Sunday, May 31, 2015

Vacations & Old Friends

Dear John,
We had a minor flood last night. It rained hard part of yesterday - a couple of inches in an hour - so I checked the basement. The dehumidifier and sump pump were working fine, but there was water seeping up through the basement floor in the usual places. So I got the push broom from the garage and swept the water into the sump hole. This morning it was much better; about a third of the wet area had dried and the rest was getting there. It rained most of last night, but it was a slower rain so the ground could absorb it. Nothing was damaged. We moved everything damageable out of the flood zone years ago.
I don't think I told you: I'm actually taking a vacation. I only get a week this year, but I'm off the Saturday before it so I really have nine days. I'm going to Kentucky to see Donna and Becky. And I'm so excited about it! I'm not sure who I'm seeing when - Donna is looking at her schedule and will probably let me know tomorrow what will work for her. I have dog reservations at the vet, and Jen and Richard will share cat duties. The grass will probably be a foot high when I come back. But we'll all survive that.
So this week will be busy. I have to take the dog in on Thursday morning before I go in to work my half-day. Before I leave I have to clean the house and mow and do laundry. And pack. And clean out the fridge. And pay the bills ahead. And probably several other things I haven't thought about.
This will be my first vacation ever without you. I'm trying not to think about that while at the same time trying to think of everything that used to be your job when we went on vacation. But I know I'm making progress - until this year, I couldn't even think about a vacation without you. I wasn't sure I'd ever want to do this. But now I do. I'm still not ready to go somewhere new and alone. But this trip is visiting old friends and that is good. It's just what I need. And I can't wait. You wouldn't enjoy this trip anyway - you'd spend a week listening while I talk to Becky and Donna. On second thought, you'd love it, wouldn't you? Feel free to come along if you can! And help me think of all the things I need to do. If you see me forgetting something, please remind me.
In new territory yet again,

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Declaring a Platitude-Free Zone

Dear John,
After work I made my shopping trip to Goshen. I had a nice lunch with you - only a few sprinkles of rain - and got home before the deluge hit. I looked for Hunter for half an hour and finally found him when I turned the recliner over. He seems to have been frightened by the storm. He never was before; maybe Jethro has influenced him. Poor baby.
I heard Nights in White Satin in the car today. One part struck me:
Streets full of people, some hand in hand. Just what I'm going through they can't understand. Some try to tell me thought they cannot defend. If I hear one more platitude, I won't be responsible for how the conversation ends. Because I love you.
Harold and I were talking Thursday about local crisis training for pastors, and he said they emphasized avoiding platitudes. I've heard all of them these last three years. I try to hear past them to the sincere desire to make me feel better that lies behind them, But sometimes it's hard. The one I hate most is when people say that there is something even better ahead of you. That makes me homicidal. It says to me that you weren't good enough, that there is something or somebody that will be better than you. That one makes me angry. The most frequent thing we all hear is the shoulds - people telling us what we should feel/think/do/be. I try to avoid should-ers. And if I'm pushed to extremes, I just smile and say, "Thank you! And how long have YOU been widowed?" 
Handling the should-ers is familiar territory for me; they follow fibromites around in droves. Everybody that can't spell fibromyalgia knows exactly what would cure it. And people who have never grieved know what would cure that, too. But grief, like fibromyalgia, can't be cured, and widows don't need fixing. All we need to hear is that people care and are sorry. That's it. Nothing else.
So tonight I'm declaring a platitude-free zone around all widows everywhere. I doubt it will do any good, but imagining it might make us feel better. And that's something, isn't it?
Adore you,

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Pastor, a Priest, a Rabbi, & an Oxford Comma

Dear John,
I found this and knew you'd love it. You always loved
"walked into a bar" jokes. Well, here's a literal interpretation of it. Enjoy!
You collected those jokes all your life. And you liked the NCIS episode, "A Man Walks into a Bar." You got the riddle immediately. I didn't. You were quicker with that kind of thing than I am.
I loved to watch your mind work. It intimidated me in the beginning, especially your memory. When we did Bible studies together when we were first married, I felt so threatened by the fact that you knew every verse from the reference. And you were confronted with the fact that somebody you considered intelligent didn't have your kind of memory. We both learned that we were good at different things - not better/worse or smarter/dumber, just different. It was good for both of us.
We always were good for both of us. I needed safety and unconditional love, and you gave me that in abundance. You needed emotional warmth, and I was a roaring fire for you to sit by. We were well-paired intellectually, too, and both had dark, sick, surreal senses of humor. We loved word play and mental gymnastics. We enjoyed so many of the same things.
But mostly, we just loved each other - loved beyond reason and beyond life. And so all of this is also in the present tense. I'm still me, you're still you, and none of this has changed. We're just apart for a while. So I'm sending this joke to you because I know how much you'll like it. You'll notice that the caption omits the Oxford comma. I cringe, but have to show it to you anyway. You'll get my Oxford comma when you pry it from my dead, cold hand. And as I say that, I can see the grin on your face. Keep smiling - you know how important that comma is.
It's time for me to get everybody to bed. It's almost 10:00 and I'm working tomorrow. We love you and miss you. A wife, a dog, and three cats miss you very much.
Love you forever,

