are frustrations that come with everything.  The frustration of living in a computer generated world in which computers rule what happens and people follow the computer rather than thinking and using logical, common sense.  The aggravation that is felt when all the appropriate steps have been taken, only to find out the company didn’t do what they should have and so you have to take further steps to correct things.

I applied for a mortgage modification and got approved, but they never told me not to make a payment, so I have made them all, but in the meantime they are holding my payments in “suspense” while they complete the change over and are repeatedly sending me delinquent notices, including by certified mail that I had to go sign for.  When I called I was told those are computer generated notices and I will continue to receive them until they get everything rolled over.  And how long will that take?  Oh, about two more weeks.

I drove over 35 miles to a main cell phone store to switch the account from my husbands to my own name.  I gave them all my information, told them to remove my husband’s phone and two pads he had.  Put the account in my name, leave my daughter on as a manager.  The phone and pad did get removed, but when my daughter called to get assistance with her phone the pass codes I gave them weren’t working.  As it turns out that is because they never made the switch.  They still had the account in my husband’s name, had me as a manger, which I had been before my husband’s death, and removed my daughter as a manager.    Then I had to wait and call back on a weekday, because this I found out on the weekend.  When I called I informed them it was rather incompetent being I had stood in their store with a death certificate and yet they left my husband on as the owner of the account…a dead man has no responsibility to you to pay the bill!  Got that one fixed.

That is only two in a long list of situations that have created chaos in an already chaotic situation.  Then of course there are the regular duties of paying bills, service on motor vehicles, and lawn mowing that my husband always handled.  My daughter commented that she knows she needs to come over and mow my lawn.  I told her instruction on use of the riding lawnmower would allow me to handle the task myself.  Seriously, I have driven boats, jet skis, motorcycle and moped, I should be able to handle a wild and crazy lawnmower!

So, when I got to really thinking it about it I finally realized, the reason I am trying to juggle but falling behind is because I am handling everything that was previously handled by two, and I haven’t gotten the process down yet.  On a positive note, I am improving.  It is a process.

 

 

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Filed under Coping, death, decisions, exploration, habit, home, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality

What Creates Happiness?

I was recently having a conversation with someone who stated they rarely feel happy.  That surprised me.  I am in a period of adjusting to the loss of my husband of 34 years who passed just seven weeks ago, yet I do not consider myself unhappy.  I feel I am just in a temporary state of numbness that goes with the loss of a loved one.

What, I wondered, creates happiness in a person?  Why do some people go through life feeling satisfied with their life, while others are unable to pull themselves out of a state of depression, or rotating bouts of depression?

I believe that to a large degree happiness is created by attitude.  Positive thinking, the ability to adjust to whatever life throws at you.  This mind set contributes to a person’s ability to maintain happiness through life’s trials and tribulations.

Happiness-Quotes-concious-choiceBut what is happiness?  Happiness is created when a person has a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life.   A persons satisfaction with their life, how they feel on a day-to-day basis affects their ability to feel happy.  It is difficult for someone who does not struggle with the overall feeling of happiness to understand how others can lack a feeling of contentment that comes with being happy.

The best way I can determine for one to overcome their lack of happiness is to try to change their way of thinking.  There is a saying “fake it till you make it” that I think would serve a good purpose here.  Pretend to be happy.  Convince yourself that you are happy, that you will be happy.  Why?  Because it is what everyone wants, what everyone desires.  Convince yourself you are and it will come to be.

How do I know this?  Because that is how I live my life.  I have had numerous things thrown my way that can drag you to the bottom of an emotional pit, and yet I have succeeded in maintaining happiness.

