Thursday, March 31, 2011

Celeb Crush Sighting!

Look who I ran into about a block from home when I was out last Friday night...

Mr. Quaid was eating outdoors at a popular seafood/oyster bar down the road from my place.  He actually has a home in Austin, which I didn't realize.  Unfortunately, he lives here (and was dining out) with his wife.  That's okay though -- he's pushing 60 years old, and I'm not looking to be widowed again that soon!  (You can call that last quip tasteless; I call it levity.  And in all seriousness, this man might very well outlive me.  Have you seen him shirtless in the trailer for Soul Surfer?!  He clearly takes good care of himself.  On second thought....Dennis, if anything happens with your wife, feel free to contact me....) 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday Afternoon

I'm having a tough day today and the tears had just started when this song came on.  The title, lyrics, and even the singer were perfect (Brian loved Warren Zevon and, though I wasn't a big fan, I do like this one).  This song was recorded in 2003, on the album The Wind.  Zevon recorded this album after being diagnosed with terminal cancer; rather than go through treatment, he hit the recording studio.  Brian loved this album.  Somehow, I never went back and listened to it after he died -- again, I didn't generally like Warren Zevon's music all that much, short of liking how much Brian liked it -- and this song is perfect.

Watch the video here:


Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile
If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for awhile
There's a train leaving nightly called “when all is said and done”
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep me in your heart for awhile
Keep me in your heart for awhile
[ Lyrics from: ]
Sometimes when you're doing simple things around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile
You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Hold me in your thoughts, take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you

Engine driver's headed north to Pleasant Stream
Keep me in your heart for awhile
These wheels keep turning but they're running out of steam
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep me in your heart for awhile
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep me in your heart for awhile

While I keep Brian in my heart, I like to think that somewhere, Warren Zevon is singing and Brian is sitting there listening, with a smile on his face.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Looking Back at Where I was A Year Ago Today, Laughing at the Shape that I'm in Now*

*Todd Snider, I Spoke As a Child (and kudos to anyone who correctly identified those lyrics)

 I just survived my first South by Southwest (SXSW) as an Austin resident.  For those who don't know, SXSW is a large music, film, and interactive media conference that brings together international talent, brainpower, and money from these industries for a total of ten days.  It always falls the week of St. Patrick's Day and the kickoff of March Madness.  Most colleges are on spring break the same week as well.  There are plenty of official convention panels, speeches, etc., but there is plenty to do even for those outside the industry.  Though the music portion is only officially 4-5 days long, there is a solid week during which live music is everywhere -- and I mean everywhere!  There were music showcases in coffee shops, at restaurants, in vacant lots, pretty much every bar in town (and there are hundreds of those), and even at the frozen yogurt shop down the street!  Leaving my place one day, there were at least 3 venues with live music -- outdoors -- that could be seen with a cursory glance before I crossed the street (this doesn't count places that had music inside that I couldn't see).  Oh, and did I mention that people play on street corners and at food trailers for tips? 

I love SXSW and I've been going for years.  Brian's brother used to live in Austin, and we would visit him over spring break and SXSW as often as we could, even when Brian was in the working world and I was getting spring break in law school.  We loved visiting during that week; I can remember as many St. Patrick's Days in Austin as in Des Moines.  Last year, I went as a way to remember Brian and our many March trips to Austin for SXSW.  It was on that trip that the seeds were planted for my move.

Girls' night out -- SXSW 2010
Last year, I stayed with an old friend -- the same guy we always stayed with when we visited Austin after my brother-in-law moved back to Iowa.  We went to a cook-out at a friend's house on the Friday afternoon of SXSW (the hosts are teachers who always have the week of SXSW off work).  Of the couple hosting the cook-out, I knew the guy fairly well from his being a friend of my brother-in-law for so many years; but I didn't really know the wife as well.  The party sort of segregated between males and females, as parties frequently do, and I vacillated between the groups, in and out of the house (at this house, she runs the grill!).  The women were so friendly, lively, and fun!  They invited me to join them for a "girls' night out" that night.  I hesitated, not wanting to be rude to my friend who had brought me, but then opted to join them.  I had a great time going to new places, seeing live music, dancing, laughing, and even crying with them a little bit.  That day, the "What Up, Holmes?" cocktail was invented.  That day, I realized I could make new friends -- and girlfriends, at that -- in a new city.  I remember that day at the cookout, one of the ladies there asked me whether I thought I might ever move to Austin.  At that point, I was just there for a week's vacation!  As I recall, I said something along the lines of, "Oh, I don't think so.  I have my job, my house, my family, and my friends all in Iowa.  I guess you never know, but I don't think it's very likely." 