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Three Cats & Holding

Dear John,
We still have only three cats. It must have been an adult cat tormenting the dog last night. I went out in daylight and there was no kitten. Your family's population is stable at the moment.
I've had a good - and busy - day off. I don't think I told you that I was going to have lunch at school with Elyssa today. I had to miss this year's Grandparents Day - it was Friday of horse sale week. So I got up this morning, did some housework, made up another batch of laundry soap, went to the post office and grocery store, went to the school for recess and lunch, stopped in at the pharmacy to fax the form for my furnace rebate, drove out to Nature Unlimited and got petunias for the window boxes, came up the street and saw Richard outside and stopped to show him my petunias, drove him to Bob's to pick up his bike, saw Harold out mowing so I came home and got his space heater and walked down to return it to him, stayed and talked for a while, came back home and had breakfast at 2:30, fell sleep for an hour, mowed, reheated some leftovers for dinner, took a shower, watched two Big Bang Theory re-runs, and am ready for bed. A busy day. I'll plant the petunias on Saturday. I got medium-purple this year.
I took the photo in the office window tonight. Abby and Maggie are so funny. Of course, Abby was the dominant female and wasn't at all happy when Maggie joined the family. Abby still hisses and growls at Maggie on occasion. When she does, Maggie lies down next to her and starts grooming her. Abby is still dominant, but Maggie isn't at all intimidated. She just acknowledges Abby's seniority. Abby and Hunter take turns eating first while Maggie always waits until last. It's a delight to watch them work these things out. And tonight my girls curled up together in the window to watch the bird feeder.
I'm so sorry you're missing the furbabies. But that gets a bit circular, since I got the first cat because the dog was so depressed after your death, and if you were still here we wouldn't have any cats. But going in circles never bothered me, so I still wish you were here to enjoy the cats. You always loved big cats, and the little ones are really no different. A cat is a cat is a cat. And they're delightful and fascinating creatures. But you can't have these for a long time - you'll have to come here to play with them. Deal?
Love you more than life,

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Midnight Wild Goose Chase

Dear John,
Jethro is at it again.
Can I keep him?
I had a pretty average day until almost midnight. I let the dog out and was dismayed to hear that bark-whine of his that means, "Mommy, come quick! Something's wrong!" He was at the back fence in the same place where he found Abby and Maggie. And when I went out to bring him in, I heard cat noises from Janet's yard.
Thinking, as did the geraniums in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Oh no, not again," I got him inside and went back out with the flashlight. I didn't hear any more mewing. I checked our yard, the fence, Janet's yard, under the bushes, everywhere. I never found a kitten. It may have been one of the older feral cats that like to torment the dog. But he usually reserves his distress signal for kittens who are in actual distress.
I'll check again tomorrow in daylight. And in clothes. I was out wandering both of our yards in my nightgown and slippers, shining the flashlight all around. It's a wonder nobody called the police. The neighbors either know that I'm harmless or they were all asleep. Or both.
I'll let you know if Jethro has acquired another cat. I rather hope not. But if there is a kitten out there in distress, I want to find it. German shepherds are so fierce, aren't they? You can be proud of your dog.
Love from our little animal shelter,
Joan .

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

There's a FowlerFest Coming

Dear John,
Another member of the family on the way to Heaven. Margaret Erin died this morning. I got a call from Don tonight to let me know. I'm not surprised - she hadn't been doing well, and survival rates from her kind and stage of cancer are very poor. And I'm very sad. Now Nolon and Eleanor are the only ones left from Mama's generation. I'll call Nolon on Thursday.
I wish I could be there for her funeral. But this part of the country doesn't consider your mother's first cousin to be immediate family, so I can't get off work. What I really wish I could see is the family get-together in Heaven. I remember when you and I went to Don and Margaret Erin's house when we were down there closing my parents' house. It was the first time you realized that three people could stand together and carry on three simultaneous conversations. The Fowlers have always been a very verbal family. When Margaret Erin gets there, you'll see my grandmother Keistler, great-aunt Mary, great-aunt Margaret, Mama, and Margaret Erin stand in a circle. And I won't even guess at how many conversations will be going on at one time.
So go meet Margaret Erin. Give my love to everybody at the FowlerFest that will follow. Tell them that I'll be there when I can. Save a seat for me!
Waiting for the Great Reunion,

Monday, May 25, 2015

Your Voice

Dear John,
We didn't get the storms, just rain, but enough that I couldn't mow today. So I did housework and relaxed. It was a good Memorial Day. It was 82 and the wind was out of the south at 35 mph. I took the dog for a walk and the wind blew my bandana off. There are leaves and debris all over the place, but no damage.
Speaking of damage, we need to have another talk about dreams. Last night was the first time in months that you've given me a nightmare. We were somewhere doing something and you were talking so softly, and usually turned away from me, that I couldn't hear you. I kept asking you to speak up or turn toward me. I finally told you that I knew you didn't have long to live and I wanted to hear your voice as much as I could before your death. Then you turned away from me and never spoke again.
It probably has to do with the fact that you were trached and couldn't talk for your last six weeks. It was hard to go so long without hearing your voice. You couldn't tell me how you felt about death as it came nearer. And you couldn't tell me what you saw as death came, when you stared around the ceiling with such joy and wonder. There's so much for you to say to me when I get there.
None of that, however, exempts you from the need to behave better when you come for a visit. Maybe you think there are painful things I still need to deal with? I would think there's a better way to do it than dreams like that. I'd love a dream where we just sit and talk about things, about your death and what life is like for both of us now. Tell me about Heaven. Offer suggestions about my life. Tell me about chess tournaments, like you used to when I couldn't go to sleep. Anything!
And I just realized that all I want is to hear your voice.
Maybe there is something here that I need to deal with. If so, come back tonight and make it clearer to me. That dream has haunted me all day. Come tonight and make me feel better.
Missing your voice,