What, you may ask, could I have dealt with that could be that bad.  I have had a granddaughter suffer severe brain trauma, not at the hands of her parents or my husband and I.  Child Protective Services removed her and her sister from the family and terminated parental rights.  Even though my husband and I applied to adopt, they were separated and adopted out to two separate families that are not relatives and we have no contact.  I have a son who let desperation get the best of him and is doing 6-22 years in prison for home invasion.   I was riding my motorcycle when a young driver ran the stop signs and broadsided me, causing severe and permanent injury.  Just when I thought I was healed my ankle began to deteriorate and I am facing more surgery at sometime in my future as a result.  My husband developed esophageal cancer and after battling it for a year, including surgery after which we thought he was cancer free, lost that battle on December 7, 2015.

happy_quote - Abraham Lincoln

I have encountered numerous events in my life that could have taken me down the path of negative thinking and left me in sorrow, and yet I prevail.  Why?  Because I am determined that I will.  I maintain a positive attitude.  I am determined to be satisfied in life.  It may be different.  It may not be what I originally planned or thought it would be.  I must accept those changes and look at them as my “new normal” in which I will succeed.

What Creates Happiness?  Perseverance.  Positive Thinking.  Acceptance of Change.  Determination.  All of those things, combined, create an attitude in which you are happy because you have the ability to cope with whatever life throws at you.  That state of satisfaction, contentment with life, gives you the confidence you need to move forward.  That is what creates happiness.

Happiness Quote 1

 

 

 

 

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Numbness in Life

The new year has begun and I am determined to make it a good one.  I will conquer whatever challenges I encounter and move forward as a widow, a single person, whatever you want to call me.

I appear to others to be adjusted, back to normal.  However there is a numbness in life that I am aware of.  I haven’t quite gotten a grasp on this new normal for me.  That may be due to not having completed the final steps in Ron’s passing yet.

The final steps, I think, will be picking up Ron’s ashes and flag from the cremation society, making the arrangements for and completing his burial, and the Celebration of Life which is scheduled March 6th.  I believe that those steps will bring to a culmination the reality of his passing.

I have started to do some  cleaning out around the house, but not of a personal nature.  I have eliminated foods that Ron ate and I didn’t, rearranged some things to my liking rather than a compromised liking.  However Ron’s wallet still sits on the charging station where he always left it, the collection of his stuff on the master bath counter that I always found irritating when he was alive remain there.  I have not yet unpacked the duffle bag of clothes that I took to hospice for him.  I have not downloaded the pictures from his camera of his last photo shoot.  I still wear my wedding rings every day.    life - where you are headed is bigger than where you have been

Those things, and the fact that our house is a mixture of him and I, leave the feeling that this is all a dream and he will one day return.  Realistically I know that is not true.  Emotionally it is a security blanket.

It has only been one month since Ron passed on December 7, 2015.  In some ways it feels like it just happened, in other ways it seems like it has been ages ago.  That just goes with my feelings of Numbness in Life.

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Going Through the Motions

It has now been ten days since my husband, Ron, passed away.  Life goes on, and while I appear to be functioning on a normal level, I am numb.

I get up, go to work, come home.  The holidays are a distraction.  I have my daughter and her kids coming here on Christmas day and my sister and her family on December 26th.  I had to decorate, at least to a certain degree.   I got my tree up, some decorations out in that room and my kitchen, and called it done.  It wasn’t fun this year.  It was just a process that I did, a duty I performed.

My granddaughter, Alexandria, had her first birthday, and as is our tradition my daughter came over with cake and we had a celebration here at the house.  Except Ron wasn’t here to see Alex turn one.   She will never remember him on her own.  My grandsons are trying to understand death, heaven, what it means when a person is gone from their lives.  Both were extremely close to Ron.  They know something has changed but haven’t quite grasped what it means.

I am trying to do what is normal, what we have always done.  I attended a Christmas potluck at Studio 1219 where we both have our photography, have been members for years and have done a lot of volunteering.  I was fine when I arrived, until I walked into the room where everyone was, all those familiar faces, and had to take a couple deep breaths to get control of my emotions.

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Alexandria’s First Birthday

Tonight I am going to the Christmas party / meeting of the Blue Water Shutterbug Camera Club, another organization Ron and I have both been heavily involved in for the past eleven years.  I am closer to this group of people than to those at the studio.  It is a fun group.  Hopefully I can keep a grasp on myself and get through tonight without a problem.

So I got to work.  I try to remember to do things here at home, such as bring in and open mail, that were always handled by Ron.  I make calls to notify life insurance, pension, and others of his death.  I wrote his obituary.  I prepare for the Celebration of Life that will be held in March.

I go through the motions of life, but inside I feel numb, empty, lonely.  It is a process.  An adjustment.

