Ten Months as a Widow

I use these monthly check ins to see how my five year old and I are managing since my husband’s death ten months ago. It has been a busy month. Totally crazy in every way imaginable. On top of coronovirus and stay at home orders, we also moved house in the past month.

We started the move by taking a car full of boxes each time my mother was at my house, so just two loads of items a week. Then on the 5th of April I rented a Uhaul and we moved the rest of our things. We’re just a few days in at the new house and everything is still a disaster, but I’m slowly creating homes for our things. We still have to go back to our apartment for a few things we forgot and to do a lot of deep cleaning before I am done with that place forever. I can not wait.

We’re adjusting pretty well to the new house, though it’s out of the way even more and I feel a bit isolated. That’s good for quarantine I suppose, but I’m not looking forward to needing to walk down and then back up a steep hill just to check the mail.

Pepper is doing okay with the move. She loves our new house, but I think she’s having trouble more than she thinks. She is using a lot of baby talk again, like she did after Jason died, especially just before bed time. Otherwise she loves it here. She has a yard and room to ride her bike and play in her sand box. She has a big room for all of her toys and another room for our crafts and exercise equipment, and yet another room just for our books. I can’t wait until everything is all unpacked and things feel slightly more normal again.

The house has some strange quirks and repairs that are needed, but nothing I can’t adjust to or figure out how to fix once the world is open again.

We also have a cat. Through a series of events, the cat ended up needing to go with the house. Pepper is excited for her first pet, but I’m not really an animal lover and Pepper gets anxious when the cat runs from one of the house to the other at night. Pepper then refuses to go anywhere in the house unless I’m carrying her so the cat doesn’t run in to her. During the day though Pepper is giving the cat lessons on how to do ballet, yoga, be a doctor, etc. It’s cute and she loves the cat, they both just need some time to get used to each other.

My anxiety is going crazy with the coronoa virus stuff going on. Do we still see my mother as planned? My father in law who lives alone and has no one else on this side of the country to keep him company since my husband died? It’s a hard decision to make each time a situation is presented. All I can do is go with what feels like the right decision at the moment and then move on with my day and my life.

The only other news is that I finally got Pepper’s social security benefits from Jason’s death set up for us. The amount is enough to keep us going long term as long as nothing happens to my work and there are no emergencies, so money isn’t a huge stressor for the first time since April 2017 when my husband lost his job. I am struggling with knowing that I can breath a little easier now only because my husband is dead. I am trying to look at it as a way my Jason is still taking care of his girls, even in death. It doesn’t make it hurt less though.

This week we had an Easter Egg hunt in the yard for Pepper. I break up a small Lego set for her and put the pieces in plastic eggs. She has to find all the eggs and then build the kit. She loves it! She took it apart and rebuilt it five times in the same day.

Today we will dye eggs, and then on Sunday she will get her basket of goodies. She is so excited! Do you want to see a post with what she got for Easter?

Honestly I’ve been too busy and too anxious to have much time think about or miss my Jason this month. Moving is so much work. We always joked that we wouldn’t move from our apartment until we could afford to hire movers, but that didn’t work out for us. I think Pepper and I could be happy in our new home though.

 

Entertaining the Kiddo at Home

We’re not officially quarantined, but even if we wanted to go any where and risk getting sick, we couldn’t because everything is closed except grocery stores. So we’ve been staying at home.

I work from home and Pepper is homeschooled so we’re used to being at home a lot. Many other parents are not though. Something about it being an unknown length of time is making each day feel completely overwhelming. Sure we can survive today, but can we survive this every day for a month (or longer) with no break? I don’t know.

I made Pepper a list of things that we can choose from to do each day and we’ve been making our way through some as needed. We draw, we read, we watch youtube, but we also have several challenges we are working through. A 30 day lego building challenge, a gratitude challenge, a daily affirmation challenge, a non-screen activity challenge, an exercise challenge, a photo challenge, some reading challenges, and a drawing challenge. She’s doing school, playing with playdoh, and video calling grandma. And we’re playing lots of board games.