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cat Pastimes & Blogger Problems

Dear John,
I sat down to talk to you last night and Blogger jammed on me. So brace yourself!
I took a fibro crash day today. Last night I got to bed around midnight. I woke up at 7:00 and could tell I needed a fibro day - not surprising after working a late Friday and busy Saturday - so I turned off the alarm and went back to sleep. The dog woke me up at 9:00 wanting to go out. I let him back in and lay down, not expecting to go back to sleep but in the middle of a Maggie-cuddle. The next thing I knew, it was 2:00 in the afternoon. I can't even remember the last time I slept like that. I really could have slept all through the day and tonight. I got up and made it as far as the living room couch, turned on an NCIS marathon, and took two naps. I'm feeling better for the crash day.
I want to update you on your cats. Maggie is getting bigger, long and thin, and had figured out how to climb up onto the window shelves I have for them. The first time she tried I heard this scratching noise and found her trying to climb up the wall, until Abby pulled her down. The next day she realized she could get one paw onto the shelf and pull herself up. The first time she succeeded she didn't stay there long - she was terrified to be so far off the ground. Now she climbs up more easily and likes to stay there. Our little girl is growing up.
Hunter has a hobby I haven't told you about. I leave small bowls of water by each bathroom sink for the cats. The big one they share with Jethro can look like cat hair soup by the time I get home from work, and it gets the dog backwash in it. Hunter has claimed the one in our bathroom for himself. He drinks from it, but mostly he plays in it. He dips his paw in the water, throws the water into the sink, and watches it run down the drain. I get splashed if I'm there at the time, and there are always dried water droplets all over the mirror and the wall. It's a relatively harmless pastime, and it's fascinating to watch.
We're all ready for bed here. Tonight's low will be in the 60s, so I won't be the only person in town who's sleeping with the windows open. There are storms expected tomorrow. I know I won't be sleeping through another day. When the storms come, Jethro will take care of that!
Love you so much,
PS - I had an adorable photo I wanted to show you tonight, but for some reason Blogger isn't letting me insert it. I'll try again tomorrow. Love you!

PPS - I finally persuaded Blogger to let the photo in. Hope you like it!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Radioactive Spiders: It Was Inevitable

Dear John,
I found this today - isn't it lovely? And it makes me think of you. If there was a movie about a nuclear accident with spiders, you'd be the first in line for it. You've always loved those. You've seen films about mutant apes, sea creatures, ants, and I don't know what all. Spiders are inevitable.
Today the societal angst is expressed in terms of zombies, not mutant animals. Every generation has its own anxieties, its own boogieman to have nightmares about. We were Cold War children; we had nuclear bomb drills at school where we learned to duck and cover. Now the crisis abroad is ISIS and the one at home is - you guessed it - Monsanto. You know them; they're the people creating the zombies.

I'm still not afraid of anything anymore. The thing I always feared the most has already happened. I don't know if I suddenly gained courage or perspective, or just don't care about anything. I'm leaning toward perspective. Losing you has taught me what is and isn't important. When I was little and I'd get upset about something, Mama would ask me, "Will it matter ten years from now?" Again, it's all about perspective.
That's it for tonight - just musings about radioactive spiders and all those old, bad movies we watched together. When the nuclear spiders attack, I'll be sure to let you know.
Love you so much,

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Waiting & Wildflowers

Dear John,
I've had a lovely day off. I had my regular appointment with Barb in South Bend. I got a biscuit and orange juice on the way over, ate in the car, and thought about you. You used to get that on your way to work, and Jen is still finding mummified biscuit crumbs in your car. It was always a wonder your cars didn't have roaches. I managed to eat this one with only one errant crumb, and somehow that one ended on top of the dashboard. I have no idea how that happened.
After I saw Barb, I went to Macy's and got two ten-dollar tops to have embroidered for work. We have to wear bank clothes on Fridays and Saturdays, and I don't like any of the summer tops in their catalogues. We can bring in our own clothes and they will put the logo on them, so I'm going that route. Then I had a burrito and inaugurated the summer: I got ice cream from The Chief and brought it out to eat with you. It's my first visit to The Chief this year so I splurged and got strawberry shortcake. It was good, and it was good to talk to you while I ate. I hope you like the wildflowers I picked and gave you. I know they won't last long, but they were pretty.
I heard Tom Petty today. He's right that waiting is hard. I'm getting better at it, -since you forgot to take me with you, I've had plenty of practice. And I am doing more than waiting; I'm trying to live fully the life I have left. I have a service job, and family and friends, and four animals that love and depend on me. I am content, and even happy. But in the final analysis, I am waiting. Now I am waiting for a reunion that will last forever. And you are well worth the wait! It teaches me patience; stubborn endurance I was gifted with from birth. You may have noticed the stubborn part.
Putting my stubbornness to good use,

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What Was, Still Is

Dear John,
It's our special day. We got married 37 years ago this morning. It's the high point of my life, you know. I loved you so much then; I love you so much more now.
Once again, thanks for asking! I never did actually say yes since you rendered me speechless. But, as you pointed out, subsequent actions on my part implied my consent. I am still amazed that I chose so well when I was so young. We really are perfect for each other. We got more so over the years - as we both grew, we grew in the same directions, grew together, became more like each other, changed each other for the better, became one flesh.
Tonight, know that I love you more now than I did then and that I would do it all over again. Know that you're the best thing in my life - you have been since the night we met. And know that I'm still your wife, this is still our anniversary, and the number of years we've been married will continue to increase. You can't get rid of me with a little thing like death. "Until death do us part" is for sissies. I'm yours forever. It is good to know that you're waiting for me.
Yours always,

