Friday, April 29, 2011

Good Friday

Today's a good day. Mittons and I are in San Antonio this weekend, visiting Sheldon. We (Sheldon & I, not Mittons) are going to go to the zoo tomorrow. At the moment, Mitts is "helping" me blog by laying partially on my arm and putting her paw on top of my hand, as though she is guiding my hand along the keyboard. (She loves laptop time.)

Anyway, just a short post so I can get some actual work done today. Sheldon said I could share a picture of him on the blog, so here's one of us at a Spurs game a few weeks ago. I chose this one because they have a playoff game tonight -- Go Spurs!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Baby You Can Drive My Car!

When Brian died, we were living in a house in the suburbs of Des Moines, a typical DINK situation (dual income, no kids). We had two cars -- he drove a 2006 Mitsubishi Endeavor SUV, and I drove a 2005 Ford Taurus. We had bought the cars a year after we started our jobs (attorney for me, operations manager at a large insurance firm for him) and bought our house. Mine was used, but his was brand new -- a first for both of us.

Brian died in the middle of January during the worst winter in Iowa history (at least in terms of snow and ice accumulation). I don't think I drove at all for two weeks after he died -- I was a numb shell of a human being transported around to meetings, visitations, etc., pretty oblivious to the terrible weather and road conditions. Eventually, though, I started to leave the house on my own and had to resume driving again. Because his vehicle was nicer, safer, and better in the winter weather, I started driving his car. I know I surprised some people and caught them off guard -- people weren't expecting to see his car pull up in front of their houses when I would visit; it was a bit of a shock, I'm sure. I felt a little weird about it too -- would people think I was immediately claiming his car as "mine"? He was a little possessive with "his" things (he didn't even like to share toothpaste when we'd travel!), and I wondered what he would think about me commandeering his vehicle. I don't think he would have liked it, but then again, I wouldn't have liked traveling along on sheets of ice and two feet of snow in my little car all winter long. So pragmatism won, and I really never used my car again after I adapted to (or got spoiled by) the SUV driving experience.

Brian loved music and had a mix of CDs -- some purchased, but mostly burned discs he or friends had made and exchanged over the years -- scattered about the car. The glove box was bulging with papers, snacks, and manufacturer information about the car. That was all before I started using the car. My day-to-day use then led to an accumulation of travel mugs, soda cans, banana peels, apple cores, and food wrappers on the floor. (What? Who doesn't eat on the go?!) Then, realizing that a return to the daily grind at the law office in the dead of winter at the height of my depression just wasn't working out for me, I started to use the vehicle for other things. I took thousand-mile and weekend trips. I hauled funeral home plants around to friends and family. I road-tripped to Austin for South by Southwest. I spent muddy afternoons at the cemetery and then climbed back into the car. I bawled my eyes out, creating mountains of used tissues. I packed up and moved to Austin for the summer, thinking a short-term "leave of absence" from life would help. Friends and I brought lake water, pool water, and spring water into the car on our wet clothes.

After deciding that I needed to live in Austin and get a fresh start on life, I packed up at the end of last summer and drove back to Iowa. Then, the SUV was relegated to "helper vehicle" -- loads and loads of things were taken to Goodwill to be donated as I went through the house, bags of mulch and soil were hauled for landscaping projects, sweaty workers made countless trips to the hardware store for paint and supplies. More stuff was taken back to our hometown, for our parents to have or to store. Along the way, I found a kitten and brought her back home with me in that car. While my house was for sale, she and I did a lot of driving around while people were viewing the house -- which meant I was keeping a small litter box in the car for a while. Eventually, the house sold and I again packed up the SUV for multiple trips -- 1,000 miles each way. Each time, there was stuff packed up, snacks and drinks consumed on the road, and more general messiness added to the mix -- receipts from gas stations, junk mail grabbed on the way out the door, etc. On one trip between Des Moines and Austin, Mittons was with me, riding shotgun -- perfectly content to sit on the passenger seat, litter box on the floor below her. On another trip, the ice/sleet/snow mixture that stayed with me for about 700 miles (combined with the salt mixture being constantly dumped by the slow-moving plows) wreaked such havoc on the outside of the vehicle that a drive-thru worker in Dallas asked me if someone had thrown white paint on my car!

In short, I've used the heck out of this car in the past 15 months. I've stopped considering it Brian's car, and now I call it my own (especially since I sold the Taurus last fall). Yet, I never got around to properly cleaning it out. Part of this was probably because I couldn't really do it right away -- it was far to cold to be out sifting through and organizing the contents of a car when Brian died, even in a garage. The other part is probably laziness, combined with the fact that I was always moving and on the go last year. I somehow never found the time to get to the car -- especially not when the house needed so much work.