I couldn't shake the thought of it, though.  I remember driving to my friend's place on that trip, listening to the radio in the car.  I was looking at the downtown skyline at night, thinking how much I loved it.  Right then, a commercial came on the radio that literally said, "You can live in Austin!"  It was for an apartment complex.  I don't know that I treated that commercial as "a sign," per se, but it made the wheels turn a little more.  I certainly recognized the uncanny timing of the message.

My next baby step was a summer sublease in a cool little studio apartment on the East side last summer.  It was on this stay -- when I got to taste what it would be like to live on my own in Austin -- that I finally gave in to my love affair and admitted that I couldn't live without this city.  Now, I've had a chance to settle in and experience SXSW -- one of the things that kept drawing me back throughout my twenties -- as a resident of Austin.

This year, I got to set my own agenda and keep whatever schedule I wanted, without regard to anyone else.  Not only was I living here as opposed to being a guest in someone else's home, but I was on my own -- I didn't have to accommodate anyone else's preferences as to which places to go and which bands to see.  Of course, I did meet friends at places of their choosing and watched music they recommended, but I got to do that with several different groups of people, and I did go to some events solo.  I also made some of my own plans and made my own suggestions as to places to go and music to see.  My place served as a crash pad and a home base at times.  It was fun to be an independent SXSW-goer this year, one who could contribute to the fun.  I loved being able to give out-of-towners directions instead of being the one who didn't know where she was.

I knew I was a true Austinite at one particular moment during SXSW.  On the day after St. Patrick's Day, my car was on the east side, in my old neighborhood.  I was at my place, about three miles away.  I was going to the teachers' annual cookout that day and would need to drive there, and be ready to go out with the girls that night.  With SXSW traffic, that 3 mile trip would have been a very long and pricey cab ride.  So I did what any sensible Austin girl in my position would do -- I put on my tank top, skirt, and cowboy boots (my outfit for my night on the town that night); hopped on my bike; and rode it to my car.  (Later that night, I would walk a few more miles and sprint about a city block in those boots.)  Riding my bike in my skirt and boots, amongst the heavy downtown traffic, I felt like a true Austinite.  It was certainly nothing I had ever done -- nor would I probably ever have done -- in Des Moines. 

After getting my car, I went to the cookout, just like I did last year on the last Friday of SXSW.  This year, I drove myself and then when it was time for the girls to go out downtown, we piled into my car and stopped at my apartment to park the car and freshen up.  It felt strange, and cool, that a year ago I was sort of a "tag-along" these girls adopted for the night and now I lived here and was a part of the plan all along.  It's amazing how much my life has changed in a year.  I'm forever grateful to my friends for the seed they planted that grew, little by little, into the flower that is my life now.  Obviously, I've loved this city for a long time, but I don't know if I'd be living here if it wasn't for that wonderful day and fun girls' night out I had a year ago.

Girls' night out -- SXSW 2011
I plan to be in Austin for a long time.  I can't say I'll never live anywhere else -- it's not wise to try to plan for such a distant future with no knowledge of the events that lie between today and that time -- but I have no intention of leaving anytime soon.  Regardless of how many more times I experience SXSW, 2010 and 2011 will always stand out -- and not for the music, the bars, or the weather.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The World Goes Around and Around

Since Brian died, I haven't followed current events or politics very closely.  For one, the news is always bad.  I'm had enough tragedy in my life, thank you.  I have reached my sorrow capacity; I can't bear to think about the pain that I know will result from every casualty reported nightly as a result of the latest fire, earthquake, shooting, or tsunami.  Politics isn't much better.  It's mostly a bunch of mud-slinging, arguing, and talking heads screeching to interrupt one another.  And it never seems to change.  To quote the Avett Brothers, "your life doesn't change by the man that's elected."