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

We're Gonna Make it After All

Dear John,
I'm no longer crabby. I slept well and have turned back into my normal self.  
We had a lovely autumn day. It was a bit unexpected in mid-May, but here it is. The temperature tonight is supposed to be in the 30s. I no longer feel guilty about not having my flower boxes planted.
I've been thinking today. It appears that I am making some progress in this new life that you so inconsiderately left me with. For the first year it was so hard to be alone - to not have anybody ask how my day was, to not be essential to anyone. This afternoon I realized that I've become accustomed to those things. I don't have the kind of confidant that I had with you, but I'm okay with that now. I am just me - no longer part of a "we" - and I've grown comfortable with that.
I do hope that makes sense. There is still a hole in my life, but I don't fall into it as often as I used to. And I would rather have the hole than try to fill it with anyone but you. I am content being on my own and waiting to be with you again.
I am completely responsible for myself now; I don't have you to share that responsibility with. And I have indeed learned that I'm more competent than I thought. I can do the taxes, change lines in the trimmer, start a new career at almost-60, and install water heaters. I can even take care of abandoned baby kittens. I can survive being me, not we. And even though I travel solo, I am not alone. Most women walk this road. And I have my lovely group of widowfriends with me. We're all capable. We are strong; we are resilient; we are courageous. Maybe we're gonna make it after all.
Yours always,

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Past My Bedtime

Dear John,
I had all kinds of musings to share with you tonight. But somehow it's way past my bedtime. They'll have to wait.
I had a good day at work. I dropped the car off for an oil change before work and picked it up after. That's one of the great things about a small town - everything is within walking distance of everything else. I came home, fed the animals, fed myself, watched Big Bang Theory, and came to bed. I paid a few bills on line, texted with Jen for a while, and somehow it's way past my bedtime.
A cold front is coming through and it has Jethro all wound up and edgy and wanting to be held all the time. I've been trying, with mixed success, to keep him off the keyboard and I'm getting crabby over it. I just got up to let him out, tripped over two cats on the way to the door, and had to bring him right back in because all he wanted to do was bark. Yes, I'm getting crabby.
You were always good at putting up with me when I'm like this. At least I'm not the moody type - you were always glad about that. The only thing you couldn't handle was when I was illogical. But, as I told you, it's illogical to expect yourself to be logical all the time. Tonight I'm not logical or patient or even decent company. So I will take my grouchy self off to bed and sleep it off. Maybe the cold front is affecting me, too. I'm hurting and itching tonight so it probably is. I suppose the dog isn't completely to blame.
You may not want to visit us tonight - I'm crabby, Jethro is all wound up and wanting attention, the cats are bounding through the house chasing each other. You may want to stay where you are tonight. I love you too much to subject you to this insanity.
Sleep good tonight,

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tile, Angels, Sherbet, & Spirea

Dear John,
I had a nice lunch with you after church today. The cemetery was a bit damp, but that (and the ants) is why I carry that big towel in the trunk of the car. It was the first time I've gotten to visit you this year. No ice cream, but I had a good Wendyburger and fries.
You should see the church. We're finally tiling the floor. The sanctuary is done, just grouted Friday, will be sealed this week, and we should be able to move things back into it for next Sunday. Everything from it was in the solea area today, which has been tiled but not grouted. That will be done this week, and we'll gradually move through the nave until it's all done. It looks nice and it's doing wonderful things for the acoustics.
Our little building looks very different from the last time you saw it. I'm not certain about that, though. I've always suspected that you come and serve for every liturgy. Charlie says he almost-sees you out of the corner of his eye at every service. And since Heaven is all about worship, and every earthly liturgy is our participation in the ongoing worship of Heaven, and we know angels serve at the altar, it seems likely that saints and our departed move back and forth during that time, too. You probably knew about the tile before I did. But you never minded me babbling to you before and I don't think you're starting now, so I'm telling you anyway.
There's not much more news from here. It's been a warm, muggy, cloudy day. There's a storm coming that's going to bring snow to the northern plains and drop our highs to the 50s. But that's spring for you. I hope we don't have storms tonight and Jethro keeps me awake. The sun is setting now and the western sky is the color of orange sherbet. The wind is picking up and it's still 78. The spirea hedge is near-peak and absolutely beautiful.
The beauty of this evening is breathtaking - I can't imagine the beauty you see now. But save me a seat beside you; I'm on my way. And, if you can, take a peek at our sky and hedge tonight, and smell the lilacs on the breeze.
Love you so much,

