Maiden vs Crone

I am well into my second year since my husband’s passing, and alternate between thinking it’s getting better with days of blinding, debilitating despair.

It’s like that famous drawing – you look one way and see a fresh young maiden, tilt your gaze ever so slightly, a crone.  Now that a year of firsts have passed and some of the disbelief and numbness has dissipated, I find myself struggling with the reality of my new world order.  “So this is my life now,” I think as I drag myself out of bed each morning.

I’ve been trying to stay busy and so make a conscious effort to make plans with friends, which helps a lot. I even embarked on a 12-day British Isles cruise.  It was a mistake in hindsight.  I committed to it last year when my emotional wounds were fresh, and I assumed I’d be better by now.  I’ve spent too much time alone this past year to give up my solitude for such a long stretch.  Making small talk with a boatload of strangers on the open sea every day all day, was a lot more work than I had anticipated.

I did accomplish one cool thing, though.  While in Cobh, Ireland, I scattered some of James’ ashes into the water.  He loved being Irish, and loved the ocean.

James’s ashes at the Titanic Memorial Park in Cobh, Ireland

But once I returned to dry land and was again faced with my singleness, pent up despair took a huge hit upside my head.  I am struggling to get back into my work routine, and make the days seem as though they matter.  They don’t really.  But maybe, if I tilt my head, ever so slightly, I can fool myself into thinking they do.

Fried chicken and resurrection

None of my Easter memories have anything to do with church.

When I was a kid, Easter meant loading up in the station wagon with my folks and a brown paper bag filled with crispy fried chicken and hitting the road.

If mom didn’t feel like cooking, we’d pick up our lunch at the Colonels and head out for a picnic, even if there was still snow on the ground, to a spot in Connecticut known as Frog Rock. (Yes, there’s a huge rock, and yes, it looks like a frog.)

Once there,  my mom would pass around the fried chicken and potato salad on paper plates and we’d sit and eat in the car before venturing out for our Easter egg hunt.  If the weather cooperated, we’d dine al fresco at a picnic table.

My favorite part of these memories however, were the walks we’d take through the woods led by my dad, after the eggs were gathered and last bits of coleslaw consumed. He’d point out various types of trees, and fauna and give us a rundown on their medicinal properties.  Once he stripped some bark off of a teaberry branch and had us hold it with our chicken greasy fingers to taste and smell the white, exposed flesh below. Yep, just like the chewing gum.

I thought my dad was the wisest man in the world.


When I was a lot younger and we lived in the hollers of Tennessee or Kentucky (we moved a lot) we’d get dressed in our best finery and go to church.  Pictures of us standing on a dusty hillside in some coal mining camp seemed incongruous with the fluffy dresses, gloves and hats we proudly wore.  I don’t remember the church part.

My memories of Easter were of time spent with my family, of educational but fun walks through the woods, plates of greasy fried chicken, multi colored live chicks we kept for pets.  We worshiped at the altar of the Easter egg hunt, and aimless drives through the countryside.

I revisited Frog Rock when I was much older, but it had lost its luster.  It is, after all, not a magical place, but a small rest stop on the side of a busy road. The frog’s still there though.


Calling all Angels

I had asked my husband once why, with the plethora of terms of endearment – honey, sweetheart, babe, pookie – he called me his angel.

“Because you save me every day,” was his simple reply.

I mentioned in a January post that my friend Pam, had come up with this “six and six” idea, where we try something new together every month.  Last night, we went to the local high school and took an “Angels are all around us,” type class.

I entered the media center of the school (I missed the memo that libraries are now called media centers) and met our teacher, a kind-looking woman who is also a Reiki Master, and waited for Pam.  As it turned out, we were the only pupils in the class and so had her undivided astral attention.

Many people believe that spirit angels are around us all of the time.  There could be one, or many.  They have names, and a gender association, but are not in the traditional human form we were shown in bible school.

“It’s OK to ask your angels for advice and guidance,” she said as we got into this topic.  I had trouble with this initially.  It seemed awfully self-serving and petty to ask an enlightened being for help finding my glasses or for a better parking spot at the mall, but apparently, that’s what they’re for.

Our instructor had lost her sister five years ago, and was seeing signs everywhere.  She showed us a stack of photos of heart-shaped and butterfly-shaped stones, snow formations, fog on the glass of her living room window – all signs, she knew, that her sister was still with her in spirit.

