Sunday, December 18, 2016

When There's No Answer At All

You may or may not believe this, but I hate writing about grief.

I know that sounds weird because I write about it a lot. But I don't write about things I'm not feeling so in order for me to write about grief, it's got to be something I'm experiencing in the moment.

And nobody likes that.

I don't know if more people die around the holidays or if it just seems that way because we're all trying hard to be so damn joyful. But after a losing a cousin and a friend in the last week, it just seems like Fate waits until we least expect it and then lets loose with a stream of cruelty.

I've been weepy today and I hate that. I've gotten pretty good at keeping that stuff in, but like my son (who is cool as a cucumber for weeks and then has a complete mental breakdown for 12 hours straight) I think I've hit my limit.

Now, I do feel as though I need to say that while I did know both this cousin and this friend, I do not claim to know them well. I can't stand it when the second someone dies it seems like people jump on the "I don't know how I can live without them" train when they haven't seen or talked to the person in years.

I'm not like that.

In fact, I feel like I go in the opposite direction. I see and hear so many things from loved ones who were close to the person who has passed and I feel as though I don't have a right to grieve for them because they might not have been a part of my everyday life.

But for right now...I'm going to forget that stupid notion. I'm sad and I have every right to be sad.

What I grieve the most is what's left behind. In my cousin's case, it's a young son, a husband, a huge network of family and friends and so many connections she had made through her organization Coming to the Table.

With my friend, who had endured so much grief in the last few years when both of her parents passed, I cry thinking of her family and the sisterhood of friendship that stood by her and comforted her.

I think about what's ahead on this road for them. Sadness. A new appreciation for those they have around them. Maybe life changes as they question their own path in the wake of what's happened. Days that will speed by and nights that seem endless. Laughter that feels amazing because it doesn't come as easily as it used to. And moments.


As we all know, it is an utterly helpless feeling watching those you care about grieve. In fact, I would say that if the answer of what to do immediately comes to's probably wrong. I know that sounds strange, but grief is so complicated for each person that there is just no right answer. It has to be carefully considered and completely thought through.

And sometimes there is no answer at all.


I don’t know why I went to her. I didn’t really know her. I didn’t even know what I wanted to talk about. But the second we walked into one of the Sunday school rooms, I’m very much afraid that I exploded on this woman who, up until that point, had been almost a complete stranger to me.

“Why? Why?” I screamed. “Why did this happen? We did everything right! I don’t know a better person than Brad. Why did this happen? What am I going to do? How am I going to live? Why would God do this to us? You have to tell me! Why?

Teri led me to one of the hard plastic chairs that surrounded the school tables. She sat down with me as the tears flowed down my face and took my hand in hers. Her face was so full of concern, watching someone suffer…someone who was desperate to find an answer that she knew may never come.

“I don’t know, sweetie. I couldn’t explain it when my husband died of cancer when my daughter was ten, and I can’t explain it to you now. All I can do is pray with you now. And if you’re not ready to do that, I’ll pray for you.”

For the first time, I really started to digest how I was not in control of anything in life. None of us are. I looked at this woman who seemed to be so disciplined and who appeared to have all of the answers every Sunday at church and realized that none of us are running the show here. 

It was as I was looking at Teri’s face, filled with pain and sympathy, that I began to discover that the question of “why” may be vitally important…but it would never be answered. Men and women have been going through what I was about to face since the beginning of time and have never been able to answer the question, “How could this have happened?” 

And even if they could, it wouldn’t ease the pain.

I could ask, “Why was my husband taken away from his children when they were just babies?” and even if I got an answer, it would still be incomprehensible.

I could ask, “Why did my husband have to leave me to deal with this all on my own?” and even if I got an answer, I would still be angry.

I could ask, “How could this happen to a man who was just so damn good?” 

And even if I got an answer, it wouldn’t stop what I was about to feel. 

He would still be gone.

Death makes no sense. Brad had survived his dangerous teenage years, driving too fast and constantly testing fate, only to die on his commute to work. I’ve had family friends who have spent years with someone who was the picture of health, only to be shocked by their sudden heart attack. I know people whose husbands have been diagnosed with very “curable” forms of cancer and have followed the doctor’s instructions down to the letter…only to lose them two years later after countless rounds of treatment and false hope.

Our husbands are dead and Keith Richards is still alive?

Um…hello? Is this thing on? 

Everything that I thought was a “sure thing” in my life had suddenly been ripped out from under me. I’d always thought that if Brad and I worked hard, loved each other, and were just generally good people, we would be rewarded by a long, happy, boring life together. Bad things were what happened to other people. Bad things lived in the abstract in my life and were never within reaching distance. And even if bad things were to happen to us, the one thing, THE ONE THING I was sure of in life was that Brad and I would get through it together.

But then “together” was the one thing that had been taken away.

And although I didn’t completely understand it as I was sitting in the Sunday school room of my church, tears streaming down my face, looking at a woman who was a virtual stranger, but one I was sure up until that moment had all of the answers…the question of “why” would become something that I would struggle with for years.

And then it would become something that I would eventually have to let go of.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dear Melania: This is Cyberbullying

I know this is old news, but it still baffles me.

First, I have to admit that I'm a secret follower of Donald Trump on Twitter. I know, I know. I didn't actually commit to hitting the "follow" button, but I will occasionally get on there just to see what ludicrous thing he's managed to communicate in 140 characters or less. For accomplishing this feat, I have to give him props.

It's actually really hard to be that ridiculous using only about twenty words at a time.

Anyway, as we all know Melania Trump has decided to take on cyberbullying as her cause during her time as FLOTUS, a very noble ambition. But I, like millions of people around the world, have been asking myself this question over and over again.


I'm wondering if all of that gold in their apartment interferes with her wireless signal or something; maybe she doesn't have access to the internet and has no idea what her husband is up to? Or maybe cyberbullying means something different in her native tongue and she thinks she's ending the use of the Diner's Club credit card?

Actually, what I'd LIKE to think is happening is that she is being a little passive-aggressive (as all married people should be) and trying to point out The Donald's faults to him by putting it center stage rather than talking to him about it over a DiGiorno pizza and a glass of boxed wine (oh, wait. That's me).

I guess we'll know that's the case if after she solves cyberbullying she takes over the Hair Club for Men and works to reduce the amount of orange used in spray tans worldwide.

But if, for some reason, she IS actually taking on cyberbullying I'd like to assist her so she actually knows what it is when she sees it.


The use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending message of an intimidating or threatening nature. 

Now, when looking at Trump's Twitter account, it can be hard to narrow this down to only a few tweets. And this is just Twitter. I don't have time to go through everything he's said on the news or in the media in general. (And while this doesn't fall under the category of cyberbullying I'm sure the Army and Navy football players LOVED it when he said they weren't playing "real football" on CBS. I don't know if I'd want to piss off football players that are trained for combat, DT.)

Oh, Donald. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Didn't your mother teach you that? And while you might be thinking to yourself, "That's not threatening" I don't agree. You're bashing a talented actor and a show that's been on for decades. In effect, you're saying, "Don't watch this." And what happens then? The show goes off the air and people lose their jobs (but you'll find new ones for them, right?).

Goodness. Way down, are they? Dead, even? Well, you predicted Vanity Fair's demise in 2012 and we're all still thrilled to see it arrive in our mailboxes. And sources out there are speculating that you've rekindled this feud because VF didn't like your restaurant, Trump Grill, in a recent issue. One might speculate that you might be projecting your own insecurities about your lack of talent in any area (except bullying others which is, to use your words, "not nice") onto others who have actually had pretty viable careers based on their talent.

My therapist will be proud that I figured that out.

Oh, my. I could go on and on, but I actually have a job and need to get back to work. I have to finish what I need to do before my kids get home from school. I'm hoping that today isn't going to be one of those days when one of them comes home in tears, telling me that someone has picked on them or that they're scared. I hope neither of my daughters come home and tell me that someone out there called them fat. I hope my son doesn't come home and tell me that someone told him he has no talent.