Saturday, May 16, 2015

I'm Telling on You

Dear John,
First, I have to tell you: You know how side mirrors have that little note on them about objects in the rear view mirror? (Now try not to hum Meatloaf.) Today I saw a vintage Corvette with a side mirror that said, "Objects in the rear view mirror are losing." I love it.
I've connected with Bob and Tira on Facebook, bless it, and I'm enjoying them so much. Their anniversary was a few weeks back and that got me thinking about their wedding. There were things going on behind the scenes that they never knew about.
I know you remember this. They both worked for you - that's where they met. And it turned out that their wedding and honeymoon were going to coincide with the rolling out of pan pizza. I don't remember your area supervisor's name - was it Jack? But I'll never forget that he came to you and demanded that you force them to change their wedding date. You, of course, refused. He threatened to fire you and you told him to go ahead. He didn't, but you were in disfavor as long as you were there. He did manage to keep you from going to the wedding and you worked over eighty hours the week they were gone. And I was never prouder of you.
That was a line in the sand for you, the assumption that Pizza Hut was the most important thing in the lives of your employees, even more important than their marriage. You took the stand you did with no doubt, hesitation, or concern. If he had fired you, that wouldn't have upset you at all. And that is one reason that your employees always loved you through all your restaurant-management years. They trusted you. They knew you had their backs.
Now I'm going to do something you'll like even less that me getting three cats: I'm going to tell Bob and Tira. Deal with it. I think it's time they knew. Nobody but me ever knew and I know you don't want credit for doing what was so obviously the right thing. But I'm telling. So there. You always did the right thing without any thought or concern for consequences, and I love you for that. Now some other people can love you for it, too.
Adore you,

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Joys of Hyponatremia

Dear John,
I mowed after work today, and you know what that means: I had lots of time to think. Give me too much of that and my mind wanders off into some strange stuff. Today was no exception.
I was thinking again about your last couple of months and how hard I fought to get them to treat your pneumonia. Nobody wanted to because you had lung cancer. From my point of view, that concept lay somewhere between ludicrous and criminally negligent. After butting heads with your doctor and getting nowhere, I played the ace of trumps. I said, "Second opinion, Dr. Patel."
And Dr. Patel rode to the rescue. He came to see you while I was at work and immediately - and forcefully - ordered exactly the six things I'd been demanding. I could have kissed his feet.
I wanted him because he knew you and your history, since he'd taken care of you when you were in ICU several years earlier with pneumonia and a sodium of 116. (I'd seen hyponatremia before, but never as low as 116. You had to set a new record.) And so, as I mowed around the big locust tree this evening, I realized what a blessing that ICU admission really was. We met Dr. Patel and he got to know both of us so he could rescue us years later.
Today I got a glimpse of the other side of the tapestry - you know, the side where the picture is. We live on the back side where the knots and loose strings and things are and we generally have no idea what it's all about. But this afternoon I saw how one thread, and one that seemed so bad at the time, was necessary for events that came years later. And that glimpse encourages me. It reminds me that God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful, and it's all under control. And I don't have to understand my life. As we've said for years, there won't be a quiz.
All of this rumination is a round-about way of thanking you for going to work that night with bronchitis, using your inhaler and giving yourself the hiccups, and drinking enough water to drop your sodium to horrific levels. Don't even try to tell me that you had later events in mind and planned it all. I know better. You were just being stubborn. But it was still a good move and I'm grateful for it. If I ever need a pulmonologist, I will inflict myself on Dr. Patel. He's a good man and an excellent physician. He was very good to us.
That's the end of my mowing-musings. Thanks for listening. I love you, adore you, and worship the ground you walk on, no matter what your sodium is,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Moats & Memorials

Dear John,
Today I worked the slowest four hours of my working life. This is western Ascension Day so most of the town is closed. I had nineteen transactions in four hours. I'm certain we will pay for it tomorrow.
When I got there at 1:00 I had to cross a moat to get inside. They were running electrical conduit to the new building site and had a trench across the north and west sides of the building. So I jumped the moat with no damage done except some dirt in my shoes. It was finished and covered by 5:00. Tomorrow the framing should start.

Last night I opened my Origami Owl order and got my lockets put together. One is about me and what I'm interested in and one is for you. The one with the blue rim is about me. It has an RN symbol, a dog paw and a cat paw, a lighthouse, knitting needles and a ball of yarn, and the purple butterfly that is the fibromyalgia symbol. The black bead is because I'm a widow.
The black locket is about you. It has the word "love," a cross, a white daisy like the ones I carried on our wedding day, and a giraffe to represent my Widow Friends Forever. The blue bead means an eternal promise.
I really like both of them, and hope you like them too. You're a part of both of them because you're a part of me. Like Glenda said years ago, you can't unscramble an egg. You and I are thoroughly scrambled and there is no figuring out where one of us ends and the other one starts. There is no part of me or my life that you haven't touched.
So now you're in my jewelry, too - enjoy! It's my way of commemorating and making another memorial. You know I've always had a need to do that. I do hope you like this one.
Love you forever and ever,

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

About Second Guessing

Dear John,
Jethro has started lying behind my grandmother's chair in the bedroom. Strange. I have no idea why he suddenly likes it back there.
Today was another marker - three years and one month since your death. I wonder if a 13th will ever pass without me noticing. Probably not.
I still have times that I second-guess everything that was done for you and wonder if the outcome could have been different, especially if I had insisted that you stay in Indy or not go to the rehab place. But I couldn't have changed those things because they were decisions made by Anthem. I spent part of this afternoon asking myself if I missed anything or made any mistakes in your care.
I do that when I look at things too closely and miss the big picture. The fact is that the heart and lung damage was too great for you to survive any longer. The sepsis and pneumonia were the means of death, not the cause. The cause was the radiation you'd received when you were 19. That is obvious when I step back and get a better look. It is amazing that you lived as long as you did with the damage you had.
So I realize that, while I am tempted to see your death as my failure, I should feel the accomplishment of having you live as long and as well as you did. You and I negotiated many crises over the years. Between the two of us, we managed Stage IV heart failure at home with you working. And I advocated for you well enough to make even Dean McKenna proud.
No, there are no regrets, no mistakes, no failures here. Exactly how long it will take me to remember that, I have no idea. I continue to work this out over and over again. As we've said, if Pavlov had worked with me instead of dogs, we would never have learned about operant conditioning.
Tonight I mourn your passing. And I honor the effort, persistence, and determination you put into surviving, and the grace and patience with which you dealt with everything that happened to you. The people that took care of you came to love you. I love you, adore you, and worship the ground you walk on.
Missing you,