I can believe that.  After all, I had some experiences once James had passed, that were too coincidental to brush off.  There was the acorn thingy I had once posted about.

However, when she started to show us pictures she had taken of vanity car license plates with sayings like “gogirl” and “livefree” and said those were signs to her, Pam and I both agreed afterwards, well, maybe that’s a stretch.

After a lively conversation around angels, the hereafter and lost loved ones (I never said I was Molly Sunshine) Pam and I settled on the floor for a hypnosis session wherein we would invite our own personal angel(s) to come forward.  We laid down on the library/media center floor with our blankets and pillows and tried to relax.  It was hard! (To relax and the floor.)  It’s difficult to still the voices of our egos, which are trying to crowd our thoughts.  I was reviewing work conversations from the day, or thinking of the drive home and what I would eat when I got there (Skittles).

Our instructor guided us with questions to invite in our angels and ask them their names (no response), how many were there (I think three), and for them to be open to helping us with life’s many travails (I can only hope).

pexels-photoI did not see anything but some swirling blue light.  The instructor said afterwards that was an angel sign.  I think I may have three angels – or it could simply be that I had talked earlier about how James was obsessed with the number three.

Pam was not totally sure if she was visited either.  She did see some sort of white, amoeba-like pattern once she was supine, but again who knows?

I think this is a practice that needs to be practiced to be appreciated.  We were first timers as Pam pointed out, not having spent a lifetime of seeing signs and having spiritual visitations, as our instructor had.

Like a muscle never properly flexed, perhaps it is simply a matter of training.  I like to think I’m open-minded enough to keep trying.  Pam and I have agreed to carve out time to clear our thoughts and invite in our angels.  We’ll compare notes as we go along.

After all, what do we have to lose?

View from the back seat

When I was a kid my dad had a 1960’s white over green Volkswagen bus.

It certainly came in handy with four kids (I don’t count my oldest sister Anna, who had run off and eloped at that point).  But it also came in handy in another way.  My dad used to run a carpool with some of his co-workers.  I’d like to say it was done in the spirit of cutting down on air pollution, but the more pragmatic truth is he looked at it as a way to bring in extra cash to support his large family.

Nowadays, our most sacred personal spaces – which also represent our biggest financial investments – have been put on the payroll as inanimate employees, money-making machines.

I’m talking about the hundreds of thousands of people making a buck by opening up their homes and garages to strangers through services such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and VRBO.

I applaud their entrepreneurship, and am all for finding more independent means to make a living.  I just haven’t fully grasped how our society has evolved to the point where it’s the norm to share so much of our coveted personal space with strangers.

Wrapping up my latest business trip in Dallas, I scheduled a Lyft ride from my hotel to DFW airport.  Once I engaged the app, a photo of a smiling middle-aged woman popped up along with the make and model of her car, and how many minutes away she was from my hotel (only three – sweet!).

On-line transport services are super convenient and certainly inexpensive.  The same 11-mile drive by taxi would have been almost double what my driver Linda charged me to ride in her own car.  However, there is a non-monetary price to be paid. I have noticed that many of the drivers I have had are super-chatty. They are quick to regale you with their life story in a 20-minute transport. The stories although poignant to them, are much the same, and not exactly NY Times feature story fodder. I’m usually coffee-deprived and tired on business trips, or focused on the task to come, and so not feeling terribly chipper.

By the time Linda had dropped me off at the airport (after missing my gate exit the first time because she was so absorbed in reciting her personal history) I knew that she had an 89-year-old father whom she lived with, her mom had died the previous year, and she was (happily) divorced.

Maybe it’s just because these are the kind of personal tidbits I only share with people I have known say – at least for a 100 miles – but it seems like ride-sharing is also a license for over-sharing.  But then again, if I am someone like Linda who likes to talk filter-free and is friendly, opening up my car and life in a business venture makes all kinds of sense.  After all, she has a steady stream of fresh fares to tell her stories to ( I can only imagine everyone at the family picnic has heard them several times before).