 

 

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We Turn The Page

Last week I wrote about my husband, Ronald Grogan’s battle with cancer.  We were informed on the 1st of December that the cancer had spread, there was nothing they could do.  We began living the rest of our marriage day-by-day.

Those days were numbered more tightly then I realized.  On Thursday, December 3rd Hospice contacted me and at that point I told them I didn’t need them to do the intake appointment until the following Monday or Tuesday.  By the next day, Friday, Ron’s condition had worsened to the point where I decided to call and have them come out that day to get him set up.

IMG_1146

Ronald and Grace Grogan

The intake appointment was conducted Friday at about 4:00 pm, and we were told that because it is a lot of information to absorb they would send out an on-call nurse Saturday to check on Ron and answer any questions.

Saturday at around 2 pm the visiting nurse arrived.  Ron was very weak, hadn’t eaten anything and said he almost fell when using the restroom early in the morning.  After some discussion Ron made the decision that he should be transferred to the Blue Water Hospice House immediately.

2324 - Ron and Grace-  Leelenau Peninsula - North 2015

Ronald and Grace Grogan

I got Ron checked into hospice around 6:00 pm on Saturday, stayed with him until 8:00, and then went home for the night, telling him I would be back on Sunday.  I went home, made phone calls to inform family, and found out that my sister and her husband, my sister-in-law, and my brother-in-law all planned to visit the next day, as did my daughter, her boyfriend and her three children.

Sunday was a busy day with all the visitors coming and going.  As we approached evening and everyone except my sister-in-law had left, the hospice nurse, Holly was chatting with us.  I had made a comment about going home to sleep and stopping in the next morning on my way to work.  I live and work about 3 minutes from the hospice house, so I thought that was reasonable and convenient.

0197 Ron taking photographs-1Holly didn’t question my thought process so much as ask me questions that steered me into making a better decision.  She asked me, in my opinion, on a scale of 1-10 how much I thought Ron’s condition had worsened since I had checked him in 24 hours earlier.  I said about a 6.  Holly then looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to go home that night, and was I sure I wanted to be at work, because two minutes could make the difference in being there or not being there when he passed.  I made the decision to stay and my sister-in-law, Cathy, said she would stay with me.

Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up sandwhichs for dinner and a run to the house for me to grab my glasses so I could remove contacts, then back to the hospice house for the night.

3557 Ron and Tripod after implosion

Aftermath on an implosion – Ron Grogan takes down his camera and tripod as the cloud of dust rolls in. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

I was informed that it is okay for me to get in bed with Ron and sleep with him, they encourage that.  At 8 pm I layed down in the bed with Ron for what I thought was a few minutes.  It turns out I fell asleep and was there for about two hours.  I got back up, but then later that night went back into the bed with him, which is where I slept all night, holding his hand, covering him up when he got cold, listening to his breathing.   At 6:20 am I got up for the day.

Ron was still responsive at that time, but shortly after stopped responding to questions.  Our son called and I held the phone to Ron’s ear while Patrick talked.  Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up breakfast and lunch. In the early afternoon Cathy went over to the family room to lay down and rest.  My daughter, Caroline and her boyfriend stopped in with just the baby.  The nurse had come in, checked on Ron and said time was getting close.

I was sitting on the bed, holding Ron’s hand, talking to him.  His breaths were getting more distant, but every time Alexandria  made a sound he struggled for another breath.  I told Caroline I thought he was hanging on and wouldn’t let go till Alex was out of the room, so Caroline, Rob and Alexandria left.

Memories - a way of holding onto the things ou loveIt was only minutes.  I told Ron that it was okay, I would be okay.  Ron took two more breaths with a wide space between and was gone.  When I realized he was not going to take any more breaths I hit the nurses call button.  When they heard me crying over the intercom one of them came in and rubbed my back as I lay there crying.  It was so close they tried to catch Caroline in the parking lot but couldn’t.

I don’t know how long I lay there, my guess is about ten minutes before I asked if one of them could go across the hall and advise his sister.  We both called family members to let them know.  The people at hospice left me alone with Ron until I was ready for them to clean him up.  They contacted the National Cremation Society and made arrangements to have his body picked up.