I can't decide whether I'm better or worse off for having turned off the TV and having put on the blinders.  In one way, it has made me happier.  In another, though, I'm choosing ignorance, and I hate that.  Generally, closing one's eyes and turning the other way isn't a sustainable approach, and it certainly doesn't solve any problems.  However, even when I was keeping up with current affairs, did that make a difference in the real world?  What was I contributing to the solution before?  Not really.  The only difference, practically, is that I'm not as good at dinner party conversations because I'm woefully underinformed.

I have friends who are very active with political causes, with charitable efforts, and who are aware of all the tragedies and strife happening around the world.  I'm not that person.  Does that make me a bad person?  Was I ever going to be that person anyway?  I don't know.  I just know that, right now, I have a hard time caring about things so seemingly remote -- guns on campus, health care reform, the situations in Libya and Darfur, etc.  Obviously, I have opinions on some issues.  Occasionally, I get into passionate debate over them.  At the end of the day, though, I'm not going out to lobby for my cause or to protest at the state capitol.

I think the conclusion I'm reaching is this....I'm self-centered.  I am trying so hard to make my own life and my own world good again that I just can't think outside of that right now.  Damn it.  I thought grief and widowhood were supposed to build my character, not make me an ignorant egomaniac.  Well, I guess I have some work cut out for me....

I know I can and should do more to make the world a better place.  The hard thing for a person in my position, frankly, is finding the motivation and the bravery.  I have a hard time thinking about "bigger picture" things because I am afraid I'll commit to a hopeless cause, get passionate about its importance, and be devastated that I can't fix the problem.  I'm being cautious with the amount of negativity and strife to which I want to expose myself.  I guess this really does mean any political involvement is probably off the table for me, at least for the time being....

I guess the thought of "making the world a better place" is daunting.  Maybe I should start with making my world a better place.  And by "my world" I mean everyone in my life, everyone I encounter as I go about my day-to-day routine.  I can make an effort to effect positive change on a more personal, one-on-one basis in my daily life.  One doesn't have to march at a protest or gather 1,000 signatures to do good.  One can simply buy an extra cheeseburger for the hungry guy on the corner, talk a friend through a challenge at work, take care of someone when they are sick, send a random "thinking of you" note, etc.  I guess it doesn't solve all the world's problems, but it might make all the difference to another person.  And just think of this...if everyone was just kind, respectful, generous, and compassionate to one another, that would take care of so many of the world's problems.  (Oh, and recycling and carpooling are wonderful things.)  I really try to be all of those things to everyone in my life.  Isn't that enough?

Until I figure out my place in life and how I can make the world a better place, I will commit to performing more random acts of kindness.  Hey, it's a start.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's a Small World After All

Today, a young woman from my hometown -- 25 years old, a mother of two young girls -- was widowed.  Her husband died after a long battle with kidney failure and pancreas problems.  This wasn't just any young woman -- she was the younger sister of a childhood friend of mine.  Oddly enough, she was also paired up with me in a peer mentoring problem when she was in junior high and I was in high school. 

I only found out a few days ago that her husband was sick, when she reached out to me for support and advice.  I immediately broke down in tears, crying for her struggle and the pain that I knew would lie ahead.  I have sent her some words of encouragement and advice, the most I could come up with.  I hope anyone reading who knows who I am talking about will do the same, not just today or this week, but in the days, weeks, and months to come.  Let me remind you that you don't have to have the unique insight that I have to be helpful to someone else in their time of loss -- all you have to do is reach out to show your love.  That really helps people through some dark times.  As I've noted before, even text messages and Facebook posts or messages can make all the difference on a dark day.  Cards, personal visits, gifts, and wine --well, maybe the wine is a personal preference -- are even better.

Anyway, I've shed a lot of tears for this young woman in the past few days and I broke down sobbing when I found out her husband had succumbed to his illness today.  It hit me, though, that I was crying for her, and not for myself.  They were tears of empathy for her pain, not tears that came because this brought back into focus what I have lost.  In a way, I was proud of myself that I could say that; I think it means I've come a long way.  Yes, I sometimes still cry for myself -- for what I've lost, for frustration at the difficulties that come with my new life, and just because I still miss the big guy I called my husband for so long.  But today, the tears were for her.  I do think I wouldn't have cried so hard if I didn't know the pain firsthand -- my loss has made me so much more empathic to others, so much more aware of what death does to the living, and particularly what widowhood means. 