But I'm comforted by the fact that if they do, I'll have the first couple to rely on for help and guidance.

Friday, December 2, 2016

I Feel Bad For You Because You're Married

Okay, so I don't really feel bad for you because you're married. I just wanted you to know what it feels like when us Singles get that sympathetic "bless your heart" look as soon as people find out that we're unattached.

At first I thought I needed to be careful about how I worded this blog. After all, I'm widowed and not divorced so I'm sure that someone is going to read this and think I'm glad my husband is dead.

Believe me...that's not the case.

But he is and that's the reality. And in the last 9 years and counting I've experienced casual dating, serious relationships, great first dates, horrible dinners that make me want to run screaming from a restaurant, two dodged marriage proposals, and a partridge in a pear tree. 

When I managed to untangle myself from the last serious encounter, I was so shell-shocked by the whole experience that I couldn't fathom getting into another relationship. Weeks turned into months which turned into years of being single. And since then, I've found a new love.


Now, I'm not completely alone. I do have three kids. But as far as a relationship goes...I'm blissfully, enthusiastically, not-a-moment-of-regret SINGLE.

I think a lot of your Marrieds and Committeds out there think that when Singles say we like being on our own, we're just saying that because we can't find a man (or a woman). I guess that could be true in some cases, but when I talk to many of my single friends we are so happy living in Singledom that we truly can't imagine living anywhere else.

I feel like I need to explain this because in the last two days I've received a phone call from a professional acquaintance who began the conversation with, "Please tell me you're seeing someone" and my mother telling me, "Don't worry. You'll find someone!"

Uh. I'm not worried.

Here's the deal. I've been around long enough to know that if I just wanted to get out there and find a man...I can. I'm not saying that to brag, but it's true. If you REALLY want to be in a relationship, you'll make it happen. But it's unfathomable to people that I don't want to.

So, I'm going to tell you the reasons why I'm enjoying this time in my life so much.

1. I hate it when people snore, but I snore too. So, I'm more than happy to curl up with my silent dog who overlooks this little issue. I sleep with 4 pillows, he sleeps with 2. We know our boundaries and give each other space. We both know we don't like to be touched while we sleep and he's the best about sleeping facing the other way so I don't wake up to morning breath. Best relationship I've had in years.

2. No one comes home and asks me why I haven't showered that day. Or why I worked in my PJs until 5 PM. I don't worry about weight gain or loss. I've completely changed my hairstyle without worrying what my significant other will say about it. All of this combined makes for a very liberating experience.

3. Girls Night Out? No problem! No, you don't have to hang on while I check with someone else's schedule.

4. Do I feel like cooking? Sure. Take-out tonight? No problem! I talked to another mom the other day who had gotten take-out for herself and her kids because her husband was out that night and she didn't feel like she needed to cook. She got my sympathetic nod.

5. I don't get frustrated watching someone sit on the couch playing solitaire on their phone while I clean the kitchen and get the kids ready for bed (I love my late husband, but I still get annoyed thinking about that). Yes, I know I have to do it all on my own. But I know what needs to get done and I do it without watching someone else relax while I sweat through the evening chores.

6. I. GET. THE. REMOTE. During Thanksgiving weekend, not one football game was on at my house and I watched Downton Abbey for 72-hours straight. Sure, my kids were irritated but I'm a parent. I'm supposed to annoy my kids.

7. Now, here's the hard one. Traveling. I would love to travel more and it's hard to think about going alone. But I believe that when the time comes, I will find ways to do it. I'll go with other friends or find a group. The point is, I'll be able to go where I want to go. I'm in control. I'll go on vacation and sleep all day if I want to or do other things that I want to do.

8. Freedom. I know lots of things are racing through your mind when I say that, but what I think of are really little things. The day before Thanksgiving I cooked all day and watched Christmas movies. It was as I was standing at my counter making Almond Joy Macaroons (highly recommend) that the thought "I'm completely happy right now" floated through my mind. Content. Doing exactly what I wanted to be doing in that moment. Alone and happy.

9. I believe I've grown more living in Singledom than I did as a Married. I've had to get creative about how I spend my time, how to make a living, and how to parent three kids alone. I've had to ask myself over and over again what I (me, myself and I) want out of life and I don't have to take anyone else into consideration. I think ahead to when the kids are grown and am already planning the things I will do to keep busy, keep growing, and stay independent (I don't want to be one of those clingy moms).

10. Every decision is mine and mine alone. Now, when I was first widowed, this scared the crap out of me. If I'm being honest, sometimes it still does. Thinking about getting the kids through college or handling a basement flood on my own is daunting to say the least. But in the last few years I've found a confidence I've never had before. I've realized that I can tackle this stuff. I've found professionals to call when I need them. I have a network of wonderful friends and family who help me as I would them. Yes, I miss how handy my husband was and sometimes I would REALLY LOVE to have that again, but I also don't miss having a plumbing issue that he would tell me he would fix when he got home...two weeks later.

11.  I was going to keep this list to 10, but I really have to add this one - you moms/wives out there will know what I'm talking about. There are times when I get my house completely to myself. When you're married...that is so rare. Sometimes all the kids will be at sleepovers or activities and I embrace that time. And you know you would too because I've talked to so many women who get almost teary when they think about it. It's like what Tina Fey said in Date Night: "I don't fantasize about being with another man. If anything I think about being alone, in a hotel room, with a Diet Sprite." I hear ya, sister. I love it, too.

I was talking to a friend's mom the other day and she spoke about her divorced sister who, she said, would probably never get remarried. "She's too spoiled" was her conclusion.

Now, I can't speak to that specific case, but I don't believe that being single makes you spoiled. What it does is make you MORE of who you actually are. And as time goes by, it gets harder and harder to think about being flexible and making compromises. I've gotten pretty used to doing things when I want to do them and how I want them done.

Since the 8th grade, I've almost always been in a relationship of some sort. I've always had a guy. For me, it came from a lot of insecurity. I needed the validation of being in a relationship. It wasn't until my mid-30s that I took the time to be by myself because, the truth is, it scared me. In fact, I almost made some pretty unwise commitments out of fear.

I wish I could have told my newly widowed self that I would be okay. I'm pretty good company to hang out with on a Friday night. I make myself laugh. I can cook. I can play a tune on the piano or sit quietly at a movie on my own and I don't annoy myself by talking through it. I'm a pretty good date.

For me.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

10 Reasons I'm Grateful for this Election

I'm betting that some of you read that title and thought, "Great. Another post that tells me I'm supposed to hug the neighbor I'd like to punch and that we just need to sweep what's happened under the rug and get on with our lives."

Well, yes and no.

You don't have to hug your neighbor. We're getting into flu season and that may not be wise. And I'll tell you right now...I hate sweeping.

Like a lot of the country I've been trying to process this week. I've felt this wild mix of emotions and I've been getting my money's worth out of my anti-anxiety medication. I spent the day after the election feeling drained and looking at the world as if I'd never seen it before.

But there have been many bright spots to what's happened, too. And in an effort to try and save some money on therapy, I'm choosing to focus on those.

1. On the morning after the election, my 15-year-old daughter came downstairs for breakfast and learned the election results. For a moment she looked defeated. We talked for a moment about her three best friends - an African American girl, a Muslim, and an openly gay friend - and how they might be feeling that morning, how some extra sensitivity might be needed.

She then sat up straight and said, "I can't wait for the next election so I can fix this." Yes! She WILL be able to vote in the next election and the fact that she's so invested in what's happened isn't a bad thing. This new generation - which I believe in many ways is a more tolerant and open group - watched this election carefully. And many didn't like what they saw.