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Here we Are - Deal with Us

Dear John,
Today is May 12th, which is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. It's also the birthday of the woman who is probably the most famous fibromite of all - Florence Nightingale. As you would expect, I have some thoughts on this.
First, I am thankful for my circumstances. I have a job that I am able to do, and to work full-time, even when I'm flaring. I don't enjoy it so much during a flare, but I can be there. That's a great blessing.
Second, I'm thankful for the people in my life. Folks can be very hard on fibromites. (If that is difficult to imagine, look at any fibro board on Pinterest and you'll find a lot that deals with what we suffer from those around us.) It seems that I don't have any of those people. My doctor, priest, co-workers, and family believe me and are supportive. They understand as well as anyone who doesn't have it can.
Most of all, I'm grateful for you. The fact is that 75% of women who were married when their fibro was diagnosed had their husbands divorce them within two years. I believe that statistic appalled you even more than it did me. You understood what the diagnosis meant but you loved me just the same. It never occurred to you to leave me and it never occurred to me that you would.
I don't hope for a cure in my lifetime. I don't even expect anybody to figure out the underlying cause. The funding for research isn't there. We all would like to see money and research invested in us. But what we ask today is awareness. Know that we are here; believe what we say; understand that invisible illnesses are very real. We don't want pity, just respect. Today I'd like to stand up and tell the world, "Here we are. Deal with us."
Adore you,

Monday, May 11, 2015


Dear John,
I'm tired. Really, really tired. Fibromite tired.
Today was a fairly typical Monday - very busy in the morning and very slow in the afternoon. I'm not particularly tired from that - it's more the mowing yesterday. And there's a front coming through. The storms have passed and the tornado watch was cancelled, and the temperature is 15 degrees cooler than it was when I woke up this morning. I'm looking out the window and am amazed to see how fast the clouds are moving. And the garbage can I put out for collection tomorrow morning has blown over, but that isn't unusual on this street.
So we're all going to bed now. I'd love to stay and talk to you, but I am too tired for a coherent conversation. I may be too tired for any conversation at all. You can, however, come and rub my feet if you'd like!
Sleepily yours,

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Without Mothers: Love Triumphs over Law

Dear John,
It's Mother's Day again, and my first with no mothers at all. I lost mine in 2004 and yours last summer. I kept forgetting about it.
This afternoon we celebrated our own little motherless Mother's Day - Jen, Danica, and Elyssa came over. Danica is here for a week, and it is so wonderful to see her! Jen managed to surprise me completely again. I'm such a sucker - I believe what I'm told and always get taken in. And that delights Jen no end.
So here are all your girls. There's me, of course, and you and I do have a legal relationship. And Jen, who we have no blood or legal relationship with and somehow is completely and obviously ours. And Elyssa, who is legally and biologically Jens and somehow is our granddaughter. And Danica, who I suppose is technically Jen's ex-stepdaughter but is Jen's and ours anyway. It's a triumph of love over law. It's family.
Tonight we all send our love to you. We miss you; we're sad that you aren't here with us. And we love and look after each other, so don't worry about us. We all had a happy Mother's Day.
Love you so much,

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Three Cats & a Dismembered Day

Dear John,
It's been another dismembered day. I worked my half-day this morning, came home and had lunch, then stretched out and slept a solid two hours. I haven't done much this evening. It's one of those nights that I'm up much later than usual because I've been too tired to get up and get ready for bed. So work this morning feels like it happened sometime last week. There's a gap between then and now that feels unaccounted for.
It seems to me that living alone is partly responsible for these time glitches. Besides the need to get to work on time, I have very few specific time commitments. I run errands, take care of the house and yard, pay bills, and all that stuff. But I don't have to look at the clock for any of that. It seems that I am still having difficulties with the way I experience time.
We've had a beautiful day. It's been cloudy, but the predicted thunder storms never arrived. It was in the 80s, so I had the house open, the living room ceiling fan turned on, and cats in the window sills. Jethro stayed out for almost three hours this afternoon. I could have mowed again, but the grass was too wet from last night's rain. With the clouds today and not much wind, the grass never got dry. In the interest of keeping the grass short enough to not stall out the mower, I may do it tomorrow.
We're off to bed now - it's almost midnight. I'm sending you this painting of three cats to remind you of yours. They send their love, and Jethro so misses his Daddy!
Miss you even more than that,