I don't plan to devote a lot of time and energy trying to figure out the bigger plan for all our lives, nor do I think I'm capable (nor is anyone) of putting all those cosmic pieces together anyway, but I will say this:  This got me wondering about why life unfolds like it does.  Perhaps part of my role, as a result of my experience, is to be able to reach out to this young woman in a way that few others can.  Isn't it an eerie coincidence that we were previously in a mentor/mentee situation?  I hope I can mentor her now in a much more meaningful way than when we were kids. 

In the meantime, everyone, please pray for Lacy and her family during this difficult time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Where Do We Go From Here?

I said I wasn't going to blog much about my dating life, and I plan to stick to that statement.  However, I'm at an interesting point in the dating game that begs for some reflection and writing might help me sort this out.

I'm sort of seeing a few guys at the moment, but none seriously at this time.  I don't know where I go from here -- how do I choose which one(s) to keep seeing?  More importantly, what exactly do I want right now?  Do I want a serious relationship?  If not, how do I keep a budding romance from becoming serious?  For that matter, what defines "serious"? 

I'm really not sure what I want right now.  I miss having a real companion, so casual dating might not get me there.  I thought I was ready for dating and a relationship, but on the other hand, I'm not sure I want to jump into a commitment at the moment -- I'm having fun testing the waters, having my own life, not answering to anyone, and really living for the moment instead of thinking about how everything I do would affect a potential relationship, or how another person might react.  Plus, it might be nice to get more established in Austin and in my career before adding a relationship to my life mix.

On top of not knowing what I want, I'm not sure how to go about achieving that -- how long can one maintain a "casual" relationship?  When everyone involved agrees to "take it slow," what does that mean, and how does that happen, realistically? 

I guess I don't have any reflections, insight, or wisdom to share with this post.  Just a lot of unanswered questions.  I suppose the biggest one is:  how do I figure out what I want? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The New Pad

In lieu of a lot of writing, here are some pictures of my new place in Austin.  I took some pictures of my decorating and organizing so you'd see how much it meant to me to get it settled as "home."

Monday, March 14, 2011


A friend from the midwest asked me the other day if I ever missed Iowa.  I told him that I haven't been gone long enough to be homesick yet, but that I missed my friends and family.  I like Iowa, but I'll never miss the place enough to even compare to the "homesickness" I feel and will continue to feel for my loved ones who are located there.

I miss running the trails around the Des Moines metro area with my friends, usually with an over-excited bloodhound dog in tow, and then frequently hanging out after the run to stretch, talk, eat, and watch tv.  I miss carpooling to dinners and events.  I miss frequent "drop-in" visits, whether at my house or my friends' homes -- the kind of stop where you come by to drop off a borrowed item, show off a new purchase on the way home from the mall, or just because you were in the neighborhood and needed to kill a little time.  I have tinges of sadness at having to miss out on the things my friends in Des Moines are doing -- girls' sushi nights, dinners out, birthdays, and baby showers, to name a few.  I miss my friends' kids and pets -- Riley, Lily and Lauren, Lloyd, Cleo, Ahnyong, Muth, LadyByrd, Addy, and Lou Diamond Phillips, to name a few.  :)  I had to get a little "dog time" with a friend's dog (which I think is a Rottweiler/German Shepard mix) the other day, and I'm going to have to find a lion fish to feed soon!  Maybe it's time to start doing some volunteer work at an animal shelter...

Anyway, I knew when I moved to Austin that I was going to be leaving my friends behind and moving that much further away from my family (who mostly live a few hours from my old home).  Technology has helped make that easier -- between cell phones, texting, e-mail, Facebook, the blog, and Skype, I'm able to stay in touch pretty well.  In fact, my relationship with my family isn't all that different because we lived too far apart to see each other day-in and day-out even in Iowa.  However, I miss the personal interaction I had with my friends a lot.  I'm lucky though -- since arriving in Austin for good in January, I've had two visits from Iowa friends.  First, Emily (from Cedar Rapids) came for a weekend.  Then, Jenny and Justin came for the half marathon and a couple days following.  I have two more Iowa friends (Hart and Sheppard) planning a trip next month, and I'm really looking forward to that as well.  Also, I have some of my best Iowa friends down here in Erin and Chad.  Finally, of course, I'm have and am making more friends down here and am happy to be reaching the "pjs are acceptable and knocking is not required" stage of friendship with some of them already.