2. This has been a huge lesson in complacency. I've had others before, with my local school district which I watched deteriorate as I kept saying to myself, "This isn't really happening, is it?" But now I know these things can happen. And Hillary herself said at one point near the end of the election, "Don't get complacent" when the rest of the country thought the election was in the bag.

Don't just sit back and let things happen. Don't assume anything about any situation. Be vigilant. Be the change you want to see.

3. Okay, so this is a big one and if Blogger would let me I'd draw big arrows to this point.

Yes, I've seen all of the posts on social media about some awful things that are happening. It is true that some racists out there have taken this election as a sign that their behavior is okay so they've decided to ramp it up a little bit. I agree, that's scary.

All I can comment on is what I've experienced post-election and that is what I feel is a huge outpouring of kindness. When I go out, I feel like we're all being very careful with each other. I've actually experienced more smiles and conversations - not about the election, but people just making small talk with each other - than I have in a long time.

And here is a small example.

I've recently had a family move in next door who is originally from Iraq (they've been in the US for a while, though). Yes, the wife is completely covered and she hardly speaks English. But their kids are delightful and respectful (and, truth be told, I think they have a family dinner on Sunday nights that makes me want to knock on their door and invite myself in because it smells so good) and the husband always waves enthusiastically as he drives by. I don't know them well, but they've been great neighbors.

The day after the election the husband's car broke down just as he was backing out of his driveway. My parents and I were standing outside and my mom said, "I wonder if he needs help." I walked over to his open window and asked if we could help him push is car back into the driveway so it was out of the street.

He looked surprised for a moment and then his face broke into an enormous smile. "No, no! I have someone coming out to help me," he said.

"Are you sure? We're happy to help."

"That's okay." His smile broadened.

As I walked away I heard him call from the car, "God bless you."

I don't know how to explain it, but during such a tense day...that kind of made my afternoon.

4. As adults, we've just learned the lesson we're constantly trying to teach our kids which is that not everyone wins. We're disappointed, sad, fearful of the unknown. But we have to keep moving. We have to keep going.

5. I've learned about the people I thought I knew well. And I know I mentioned this in my previous post about Trump, but I need to expand on it.

First, I DO NOT believe that the people within my social circle are racists and all of the other words that have been thrown around. Yes, I do think those people are out there, but I think that many people who voted didn't vote for Trump - they voted for the bigger picture that they believed in. I think that a lot of those people probably feel just as unsure of the future as the people who voted against him.

But what's been disappointing is the response from some of the Hillary supporters I've seen. It's been offensive to me. Yes, I know we're all going through a huge range of emotions, but what I've seen isn't helping anyone. And at this point I'm just as likely to unfriend someone for their response to the election as I was to unfriend someone because of what they were posting during the election.

6. Of course, that's made me examine how I handle losing because (not that I'm perfect) it's been a while since I've lost something I cared so deeply about. And that's also made me wonder why I was so invested in this election.

And I've realized that, thanks to social media, we all made it so personal. Actually we made it personal and impersonal at the same time.

So much was thrown around that seemed to stab at what I believe in...and it was easy to do from the sanctuary of a keyboard. Had I been sitting face-to-face with many of these people, I think things would have been handled better. But as the election process went on, people began to personally attack each other. Which not only made me feel like my candidate lost...but you were voting against me, personally. Instead of saying to someone, "Why do you support this?" we quickly went to "You're stupid. You're a racist. If you don't vote for Hillary you're sexist" and many other personal attacks on both sides.

Please keep in mind that when you do that...we all lose.

7. Again, I mentioned this in my previous Trump post, but in many ways his terrible public behavior has prompted a lot of conversations in my house about what's appropriate and what's not. We've talked about race, religion, gender equality and other topics that might not have been fully addressed otherwise.

The question "What do I tell my children?" is a valid one. And I have the answer. You tell them what you should have been telling them all along: Bullying is not okay. Treating women with respect is not a choice - you just do it. Yes, my daughter, you are valued and you have so much to give. Yes, every race and religion is important to who we are as a country. Love is never wrong.

You will have these conversations because a bad example has been put in front of your kids. But bad examples are everywhere. I've experienced people in Human Resources roles who are racist, bosses who should have never been in a management role, and don't get me started on what our kids witness with so many celebrities. People we don't agree with are constantly in positions to influence our kids.

Now, rather than assuming they know good values when they see them, you're going to have the conversation over and over again and teach them. We should be doing that anyway.

8. In some weird way, this election has made me even more proud of my country. I didn't realize that until I attended my daughter's elementary school Veterans Day celebration the day after the election. Fifty veterans walked in as 600 children chanted "USA!" and waved American flags. They each stood and said their years of service. My daughter sang her solo, Let There be Peace on Earth, and I wiped tears from my eyes, trying to figure out what I was feeling. Was it sadness?

No. It was hope.

9. This country is fired-up about CHANGE in a way it hasn't been in a very long time. Democrats want to change the system because they feel it failed them. Republicans wanted change all along which is why they voted the way they did.

I believe that after this election, there will be more focus on finding candidates that each party can be proud of. I know that many couldn't wait to get Hillary into office and I've heard from some that Trump's private demeanor is very different from his public one. But for most of the country, this election was about picking the lesser of two evils. We deserve better than that. And I believe we will fight for it.

 10. This election has changed my perspective in so many ways. It's not fair to try and force someone to your side when you're unyielding yourself. Being dismissive of others and their opinions is not okay and, frankly, I think that's what got us into this mess. Instead of stopping and listening, in many cases we shut our minds off the moment we thought, "They don't know what they're talking about."

In this election, more than any other in my lifetime, people had reasons for voting the way they did. No one I know took this lightly. I'm tired of people blaming others who voted for a third party. I'm tired of people being thought of as pot-smoking hippies because they voted for Hillary. I'm tired of people thinking that every person who voted for Trump is going to start walking around with assault riffles come January.

I don't believe that many of the voters out there from either party are as black and white on the issues as some would like to think they are. 

The world is made up of many colors, my friends. And many shades of gray.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Practical Tips for Watching the Presidential Debate

Well, another debate is upon us which means that if you haven't completely given up on social media, you're in for a wild ride tonight.

I think most of us have figured out that the Presidential Debate Drinking Game is probably not the healthiest way to go. I realized that during the first debate when I woke up the next morning wearing nothing but the American flag and a cowboy hat.

Recently I saw an article from the Wall Street Journal that encouraged yoga for the debates, but I feel like that will just have us all tied up in knots - mentally and physically.

Now, let's be honest. We ALL know the issues that are going to be brought up tonight and we'll have the added discomfort of watching President Obama's half-brother sitting on the other team's side while Hillary Clinton has asked a couple of billionaires to sit in her corner (hope they're bringing their tax returns).

If you'd like to sit this one out, I completely understand. So I've decided to sum it up for you NOW so you can go to bed early. Yes, I have suddenly discovered I have political psychic powers that will anger and amaze both parties.

You're welcome.

  • Trump will criticize Clinton for all of the past issues with Obamacare. All of the problems will be presented to her in no particular order but the outcome of this will be his assurance that he can defeat ISIS.
  • Clinton will smile and listen to her earpiece before asking for his tax returns. 
 The Plight of the Middle Class
  • Trump will relate to hardworking people everywhere by reminding them that he came from nothing but $1 million in seed money from his father and that his work ethic is what it will take to defeat ISIS.
  • Clinton will remind him that it was $14 million and ask if that was documented on his tax returns.
Violence Throughout the Country:
  • Trump will remind everyone that he is focused on the issues that plague inner cities while suburban moms watch and wonder if it's okay to send their kids to the neighborhood school two blocks away from home.
  •  Clinton will smile vacantly while he talks and then go into her thoughts on gun control before asking for his tax returns.
Tax Loopholes:
  • When asked about his tax history, Trump will finally be frustrated enough to bring up a related topic - Bill Clinton's infidelities and Hillary's complicit behavior while Bill tries to glare at him through the bags under his eyes. He will then tell everyone that his tax returns were in the emails that Clinton deleted and can't be retrieved.
  •  Hillary will smile smugly as America Googles "Presidential Candidate Infidelities" and scrolls through 15 pages of sexual assault accusations directed toward Donald Trump, including one in Latin that no one understands.
  • Trump will assure us all that he has plans in place (presumably screaming, "You're fired!" before pushing the button that will nuke everything south of Turkey) and that they are good plans. Huge.
  • Clinton will amaze us all with her plan that we don't understand and we suspect was taken from an episode of Scandal where the characters talk so fast we just assume they know what they're doing. She will mention that defending the country would be a little easier if Trump would pay his taxes.

