Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Remember

I am no longer an active blogger, but I have a commitment in my heart to remember...
Originally published on September 11, 2006, as part of a bloggers effort to commemorate the 5-year anniversary of the attacks that killed so many.

With the passing of Christopher Paul Slattery, a son died. A brother died. A nephew died. A cousin died. A friend died. A colleague died. A brother-in-law died. An uncle died. His family, friends, and co-workers can tell you far more about the life Chris lived than I ever could. So let us pause now and think about the life he did not live.

Chris was a son who never got to toast his parents' 50th wedding anniversary. He will not be there to help his parents when they are old, to support their faltering steps as they supported his first ones. He will never introduce the love of his life to his mother and father; he won't hear his father's advice and jokes about marriage, and he won't see his mother's eyes shining with proud tears at his wedding.

Chris was a brother who will never send Dan another whimsical IM; he will never make Erin laugh again. He will never fill their hearts with love as they watch him play with their children. He will never see those children grow up, graduate high school, get married.

Chris was a friend who will never host another tailgate party; he'll never see another Giants or Rangers game. He and his cousin Tim will never open their pie-in-the-sky bar and restaurant. He will never see another parade go down Fifth Avenue. He will never fly another kite on Nantucket.

Chris was a colleague who will never broker the most important deal of the year, work on the division's biggest project, or simply make sure the day-to-day details are moving smoothly.

Christopher Slattery was a son and a brother, a nephew and a cousin, a brother-in-law and an uncle, a friend and a colleague. But he will never be a husband and a father. He will never feel his heart skip a beat when the phone rings with a certain tone; he will never have butterflies in his stomach when he asks someone to share her life with him. He will never know the wonder of becoming a father, of falling in love all over again, this time with someone so tiny as to be unbelievable.

From all accounts, when Chris died, the world lost a gentle, kind man with a wonderful sense of humor, a man who "lived life large and packed it full." He will always be remembered by those who knew him. Let us also remember what Chris lost, the opportunities for love and laughter and living.

Read more about Chris Slattery:

I will publish (or link to) this memorial piece every September 11 that I am an active blogger.  I will do my part to ensure that Chris' memory be eternal, that those who died may never be forgotten.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The End.

I guess I'm done.

Seven years and 940 posts later, I just don't think I have anything new to say.   Or if I do, it's not about grief and widowhood. 

Thank you all for reading along with me, for laughing and crying with me, for raging with and encouraging me.  I've met some wonderful people here, and you mean the world to me. Thank you for being a part of this little slice of my life.

The screen sits empty.
The words echo and repeat.
Time to say goodbye.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Winter's Rest

At last the Winter’s Rest has called,
Th’ deepened slumber undisturbed,
A life now left, and now recalled.

With Joys and Sorrows memories spill,
Flow tears of grief, loss, love, uncurbed,
Where life once vibrant now is still.

In Winter’s Deep he lays to sleep,
Our hearts cry out to heav’n above
And pray, Dear Lord, his soul to keep.

Now raise a glass to loved ones gone.
And drink to life, to health, to love,
And friends that help us to live on.
~ Briseadh na Faire

I found this poem over at The Zoo a few days before Christmas. It struck a chord, and I know that it will resonate with many of my readers as well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy birthday, darling

Yup, I'm still missing you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Darling

I sure do miss you.

Friday, December 07, 2012

For the newly widowed parents out there ...

I wrote this guide for newly widowed parents several years ago for an online group. I wish I had remembered to post it earlier in the season. But maybe some of it will still be helpful, even for widows without kids.

A guide to "getting through" the holiday season

First, decide where and how you want to spend the holidays. Do you want to make this year as much like all the previous years as possible? Or do you want to totally change things up?

Regardless of where you'll be and how you'll celebrate, whether you'll travel to someplace new, spend the holidays with family, or stay home by yourself ...

1. Scale back wherever possible. Yes, you want to make the holiday special for the kids, but that doesn't mean you have to do everything exactly the way you always have done it. Decide what traditions are absolutely required for it to feel like Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa and focus on those things; if you have time and energy for the "extras," terrific. If not, that's okay.

2. Feel free to skip the greeting card frenzy. Seriously. Anybody who is offended not to hear from you this year really doesn't deserve to hear from you. (I sent no cards the first year; but I did send about a dozen letters to people who I knew would not have heard about Nick's death.)

3. Speaking of greeting cards, feel free to shred -- unread -- all the happy newsy Christmas letters from people you haven't seen in 10 years but who want to tell you how wonderful their perfect little families are. If it helps, write your own letter about how "wonderful" your year has been and post it right here in the comments.