At the end of the day, I'm just experiencing some of the "growing pains" of making a new life and creating a new normal.  My old "normal" often included a stop by Hart's for some couch time and feeding Lou Diamond Phillips, then maybe swinging by Kristine & Bobby's for dinner and time petting LLoyd and trying to gain Cleo's trust.  Now, a normal night for me is having dinner and watching Jersey Shore at Erin & Chad's, with Cloris Leachman (their cat, not the aging actress from Iowa) watching us from atop her cat tree.  I love both of those.  My homesickness isn't because the latter isn't just as good -- it is, and I love my Austin friends! -- but it's because I was lucky enough to have an awesome life in Des Moines too.  And I miss that. 

I think I'll post some pictures soon of my new place to help combat this nostalgia/homesickness for my Iowa life.  Look for that post in the next 24 hours.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Minor Change to the Blog

I've taken my last name off my blogger profile, so those who find the blog by doing a Google search of my first and last name might not be able to find it that way for much longer.  That is sort of the hope, as I'm trying to keep my blog world and my dating world separate, at least until I start dating one person seriously and feel comfortable sharing this.  Right now, a Google search of my first and last name pulls this site up for the first several links, and that is a cause of concern for me in terms of dating.  I want to be in control of how much I share, and I don't want someone to search my name and then show up to a first date knowing that I'm new at dating, that I'm blogging about that, etc.  Obviously, I'm not going to lie or hide things, but I also don't want someone to essentially read my diary before we even meet!

Though I don't regret blogging, and I plan to keep writing, it might present some interesting situations in the dating realm....we'll see if this step helps.  Sorry for the inconvenience to my readers, but the protection it provides for my privacy and future are worth the trade-off!

Kidding Around

One of the biggest decisions one ever makes in life is whether to have children.  Obviously, sometimes it happens without planning and choice, and sometimes it doesn't work for those who make the decision and give it their best effort (which has to be frustrating but kind of fun to keep trying!).  I'm sure people have wondered where Brian and I were on that issue, and how that has had a role in my grieving.

We were that couple -- which I think is getting more and more common these days -- that always said, "Maybe someday, but not right now."  We hadn't really had any serious talks about when "someday" would be.  It just seemed like every day, week, month, and year wasn't the right time yet.  We always had things going on, things to do, places to go, wine to drink, trips to take, etc.  It wasn't an option that had been foreclosed in our minds, but neither was it anywhere near the forefront of our thoughts.  We were, you could say, perpetually living in year one of the "five year plan."

Only once in my life was I sad, rather than relieved, to get that very private monthly signal that life could continue as normal -- the first time it happened after Brian died, it was like he died all over again.  I have to admit, I was hoping against hope that my birth control would suddenly fail me for the first time in...well, I don't want to say how long exactly, but a lot of years.  I wanted some miracle little red-headed baby boy, some living legacy to remind me of him, some way to experience a living, breathing embodiment of him and to feel like I could still hold him and have a life with him in a way.  I felt angry and cheated that he never really got to make the decision whether or not to have kids; his life was taken before we made our final decision.

On the other hand, pregnancy is (I'm told) an incredibly difficult thing, and it's not as though raising a child is a cakewalk either.  It certainly would have been incredibly challenging to go through that all by myself, when my emotions were already barely under control and when I could barely manage to get through life the way it was.  I actually wonder, if I had somehow been with child, if I could have carried it to term successfully.  I suspect not, and that would have been absolutely devastating.  If I had, I'm sure there would be emotional and psychological difficulties beyond those faced by all parents, or even all single parents -- I'm afraid I would have relied on the baby too much for my own emotional needs instead of parenting the way I should have.  There's also no doubt that pregnancy and a child would have drastically altered the course of my life, and I wouldn't be in Austin, Texas writing this right now.  