I have now saved you 90 minutes wasted, the embarrassment of finding yourself in a yoga pose you can't get out of, and a hangover.  What I cannot rescue you from is a newsfeed full of things you don't agree with even from friends who are voting for the same person you are.

For those of you who will bravely go forth and watch the debates tonight, I wish you good health and good luck.

And remember that ripping your television from the wall doesn't hurt anyone else but you and that the candidates can't actually hear you when you're screaming.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Thoughts on Feminism and Why I Feel Bad for Ivanka

 For those of you who are new to my blog (which at last count was over 1,000,000), you're going to have to get used to my blogging style. While I try to be succinct and hopefully make some sort of point, my blog has often been the place I go to try to make sense of things.

And that sometimes happens in a roundabout way.

So, I was in the car with my 15-year-old daughter and we were talking about feminism. Before you give me too much credit for having such an enlightened conversation, I will admit that our talks usually center around how bad her feet smell after practice and questioning when I might see the carpet in her room again.

Anyway, she had just finished an AP World History study session with her friends and she said, "It's weird. I don't think a lot of my friends know what feminism is."

"Really? What do they think it is?"

"They said they've heard from boys that feminism means that it's okay to hit a girl because now we can hit back."

I glanced over at her. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."

"I know."

I stared at the road through the windshield. "You know, I've been thinking a lot about Ivanka Trump lately."

Now, this is more like our regular conversations. We'll go from global warming to what's on sale at JC Penney and if you're not paying attention, you'll wonder how in the hell we got there.

But I promise I'm going somewhere with this.


I don't consider our household particularly "feminist"...although if you asked my son he might tell you differently. Since my husband passed away, he is completely surrounded by women and I've often said I'm raising the best husband in the entire world. Marriage will probably be a lifelong vacation after the houseful of hairspray and fingernail polish he's been growing up in.

But I do believe in raising strong young adults, no matter their gender. That doesn't necessarily mean that I expect my kids to all be CEOs someday; it means that I want them to make their own decisions and find their bliss and know that anything is possible.

Does that mean I'm a feminist? I don't know.

My kids have had ringside seats to my own changes as an adult. I went from working in an office to being a stay-at-home mom to working from home and running my own business and becoming a writer. I've had a role as a traditional homemaker that morphed into being both the stay-at-home parent and breadwinner.

I believe in leading by example and that was never more true than when my husband died.

I knew that I had a choice. I could fall into the despair that was threatening to swallow me or I could show them that happiness was something that you have to work for sometimes - but it's worth the fight.

And one of the reasons I believe that is because no one told me that I couldn't be exactly what I wanted to be.


One of the things that Hillary Clinton mentioned as one of Donald Trump's attributes is that he's raised children who are obviously very loyal. Actually, with both candidates that's true - each seem to have kids who think the world of them.

But knowing how Donald Trump feels about women (yes, I know that he loves them) has made me wonder what it was like to grow up with him as a father. I know that with my own parents I always had a fear of disappointing them and pleasing them still makes me feel good.

But my dad is no Donald Trump.

My parents are still married and  have a good relationship (unless my mom is reading a map on a road trip) and I'm extremely close to both of them. Even as a 40-year-old woman, their opinions are valuable to me. And as I watched and listened to videos of Donald Trump talking about his daughter, saying that he would date her and allowing someone else call her a "piece of ass" it got me to would I feel if my own father said that?

Actually thinking of my dad on Howard Stern in the first place makes me want to throw up a little.

Of course, Donald Trump isn't the first dad to say stuff like that. Remember when Joe Simpson talked about about Jessica Simpson's breasts? If you don't, you probably don't read Us Weekly on a regular basis like I do. But I can guarantee that every woman who read that cringed just a little.

Knowing how I feel about my parents and hoping that I'm a good daughter, it made me wonder what it was like to grow up as Ivanka (and Tiffany who has been MIA during most of this campaign). Did she feel like she had more to prove as a business woman - or as a woman in general - because Donald Trump was her dad? Knowing that he probably thinks that there are capable women out there who can't get very far without being beautiful...did she thank her lucky stars that she's as lovely as she is? Did she have to work harder than her brothers to gain his respect in the business world?

I don't know. But during this whole campaign, my heart has gone out to her a little.

Now, for all of you out there who are going to comment and say that she's an adult and she has a mind and a path of her own...I agree. But I also know that when you're completely ensconced in your family and have been brought up a certain way, it can be hard find your way out of it.

Especially when the world is watching.


As I explained my train of thought to my daughter, she nodded along.

"Can you imagine having a father who says things like he has about women?" I asked. "Can you imagine what that must have been like growing up?"

"No," she said.

"Well, what did you say to your friends when they told you what they thought feminism was?"

She thought for a minute. "Well, they think that being a feminist means that...well, that...."

"You're a bitch?" I offered.

She looked at me sideways, surprised that I'd actually said the b-word. "Yeah."

"What do you think it is?"

"I think it means I can do anything a guy can do."

Hells yes, you can.

Friday, October 14, 2016

I Don't Want my Daughter to be a Stripper for Halloween

It’s no secret that Halloween stores can be a little scary to walk into.  My 6-year-old daughter cowers on her way to the children’s section as things howl, move, and light up.  My son, a mellow and sensitive 8-year-old, pales a little when he looks at the costumes on the wall for boys his age, packages of costumes containing bloody hockey players and psychotic clowns.

But the scariest part of the store for me is the “tween” selection available to my 11-year-old daughter.

As a mother, I’m living my own version of American Horror Story.  My daughter is young enough that dressing up and trick-or-treating is still something she looks forward to, but old enough that the costumes like the friendly bumblebee or Strawberry Shortcake just don’t fit her anymore.  And while I’ve rolled my eyes in the past at the women’s selection in the adult area – French maids, sexy pirates, and alluring police officer uniforms – this year, looking at the costumes for teenage girls…my blood began to boil.

Because the only thing missing is a stripper pole.

It’s sexist.  There’s no other way to say it.  When I looked at the boy pirate costume, it looked like…well…a pirate.  But when I looked at the girl costume it looked like….

If, heaven forbid, my daughter had said she wanted to be a police officer for Halloween, we would have had to go to the male section of the store.  Because there is no way in the world I’d let her out of the house in this:

In the teen girl section, baseball players aren’t wearing uniforms, they’re wearing sporty cocktail dresses.  Candy bars aren’t boxy-cut material in the shape of the actual candy, but more like tight-fitting tank dresses well above the knee.  And as far as Supergirl goes…the majority of the material is used for the cape.

Now, I realize that I come from a relatively conservative background.  When I was dressing up for Halloween as a pre-teen (back in the day), my costumes centered around things I could find in my home – I was a bum or a rock star or something my dad could make out of a cardboard box.  But kids don’t really do that anymore.  Most of the costumes are store-bought and I can understand that when you’re an 11-year-old girl, it’s still fun to play dress-up every once in a while.  For 364 days of the year, my daughter is a regular middle school student but for one night, she just wants to be something else.  So it kills me to see her face fall when she looks up at that wall of costumes that are in her size because she knows I would never let her out of the house in any of them.

Actually, I wouldn’t even let her wander around her room in that stuff – as my grandmother would say, “They barely cover possible.”