4. The Internet is your best friend. Don't subject yourself to the happy families at the shopping mall if you don't have to. Just about everything you want to buy for the kids can be purchased online. In many larger metropolitan areas, you can even buy your groceries online and have them delivered for a minimal fee.

5. If holiday music is important to you, buy a new CD with someone different performing all the old favorites, someone you don't associate with your DH/DW. Yes, you can still listen to the sentimental favorites, but different is good.

6. Think of new traditions to start with the children, ways to remember Mom/Dad during the holiday season. A photo, a song, a prayer, a candle, a particular food, a visit to the cemetery, a letter to heaven, a special decoration or ornament ...

7. Speaking of ornaments, decide BEFORE you open the boxes if you're going to hang your spouse's stocking or the classic "First Christmas Together" ornaments. Think about it now, so you're not blindsided when you find them. Some people hang them with all the others; some people put them away forever; some people make a special tree or corner for these items. There is no right way to do it; just think about it before your 5YO hands you Mommy's stocking.

I was originally going to have two separate sections here: one for those with supportive friends and family around and one for those who are "going it alone." But this is the time to cash in on all those promises of help, to turn to all the people who said "Call me if you need anything," and then disappeared. This is one time of year that people really WANT to help. Call them.  And I'd like my nonwidowed readers to pay particular attention to this section and think about any widows you may know. Trust me when I say they'll be grateful for any offers of help at this time of year.

1. Ask friends/family to take the kids shopping for presents for you. Give them a list of things you'd like and some cash, so your kids can choose what they want to give you. Ask them to help the kids wrap the presents, as well. You deserve a surprise under the tree, too!

2. Ask for help wrapping all the presents -- parents tend to do this late at night when the kids are in bed, and the loneliness can be a real gut-kicker. Have a friend come over when the kids are in school so you can have company.

3. If decorations are important to you, ask for help putting them up. Don't feel like you have to get all the decorations up at once, in one day, in one weekend.

4. Ask for help putting up and trimming the tree. It's a big job: Don't make yourself do it alone if you don't want to. (I've written elsewhere about how I decorate our tree slowly and involve the kids in the activity.)

5. If you usually bake up a storm, and the kids are expecting your famous Christmas cookies, ask someone to come over for baking day. That way, if (when) tears start to fall, you can excuse yourself for a few minutes and the cookies won't get burned.

6. If you are buying a bike or a doll-house or a swing set or anything that requires assembly ... ASK FOR HELP. If you feel confident in your ability to put it together by yourself -- great! But do NOT wait until 10 pm Christmas Eve to do so. You'd be surprised how quickly 10 pm becomes 1 am and 2 am and 3 am ... and if you're by yourself at that hour, alone in your frustration -- trust me when I say that it ain't pretty.

If you decide to get away this year, because you can't bear to be home ...

1. Think about how far and how well you can travel with the kids. Don't choose a destination that's going to be hard for you to manage by yourself. Disneyland is great, but not if your kids are different ages/sizes and can't go on all the same rides. Who's going to watch the child who can't ride the roller coaster or doesn't want to ride the choo-choo one.more.time?

2. This is not the time to go someplace the two of you always wanted to go. The holiday will be emotional enough without adding that layer to it.

3. If you are traveling with younger kids, choose a destination that has child care available for at least part of the time. Give yourself a break.

4. If you are traveling with older kids, choose a destination that THEY are interested in, someplace where you can give them some freedom to do things by themselves.


1. Breathe.
2. Be gentle with yourself.
3. Cherish your memories.
4. Don't be afraid to cry, to let your children see your tears.
5. Just breathe.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Blessed Feast of St. Nicholas!

This is one of the readings for the Vespers of the Feast of St. Nicholas:
The righteous, though they die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honored for length of time, or measured by number of years; but understanding is grey hair for anyone, and a blameless life is ripe old age. There were some who pleased God and were loved by him, and while living among sinners were taken up. They were caught up so that evil might not change their understanding or guile deceive their souls. For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. Being perfected in a short time, they fulfilled long years; for their souls were pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took them quickly from the midst of wickedness. Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, or take such a thing to heart, that God’s grace and mercy are with his elect, and that he watches over his holy ones. 
Wisdom 4:7-15 

I don't deceive myself into thinking that Nick was a saint -- far from it. But every year I hear this, and I get a lump in my throat. I think about a man gone too soon and I wonder Why?  The reading comes with a double-edged sword, for it reminds me of how good a man Nick was -- and he really was a good man -- and it makes me ache and miss him and mourn anew.

And yet it also assures me that he is at rest, that God's grace and mercy are upon him. If you've read my story, The Terrible Story, you know that I truly believe that. As horrible and brutal as Nick's dying was, it was also incredibly merciful.   He -- and we who love him -- was spared so much suffering.  I will always be grateful for that.