The craziest thought I ever had about this was something that, weirdly enough, I thought about at the hospital right after I found out Brian's fate.  I seriously considered asking the doctor if it was possible to harvest some sperm of his so that I could keep that option alive.  However, I didn't.  I was embarrassed about it, I felt weird even thinking that way, and most of all, I didn't want to ask and then be told that it was not a possibility for some reason.  I couldn't handle any more disappointment or closed doors at that time.  I just thought, "Well, if it's meant to be, this will be the month the pill fails me."  And it was not meant to be.  I guess I see that now.

I have to say, although I was devastated to realize the last chance I had for carrying Brian's child was gone, I'm glad there was no little "accidental miracle" in my womb now.  If I sit and think about the opportunity Brian lost, and the world lost, by his not passing on his genes to future world inhabitants, I still do feel sadness, anger, a sense of betrayal by fate/God, and even a twinge of regret or second-guessing.  Yet, my feelings the other way are stronger now.  It took a while to feel that way, but now I can say that it worked out better to have that crushing disappointment at the time.  If I had Brian's child, I'd probably still be practicing law in Iowa, probably living in a house that was meant to be purchased by a young family from Kansas.  I wouldn't have met a lot of the people that fate intended me to meet, and I wouldn't have followed my gut and my heart to try out a new place and a new career -- things I really needed for my own personal growth.

Grieving provides a lot of lessons about how Life's plans (capitalization is intentional there) and an individual's plans are often at odds.  Sometimes it is a really big and bitter pill to swallow and it takes several attempts.  Sometimes the aftertaste is terrible, and you're pissed off that you had to take that goddamn pill to begin with, and you still have terrible flashbacks and memories of trying to get it down.  But it's better to deal with it that way than to sweep the pills under the rug.

Not having children with Brian was a bitter, difficult truth.  It was life snatching away an opportunity from the both of us, as well as our families and those hypothetical gingers we might have created.  Now, however, I realize it was the way things had to be, and it was a blessing that I have the freedom to find the next path I need to take.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Social Network

For all the criticism of the self-absorbed, oversharing, time-wasting Facebook generation of which I am a fringe member, it has been a godsend to me.  There are arguments that technology is killing real life, that everyone should "unplug" and just enjoy life more without being attached at the hand to a gadget.  That one can't be a "friend" if you've not spoken face-to-face, or at least by phone, in the last [insert arbitrary time period].  I used to think that way.  Not anymore.

I got on Facebook a little late in the game for someone my age, around April 2009.  Fun anecdote: I don't know if there's a way to find out exactly when I joined, so I thought about who my first Facebook friends would have been, and I knew Hart and Wilson were right up there, so I used the "See Friendship" feature to see when I electronically "confirmed" these best friends to the world.  Turns out Wilson gets the nod for first friend -- if anyone else thinks they have this beat, let me know!  He beat Hart by three whole months.  Hmm.  He's usually the later of the two to everything.

Anyway, I initially joined Facebook for work-related reasons (dorky, right?) and tried to limit it to people who were currently and actively friends of mine in real life.  I wasn't interested in reconnecting with anyone, web-stalking people I just met, meeting new people via Facebook -- who does that?, I thought. Losers -- only people who can't make friends the normal way.  My friend list was small but mighty, and I was fighting to keep it that way.  Until January 17, 2010.

Starting that day, there were scores of people coming through the house every day for a week, stopping by to offer support, food, wine, grocery and toiletry items, etc.  Beyond there, there were phone calls and texts coming in at all hours.  Online, I was inundated with people sending friend requests, tagging photos recent and old, sharing memories, etc.  I decided to accept all friend requests so I could share information with people, and so they'd have a way to offer their condolences.  I was so encouraged by the outpouring of support I received.  It really carried me through the darkest hours and days of my life.  I was overwhelmed to see how much love we had in our life, and all at once.  The sheer number of people and how to keep everyone up to date with information about arrangements, family traveling from afar, the weather, the wonderful tribute gathering Smitty planned in Muscatine, etc. was overwhelming.  Technology -- Facebook and otherwise -- really helped out with that.