Friday, May 8, 2015

My Mother, My Hero

Dear John,
I was thinking yesterday while I was mowing, and for some reason remembered when I was little and Mama and I got locked out of the house twice. Instead of crying, or calling Daddy to come home and let us in, or finding a locksmith, my mother went into the utility room, shinnied up the pipes, crawled through the un-floored attic in the dark, let down the attic step and swung them in and out until the steps flopped down, climbed down them, and let me in. After it happened the second time, she found a place to hide a spare key.
I didn't fall far from the tree, did I? Since I grew up with her, I didn't see anything exceptional about these events. But we're talking about the 1950s here. I can still see her, in a dress, shinnying up the pipes. I'm not the first independent, strong-minded, smart-mouthed woman in my family.
And so I have turned into my mother. And, considering how young her mother was when she was widowed, I've probably turned into my grandmother Keistler, too. I've had good role models. And I always had your encouragement, too, to try whatever new things I wanted to and learn whatever I was interested in. I remember that Saturday about eighteen years ago when you went to church for an all-day workshop on children's ministries and I stayed home and changed out the porch posts and hung the railing. We each did what we were good at. And you had no ego problem with me being the more mechanically inclined of the two of us. You even bought me power tools for Christmas and birthdays!
Show this letter to Mama for me, and thank her for being my role model and my hero. The older I get, the more I turn into her. And that's a good thing. Give her a big hug and tell her how much I love her. And I love you so much for putting up with two generations of unordinary women!
Your unordinary wife,

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Ow of Mowing

Dear John,
In a perfect world, somebody would be writing about the tao of mowing. But the world and I are imperfect, and mowing today was distinctly a matter of, "Ow!"
It's rained a good deal this week, so the grass was long enough to keep stalling the mower. That required turning it over and cleaning out the grass from underneath, setting it back upright again, and re-starting it. The starter cord can only be pulled with the right hand. I bruised my right ribs when Jethro tried to kill me ten days ago. He may finally succeed - my ribs are killing me. They only hurt when I breathe or move. It's much worse than it was when I first fell and bruised them. If it isn't better tomorrow, I may have to get them X-rayed. I don't have time for this.
Today was our first summer day. The temperature reached the 80s and it just looked, felt, and smelled like summer. Our lilac is almost in full bloom and it smells wonderful. The windows are open, the birds are singing, the crickets are chirping, and the cats are lying in the window sills taking it all in. I got a bit sunburned mowing this morning. And my right hand and fingernails are stained bright green from digging out all that grass. It's a good thing I'll be working the drive-up tomorrow, where nobody can see my hands! Mowing felt good except for my ribs. And they hurt enough that I came inside and threw up. You can imagine what that made my ribs feel like.
I took some Naproxen late this afternoon and it did help a bit. I'll take more tonight and try to find a comfortable position to sleep in. And I'll have to mow twice a week while the grass is growing this fast. This mulching mower can't handle much height of grass.
So that's the ow of mowing. Everything ows right now, since it's hard to neither breathe nor move. Wish me luck sleeping tonight! And getting the green stains off my hands.
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Joy of Kitty Toes

Dear John,
I found this today - the underside of a cat, complete with kitty-toes. And I had to show it to you.
You really would love the cats. And you'd be fascinated by them. The first thing you'd like is how smart they are; you'd love watching them think. And you'd be amazed at how loving and affectionate they are, with their humans and each other and, of course, with Jethro the Great Collector and Protector of Kitties. You'd be fascinated watching them handle the issue of pecking order. They have a system worked out to share time in my lap and to determine who eats first on what day.
Their fur is amazing - it's so different from dog hair, but each of mine is different from the others. Hunter's fur is fine and silky, Abby's is thick and coarse, and Maggie's is soft. I'd still love to compare dog and cat hair under a microscope. And their eyes are beautiful. The markings on a cat's iris are breathtaking. Hunter's eyes are green, Abby's are gold, and Maggie's are yet to be determined. Right now she's somewhere between green and gold. As you can see, their toes are adorable. Unlike dogs, their claws are normally retracted unless they choose to extend them. When you trim their nails, you press gently on the center of the foot to extend the claws. Their toes are warm and soft and, as I said, utterly adorable.
You just have to come and see for yourself. I know you always thought you didn't like cats, but you never got to know one. Come and meet your three kitties; I'm betting you fall in love with them. They love you already - each of them slept in your bedroom slippers when they were little. And I'm certain that Jethro has told them all about their daddy in Heaven. Come join us tonight and play with cute kitty-toes!
Adore you,

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gloomy, Ouchy, & the Vault

Dear John,
It sounds like two new dwarfs, doesn't it? Gloomy and Ouchy. It's really just a summation of my day.
It's been a gray, gloomy day with rain off and on, and thunderstorms that started about an hour ago. And that's a partial cause of the ouchy; fibro and rain never were a good combination.
It was slow at work today. The entertainment was provided by a crew from Bardstown, of all places, who assembled our new vault. It came in big pieces of steel-reinforced concrete that were put in place and welded one by one. When I left they had all of it assembled and were hanging the vault door. Framing should start next. It had to wait on the vault, since each piece had to be put in place by crane. It was fascinating to watch. I got some good pictures of the process.
I'm taking my aching body off to bed early tonight. I looked as bad as I felt today - the people at work could tell I was hurting. I hope to look and feel better in the morning. If you can drop by tonight, I'd really love a long cuddle with you. Everything always felt better when your arms were around me. Dog paws just don't have the same effect. We'd all love to see you tonight.
Missing you,