Who are these people who think that it’s okay to objectify young girls this way?  Right now, I’m picturing a panel of men – not one father in the bunch – deciding on these designs and picturing young girls like my daughter wearing them.

And that has been the creepiest part of my Halloween this year.

This post was originally published in The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Being a Pro-American


When one sits down to write a blog on a Saturday night because one is stuck at home with a bad cold and one cannot breathe through their clogged sinuses, one doesn't usually expect to wake up a few days later and find that one's blog has been read by over 100,000 people.

But there you have it.

Frankly, right now I don't know whether I should take credit for that blog or bounce the attribution to Mucinex - it certainly did its part.

The last few days have been a mystery to me and as a woman who overthinks everything (yes, aren't you glad you're not dating me?), I've been trying to figure out why this took off. After all, I certainly don't consider myself a political expert and as I mentioned in the previous post, I shy away from those types of conversations.

So, it's somewhat ironic that after all of the writing I've done, a post about the 2016 election is what went viral.

And the Gods laugh.

What I wrote was true - this election has changed many of the conversations I have, especially with my kids. And as terrible as the hate and ranting throughout the media has been, I do appreciate that I'm openly talking to them about things like sexism, racism, and several other isms that we might have accidentally ignored, living out in suburbia the way we do.

What's fascinating to me is actually listening to them because they're smarter than all of us adults. I've told them many times that I wish the voting age could be lowered because our kids have a lot to say and they come from such an honest place. A 10-year-old has no hidden agenda when it comes to things like healthcare. She's just glad her doctor gives her a sticker when she leaves the office.

And it's actually exciting to me that we're raising a generation of kids who are more shocked to see someone smoking a cigarette than a same-sex couple walking hand-in-hand down the street. While these kids are often buried in their smartphones, they're also a more tolerant group (I've found) and because they spend so much time online, they're often more informed than we give them credit for.

When I listen to my kids...they're a lot like me. They're not Republicans. They're not Democrats. They want what's best for their community and country and discuss issues that don't pigeonhole them into a certain party. Like me, they're not pro-Hillary or pro-Trump (that would be obvious from my last blog).

They're pro-America.

Someone asked how I felt about Clinton in the comment section of my blog about Trump. And this was my response:

As a parent, I consider the issues on BOTH sides a "teachable moment." Honesty, integrity, kindness, and inclusiveness should be a given with our leaders...not something that we have to search so hard for. 

I truly believe it's a teachable moment for us all. We have to learn from this. Yes, it's a mess, but we can be better because it's happened. Maybe this moment in history is the catalyst that helps us usher in a new era of politics.

Too hopeful?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Thank You, Mr. Trump.

 I'm going to be honest. I don't identify with any party and, truth be told, I usually don't get into political discussions.

Brad (my late husband) didn't get into politics with people either, which I thought was interesting given the fact that he was ex-military and worked in the defense industry. And growing up I was taught that discussing politics or asking people who they were voting for was bad manners - how you voted should be private.

I still believe that.

But here's the thing. The world isn't like it was when I was growing up. I've watched what's going on with a mixture of disbelief, laughter, and fear. This last year has made me feel like we're all trapped in an never-ending episode of Scandal.

And that makes me sad.

No, Hillary isn't my favorite, but Trump is just...there are no words. But I do have to thank him for a few things.

1. Thank you for being such a bigot. I don't think that race relations have been discussed this much in my entire life. And while things have been volatile (and I'll agree that part isn't entirely your fault), you've made most of America fear that we're going backwards when it comes to civil rights. As a middle-aged white woman, I thought we'd come further than we have. I'm grateful that you've shown that I'm wrong. That just means that I have to help the change that should happen.

2. Thank you for being sexist. We all knew it, but you showed that "good old boys" are still out there. And I know you didn't mean to, but your idiocy has prompted many women to come forward with their own stories of abuse which should have happened long ago. You've united strong women because we know we can overcome men like you. We just needed you to force our hand.

3. Thank you for your nonsensical double-standard. Hang on. I need to outline this one.
  • For blaming Hillary for her husband's infidelities when you're a philanderer yourself. And when has a man EVER been blamed for his wife's indiscretions?  
  • For marrying an immigrant and then closing the doors.
  • For marrying a woman who posed provocatively throughout her modeling career. I'm not judging her. But you've, once again, proven what a racist nation we are. If Michelle Obama had had this kind of career, Barack wouldn't have been elected to town council, much less the highest office in the nation.
  • For commenting on the appearances of others, especially women. No one is perfect and if you think you are...well...I guess all I can say is I wish I had your mirror.
4. Thank you for testing my patience. I can turn you off. But I've had to listen to others who believe in you.

5. Thank you for testing my friendships. The last few months have been interesting. You see, I'll get together with my friends over a glass of wine and discuss kids and schools and what's going on in the community. Rarely do we get together and talk about how we feel about other races, abortion, abuse, and other issues that really define who we are. Since you've been on this path, I've learned more about my friends than I ever wanted to know...but really should have. Now I know who is willing to sweep sexual assault under the rug, who doesn't think immigrants have a place here, who thinks that any race is inferior, and who thinks that being a woman is a joke.

6. For helping me teach my kids valuable know like being a good person, helping others, that you should always watch what you say, and that you can be guilty by association (Billy Bush is learning that a little late in life). And that making fun of anyone doesn't make them just makes you look like an ass.

So, Mr. Trump, despite the fact that you', you've actually done some good. I think you've inspired a time of growing pains that will be painful, but in the end we'll be stronger for it. We've all known that our political system is flawed, but until you came along we didn't know how bad it was.


Now, go away.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Today It Got to Me

I'm writing this even though I don't have time to write this. There will be typos because I think I'm hitting my computer keys so hard that I'm just mashing them at this point.

But this is the rant of a mother who is on the edge. And since I am a single mother with no one to ask me how my day was (and then ignore the answer), this will have to do.

As a single mom, I'm pulled in many different directions at once. And I usually don't mind it too much - I'm one of those people who puts her head down and just does what needs to be done. 

But there are times when my kids seem - dare I say? - ungrateful. And, sure they're kids and they've got other things on their minds other than remembering their mom is a person sometimes and I get that. I don't think I realized my mom was an actual human being until I was in my 20s.

Today it just got to me.

I work from home, mainly so that I can take care of my kids and work around their schedules. This means that I am sometimes working until 9 or 10 at night, but I consider it worth it.

Until I can't do something for one of my kids and they whine about it.

Today it was my son. He and I rarely exchange cross words, but after explaining some weekend plans to him - all of which are extremely inconvenient for me so that I can accommodate him as much as possible - I got a sarcastic "FINE" from the backseat of the car when I explained one little component of the weekend that I just couldn't do.

Which is why I'm writing this blog.

I'm thinking about my day. I woke up this morning like I always do, wondering how in the hell I'm going to fit everything in. Basic needs like showering and meals are usually second to trying to get as much work done as possible so that I can spend the afternoon driving my kids everywhere. Heaven forbid I should have to go to the grocery store, like I did today - I really don't have time for that. I'm looking at the chipped nail polish I have on my toes from when I actually took to the time to put it on - not an actual pedicure, mind you. A Sally Hansen moment in my bedroom - I think sometime in July.

At any moment now, one of my kids will burst into my office to tell me I forgot the one thing they asked for at the store. I'll finish this blog and go into my kitchen where all of my kids will have left their cereal bowls from their snack, even though I yelled at them all about that last night. I will then strap myself into my car for the next three hours getting them to piano lessons and back and a fun spur-of-the-moment team night at the bowling alley (for crying out loud!) that my daughter just told me about.

In between that running around I'll pop in and out of my house trying to make sure dinner is ready by the time we're all home together at 7:30. My youngest daughter will complain that she doesn't like what I've fixed and then she and my son will take an hour to eat it. I will eventually get frustrated and retreat to my office to work while I go back and forth to the table to police their vegetable intake.