After moving to Austin in December, I took a long time getting Texas license plates. Part of it was because of the process -- getting insured in the state first, then getting the car inspected, etc. -- but I also think there was a part of me that wanted to leave something the same as it used to be. The car still looked much the same as it did when Brian died. Same license plates, same CDs, same jam-packed glove compartment, etc. I don't think that was a conscious thing, but I realized that it probably tied in when I kept putting off a car wash, actually turning around and driving home in tears one day because I couldn't decide if I should have strangers touch the garbage on the floorboards. That afternoon, I finally made myself go through the car and throw out all the trash; most importantly, I made myself go through the glove box.

I opened the glove compartment, and papers spilled out. Typical -- much like a lot of us, Brian would throw in the latest registration documents or oil change receipt, close it up, and that was that. However, he never would get rid of outdated documents or old directions, etc. I found every insurance card, every oil change receipt, every hotel confirmation for road trips we'd taken, etc., dating back for years. I found granola bars -- probably packed for breakfast and then discarded in the glove box in favor of a fast food or cafeteria option -- so hard and smashed that they no longer resembled a "bar" shape. There were a couple flashlights, some medicine, toilet paper, straws, etc. Some things brought back unlikely memories -- the handful of straws, for example, I had grabbed at a fast food place because the McDonald's by our house always seemed to forget at least one straw when we'd go through the drive-thru and I remember once we had to take turns using the one straw we were given.

One thing really struck me -- I found a hotel reservation confirmation and directions for a hotel in Austin dated March 2009 -- the last time we were in Austin together, for a friend's wedding. It overwhelmed me to see that -- there I was, standing in my apartment complex parking lot, about 6 miles from a crummy apartment I lived in with my parents a quarter-century ago when they gave this city a run, holding a remnant of my last visit to this city with the man I loved and who made me love this city. And now I live here alone, because I married him and because he died. It was one of those moments where memories come rushing in and you see life coming full circle, and the enormity of fate seems to really strike a chord. I had to abandon my "to do" list in favor of some quiet reflection time at Zilker Park that afternoon -- a place that I loved as a child, and love even more as an adult.

After that emotional experience, I was finally emotionally ready to really claim the car as my own. The next day, I took it to one of those car washes where they do the inside and outside of your car as you wait. This place even has someone that offers chair massages inside, so I signed up for 10 minutes of that while the vehicular transformation was taking place. What a pleasant way to spend time waiting! After getting it all cleaned up, I went and finally got those Texas license plates. Now it feels like my car, not like I am driving his. But I did leave the Chicago Bears bobblehead guy he had hanging from the rear view mirror in place. I might be traveling the road of life on my own now, making my own way, but I still want to see things that remind me of him and make me smile when I look at my life in the rear view mirror.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Drumroll please.....I have a boyfriend!

Well, it's official -- I'm in a relationship with "Antonio." I feel silly writing this, like a 12-year-old girl. Maybe I should tell you the details of our first kiss? Haha -- just kidding! This blog is about my healing and growth and adjustment, not a place to share all the juicy details of my life.

Anyway, a lot has changed in the past six weeks or so. I had spent February and March doing some dating around, and nothing really took off. Either the chemistry was lacking, or there were aspects of our personalities that didn't mesh, we drifted apart, whatever. For a while, I thought things looked good with a guy named Brian, but it abruptly ended with that debacle of a dinner date I blogged about a few weeks ago. In the meantime, I fell harder for Antonio every time I saw him. I realized, with a little time to reflect, that Mr. Debacle Dinner Date really didn't hold a candle to Antonio. As time went on, I realized I was thinking about Antonio more and more, to the point that even the hot Australian guy in my skeeball league has started to just look "cute" to me. It just didn't make sense to keep the dating door open anymore, so I closed it and I'm Antonio's girlfriend now.

A bit about "Antonio": His real name is Sheldon. He lives in San Antonio (it's about a 75 minute trip between our apartments) and he works in sales and marketing. He's 29 years old, and we met through a mutual friend, who is one of Sheldon's co-workers. He is originally from Ohio and loves cheering on the Bengals, Reds, and Spurs. He runs, plays golf, and bowls. He is caring and considerate, patient and kind. He opens doors for me, holds my hand on the street, and makes me feel like a queen.

I first met Sheldon last May, and we had a nice time hanging out from time-to-time over the summer, but neither of us was looking for a relationship and I don't think either of us expected anything to develop between us. We kept in touch periodically while I was back in Iowa over the fall and winter, and he came up from San Antonio to help out with the move when my dad and I arrived with a U-Haul full of furniture in December. Since then, something more has slowly blossomed between us, getting stronger every time we spend time together.