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Real & Sober May the 4th

Dear John,
It's the 4th of May again and cyberspace is humming about Star Wars Day - you know, "May the Fourth be with you." I am unmoved and unamused. May 4th is only about one thing to me.
Today I've been pondering the ways that Kent State changed our generation. It certainly confirmed the distrust of authority that we'd had since the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. As we said last year, it pulled our parents' generation into the anti-war movement. (Granted, Nixon helped.) I remember that it both frightened and angered college students everywhere. There was  a very real fear that troops would come after students on every campus. And it terrified our parents. I'd been brought up with the assumption that I would go to college, but that night my mother told me I wouldn't. I remember how shaken she was when we heard about the girl who was nowhere near the protest but was shot and killed as she walked to class. I didn't worry about that - I knew the fear would blow over and I'd go to college, and I was right.
So I did go to college. And I did get involved in protest marches, but my parents certainly were not aware of that. I carefully screened what I told them. I did what I thought was right and told them what would reassure them. They heard about the panty raids but not about the marches, about the dates and not the FBI investigations. I did shelter them. The worst thing that happened when they were in college was bunches of people stuffing themselves into phone booths. In our generation, it was assembling peacefully and lawfully then being killed by National Guard troops. There is a bit of difference here.
Well, that's enough retrospection for tonight. This is always a sad day for me. I think about the four who died, who would be in their 60s now. I think about the kids who watched them die. And I feel for the Guard troops who were in way over their heard. I also think about Ohio's governor, but not with kindness or sympathy. James Rhodes was to blame.
Here ends my annual need to commemorate the Kent State Massacre. Memory eternal.
Adore you for putting up with this every year,

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Superwidow Takes a Nap

Dear John,
I handled the issue of needing a crane to get out of bed this morning by sleeping past noon. Problem solved.
I took today as a fibro crash day. I slept a good deal, did one load of laundry, took the dog for a walk. It was a beautiful day - sunny and near 80. The nights should stay warm enough now that I can stop closing the house at bedtime. I may have used the furnace for the last time until fall. And tonight I brought the fan up from the basement, the one that I use in the bedroom at night. I really need to get an estimate on having an attic fan put in but the roof has to come first. Maybe I can do that next year. This year I'm replacing the furnace, water heater, and roof. That's probably enough, don't you think?
And I'm being such a big girl and taking care of all of it. I know you and Mama are proud of me. I told somebody that Mama would come back and haunt me if I hired anyone to put in that water heater for me. And she would, too! I'm just being what she brought me up to be and what you saw and wanted in a wife. And I am very grateful to both of you for teaching and encouraging me to be an independent, strong-minded, smart-mouthed woman.
That, however, does not preclude knowing my limits. Superwidow is taking care of a fibro flare and is going to bed now. As Paul Simon said, tomorrow is going to be another working day and I'm just trying to get some rest. Even Superwidows need sleep!
Wish I was sleeping with you,

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Chores, Conviviality, & Violent Rebellion

Dear John,
I got to the computer around midnight last night and had no coherence left. So I chose not to inflict myself on you. Brace yourself for two days' news.
I worked long on Friday. The Geriatric Team was scheduled to stay until 6:00 - Charley, Tammy, Connie, and me. And, oh my goodness, were we busy! When I got off I came home, changed clothes, fed the animals, and left for Goshen to meet Jim and Irene. We went downtown for Goshen's First Friday celebration. We wandered town a bit, ate dinner at Mattern's, and had dessert at The Brew. I need to go back when I'm off at 5:00 instead of 6:00. It was tremendously crowded. I ran into Deacon James at The Brew, which was a treat. It was fun.
Today was work day. We walked down to Tiffany's at 9:00 for breakfast and a good bit of the town was there. The garage sale was still going and there was an exotic animal sale at the sale barn. They had Nelson's chicken and a bake sale downtown. Jim worked on the garage - got the rest of the insulation and most of the peg board up, and hung lots of stuff up on the walls for me. Irene and I (mostly Irene) cleaned out the flower beds and pruned trees and bushes. Jim and I got the two surviving clothes lines tightened and he replaced the two defunct lines. Irene and I made a recycling run and took lots of stuff to the town compost heap. The town dump day is next Saturday but is only open when I'll be at work, so DeWayne is going to run my three things down with his. I need to get rid of the old space heater - the one that was old when Jen had it in college - an old neon light bulb, and the bottle of mystery liquid that I found in the garage after you died.  That will pretty much finish fixing up the garage. Don't worry - there's lots more stuff to keep me busy and out of trouble. When we got finished, I took Jim and Irene to El Zorito. A good time was had by all. They left for home this evening.
Jim had offered to help me put in the new water heater today, but I'm dealing with Fibro's Revenge and have felt perfectly awful. So I decided to let him do things I can't do and leave the water heater for me to install. It was a good way to spend a flare day. I was up and active, but I didn't push myself too hard, and it kept my mind off of how bad I felt. As usual, the work done is secondary to the time enjoyed together. When the alarm went off this morning my body looked at me, reminded me of all I've done this past week, stuck out its tongue, and commenced an armed revolt. My immune system went renegade. I will likely need a crane to get out of bed in the morning. But we got a lot of work done and had a lovely time.
Jethro and I are more than ready for bed. He's exhausted, poor creature, after playing with his Uncle Jim. The cats spent most of the week in hiding and are also pooped. We should all sleep well tonight. And, starting tonight, the long-range forecast has our nighttime lows in the 50s and 60s, so the windows can stay open. That will make all of us happy.
You should come by and see the garage! And I have most of a red velvet cake with my homemade butter cream frosting - I know how much you love that. It's a good time for a visit. So drop by any time you can. Your little family loves and misses you.
Your flaring, aching, loving wife,