By 9:30 I'll be tucking two out of three of them in, because one of them will have forgotten a homework assignment was due tomorrow. I'll look at the book I ordered from Amazon that's been sitting on my nightstand for a week unopened because I haven't had the energy to read it (seriously. I don't have the energy to read a book).

Eventually I'll fall into bed, exhausted and wide awake, thinking about all of the things I didn't get done that will have to fit themselves in the next day.  My dog will be annoyed that I'm taking up so much of his space on my bed. I'll try to remember if I brushed my teeth.

If you're nodding along with this blog, thank you. If you're poised and ready to offer advice - don't. I know that saying about being sad when your house is eventually quiet and believe me, I dread that day (most of the time).

For now, I'm going to send this out into the world and wonder if there's another mother out there like me, hiding in her office, door closed, taking a deep breath before she joins her family and tries to tackle parenthood once more.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Chapter One: Wish You Were Here

My inspiration for this book came from a question I still ask myself and one that many widows have asked me throughout the years:

"I wonder what my husband would think about what I'm doing?'
Thanks to Henry, my unfortunate husband who passes away in this book, we find out exactly what a husband might be thinking about what his widowed wife, Jane, is doing.


I hope you enjoy this first chapter of Wish You Were Here. Any comments on the Catherine Tidd author Facebook page, Widow Chick Facebook page, Catherine Tidd Twitter feed (@catherinetidd), Widow Chick Twitter feed (@widow_chick), or emails you would like to send to any of these accounts would be appreciated.   