Ridesharing is a billion-dollar industry.  One source reveals Uber rides over the past five years have traveled a distance equivalent to a round trip to Saturn (bulk up those snack supplies, Linda).  I say this because Linda had gone to great pains to make her car as homey and home-like as possible.  She had complimentary snacks and water in the back seat for my transportation pleasure, although they were hung over the seat in a shoe-bag type contraption that knocked against my knees.  A flower-covered journal with pen was perched on the side of the front passenger seat headrest in the event I wanted to jot down a personal recollection to share with future travelers, much as you would see in the lobby of a B&B:

Buffy and I truly enjoyed our stay in the back seat of Linda’s Ford Fusion! The protein bars were superb, and seatbelts did not choke or bind in the slightest! (Smiley face)

And this sharing of personal space extends beyond the garage.


Before I got married some years back, I was talking to my brother on the phone, basically bitching about the fact my future husband wanted us to move out of my cute, albeit small lake house into his childhood home.  I really loved my little house, and did not have the five-plus decades of good memories growing up in just one home as he had.

My brother, never one to mince words, stated tersely, “do you want a marriage or a house?”

It took me back a bit. “A marriage, of course,” I mumbled into the phone, rather petulantly.  I’ve posted before how my current house (back on same said lake) is both my private sanctuary, and since James’ death, akin to a well-appointed coffin.  But it’s my coffin.

And nowadays, more that 50 million people use Airbnb to find that “at home” experience at someone else’s sanctuary.  I have benefited many times from booking these online “home away from home” places which are certainly less impersonal and less costly than most hotels.  Yes, I’ve had ‘nary a bad experience – if ‘nary means “almost” no bad experiences.

A recent trip with friends to Vermont to a rustic and charming farmhouse was enjoyable, and only blighted once we had left the premises.  We spread out our things in the comfy den and settled into our own bedrooms.  The house was owned by a cheerful young woman and her husband, who were new to the rent your home biz.

On the ride back to Connecticut the next day, one of my friends shared that the night before she had encountered a few antennae-wiggling creatures in her room.  There were even more in our shared bathroom, she revealed.  (I won’t say what they were, but it sounds a lot like ‘sock- coaches.’)  “Eeeewww!” Was my immediate response, nearly driving us off of the snow-slicked road.

Once home, I shook out all of my belongings on the back porch to ensure no uninvited, non-paying guests dared move into my private abode.  

The old and flu season

My friend Laura, certainly the most fit person I know, made a seemingly innocuous admission recently that has stuck with me.

While on vacation in Maine with her husband, they were out enjoying some cross country skiing. Out for a couple of hours, he turned to her and asked if she wanted to continue on the set of trails they’d yet to explore.

“I said no, I’m good.”

It doesn’t sound like much, calling it a day, but Laura is an animal. I mean, this woman went running through thigh-high snow some years back right after minor leg surgery!

Now, maybe she was just bored by the steady swoosh of the dogged ski trail, or maybe she is at an age and stage where having to push through the limits is no longer such an attractive option.

I find myself using that phrase “age and stage” a lot lately, now that I am closer to the north side of 60.

A recent two-week bout with the flu not only left me weak, but weirdly took away my senses of taste and smell. What fresh hell is this? I thought to myself. Then, due to my illness-induced inactivity, I messed up my shoulder in Ashtanga yoga class.

Ok, enough is enough. I get that millions are impacted by the flu. But am I at that crossroads where all signs say, “Proceed with caution – you’re past the double nickel and all minor ailments will last longer, carrying forward a piquant aftertaste that lasts well beyond the last bitter sip.” (Yeah – too long for a sign, I know!)

The saying “time heals all wounds” is not true when it comes to grief, and certainly not applicable to aging. I’m certainly not on my last legs, and Laura can still rock a bikini like nobody’s business. But it gives you pause, the domino effect of minor aches and pains, and how they awaken thoughts of the decrepitude to come.

Aren’t you just dying to invite me to your next baby shower?

The first worst year

After almost a full year of horrible firsts, I now face the most daunting of all.

Over these past 11 months time has held absolutely no meaning, and evinced no hold on me.  I made it through holidays, birthdays, and a uncelebrated wedding anniversary. I fractured my ankle, dealt with the ravages of ,,,  the flu without the “there, there” support of my beloved, and took countless solitary plane trips, landing with no greeting heralding my return. I even took my first trip back to the vet’s office where James died so unceremoniously on March 14th.