From here, I don't know what will happen. I'm sure the big question in other people's minds is, "What about the distance? How are you going to date someone who lives in another city?" Well, hold your horses, people! We're enjoying our time together right now in our respective cities. Also, we're not THAT far apart. Besides, if life has taught me anything, it's that you can't predict what will come your way. Knowing that, I'm not thinking ahead to what we might do down the road if we get more serious. I'm just enjoying where we are now. We'll cross other bridges when our life paths take us there. For now, I'm happy and content to have him walking next to me and holding my hand.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Old Friend(s)

Today I've got two friends from Iowa visiting. They are known in my group of friends as Hart and Shep. Those guys always use last names or variants thereof in addressing one another. These were both originally friends of my husband, though from different stages in his life. Hart was his best friend for 25 years -- from first grade forward. Shep worked with Brian back in the early 2000s and has been one of a tight-knit crew of Des Moines friends since then. Now, those two have become very good friends. (It's kind of neat when people you introduce form a relationship of their own.)

I'm really looking forward to their visit. For one, it will be good to see these friends I haven't seen in months. I grew up with Brian and Hart (I was best friends with his little sister from third grade forward), and we can literally share 20+ years of memories. Neither of them has been to Austin, so I'm also looking forward to that.

Largely, I think it's nice that I won't have to think about who I am when I'm around them. They know me, my story, they knew and loved Brian, and they've seen me move forward and have supported me in every step. I also think it will be liberating to be able to talk about all the "Brian memories" that Austin has -- his favorite places to eat, places we went kayaking or played mini golf together, the bars where shots and pub fare were consumed on our prior trips, etc. I will get to share with them both my past and my present Austin favorites. I know I will not once have to worry about sounding like I'm talking about Brian too much -- they will be glad to hear the stories, to learn why their friend loved this place so much and why his wife moved there.

Most of all, though, I'm excited to see my friends because they are my friends and I love them! I feel lucky that they chose to allocate their vacation time and funds to come see me in Austin.

FYI -- I will probably not blog again until next week, after they are gone. I doubt I'll spend much time online during their vacation here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

And Then The Clouds Parted....

Lately, the weather pattern in Austin has been as follows: dreary, overcast (sometimes cool) mornings, followed by beautiful sunny afternoons. I can't help but hope this is a sign for the transformation that will happen in my life here.

The nice thing is, I can appreciate and enjoy the cool, hazy mornings as much as I can the vibrant, warm afternoons. Both have their unique qualities to enjoy, and both have certain drawbacks. The mornings are better for running, when there is less worry about hydration, sunburn, or heatstroke (soon enough, this will be a concern). The afternoons are great for studying poolside or catching up with friends at an outdoor happy hour. Life gives us cloudy times and sunny times -- it is up to us to make the most of them.

Facelift (But No Tummy Tuck)

Just a quick note to let you know I've revamped the site a bit, including an option to subscribe by e-mail. If you select this option, you'll get an e-mail every time there is a new post and you won't have to keep checking the site to see whether or not it was a "blog day" for me!

Also, there is now a search function available, so if you are looking for a specific post, or those pertaining to a particular topic, this would be your jumping off point.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Side Note

I wrote the bulk of the post below last week, before the debacle of a Friday night date and the following, very enjoyable, weekend with "Antonio."  Those experiences, however, made those words ring true even more when I came back to what I wrote today.

How to Date a Widow

I bring certain things with me to the table that others do not.  Please do not call this “baggage” – that is insulting.  My husband, my life story, and my heartache are cheapened by that kind of crass terminology.  Everyone has a history, a story, some things to be proud of, some things to regret, and some things they bring to the table through no fault or action of their own.  I am just like everyone else in this way.

My history is unique, so dating me will be different the dating most women, I suppose.  However, shouldn’t it be different with every person, every individual?  One unique result of my history is the degree to which you will still see evidence of my past relationship in my day-to-day life.  I didn’t go through a divorce, so I haven’t cut ties with anyone from the past, including those I know through my past marriage.  I will still have good and active relationships with my in-laws, friends of my late husband, and others who knew me as Brian’s wife.  I met my husband while we were in grade school, and have many of the same friends.  These people have been an invaluable part of my life for over twenty years.  Some of them are my best friends, some I consider my own family.  I will not cast these people aside for someone because he might be “the one,” and “the one” would never ask me to do that. 