First, it allowed people to reach out at all hours of the night without ringing a doorbell or scaring everyone in the house awake with one of those terrifying middle-of-the-night phone calls.  It was through texts, e-mails, and Facebook messages that I could talk to my friends and family in the middle of the night without waking anyone up.  A conversation doesn't have to be in real time to be meaningful and helpful.  Just seeing that, "I'm thinking about you.  Call me anytime." text at 3 am from a friend whose sorrow and concern for me was keeping her awake at that hour made me feel so loved and supported.  Facebook and texting were great ways to find out who else was sleepless and who I could call without feeling bad, or who I could at least write back and forth with a little.  

Second, I could communicate to everyone at once on Facebook.  People were genuinely concerned for me, and I wanted to tell everyone I was doing alright, what was going on, and, when I needed to, I could ask for help on Facebook.  And I have done that.  I think I used Facebook to ask people to send me pictures for the photo boards and slideshow we had at the visitations and service.  I know I used it to link to his obituary and share details about the services.  What an amazing tool it was to get that information out quickly.  I later used Facebook to plead for help with chores that involved power tools, and I was again amazed at how quickly volunteers stood up to help me fix the gate, hang curtains, paint the walls, pack, etc.  Facebook was a lifesaver in terms of me getting that help.  I have a hard time asking for help -- I never like to put anyone on the spot -- so this was a nice, sort of blanket approach so no one had to choose between saying "yes" out of a feeling of obligation and saying "no" to a widow who is crying in frustration on the other end of the phone because she just can't get the curtain rods hung herself.  I got some extra moral support at the finish line of my first road race after Brian's death after putting out a last-minute Facebook plea when I started to panic. 

Third, Facebook has changed the definition of friendship to me.  There are a handful of people from my past who I've reconnected with through Facebook and who have shown support through wall posts, "likes," and -- most importantly -- Facebook messaging.  I appreciate all the "thinking of you" messages I've gotten, and continue to get, of course.  What's interesting, though, is that two kinds of conversations stick out.  First, there are conversations with "real life" friends where texting/e-mail/FB messaging has been a supplement to our "real life" friendship -- we use it to express sentiments that are sometimes difficult to find the words for in the midst of a light phone call or even face-to-face.   Second, and more surprising, is that I've actually had a lot of profound, uplifting written conversations with people who aren't my "real life" friends at all.  I would say most of that is attributable to this blog, another technological godsend in my grieving process.  I'm certainly not trying to toot my own horn, but I've had a lot of faces from the past reach out and contact me (again, usually through Facebook) to say that reading my blog has made a difference in their lives -- be it helping them with grief issues of their own, knowing how to help grieving people, helping them put things into perspective or to keep an optimistic attitude, etc.  I can't tell you how awe-inspiring and humbling that is to me.  What's also amazing is that people have opened up to me about their own issues and painful experiences, and that has paved the way for some really life-changing conversations.  I'm also just amazed at how a select few people have been unwavering in their support, even if that support is "just" Facebook messages.  It really makes me want to be a better friend and a better person, and to take the extra time to show love to those who need it.   
By the standard definitions, some of these people would not be considered "friends," but "acquaintances."  I consider some of them to be among my best friends, for they have shown true friendship in my darkest time, and we have relied on each other.

Also, I actually became one of those "losers" who makes friends on Facebook.  As in, a stranger who is now a legitimate friend of mine.  Okay, so it's only happened once.  But it was one of the best things that has happened to me since Brian died.  My friend Kristen is my first true "Facebook friend" in that we met on Facebook.  We had an intriguing mix of three mutual friends (Hart, Wilson, and a cousin in Texas), she lived in Austin, I was new in town, so I thought, "What the heck?  I'll just send this girl a message."  We've had some of the best conversations of my life, and actually the vast majority of them have been "real life" conversations -- face-to-face time on patios is kind of our thing.  I also have "blog friends" now -- I follow some blogs and use that medium to connect with people, some of whom I've never met -- who write about things I can relate to (some grief- and loss-related, some not).  On a related note, I've been exchanging e-mails with another 30-year-old, widowed Austinite and I hope to meet her in person soon.  She reached out to me after somehow finding this blog and following it for a while.  Perhaps she'll be the first of my "blog friends" to cross over in my "real world."