Tonight, the boys and I will go to liturgy; we'll light candles and say the memorial prayers for Nick; we'll sing the hymns and partake of the feast; and I will get all weepy. 

Blame it on the incense.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

And the winner is ...

...  ME ! ! ! !

I’ve been nominated for a blog award.  Look! ——>

Someone nominated me for that!

Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, beloved, or favorite. The Liebster Award is given by bloggers to other bloggers and is intended to showcase exceptional blogs. And I have been given this award by one of the bloggers I mentioned a few posts back.  Thank you ever so much, Isobel, for the nomination! Isobel nominated me for this award at her photography blog, but I found her at her non-photography blog.

How It Works: 

1. Add the award icon to your blog!
2. Link to your nominator to say thank you.
3. Post 11 facts about yourself.
4. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you.
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
6. Choose 11 up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers, go to their blog, and tell them about the award.

Eleven Facts About Me:

This is actually hard: Having blogged here for 7 years, I'm not sure there's very much that I haven't already told you!

1. I took four years of Latin in high school and loved it; I'm pleased I was able to talk HardPlace into taking it this year.
2. I love licorice -- real licorice, not the so-called "red licorice."
3. I have finally learned how to bake apple pie.  It took only 30 years in the kitchen, with assorted dry, tasteless failures, but I finally found a recipe that works and that everyone likes.
4. Three places heal me every time: the ocean, the Grand Canyon, and an incense-filled church.
5. I love the smell of skunk-spray.  It's so earthy and real.  No, I've never been sprayed, but we had a few at our old house, and the scent was a fairly regular occurrence.
6. Every year, I forget that I'm the only one who really likes cranberry relish (how can that be???); this means that I have cranberry relish for weeks after Thanksgiving!
7. My mother was born in Argentina, and I spoke both English and Spanish as a toddler/little girl. In 5th grade, the Spanish teacher gave everyone "their Spanish names." My classmate Alice was given "Alicia," so the teacher tried to name me "Alicita." I was outraged and spat at her in the most indignant tone of voice a 9-year-old can muster, in what was probably the most perfect accent she'd ever heard in that school, ¡Me llamo Alicia!  [My name is Alicia!]. Okaaay then ... Michael? Your name will be Miguel.
8. I like to think I have an eye for photography. But really? .... My pictures suck.
9. There are no matches for me in the cyber-dating world.
10. I am a grammar geek, word nerd, language lady, et cetera -- but y'all already knew that. Right?
11. Gardening -- the kind where I get dirt under my fingernails -- makes me happy.

Eleven Questions I Have to Answer: 

1. What are you most passionate about? Social justice. In my 20s, I marched and demonstrated and sat-in and protested. Then I settled down and got a job and got married and got kids and the world went by without my really knowing what was going on anymore. Then Nick died, and I had no passion for anything. Then my mom got sick and I moved to Arizona to be with her and she introduced me to MSNBC and I started getting informed again. And mad again. And worked up again. I'm writing letters to Congress again. And talking to people about this stuff again. I haven't "done" anything yet, but I suspect that the right cause and the right opportunity will arise, and I'll be making signs again -- grammatically correct signs, of course!

2. Why do you blog?  Because I am an introvert. That means -- among other things -- that I process things internally. I sit and stew and think and mull about things and then, to help me articulate them, I write them down. You don't want to know how long it's taking me to answer these questions!

3. What is your favorite meal?  My mother's "country breakfast," which she would make once or twice a year -- Christmas and one or two other days.  Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, fruit compote, croissants (Pillsbury), coffee, mimosas ... ahhhhhh, life was good.

4. What book or books do you think everyone should read? I'm not big on "shoulds," because everyone needs different things in their life, so I will instead name two books that changed me, that shaped the way I look at the world.
  • Nonfiction: Powers of the Weak, by Elizabeth Janeway.  She talks about the dynamics of power in society and politics, naming some of the ways the powerful hold on to their power. 
  • Fiction: A Severed Wasp, by Madeleine L'Engle. An old woman looks back on her life and the things she has suffered and made peace with along the way ... lessons in forgiveness and compassion (of and towards oneself, as well as others).  
I first read both those books in the early 80s, and they both helped me identify things that I was struggling with and helped me understand myself and others better -- and helped me claim some of my own powers.

5. If money were no object, how would you occupy the rest of your life?  If I had unlimited money? I'd spend my life giving money away. So many of my widowed friends are in such dire financial straits and it kills me that I can't help more than I do. And I am so profoundly aware of how fortunate I am to live as I do in this society that I'd do whatever I could to help those who weren't lucky enough to be born into a white, middle-class family in America in the 1960s.

6. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?  First, Well done, dear one.  Second, He's right over there, waiting for you.