Ron was wheeled out of the Blue Water Hospice with an American flag over his body because he is a Veteran.  He will be buried in the National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.  We will have a celebration of life for him in March where his photographs will be displayed.

2009So now we turn the page.  It has been only two days since Ron passed.  I am learning how to come home to an empty house.  To move through my days without him here.  I am adjusting, slowly.

 

 

 

 

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Living Day by Day

We all live expecting life to continue as it always has.  We dream, make plans, say we’ll do things tomorrow.  What if tomorrow never comes?  What if you find out your tomorrows are limited?  That is when you begin living day by day, one day at a time.

Ron-1

Ron approximately 1980

If you have been a reader for a while you may remember when I wrote in January about my husband’s Slippery Surgical Stress where due to a large tumor and cancer he had a transhiatal esophagectomy in which they removed his esophagus then raised his stomach up and attached it where the esophagus once was.  The surgery went well, he had a speedy recovery and it was believed he was cancer free.

Then at Ron’s three month post-op checkup they found cancer in his lung, which they related to the esophagus cancer.  He began a round of chemo, wearing a chemo-pack for 48 hours every two weeks.  After that round they did another scan, the cancer had gotten worse and they changed the type of chemo and he did another round, which he completed on November 19th.

Life if like a camera-1

Life is Like a Camera. Photo by Grace Grogan

Ron had a CT Scan on Monday, November 30th.  The cancer has spread.  Chemo is not working.  Treatment is being stopped.  Ron is down to 99.6 lbs and is unable to eat or drink much.  He is very weak and exhausted all the time.  We inquired as to whether it would be beneficial to have him hospitalized and put on a feeding tube to get nutrition into him.  The answer was devastating.  A feeding tube will not provide him with an increase in energy and will not enhance his quality of life, instead it could deplete it due to potential complications.

So, I took my husband home and we take it day by day.  The oncologist will have hospice contact me.  We plan for his passing.  I pray he makes it through Christmas.   Once we hit Christmas, the next goal is our grandson’s birthday in January.  We will set goals one-by-one.

Emotionally this is very trying.  I have spent more time in tears in the past 48 hours than I have in years.  I feel horrible that he and our son (who is in prison), only have telephone contact or letters for contact during this time.   They are very close and this is hard on both of them.   I feel crushed that our youngest grandchild, who will have her first birthday on the 12th of December, is too young to remember her grandfather.  I worry about my two grandsons, ages 4 and 9 who are very close to him.  I could be a fly on the wall, it is always “where’s Papa?” when they come through the door.

So, this has been a rough year,  but it has also been a good year because when Ron got the diagnosis that his cancer was back he took a positive approach and lived like he was dying.  He took 2-1/2 weeks and drove west to Sante Fe, New Mexico and back, making numerous stops along the way and doing things he had never done…a hot air balloon ride, a glider ride, and more.  The two of us flew to Albuquerque and attended the International Hot Air Balloon Festival.  We drove north and toured the Michigan State Hospital, went up into the UP and visited our son.  Ron walked the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day, and old tradition of ours.  He drove to Tennessee and checked on property we own there, taking a side trip to Nashville where he had never been.  Ron attended his 45th Class Reunion, we went to a BBQ where he saw some of his old high school friends.  He took pictures, he planned for the future.  He spent this past  year the best he could.

I am trying to maintain as normal a routine as possible.  Friends and family have been supportive.  We have people scheduled to come visit him.    I dread the day he is no longer here.  In some ways it feels lonely already.

I have adopted the motto of my teenage nephew, who a few years ago was battling cancer and facing imminent death.   His motto was “Every Day’s a Bonus.”  I’m borrowing that motto.  Every day that I have Ron here with me is a bonus.

