Monday, February 28, 2011

Another Perspective on Widowed Dating...

I happened to come across a blog post written by a widow that discusses dating and remarriage as a widow, and thought the commentary on this was very insightful.  I particularly liked the recognition that people on the outside judge widows for moving on without realizing that the grieving continues even though life moves on, and that includes one's love life.  The two are not mutually exclusive, and I want to stress that to those in my life who are reading my blog (and those I don't know who are reading it as well!).  Just because I'm going to start dating again doesn't mean I won't still miss Brian, that I won't still break down and cry at times, that I will have "finished" grieving and all my complicated emotions will dissipate and that I'll no longer have unanswered questions.  I'll still be the same person, grief and all.  It's just that I'm looking for a friend and companion to be by my side during the rest of my life's journey.

For more on this topic, see:

The Dating Game

Well, I'm ready to start dating again....or for the first time, I guess.  Yikes.  I've been thinking a lot about how to go about this, whether to blog about it, how much to share online, etc....and I don't know that I'll make the right decisions every step of the way.  In fact, I probably won't.  I've never gone through this before, so it's silly to think I'll do everything right the first time I try.

For those readers who don't know, I started dating my husband when we were teenagers -- I had just turned 15; he, 17.  He died a little over a year ago, when he had just turned 31 and I had just turned 29.  In the past year, I've sold my house, moved a thousand miles away to Austin, and I'm starting an new career (entering the field of real estate after practicing law for five years in Iowa).  I'm just getting settled in this new life, and thinking I'm ready to add someone to it.

In the interest of honesty, I am currently casually dating someone now who I met through a mutual friend.  He doesn't live in Austin, though, and for the time being it is not looking like it is going to become serious anytime soon.   We have agreed that we are both free to see other people and that is something I plan to do.  I don't plan to air all -- or even most! -- of the details of my dating life, but I guess I wanted to let you know I have put my toe in the water already.  I'll call this fellow "Antonio."  It's been nice dating him because it has given me just a little bit of experience without any pressure to get serious.  In addition to Antonio, I have been on exactly one date.  I thought it went very well, but he hasn't contacted me about a second date, so who knows?   

What is interesting is that I just don't know what I'm getting into -- I don't want to make every first date about Brian, but it's hard to talk about about my life to this point without doing that.  I have to choose words carefully to avoid getting into that area.  It's not that I want to hide my past or lie -- in fact, the problem is that I'm usually too open and I share too much, and then I realize I'm on the tightrope where one more sentence will give me away, and that's what we'll have to talk about.  (By the way, this probably means I talk too much; maybe I should work on being a better listener and asking more questions!)  I am just tired of dealing with the awkward pause, silence, and then the quiet, stammering apology for my loss.  Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying people are reacting inappropriately; I'm just saying that I'm tired of having that weird conversation and then thinking about whether that information is going to be rolling around the back of my companion's mind the whole rest of the evening.

On top of pulling out an elephant and sticking it in the middle of the room, there's also an information disparity that will naturally occur.  Knowing what happened with Brian pretty much sums up my whole romantic history, so once someone knows that, there isn't much else out there that's unknown in that department.  At the same time, it's not considered okay to ask about exes or past relationships, so it's not like I have the ability to know an equal amount about someone else's past without being really nosy and inappropriate.  That's too bad, because I'm naturally curious about that and I think one's relationship history is somewhat telling on whether they are good relationship material.

I know, I know....I'm griping.  Suffice it to say, I am aware that dating will be different for me than it will be for the average single gal.  On top of those differences, I'm sort of ill-equipped even for "normal" dating because I've literally never been in that scene.  I don't know the rules -- is it okay to go dutch?  How do we go about sharing a messy appetizer?  What do I wear?  What if I don't like him - how do I decline another date?  Who calls whom, and after how long?  What if he shows up in a truck with a "Peeing Calvin" I have to get in, or can I feign sudden illness?