7. What is one thing you’ve never been able to/had time to/had funds to do that you still want to do?   I really want to hike from rim to rim across the Grand Canyon, but I'm afraid my knees won't allow it anymore.  So, I want to raft down the Colorado River into the Canyon and spend two or three nights camping at the bottom.

8. What is your favorite television show and why?   Babylon 5 was a great blend of sci-fi, humor, political intrigue, action-adventure, romance-heartbreak, and the constant struggle between good and evil.

9. What is your least enjoyable chore?  Scrubbing the boys' bathroom.  I don't think that needs any explanation.

10. What one thing about you is cool? 
I have a talent
for coming up with haiku
in no time at all.
11. Do you have pets?  My sweet Clara Kitty!

Eleven Questions I Am Asking: 

1. What was your favorite book as a child/teenager?

2. Aside from your parents/grandparents/etc, what adult influenced your life when you were a teenager?

3. When you were in high school, what did you want to do/be when you grew up?

4. Of all the "roads not taken" in your life, which one would you like to peek down, just to see what would have happened?

5. If you went to college, what was your major? Would you choose the same field if you went back today?

6. Do you have any siblings?

7. What's the most beautiful place you've ever been to?

8. How do you indulge yourself when you need a pick-me-up?

9. When was the last time someone else cooked a meal for you?

10. What do you wish more people knew about you?

11. Why did you start blogging (which may not be why you blog today)?

12. What movie do you always have to watch when it's on television?

Eleven Blogs I Am Nominating:

1. The End of the World and What Follows ~ a fellow traveler on the WidowRoad

2. The Class Factotum Speaks ~ reading this is like watching a sit-com!

3. Fresh on Friday ~ Powerful posts from a powerful woman ... on Fridays

4. Ray's blog ~ he's been awfully quiet lately, but he writes thought-provoking posts

5. Surfside Serenity ~ touching, thoughtful reflections on life -- and lovely photographs!

6. Diary of a Gold Digger ~ it's nice to know I'm not the only one who just loves her in-laws

7.  Jeanie Writes ~ a dear friend who's just started writing about her life of faith

8. Faith in Ambiguity ~ a new-to-me blog that I found during NaBloPoMo

9. The Heartbreak Diary ~ another widow writes her way through the grief

10.  A Widow's Perspective ~ BForever writes with a tenderness that often brings tears to my eyes

11.  ... hmmmm ...

I need to update my blogroll in the sidebar; many of the blogs I used to follow have gone dormant. I have a lot more blogs in my reader app, but they are big and popular and hardly "up and coming."

Friday, November 30, 2012

30. The hardest part ...

... about blogging daily is simply making myself sit down and do it.

There are so many other things claiming my energy and my time. It's often 9 or 10 or 11 at night  before my mind quiets down enough to think about writing.  But it's a discipline like any other.  I'm always glad to write and always glad to read what others have written.

It's been fun, but I'm glad the month is over, and there will be no daily challenge for me in December. There's just too much going on! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

29. The best thing about NaBloPoMo ...

Actually, the prompt for today is "Tell us about three new blogs you found this year."

I made it a point to go to the "soup page" -- where NaBloPoMo participants would put up links to their posts -- and read what others had written. I tried to select three or four different blogs every day, but sometimes I was just too tired at the end of the evening (which is when I found myself writing my blog entries).

I was disappointed at how many people didn't follow the daily prompts, because part of the fun for me was reading how different people approach the same subject.  I was discouraged at how many really bad blogs are out there; "bad" is, I suppose a little unfair.  I was discouraged at how many blogs I had no interest in reading once, let alone returning to.  I think many of them would not have been started if Pinterest had existed when they were started -- there were countless crafty blogs and recipe blogs and helpful hints blogs, all with the same cookie-cutter style of writing and all with the same so-cute scrapbook appearance.  I found them tedious and uninteresting.

Even so, I did find a few gems among the participants ...

Tara, at Faith in Ambiguity, writes beautifully about subjects that interest me.  Come on, y'all know me: How could I not click on a blog link with that title?  She wrote a heart-wrenching post about another person's loss on Thanksgiving Day and a giggle-inducing one about her encounter with David Sedaris

Isobel, at What a Witch, writes powerfully about subjects that matter. The categories on her sidebar are varied, but this month she's been writing a lot about racism in this country and what it's like to be a Person of Color in the South (specifically, in Florida). She has gripped me with her passion and her knowledge and her facts (remember facts?). 

That's only two blogs, and the prompt calls for three. If my eyes weren't already drooping, I'd tell you about GingerSass and RedDirtKelly and PurpleDreamer and Tamara and LittleMissAttitude and a handful of others.  But for now, my friends, this will have to suffice.