The fact that we made it “’til death do us part” means I loved him and I will miss him in a way that most don’t about an ex.   Thus, when I speak of him, it will be with fondness, and sometimes you might hear the sadness in my voice that we are no longer together.  This might be new to you.   I also have many fond memories with my husband and shared the majority of my life’s experiences with him, so when I tell stories about things I have done and places I have been, he will frequently be a character in those stories.  If I can’t talk about the things we experienced together, I’m blocked from sharing my history, my story, my memories – in short, you would not be seeing the whole me.  Because of the time we spent together and the good memories I have, he will be in some of the pictures on my walls.  Please don’t ask me to take down photographs of happy times in my life.  I shared too many memories and experiences with him to simply erase all evidence of the time we enjoyed together.

I might need more patience and understanding in a relationship than the average person because both dating is new to me.  The situations and emotions I am facing are unfamiliar and that can be scary.  I probably second-guess myself more because of this.  I might not always know what I want or how to act in a relationship (or even how to discuss these things, lest you decide I’m too much trouble after all).  Simply put, I haven’t been traveling these roads very long and I don’t know the lay of the land or how to best navigate the terrain.  Please show me some grace and compassion as I find my way. 

None of this means that I can’t enjoy a healthy, loving relationship with you.  It simply tells you who I am, not what I am capable of or what I want.  I want to love again, to share my life, my happiness, my experiences and my home with someone special.  I want to find someone to share a life with.  My story shows you that I am capable of being an equal partner in creating a happy, loving, and successful live – one alight with the love of family and friends.  You know what I am capable of being, and I believe I will be a better person and partner now for having gone through the trials and tribulations that life brought my way.

I want to love someone wholly, and I want to be loved for the whole of who I am.  I need to be able to share the whole of my life – wedded bliss and widowhood included – for that to be possible.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Short and Sweet Update

After a rough Friday night, I had a very good weekend with "Antonio."  We did a lot of fun things, including my first NBA game.  Now I can say I've been to at least one professional game in all the major sports leagues in America -- MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA (sorry, soccer, you don't count as "major" here yet). 

One nice thing about "Antonio" is that I've known him and have been seeing him for a while, so he is used to me talking about things Brian and I did together, he has seen the pictures I have on the walls, he knows that a lot of my friends were Brian's friends, and he knows that I'm still in touch with my in-laws.  None of this bothers him, and he knows it has no bearing on the way I feel about him.  I guess I sort of took that for granted, but I made a point of thanking him for being understanding and supportive, and for allowing me to be my whole self in that way.  I said, "I'm sure it would be hard, with me talking about him so much and being close with my in-laws and everything," and he said, "I don't mind at all.  They're your family.  I understand."  And he meant it too, I could tell. 

Also, I'm looking forward to a visit from some Iowa friends this month, including a day at the Old Settlers' Music Festival to see the Avett Brothers.  I'm really excited about that!

Anyway, just wanted to share with my blog world that the last few days have been great and that I'm looking forward to some other great things in the near future! 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

This is How We Do It, It's Friday Night

How does one tell if a date has been a disaster?  I think mine last night was.

I met this guy about a month ago.  We hit it off really well.  We talked for a couple hours at the bar the night we met, and our first date went on for hours and hours as well.  We started talking on the phone and via text pretty regularly.  There was just one problem....his name was Brian.  (This is the only time I'll use a real name: I see no way to avoid it in this situation.)  I was telling a girlfriend about him, and how things were going, and I said, "This weekend, Brian and I..." and I choked up.  I realized it felt weird to say that.  I also had some weird dreams because of his name.  That was okay, I acknowledged; a lot of things were going to be weird, and I wasn't going to penalize this great guy for his first name.  I did realize, however, that I hadn't told him my late husband's name, or much about him.

On one phone call, I finally said, "I have to tell you something.  My husband's name was Brian, and this is a little weird for me."  I also told him that just because it was weird doesn't mean I wasn't ready, or that we couldn't keep going on with our relationship.  He reassured me that we could take things slow....and we have been moving really slow since then, probably backwards.  That's actually fine with me, but I feel like we took a huge step back last night and I'm losing sleep over it now.

We had plans to get together on Thursday night.  He was going to come over to my place, and I was going to make dinner and then we'd play mini golf at a nearby course.  Thursday came and I was excited to show him my place and to cook for him.  I worked out Thursday afternoon, then showered and put on a cute outfit for our date -- new jeans, a halter top, and heels.  Practical, but cute.  About 5:30, he called and said something had come up for work and he wondered if we could change our plans to Friday night.  I was a little bummed that he hadn't called sooner -- I had put on brand new jeans, for goodness sakes! -- but agreed to a Friday night date.  Then he asked if I wanted to see the movie "Insidious."  I said, "Sure, we can do that."  Suddenly, the date I planned for us had changed nights and turned into a different set of plans.  I asked if he still wanted to do dinner at my place first and he did say he was looking forward to a home cooked meal.