 

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Finding Treasures

China Bowl 4The discovery of items that were beautiful, old, and interesting.  Four boxes of them.  Each box was labeled “Treasures.”  When we removed the top what we found were typewritten lists that not only named the items inside, it explained where they came from, and how that original owner was related or not related to us, and how the item came to be in our family.  The history of each item that had been carefully packed away years ago for us to discover.Coffee Pots

My sister and I discovered those boxes as we were going through things in our parents house, cleaning it out following the death of our father in December.  Our mother passed away almost two years ago and was very ill for over ten years.  She is the one that prepared those boxes, carefully wrapping each item, packing them into the boxes and then typing the lists on an old-fashioned typewriter.  So long they have sat tucked away, carefully stored for us to find someday

Honeymoon brochuresThe items are an interesting assortment, too many to list here.  I did take a few cell phone pictures of some of the “treasures”.  My grandmother’s wooden rolling pin and wooden board.  My grandfather’s pipe stand and his favorite pipe.  Beautiful china bowls.  A Stein from Germany.  Jigsaw puzzles with very thick pieces.  My father’s first camera  and his toy holster set from when he was a child.  My parents wedding cake top and some brochures, road map and placemats from their honeymoon.

Dads Holster SetThe discovery was a wonderful break in our cleaning out of their house.  Had we stumbled upon some of those items in the house we may not have realized their emotional value, their history within our family.  One of the best gifts we could ever have received.    I now know that there are items in my home I want to locate and pack in the same manner, carefully labeling the box and making sure that someday, when my husband and I are gone, our children can discover treasurers in our home and enjoy the  significance to their heritage.

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WHEN DID STOVE TOP STUFFING OFFER A FREE MICROWAVE DISH?

Why do they have four complete sets of frying pans?  Look at all this new bake wear.  Why in the world would people who rarely ate tacos have six jars of taco sauce?

These are questions that went through the minds of my sister and I as we were cleaning out the kitchen of our parents a couple weeks ago.  The first of many trips I will be making since our father passed away in December and our mother about 19 months ago.  Obviously this is a task that is a lot of work but also good for laughs and memories.  They moved into the house in 1966 when my sister and I were young children, so we will be at this task for quite a while.

We have decided to do the distribution of property in an amicable arrangement.  If only one of us wants something it is theirs.  If both of us want the same item it goes into a group of items we will resolve later, probably by taking turns selecting from the group.  If neither of us wants something but one of our children (who are all adults) do, they get it.  We decided the kitchen and pantry would be our starting point.

Linda wanted a set of Corelle Casserole dishes.  Done.  Caroline needed a spaghetti cooker.  Done.  Carol got a complete set of cookware, looks brand new.  I took some new baking pans and a large Pyrex mix and pour.    What no one wanted we condensed into a couple cupboards for a garage sale later.  Now to tackle the food.

Stove Top Stuffing Mix with Microwave Dish.  How old could this be?

Stove Top Stuffing Mix with Microwave Dish. How old could this be?

What in the world were they thinking?  Did they do any clean outs of expired items?  Did they forget what they had purchased and buy more?  Questions we can only speculate on the answer of.    One unique find was a box of Microwave Stove-Top Stuffing Mix that included its own microwave pan.  No expiration date on the box.  Good Grief — how long ago was that purchased?

People that rarely made tacos had six jars of taco sauce.  Dad used BBQ sauce a log in his cooking, but approximately 16 bottles of the stuff seems excessive, and the list goes on.  Sadly, most of the items are expired and when the weather warms up will be hauled out and trashed

We did end up with a small collection of canned food that is still good.  My sister referred to this as my “If you get snowed in” collection because I travel from 2-1/2 hours away and stay at the house; she lives in the same town.  Nice to know that in a moment of need I have three cans of soup, some canned peaches and pears, and a few cans of wax beans.  I can only hope if it happens it is a small storm.  I may have to sustain myself on coffee and tea, of which we found an ample supply.

My Dad and a gun.  he was about 3 years old at the time.

My Dad and a gun. he was about 3 years old at the time.

Me around 1980.

Me around 1980.

My parents with my sister and I.  I'm the older daughter in the back.

My parents with my sister and I. I’m the older daughter in the back.

We did take a break by going through some old photos, both from our childhood and antique family pictures.  We both started snapping pictures of the pictures with our cell phones and sharing them on our individual Facebook pages.  Fun memories and a great way to end what was the first of many trips to come.