Finally, technology has inspired me to keep going.  Between this blog and my status updates, I knew people were and are rooting for me as I adjust to a new life on my own.  I knew people were watching and wondering about holidays, road races, home improvements, dating, etc.  Sometimes knowing I had people reading this blog and actually looking to it for advice was the only thing that would get me to write more, which has been a great healing tool.  Again, I am not trying to brag, and I know my readership stats are not all that high (and frankly, I'm not sure I want them to be!), but I can see the traffic to this blog and I know complete strangers all around the world are reading this.  Again, I am humbled and amazed that what I have to say resonates with others to the extent that it's worth their time to read about my life.  When I see that someone has come across this site by doing a Google search of "young widow re-entering the dating world" or "which hand does a widow wear a ring on?", I know I'm hitting other people who have questions and are seeking input.  I'm not saying I have all the answers -- heck, I'm just trying to find the answers for myself -- but I know from being on the end of similar Google searches that it helps to just know you're not alone, and it also is nice to hear how others in that same boat have handled various emotions and situations.  Seeing that I was getting some of that kind of traffic made me feel some obligation to keep sharing what I've been through and what I'm learning now.  The great thing is, in doing this, I'm healing myself.  A thousand thanks to my friends Kristine and Bobby for suggesting that I start a blog "to keep us up to date on what you're doing this summer in Austin."  What a gift they have given me with that suggestion.
I guess I'm glad to be one of those laptop-addicted losers.  I'm a little better adjusted for it.  Thanks, Mark Zuckerberg.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Diamonds....A Girl's Best Friend?

As some of you might remember, I had our wedding rings altered so that they fight my right hand -- I wear my rings on my ring finger, and Brian's on my thumb.  Since I've done that, I've worn them pretty much every day.  I can't decide whether or not to wear them on dates.  On the one hand, I wear them all the time and I don't want to change that part of my routine and who I am just because of a date.  That would feel dishonest, like I was taking off a piece of my personality and hiding it away in the jewelry box.  On the other hand, I do get plenty of questions and comments about my rings ("Are you married?," "What do your rings mean?," etc.) and I don't necessarily want to have one more (kind of flashy) way to bring this topic to the table. 

Another thing I have to consider is that a lot of men might not be comfortable discussing this, or that they will associate me wearing the rings with me not being ready to move on.  One of the books I've read about widowhood specifically advises against wearing rings of any kind, especially diamond wedding rings.  That book also mentioned that men don't want to feel like they're competing with "the ghost of husband past."  Am I supposed to keep this in mind to make sure both parties are at ease, or do I forge ahead and just say "good riddance" to any guy who thinks it's too much to compete with, or that my situation would present issues too complex to be bothered with?

Finally, one more question -- how do I deal with this on my online dating profile?  I don't have any indication of my marital status or my circumstances in my profile as it is now.  Is that okay?...........You know what? Yes, yes it is.  I just decided that after writing and reflecting for a while.  I don't need to put everything out there for any match to see; that's something that can be discussed later in the process.  I'm sure at least half the men in my age range have a divorce in their background and they don't write all about that in their profiles.  (Though if someone has kids and doesn't mention them, I'd really question their parenting and priorities....)  I guess I had just let my self-doubt creep up too much there.

Now, having established that it's okay (and not deceitful) to not include this information on my profile, should I include it anyway?  Perhaps that would do two things: 1) weed out any guys for whom my past would cause an issue; and 2) get that information out there so the questioning later isn't so difficult.  The latter is a bit of an attorney's trick -- you elicit the "smoking gun" or the damning testimony from your own client on the stand so that the other attorney doesn't use it to destroy your client on cross-examination.  Maybe if I had that information on my profile, I wouldn't have to worry about whether or not to have that conversation -- and how to word things, how much to share, how much to talk about Brian and my past after that point -- on every first date.  Then it could be more like friends conversing, with that common understanding in the background instead of on the table next to the entrees.  Keep in mind that if I do put that on my profile, it seems more likely that a potential date will have stumbled upon this blog as a result of some light pre-date Googling (and you know that happens).  That brings its own set of issues... 

I'm going to do a little internet searching for articles/chat boards/blog posts on this topic, but I'm also going to do something a little unusual for me and ask you for your input.  Readers, help!  Any thoughts/input?  I would love your feedback in helping me navigate these waters.