Friday comes, and I spent my day cleaning and running errands (I've been dealing with a sick cat, so there was a trip to the vet, and the pet store in there).  I had a friend text me mid-day to say that a group was getting together at my complex (I have friends that live here) to hang out at the pool.  I picked up a four-pack of "adult juice boxes" (i.e., wine in single-serve cardboard boxes) and joined them around 4:00 p.m. for a couple hours of laying out.  Brian had suggested a time of around 8 or 8:30 for dinner, and he arrived in that time frame.  I admit, I'd had all four wine boxes, so I might have been a bit tipsy, but not so much that I couldn't cook a good meal -- and it was good, if I do say so myself -- and give him the grand tour of my place.  He didn't really ask many questions or comment much about my place, which was kind of disappointing to me -- I've worked really hard to decorate, I have a lot of photos on the walls, etc. 

We had dinner, and then were walking to his car to go to the movie and he suggested that we skip the movie.  I don't know if it was something I said, whether I stumbled, whether it was because he knew I was a little tipsy, or what.  Honestly, that was fine with me.  Wine or no wine, I probably would not have made it through a movie that started at 10:40 p.m.  So we walked back upstairs and spent a little bit of time on the balcony...and I mean a little bit of time, maybe 10 minutes.  Then he said he should go.  I walked him to the door, which he reached first, and he headed out the door.  No kiss, no hug, nothing.  Wow....a homecooked dinner at my place, and no kiss.  Did I screw up royally or what?

I don't know what to make of this.  Perhaps I shouldn't have had that wine before our date.  On the other hand, perhaps he should have come over on Thursday, instead of at almost 9:00 p.m. on Friday.  I'm just completely stunned by how it turned out, and disappointed.  I think this was my first bomb of a date.  Or was it?  I mean, dinner was good, the conversation was fine, it didn't feel awkward, at least not until the very end. 

I texted Brian and apologized for messing things up -- I said I realized I must have messed up pretty bad when he left without even kissing me.  He wrote back and said it was completely his fault and that he's preoccupied with some things going on at work (he does work hard and take his job very seriously, as he should -- it's a pretty serious job).  Still, I have to wonder -- was it because I have a wedding picture on the wall?  Was it because I have three cats?  Was it because of the wine?  Or was it really his job distracting him?  I don't know, but I do know this -- I thought things looked very promising with this guy, and I feel like we're completely moving backwards now.  I felt that way a bit before last night, and now it's really going backward.  Ugh.  This could be my first massive dating fail.

On the up side, I'm also seeing Antonio this weekend.  Let's hope that goes a little better!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools' Post

I don't have any tricks up my sleeve today (it's too hot in Austin for sleeves today anyway, with a projected high near 90 degrees today).  I do have a funny April Fool's Day memory though.

About seven years ago, while I was in law school (wow, has it been that long?!), I was driving an older car and the gas gauge was broken.  I was driving home from school to our apartment.  I was going to eat dinner at home and get a little required reading in before heading back to campus for something -- a required event for moot court or something, as I recall.  Well, it was a really busy time of the semester and everyone was starting to think about finals and worry about those.  (You might think that's ridiculous, but keep in mind that for most law school classes, your final exam is your entire grade, and the tests are all essay tests; you might have one question that you have to write about for four hours and you better know the ins and outs of that topic!)  Well, when I get busy and stressed out, I tend to become forgetful and accident/incident prone.  I think you can see where this is going...

I was about a mile from the apartment when my car slowed, sputtered, and stopped.  I got into the right lane, put the car in park, and put on the hazard blinkers.  I didn't know what to do from there -- obviously, I could walk to the gas station, get gas, and then come back, but that would mean I wouldn't have time to eat, do homework, or see Brian.  For some reason that I can't recall now, I called Brian from the car before I set out for the gas station to tell him what was going on.  Lucky for me, a police officer came up behind me while I was on the phone and offered to use his car to push mine the mile I needed to go to get home.  I was saved!  From there, the walk to the gas station was much shorter and the night ended up okay.  However, about five or ten minutes after I talked to Brian he called me back to ask, "Is this an April Fools' Day joke?"  I had honestly forgotten about the date -- like I said, I had a lot on my mind -- and was able to finally convince him that I had, in fact, run out of gas and gotten pushed home by a police officer.

Here's hoping there are more jokes than mishaps for you this year, or at least a nice police officer to help you out if needed!