“No, no, no…you don’t understand,” I said impatiently to the customer service woman who said she was stationed in Connecticut, but who I suspected was actually in India.  “I know that my husband’s name is on the account, but I need to get that changed.”
“Well, since it’s your husband’s name on the account, we’ll have to speak to him about it,” said Nancy Bhatnagar with forced patience.  “He is the only one who has authorization to change it.”
“I’ve told you and the three other people I talked to before you,” I said, feeling the blood rush to my face and the entire upper part of my body heat up in some sort of customer service-induced hot flash.  “You can’t talk to my husband.  He died six months ago.”
“I understand that ma’am,” said Nancy.  “But he’s the name on the account so if any changes need to be made, we’ll have to have him do it.”
“Well, how do you suggest we do that?” I asked, my voice low and shaking with anger.  “Dig him up?”
How can he give his permission to change the account into my name if he’s dead?”
“Well, I’m not sure.”
“Okay, fine.”  I said, suddenly coming up with an idea.  “Let’s just cancel the account.  Cancel the phone, the cable, and the internet.  Then let’s hook them back up in my name and I’ll finally have my name on the caller-ID so I can stop giving everyone a heart attack when I call them and they see his name flash across their phone.”
“That would be fine,” said Nancy.
“Great!  What do we need to do?”
            “Well, first I need his authorization to cancel the account.”
I sat in my cubicle, staring at the phone in my hand for a solid two minutes, hearing the faraway voice of Nancy saying, “Ma’am?  Ma’am?” from the receiver.  I could feel my office mates trying hard not to look at me, but I knew they were wondering if this was it, if I was finally going to blow.  If the calm exterior I had prided myself on for the last six months was finally going to crack its shell so that the crazy woman they all suspected was inside could finally emerge.  I think, since I returned to work, they simultaneously feared it and looked forward to it.  I know a couple of them were hoping I’d have some grief-induced breakdown and let our department manager, Michelle, finally have it.  And while it was tempting the first month I was back, by the time the second month rolled around, I felt like my window of opportunity had passed.  And now I was expected to go on acting as normal as I had initially let everyone believe I was.
I felt a hand gently close around mine and someone helping me slowly put the receiver back into its holder.
“Jane?  Are you okay?”  I could see Emily’s face peering at me through my peripheral vision.
“I’m fine.  Fine,” I said as I continued to stare blankly at the gray wall of my office.
“Awww, don’t sweat it,” said Izzy in her raspy I’m-a-smoker-but-I-don’t-tell-my-health-insurance voice.  “Emily can get Dan to call them later.  He’ll just say he’s Henry and we’ll get the whole thing worked out.”
“That won’t work,” said Emily.  “I bet they already have in their notes that he’s dead.  She’s called them, like, twenty times to get it changed.  Surely someone has noted that somewhere.”
“So?” said Izzy.  “We’ll tell them that he’s calling from the Great Beyond and is very disappointed that his caller-ID hasn’t been changed.  That’ll give a few of those Hindus a jolt.”
“That’s not funny,” Emily hissed at her.  “Sweetie?  Are you okay?  Want to take a walk around the building with me or something?  Get some fresh air?”
“No…no…really.  I’m fine,” I said.  “I’m going to run to the bathroom for just a minute.  Will you cover my phone?”
“Of course.”
I was an Event Planner in the Marketing Department at Claron , a company that sold electronic components – or so I had been told.  My job, where I planned everything from small golf tournaments with suppliers to sales meetings for the thousands of people who worked selling small electronic parts to manufacturers around the world, meant that I really didn’t need to know exactly what the company did as long as their logo was placed correctly on the hundreds of golf shirts I ordered every year.  When I took the job, it sounded like a cushy gig and it took me six months to figure out that Corporate Event Planner actually meant filling out a lot of paperwork, working with “creative” (i.e., unreliable) people, and working with executives to make sure that their food was warm – but not too warm – when they wanted it, the beer that they liked that was only available in a small town in Montana had been flown to wherever they were in the world, and that the coffeemakers worked without a glitch in their Presidential suites when they were in town for a meeting.  The one time I forgot to check, when I first started with the company, the President who happened to be staying in that room found his coffee not to his liking upon his arrival.  At which point, he calmly walked down to the lobby with it and threw it onto the marble floor.
In the years that I spent working for Claron, I never had a firm grasp on what they did and why and in many ways, given my job…it really didn’t matter that I hadn’t figured it out.  To me it seemed like we were just one, big giant middle man and that all it would take was a meeting between our customers (the people who actually made the electronics) and the manufacturers (who made all of the little pieces that made the electronics work) for everyone to suddenly say, “Hey!  What in the hell are we paying these yahoos for?” 
Claron always seemed to be working on a shoe-string budget, which was strange considering how large and successful the company actually was.  The cubicles were old, most of the chairs, once lowered, could never bounce back to a comfortable height, and office supplies were given sparingly.  Most employees were paid slightly less than they could have been making at other companies, but since most of the people I worked with had been with Claron for so long, the only reason I could come up with for their indentured servitude was Bagel Fridays.
As an Event Planner, continual budget constraints were a huge headache for me because while most departments envisioned having large and impressive events, with a full bar, band, and expensive giveaway items that would entice more customers to attend…they seemed to want that to happen for around five dollars a person.  This constantly put me in the position of being the “bad guy” who did nothing but rain on everyone’s parade and tell them that a light appetizer and a free pen was more realistic, given what they had to spend.
The company was pretty old school in the way they operated, too.  One of the many irritating things about the Claron was that the phones were set up so that they would never go to voicemail and would, instead, move from your own personal phone to the rest of the group if it wasn’t answered in a timely manner.  This made sense for those people who were working in sales or in some sort of customer service capacity, but for those of us who concentrated on the more internal functions of the company, it really shouldn’t matter.  Unfortunately, that meant you couldn’t quietly have a breakdown or nurse a hangover while letting calls go to voicemail and, since we didn’t have Caller ID, you also couldn’t avoid a call from someone who was harassing you by asking one of your cubicle mates to grab the phone for you.  I could see my co-workers’ bodies get rigid every time they heard the phone ring, worrying that it could be anyone from their mother to the vendor whose invoice they forgot to submit until yesterday. 
It also meant that we could never go out to lunch all together and had to ask each other to use the bathroom like five-year-olds. 
“You take your time,” Emily said, patting me on the shoulder as I slumped out of our bullpen of desks.  “We’ll cover for you.”
I walked slowly through the maze of cubicles, keeping my head down and offering a half smile to the people who dared to say hello to me.  Since Henry’s death, most people either tried to pretend like nothing had happened or avoided me altogether, which suited me just fine.  In the beginning, it was the people who wanted to have the long, involved conversations about loss, widowhood, and how sad they were when their dog died that just about sent me over the edge.  When the subject came up, I could usually distance myself from the conversation in my mind, almost retelling the story of what happened like it had happened to someone else.  But every once in a while, someone would say something unexpected and I would feel myself start to tear up, which made both the other person and me uncomfortable. 
The people I appreciated the most were the ones who said the perfunctory “I’m so sorry for your loss” and then moved on to ordering windbreakers for their upcoming meeting and never mentioned it again.  Of course, there were also the people who were so wrapped up in their own lives they could never seem to absorb what had happened at all. 
When I returned to work a week after the funeral, one of the Vice Presidents I occasionally worked with, who prides himself on “knowing” all of the people who work under him (when in reality he probably couldn’t tell you most of their names), slapped me on the back as I was walking down the institutional-looking hallway.
“Enjoy your vacation?” he asked cheerfully. 
Without waiting for a reply, he continued on his merry way, greeting people walking by and making fake guns with his fingers like some extra in a bad 1970s movie…leaving me standing there open-mouthed and stunned.
Now, it seemed, the shock had worn off a little for everyone else.  Some people were still careful around me, but most acted like they’d either forgotten or they assumed that I was over that silly little dead husband business.  But for the most part, I still avoided eye-contact with everyone except the people I knew well.  And, after this latest hiccup of trying to solve my caller-ID issue, I knew that this was one of those moments when someone just saying hello to me had the potential to make me more emotional than I was comfortable with in a work environment.  So, I made my way to the bathroom, trying my hardest to not draw any attention to myself.
  I walked into the empty ladies room and gripped the cold porcelain of the sink, slowly raising my gaze to meet my own in the reflection of the mirror.  My hair was longer than it had ever been, falling lank and tired well below my shoulders and had graduated from shiny to greasy because I kept forgetting to buy the shampoo that I normally used and had started lathering in Henry’s old soap in the morning.  It seemed to be getting its revenge on me for my abandonment by throwing in a few pieces of kinky gray as if to say, “Oh yeah?  Take that, bitch.” I had the beginnings of a zit on my chin (courtesy of the two glasses of Chardonnay I’d had the night before) that I could feel but hadn’t shown up yet, which meant that when it decided to make its grand entrance, it would be a guest on my face for at least a week.  In the glow of the fluorescent lighting, my face looked pale which was punctuated by the dark circles under my eyes and when I actually focused those brown eyes in the mirror, the eyes that Henry used to say would change color depending on my mood, it was obvious to me that even though I was present physically,…there seemed to be nothing behind them.
I took a deep breath and turned on the cold water, letting it run over my fingers for a minute and then touched my wet fingertips to my cheeks.  I could hear the sound of women’s voices getting louder and louder until finally the door to the ladies room swung open and two of the girls from Human Resources walked in laughing and looking like they were wrapping up their lunch hour.  As soon as they spied me, standing at the sink, their laughter abruptly stopped and the discomfort set in.
“Oh…hey, Jane,” said Denise as her friend quickly walked into one of the stalls.  “How are you?  I’ve been meaning to call you and see if you’d like to go to lunch or something one of these days.”
“Sure,” I said, used to these gestures that would never amount to an actual confirmed invitation.  “Why don’t you give me a call when you have a free day?”
“Sounds good,” she said, visibly relieved that I hadn’t asked her to pinpoint a time right at that moment.  “I’ll call you.”
She disappeared into the stall and shut it behind her.  I could hear her struggling out of her Spanx as I opened the door to the bathroom and made my way out into the hall and back into the gray maze of cubicle walls.
Denise was one of the first people I talked to from the company after Henry died.  I don’t know if she picked the short straw or what, but she was the one who called me at home to offer the company’s condolences.  And even though she had received some sort of higher education in Human Resources, she was obviously uncomfortable with the situation.
“Jane?  This is Denise from Human Resources,” she said, in a very business-like tone two days after Henry’s accident.
“Yes?” I said, so tired at that point I didn’t know it was humanly possible to still function.
“I just wanted to tell you, on behalf of Claron, how sorry we are for your loss,” she said, as if she were reading from a prepared script.
“Thank you.”
That must have been where the script ended because she suddenly sounded like she didn’t know how to string two words together.