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Caught in a Tornado

It started out as a heavy wind, then the momentum kept building, blowing harder and harder, starting to spin around me.  The power increased steadily until it was overpowering, hitting me with its impact and before I knew it I felt like I was spinning uncontrollably.  I was caught in a vicious tornado, life had thrown too much at me and I was loosing control.

Ultimate Measure of ManBack in July my husband, Ron, began having some trouble swallowing when eating.  By the time we returned home from vacation in August the problem had become much worse.  It was discovered that he had a large tumor in his esophagus and that it was cancerous.    During the time it took for the various tests and consultations with doctors to be done the tumor became worse and his ability to eat went from normal to soft foods only to very thing liquids/broths.  At the beginning of his 5-1/2 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation his esophagus was 90% blocked.  He has lost around 40 lbs and is down to around 131 lbs, very thin.  He finished his chemotherapy last week and today, the 4th of December, was his last radiation treatment.  The treatments have reduced the tumor and four about 1-2 weeks he was able to get some foods down, but the burning from the radiation has now caused that to be extremely painful.  We have to wait about a month for the burning to heal and the poisons from the chemo to leave his body.  In January he will have surgery to remove the esophagus and they will raise his stomach up to replace it.  Once those steps are done and he recovers from the surgery he should be able to resume a normal lifestyle.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that my husband and I have been trying to adopt our granddaughters and lost one to adoption already.  We found out on the 17th of November that although we have never received an official denial that another family has been found and she will likely be placed with them in January and adopted in June.  DHS has fought us all the way, and although we have not totally given up, we know that we are not likely to succeed in any attempts we make.  If you are not familiar with what has been going on, you can read about it in Power of Emotion and Attempted Adoption:  An Emotional Whirlwind.

My father has been experiencing health issues for the past year or so, plus struggling emotionally since my mother’s death in 2013.  He recently went into the hospital in a weakened state and with fluid around his lungs.  He was  transferred to a medical rehabilitation facility to regain his strength when a set-back sent him back to the hospital about a week ago.  I spoke with him on the 7th of December and he was uncomfortable, weak, and having difficulty eating/swallowing.  On the 2nd of December, his 75th birthday, he began to fail badly.  They attempted to drain fluid from his lungs and one collapsed, his kidneys were not working properly, and a multitude of other problems existed as well.  Throughout the day he changed floors in the hospital twice as his condition worsened.  By the end of the day he was intubated and not expected to live through the night.Death

The hospital is two hours from where I live.  Ron is weakest in the evenings and has had some dizzy spells and falls so I didn’t want to leave him home overnight.  The emotional impact was hitting me and I was struggling with  everything — the loss of Kiley to adoption, Ron’s condition, and my father’s anticipated death.  I was able to call the hospital and they held the phone to his ear so I could talk to him.  I was surprised when my sister, who lives near him, called the next morning and said she was at the hospital, he was failing very fast but they could maintain him for family to arrive.  I called into work and hit the road.  I was lucky, the roads were clear and very little traffic, I was at the hospital within about 2-1/2 hours from when I received the call.    My father’s skin was cold and clammy to the touch, his vitals were very low, but when I spoke to him I could tell from his facial movements that he could hear me and was able to register what I was telling him.  My sister and I decided to go to the cafeteria for a quick lunch, as her son-in-law and a pastor were expected to arrive and we would then remove life support and switch him to comfort measures only.   When we returned to the room we said a few final words to him.   Once we made the change in his treatment he passed peacefully within about 20 minutes.

children reinvent your worldOne life ends and another begins.  My daughter is pregnant, a high-risk pregnancy and her C-Section is scheduled for December 12th, so 1-1/2 weeks after the death of my father, the birth of another grandchild will take place.    The juggling of life continues as we have to drive her 45 minutes away to the hospital where she will deliver, take care of her other two children while she is at the hospital, and handle getting her and baby back home and to her follow up appointments.

I’m either adjusting to the speed of the tornado or it is loosing momentum.  We are now down to my grandchild’s birth, a family Christmas at our house, my husband’s surgery in January, continuing to monitor what happens with our granddaughter being adopted out to a non-relative rather than us, and my sister and I sorting through and cleaning out our parents’ home and belongings and handling the details of settling their estate.    It only goes to show that Life is a Melting Pot of incidents and activities.

 

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