Nevertheless, I'm putting fear aside and I'm ready to give this thing a shot.  I've signed up for an online dating service.  Of course, that brought some worries of its own for a small-town Iowa girl -- is it safe?  Will they know my last name?  How many dates until I give them my phone number and full name?  What if a crazy slips through?  It seems a lot of people my age don't go on dates, per se, preferring instead to meet people through friends.  Yet I don't want to contaminate my friend pool if I date someone and it doesn't work out.  I like having some people as friends, especially when they are key members of my "gang."  I really love my friends and my life right now, and I don't think I want to mess any of that up by mixing romance in at this point.

Finally, what will be interesting is the process of figuring out what I want in a partner -- I haven't thought about that in so long.  I just know what I had, and that I loved him.  I loved the whole package of Brian -- he was a perfect fit for me as a person, and now I'm being asked to think about what specific "qualities" are most important.  That's hard to say, as I'm not used to compartmentalizing physical and personality traits that way.  I think it will be daunting, but kind of cool, to figure out what kind of person suits me now.

First, though, I have to find someone to go on another first date with...and then figure out what to wear!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I have been spending a lot of time getting settled in to my new place.  I'm really trying to be organized here.  For one thing, I have to be.  Though I have great storage and a big apartment, I still have much less space than I did at the house.  Also, it is organized differently -- no garage, storage room, separate bar room, one less bedroom and bathroom, etc.  The other part, though, is that I really want to be more organized and neat.  I have to admit, we let things get cluttered and disorganized too much at the old house.

In an effort to be more organized, I'm making sure that while I unpack, I find not just a place for everything, but the best place for everything!  So this process is taking some time, as you might imagine.  So far, I'm impressed though -- my shoes, purses, jewelry, clothes, and my entire kitchen and laundry room/utility area are very well organized, as are my medicine cupboard and the cats' things.  My furniture is all in place and I even have a lot of things up on the walls.  In fact, I have more things framed and hung than we ever did at the house, and am finishing up on this fun task. 

I am making an effort to be more proactive about organization and keeping clutter down, as I don't think we were very good at that in our married life in Iowa.  I know there were things we were going to hang on the wall but just "never got around to it."  Well, no more!  I am not going to keep letting that kind of thing slide; I need to take more pride in my home and my surroundings, even if it is a rental unit for the first time in over five years.  I think this is one of the few areas where I can look back and say that Brian was lacking -- he was not very handy, nor did he particularly enjoy the house tasks on everyone's "honey-do" list.  When things didn't get hung up, or we never got around to picking out new window treatments, I never protested and I never pushed the issue.  I wish I had, or I wish I had just done some of those things myself.  It turns out I don't need him to hang something using drywall screws; I did that on my own down here.  It turns out I don't need him to rearrange furniture; I've done that by myself as well.  It's kind of nice to know that and prove that to myself, but I wish I'd known it sooner.

One of the things I've done -- and by far, this is the "manliest" job, though installing some dryer vent tubing comes in a close second -- is to hang chicken wire around the perimeter of my balcony so the cats can go outside without any danger of them stepping or falling between the railings.  I decided to do this before I had even allowed them onto the balcony, but one incident confirmed that this would be necessary and not just a nice precaution.  I was hanging up a large photo frame jewelry box and in the midst of my distraction, Picaboo and Mittons took advantage of a slightly askew screen by popping it out of place and hopping through the window onto the balcony!  When I saw this, they were doing fine exploring and were very timid; I thought that perhaps they could be trusted.  Very soon, however, Picaboo walked between the railings onto the neighbor's attached balcony and started exploring that!  I got the others inside and finally was able to lure Picaboo back with treats after she was two balconies away. 

Clearly, the chicken wire was required.  I went to Home Depot, bought a few rolls and some plastic zip ties.  I had to unroll and straighten out the chicken wire, then attach it to my metal railings with the zip ties.  I cut the wire where there are large wooden beams on the patio, so it doesn't look bad just rolled over that beam.  I also had to make cuts for the different corners of the patio.  It was very time consuming, using tin snips to cut so many little pieces of wire, then securing the wire into place with zip ties every couple of feet, then trimming the excess plastic zip tie.  My hands were certainly sore!  The hardest part was when I would run out of fencing and would have to overlap pieces of chicken wire.  Then I'd have to use wire pieces or the ends of the fencing itself or plastic ties to intertwine or attach the segments of fence.  I felt like a ranch hand!  And I definitely had sore hands!