“Yes…well…we just wanted you to know you can take all the time that you need.  And that we’ll look forward to seeing you back at work a week from Monday.”
“A week from Monday?  As in 9 days?”
“Yes.  Since you’ve been with the company for almost five years, you are fortunate enough to receive an entire week of paid bereavement leave.”
“Oh.  Okay.”
“And again…we’re so sorry.”
“Thank you.”
“I…I heard he went quickly.”
“That’s what they’re telling me.”
“Well, that’s good.  That’s good news.  That he went quickly.”
“I guess you could look at it that way,” I finally said.
“Well.  Okay.  Again, we’re so sorry.  And we look forward to seeing you back at work on the 19th.”
I hung up the phone, and tried to figure out, with my brain that had turned to cotton at that point, how in the world I was going to function at work in just nine days.  I mean, just that morning, my mother caught me before I walked out the door to the funeral home with my old stained college sweatshirt accompanying my nice khaki pants and heels.  She had silently taken me by the shoulders and guided me back to my room, where she found an appropriate shirt for the appointment and then picked Kleenex lint out of my hair before she tried to brush it.
Go back to work?
But I didn’t really have a choice.  After the funeral and everyone had left - my parents making their way back to Seattle where they were currently living, Henry’s parents heading back to South Carolina saying, “Call us if you need us” because they knew I never would - I found myself suddenly alone in the quiet Houston townhouse Henry and I had lived in for the last few years.  When the door had been shut on the final guest, I sat on my couch, my cat, Glenda, looking at me like I should be doing something else, and stared at my surroundings as if I’d never seen them before.
“I’ll give you a week,” I said to myself.  “You have a week to just sit here.  I’ll forgive you for that.  After that, you’re going to get up, go back to work, and get on with your life.”
At first it really wasn’t so bad.  Work gave a little shape to my day.  Up until that point, I had been witness to how time could slow to a crawl and then speed to a sprint in a pattern I never could figure out.  I would find myself wide awake for days at a time, only to crash and burn and sleep for 48 hours straight and still feel exhausted.  After that week of literally just sitting – on my bed, on my couch, on the rocker on the back patio – it felt good to get up that Monday morning, take a shower, and know I had some purpose to my day. 
“This is it,” I thought my first morning back at work.  “Last week, I was a widow.  This week, it’s business as usual.”
At least, when I went to work, I had Emily and Izzy.  They were my yin and yang, my Ozzy and Harriet.  We had all worked together for years and were completely comfortable with each other.  In fact, I was the one who got Emily her job in the Marketing department as an Account Manager.  She worked with the vendors and other internal departments, putting together ad campaigns for the components we tried to sell.  Emily had one of those personalities that got along with just about anyone and a sweet smile that could put an entire room at ease. 
Izzy had been there longer than I had and was the department Copywriter, a job she described as the three D’s:  Dumbing Down Dull.  This meant she had to take whatever part the engineers described to her and explain it in a way that the people purchasing the part would actually understand.  The fact that she had this job was ironic considering her talent for vibrant language.  She was constantly frustrated at the constraints put upon her by the heads of the department. 
“How in the hell am I supposed to describe this switch so that someone’ll buy it?”  Izzy would ask us.  “They won’t even let me sex it up a little!  You know, say something like ‘wouldn’t you like us to turn you on?’  The last time I turned a catchy phrase into Michelle, she looked at me like I was a moron and said, ‘Engineers won’t get this.’  I’m starting to wonder if engineers get anything, if you know what I mean.”
One glance around at the friendly but somewhat geeky workforce that filled the Claron office space…we knew what she meant.
Since Henry’s death, Emily had begun watching me for any improvement or slippage, mother-henning me when I needed it and stepping away with her concerned look when I didn’t.  Izzy was my “tell it like it is” girl who never failed to say on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, “This totally sucks” or summing up my situation with a more colorful phrase.  I half expected, by the time I returned to my seat after my run-in with my phone company, to find her on the phone, loudly berating yet another customer service person in India on my behalf, explaining the situation in a way that left no room for misunderstanding.  But when I got back to my desk, they were both diligently typing away.
“Hey, kiddo,” Emily said, turning around in her swivel chair as I sat down at my desk.  “You okay?”
“Yeah,” I said, giving my standard answer because I was too tired to go into why I wasn’t.  “I’ll call them again tomorrow.  After all…like Scarlett said…’tomorrow is another day.’ Right?”
“Yup,” said Izzy, tearing her eyes away from her computer screen and turning around to face us.  “And that bitch would know.”
“Speaking of tomorrow,” said Emily.  “It’s Friday.  What do you have going on?”
“Oh…I don’t know,” I said.  “Maybe go through some more boxes.  Try and get rid of some stuff.  I’m trying to get organized.  Streamline.  You know…start moving on.”
“Whatever,” said Izzy dismissing my half-hearted attempt at being positive.  “What’s the rush?  You can do that any time.  Come over to Emily’s for dinner.  I’m bringing over a new guy for you all to evaluate.”
“New guy?”  I said.  “What new guy?  What happened to the last one?  Didn’t we just turn in our assessment?  What was his name…Brian?”
“Didn’t work out,” Izzy said.  “There were some things about him that I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand in the long run.”
“Like what?”
“Like…did you hear the way he said ‘dinner?’  It sounded like ‘deener.’  I realized after a couple of dates that unless I only ate lunch with him for the rest of my life, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
“Geez, Izzy,” said Emily rolling her eyes.  “Didn’t you say something like that about the one before him?”
“Well, I’m sorry,” Izzy said, getting defensive.  “But I swear that man had the thinnest cheeks ever.  It was like listening to a carwash every time he ate something.  I know you think I’m crazy, but I swear I could hear him eat ice cream.”
“And you wonder why you’re still single,” said Emily.
“No, I don’t wonder.  I know why.  But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my mother and her five failed marriages it’s that what annoys you in the first few months of dating will down-right piss you off the first year of marriage.  And I don’t have the patience for that.”
“Whatever,” said Emily, turning to me.  “What do you say?  Come over around 7?”
“Oh…I don’t know…” I said, hesitating.  “I know you might not understand this, but it’s kind of hard for me to be around couples sometimes.”
“What couples?” said Izzy.  “Sure, Emily and Dan have been married forever and that’s just not natural, but I just met Jeff.  We’re not a couple.  Come on.  We’ll get you properly drunk in the bosom of your closest friends.  I swear, since all of this happened with Henry, you haven’t been drinking enough.”
“How do you know?” I asked, feeling the need to defend my assumed sobriety.  “I could be getting hammered every night and just not telling you.  Would that make you happy?”
“It would be a start,” said Izzy.  “Just come over.  You have the rest of the weekend to hide out in your sad little widow house all alone.”
“Fine,” I said.  “I’ll go.  But you have to promise me that if I drink too much, you’ll dump this guy so I’ll never have to see him again.  I have the rest of your email addresses to send you apologies the next day.  I don’t want to have to add someone else to the list.”
“It’s a deal,” Izzy said, turning back to her computer.
“I’m so glad that you’re coming,” said Emily, giving me her soft smile.  “Dan will be so happy to see you.”
I loved Emily too much to disabuse her of that notion, so I just returned her smile, nodded, and turned back to my desk.  The truth was, I loved Dan.  He was this big, burly, bear of a man who always looked like he needed a haircut.   His huge personality and boisterous laugh were the perfect opposite to Emily’s quiet nature.  They were one of those couples that you just knew were meant for each other and moved together through life with an ease that I didn’t even know was possible until I met them. 
But I knew he had been uncomfortable around me since Henry’s death.  I thought I was going to have to adopt a new Indian name:  She Who Makes Man Cry.  Because every time he saw me, his eyes would tear up a little.  We wouldn’t even have to talk.  Just my presence was enough to depress him.  And even though Dan was one of Henry’s closest friends, I didn’t see him for weeks after the funeral and until one day my battery went dead on my car.
“Call if you need anything,” I had heard over and over again and there were very few people I truly felt I could actually take up on that offer.  But Dan and Emily fell into the dependable category.  Desperate to find someone to help me and cursing myself for not signing up for AAA like my mother had suggested months earlier, I called to Emily’s cell phone to see if Dan was around.
“Emily,” I said, feeling bad about breaking into their weekend.  “Can you send Dan over?  My battery is dead.”
“Of course!” She said.  “He’d be happy to help.”
Dan spent an hour getting my battery out, buying a new one, and then putting it in, never once looking me in the eye.  I don’t know if he ever talked to Emily about his discomfort with me and my new situation but I think she sensed it because for the past few weeks, she had been trying to put together little dinner parties, throwing us all together as if trying to force us into a life that none of us recognized anymore.  I did my best to go with the flow when Emily would make plans.  After all, it wasn’t like I had anything better to do.  But usually, after one of those evenings together, I would go home after being around other couples, look at my empty bed, and just wail at the unfairness of life.
“Think about it,” Izzy said, trying to cheer me up after the funeral when we were talking about my new single status.  “You could paint the entire interior of your house pink.  You can go out without checking with someone else’s schedule.  You can travel wherever you want to go without worrying whether or not someone else is having a good time.”
But that kind of pep talk had no effect on me.  Henry and I weren’t the kind of people who fought over frivolous stuff like that.  Oh, sure we argued a little, but I really didn’t mind it because the outcome of our fights was usually the right one.
“There is no way in hell I’m spending $2500 on a recliner that has a heated seat,” I said to him when we were looking for furniture as newlyweds.
“You need to look at it as an investment,” he said.  “This is something that we’re going to have for years.”
“Well, since it’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen, that really doesn’t make me feel better.  You would have been better off telling me that it was going to fall apart in a few months and after that I could pick out anything I wanted.  And why would you need a heated seat?  We live in Houston!”
“But look at the cup holders!” He argued. 
“Yeah.  Cup holders.  Plural.  Why does a chair that only fits one person need two cup holders?”
“This is Texas.  One for the beer and one for the spit cup.”
We argued in that store for close to an hour – I wanted more of a traditional wingback chair and he wanted some 1980s throwback that would take up at least a third of the space in our living room.  We were leaving the store in an angry silence when I spotted it:  A traditional wingback-looking chair that reclined.  No cup holders.  No heater.
Since neither one of us was speaking to the other by then, I just pointed to it.  Henry sat in it for a minute and then smiled at me.  “Okay.  This I can do.”
He would have never admitted that he liked the way that chair looked in our living room just as I would never admit that I loved that it reclined.  But I would catch him putting one of our decorative pillows on it before we had company over and he would find me relaxing in it with a book late at night when I couldn’t sleep.  That chair was the perfect statement about us: that, alone, neither one of us knew what we truly wanted but together we would always find what the other didn’t even know they needed.
But now I was one.  One part of the equation that could never seem to come up with the answer because a principle piece was missing.  One side of an argument that would never be solved because the other half was gone.  One side of a marriage that could no longer really be called a marriage because you can’t have a marriage of one.  I was a single reservation at a restaurant.  I was the reason the 15 item line at the grocery store was invented because that’s all one person needs.  Widowhood had made me a loner.  An outcast in my own life. 
Because I only knew how to function as two.