It dawned on me with almost an electric shock a few weeks ago, that it has been almost a year since he died. Where did a year go? How is that possible? It still feels so fresh, so recent. It can’t be! I say to myself. Time truly has had no meaning. It’s been one painful, foggy slog to get through the next “first” in a seemingly endless laundry list of painful milestones.

It’s like a constant rollercoaster ride with no time’s up. You don’t disembark, so no opportunity to gain firm footing. Back up the slow and steady incline – clack clack clack, all the way to the top with no view of what’s below. Then whoosh! Your stomach is left far behind as you hang on for dear life, while outwardly trying so hard not to look like you’re scared.

My favorite scene in the movie Parenthood with Steve Martin, comes near the end and is uttered by the unnoticed grandmother who often gets left behind by her large, self-absorbed family.

“You know, when I was nineteen, grampa took me on a rollercoaster ride…it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled altogether! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the rollercoaster.”

James liked the steady and expected pace of the merry-go-round. I knew it wasn’t representative of real life. Shit happens. Up, down. Up, down.

We don’t have to like it, we just endure it.

The lukewarm psychic hotline

Mary Lincoln, so overcome with grief by the horseless carriage-load of tragedies in her life, was said to hold seances in the White House and so was a firm believer in the afterlife.

I know most refer to her as Mary Todd Lincoln, but she never signed her name that way and so I am setting the record straight.

Who could blame her for reaching out to lost loved ones? She buried three out of four sons, a husband who was shot right before her eyes, and her remaining son later in life, had her committed to an asylum. Talk about a crappy life! I’d want to reach out to the hereafter too. Oh, wait, I have.

Even before losing my husband, I would reach out to mediums and psychics in an attempt to contact my mom, who had died about 20 years ago.  I admit I had spotty success. I certainly don’t believe everything I hear, or that all reputed psychics are genuine. But I’ve had enough spot-on feedback from some to make me be open-minded about it.

Probably my worst experience was fairly recently.  A few months after James died, I made an appointment with a “psychic” whom I found on-line. (Should have been my first warning bell. It’s best to go by recommendations from friends and family.)

stocksnap_8pws9yv4cuAfter arriving at her place and amidst the smell of sage, we started to chat a bit. She immediately started to channel a woman, but I told her I was really only interested in getting in touch with my husband.

“He wants you to know that he is glad you buried him with his wedding ring,” she proclaimed.

I waggled my fingers at her. ” I’m wearing his wedding ring and he was cremated,” I said, trying not to be curt about it. I mean, these visits are not cheap. The typical hour appointment can be $120 or more. I don’t want to waste time on having her shotgun a bunch of disparate feedback.

Another misstep on her part: “He says he is worried about the children.”

I looked at her puzzled and with a sinking feeling in my stomach. “What children? We don’t have any children.”

It continued with the same amount of success (I say, sarcastically). I think she took one look at me, a middle-aged woman, and made some basic assumptions. We had been married a long time (not!). We had children (none!).

Now, not all psychics are charlatans. I made a more recent visit to another medium who has had some local acclaim and has even assisted in police investigations. She made some good assumptions about my husband in her attempt to talk to him. He had a beard (yes), he had blue eyes (yes) he loved cars (oh, yes).

But at the end of the session, perhaps sensing that I was not totally satisfied with the reading (I guess I thought I would have a direct line to James and he would say something to her that only the two of us could know) she launched into what I can only term as personal growth advice.

I hadn’t asked for it. I realize that a lot of people come to her seeking life advice – Should I take that job? Will I find love? Kinda like a bartender dispensing advice to the drunk, but in this case, to the dissatisfied.

“It’s a dog eat dog world, and I’m wearing  Milk-Bone underwear.” Norm, Cheers.

I was not interested in her comments about how “lightning can strike twice,” and that I still have a long life to live (that does not give me comfort these days) and may find another love. It made me mad. I don’t want anyone else. Not now, and likely not ever. (If she was a good medium she should have sensed that, right?!)

I mean Mary Lincoln, a troubled woman for sure even without all of the personal tragedies, mourned the loss of her husband her entire life. And she was short! Not sure what that has to do with it, but anyway.

These spiritual sessions are really about confirmation and comfort. Confirmation that our loved ones are still with us, albeit in another dimension. I believe that, but still wish that man of mine would get off his fat, heavenly cloud and give me a more tangible sign that he is still with me.