Nevertheless, my balcony (which is approximately 20 ft long, mind you!) is lined with chicken wire up to the top of the hand railing and basically makes the perfect outdoor haven for my cats.  Now I can go in and out freely (my recycling is out there) without worrying that one of them will run out, and we can all sit outside and enjoy nature together.  My balcony faces the limbs of some fantastic old trees that line the back of the property, and there is an abundance of bird and squirrel activity just a few feet away from the balcony railing.  The cats are loving it!  They spend a good chunk of time outside and pretty much have free reign to go in and out.

I realized as I built this cat playground (which took me several hours, with the Home Depot trips and all the wire-cutting!) that I'm really working hard to make this place my home.  I'm "nesting."  Not for a baby, but for my new life.  Maybe soon there will be someone to join me in it...but that's a topic for another post!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

100th Post

I just noticed that my most recent post was my 99th post.  Upon realizing that I was about to write my 100th post, I decided to go back and re-read everything I've written....and, wow, I've come a long way.  It's interesting to look back at some of the highs and lows I've experienced and shared.

In looking back, certain posts stand out.  Some highlight specific events -- holidays, races, etc. -- and some contain the most heavy and profound messages I've come to know as truth in my life.  I was going to do a sort of "Top Ten" list, but I had a hard time narrowing it down and it seemed trite to cut out a good post from this list just to reach an arbitrary number.

For those newer readers, this list could be treated as a sort of "condensed" version of what I've gone through since last spring.  For those who've read every post, perhaps one or two of these will be posts you remember and would like to re-visit.

1.  May 12, 2010 -- "On Running and Grief"  (
2.  May 16, 2010 -- "Moving" (
3. May 20, 2010 -- "Hi, I'm Wendy and I'm a widow."  (
4.  June 2, 2010 -- "More About Running" (
5.  June 16, 2010 -- "Brian at Bonnaroo" (
6. June 30, 2010 -- "Happy Anniversary!  Or....Unhappy Anniversary?"  ( -- along with a P.S. to this post, which is at:
7.  July 18, 2010 -- "Six Month Checkup" (
8.  July 29, 2010 -- "Self-Inflicted Punishment?"  (
9.  July 29, 2010 -- "Cleaning the Wound" (
10.  August 26, 2010 -- "Making a Mark" (
11.  August 30, 2010 -- "Dream a Little Dream of Me" (
12.  September 2, 2010 -- "Happy Thought for the Day" (
13.  September 2, 2010 -- "Beautiful Tribute" (
14.  September 17, 2010 -- "Cleaning Out the Closet" (
15.  November 10, 2010 -- "Run for Your Life" (
16.  November 19, 2010 -- "How Do I Love Thee?  Let Me Count the Ways..." (
17.  December 6, 2010 -- "The Music Man"  (
18.  December 24, 2010 -- "Stop the Insanity!"  (
19.  January 29, 2011 -- "Attitude Adjustment" (
20.  February 9, 2011 -- "Rambling Thoughts" (

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rambling thoughts...

I am going through another round of depression, of sadness, of disbelief about Brian's death.  I still, even more than a year later, don't get it -- why?!  Why did this happen to him?  I look at pictures of his big, broad smile; the twinkle in his eye; his red hair and strong nose...and I just can't believe what happened to that person.  I can't believe he's no longer here with us.  I can't believe I won't see him again. 

I feel guilty that last January 17, I didn't realize that something was seriously wrong until it was too late, and I wonder if calling 911 sooner would have made a difference.  (The medical examiner thought it probably wouldn't have.)  Is it my fault?  I can't bear to think about it, yet I can't escape those doubts and that crushing guilt.  I know hindsight is 20/20, but I still hate myself for not asking more questions about how he was feeling, for not doing a Google search of symptoms, for not insisting that we go to the hospital.  I've never confessed these feelings to anyone, and it's eating me up inside.  I'm frustrated that he didn't realize something was wrong, that he didn't tell me that it was.  We thought he had a chest cold or pneumonia; it was a pulmonary embolism.  Now, I am a hypochondriac, especially when anyone else is concerned.  When Mittons got a urinary tract infection, I watched her like a hawk, afraid that she -- like Brian -- had a problem far worse than her symptoms or demeanor would suggest, like kidney failure.  I worry all the time that one of the cats will die under my watch, just like Brian did.  Every time I am sick, I at least entertain the possibility that I am dying.  The crazy thing is, I don't care if I do -- I'm not suicidal by any means, but I also don't care if I do die, because I will be with Brian again.

I just watched the DVD photo slideshow that we put together for Brian's visitations and service again -- a lifetime compressed into pictures for the duration of three songs.  There are so many precious memories and good times and happy faces in those several minutes, but it's not enough -- it doesn't reflect the unique tenor of his voice, the way his arms felt around me, the idiosyncratic expressions of his face in the course of any conversation, especially those in which he doubted what he was being told by the person on the other side of an argument (I saw that best when he would talk to Hart), his posture, his scent.  Photos aren't enough for me.  I just miss Brian immensely, still.

I know grief works in cycles, and I'm feeling that intense sadness and loneliness right now, combined with guilt.  So I'm at a pretty low point.  I would just give anything to spend another night with him, to just have 24 more hours.  I recently dreamed that I was somewhere, and I had just seen Brian walk away, and I was screaming at the top of my lungs, "BRIAN!!!  COME BACK!!!"....over and over, I made this plea; I knew even in the dream that it was futile, but I had to try.  I had to try.  It's probably residual guilt for not praying hard enough on the day he died, between the time the paramedics came and the time we got the terrible news.  I know that day that I was trying to keep it all together, that I was fearful (and I think I pretty much knew) of the news to come, and that I was already going into a state of shock.  It's a blur, but I know I didn't pray as hard as I could have, and I will always -- ALWAYS -- feel guilty about that.  Believe me, it's not because I didn't want him to live.  I don't know if it's because I didn't know how serious the situation was, or because I knew exactly how serious it was.   

In any event, I've done a lot of thinking about religion, destiny, and spiritual matters this year.  It's a pretty personal thing to put out there for the world to see, but I will say that some of my views have changed.  Also, I'm still investigating the possibilities to determine what exactly to believe. 

I've heard people say, "Don't put a question mark where God has placed a period."  I got this advice from people in the aftermath of Brian's death, written in cards; I've heard it at grief counseling groups; I also drove past a truck with this on a bumper sticker the other day.  It makes sense, pragmatically -- I can either live the life I have, or I can spend all my time and energy thinking about things that were not meant to be.  Clearly, one is more productive and healthy, and will lead me to a better life.  However, it's still hard to do.  I think it's even harder when the period that "God" has placed in your life follows the sentence, "I am taking away the love of your life, the best thing to ever happen to you, the source of your happiness, and the person with whom you always wanted and intended to build a future and grow old." about pulling the rug out from under me, God. 

I know a lot of this seems like things that have come up before, or that I perhaps should be "over" feeling.  Well, I guess I'm just now realizing as well that grief -- that scary, looming dark soul-sucker that will forever be in my life -- can and will rear its ugly head at some of the most unexpected times and places.  I was starting to feel really good about where I was and then -- bam! -- I can't stop crying today.

This is probably one of the least composed and logical posts I've had in a long time, but it is reflective of how I'm feeling and what's going through my head at the moment.  I haven't posted anything or done any writing in a long time simply because I didn't know where to start.  Perhaps by getting out some of these bad thoughts and by letting the tears flow heavily for a day or two, I'll be able to get my focus and optimism back.  Hence, the rambling blog post.  Probably not fun for my readers, but I hope it helps me.

On the Road (Race) Again

I've signed up for the Austin Half Marathon, which is Sunday, February 20.  I've really enjoyed hitting the trails and getting those training runs in -- during months when I might not do any running at all in Iowa, I've been going out for 10 miles at a time.  This will be my earliest road race of the year, ever.  In Iowa, I was never even ready for the Drake Relays Half Marathon in April.  Now, I'll have done one -- and maybe even two -- half marathons by that time of year. 

It's encouraging that Austin will be a better place for me as a runner, and to think that I will be able to just take better care of my body down here.