The biggest helper to filing our days though has been the countless live streams that are being offered by so many people and organizations. I’ll include a link to the google spreadsheet where everything is broken down by hour. There are story times, and drawing lessons, yoga and ballet classes, zoo tours, and so so much more.

The creator of this list keeps adding more and more things. There are more on here then we can do in a day so I’m sure you and your kiddos can find at least a few that you will love and look forward to each day. And almost all are saved so you can watch replays on the weekend of ones you’ve missed throughout the week.

Our personal favorites so far are circle time with Miss Cady at 10, Pete the Cat Storytime at 12, Lunchtime doodles with Mo Willems at 1, Draw with JJK at 2, Cincinnati Zoo home safari at 3, and the Josh Gad story time at 730. We’re in bed for the last one so have been watching the replay the next morning.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1d9vA4JUnr1xFafSY5n7iF75eCb3fX2Azy_6rZOOzH_8/htmlview?usp=sharing&sle=true&fbclid=IwAR0xd6KK0FXcvzK_Jg9kFXh3uw7JXYxVElZDZvdGDYzbVMlSmC9AXAsG9F4

Our favorite activity we have done this week is an Easter Egg hunt. We had the plastic eggs out to get ready for Easter and I filled the eggs with slips of paper that gave her an action she needed to complete. She had to find one egg, bring it back to me, open the egg, and then do the action (ie. sing a song, do 10 jumping jacks, quack like a duck, etc). Then she could go find another egg. She loved it. It got her moving and laughing.

What are you doing with your kiddos to keep everyone calm and having fun?

Nine Months as a Widow

My husband has been dead for nine months. Oh my goodness. It feels like no time at all and like I’ve been without him forever. In that nine months we could have had the second child we were talking about having either last year or this year. We could have finished building our savings and purchased a house like we had planned to do last year. We could have done and experienced so many things together that we’ll never get to do now. Nine months in and there are still so many things I’m missing and grieving and crying over. I don’t expect anything to be easy, but I do keep hoping things will be a little easier, but so far that hasn’t really happened.

This past month we had my birthday, Pepper’s birthday, and Valentine’s Day all in a row. We survived and Pepper, at least, had so much fun. Now we’re getting ready for a small Easter celebration.

This past month we also attended a family birthday party, something I haven’t done in many years. We went ice skating and rode bumper cars on the ice. Pepper had a blast and I had fun too. Ice skating was hard for me. The first and only time I have ever been ice skating was when my Jason took me one year for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want to be there and share Pepper’s first time ice skating without him, but I went. I skated the ice rink one time and was finished. Pepper made it a short distance before she was done. We both loved the bumper cars though.

My biggest concern with the ice skates was that I could not fall and be injured. I don’t have any backup so if I’m injured we are both royally fucked. I have the same thought about anything potentially dangerous these days. If I die Pepper will be an orphan. If Pepper dies I won’t survive it. She’s the only reason I’m still here since my husband died. Did any of you other widows get less brave and more fearful after your husband died or did you get more daring because you didn’t care if you lived or died? I feel like if Pepper wasn’t here I would do every crazy thing I could find to try until something eventually killed me.

I’m still feeling lonely. Pepper is amazing, but it’s hard not to always have a grownup to talk to and laugh with and cry with and complain to. I miss my best friend so much. It’s getting a bit better though I guess. We went to that birthday party where we saw people, other adults, even if I didn’t know any of them very well. We’re trying to get to some more events too. We’re going to a Mommy and Me Cupcake decorating event at a local play place tonight.

Events are hard though. I can’t drive because of the cataracts, glaucoma, iritis, and whatever other issues the eye doctor finds at each appointment. Thursday I go for more eye tests. I think it involves a shot this time too. But because I can’t drive and there isn’t much in walking distance it takes a lot of effort from several people to get us to any events. It’s often not worth the effort of trying to coordinate a ride and I feel like I need to save my ride requests for grocery shopping and doctors appointments, at least until I eventually get my eyes fixed.

Pepper had her five year old well visit this past month as well. She is growing like a weed, very bright, and strong. The only things we need to work on this year are getting her to eat more fruits and vegetables and to get her established with a dentist. She’s doing great and I know it, but it’s always nice to hear from a professional too.

The only other real news is on the moving front. My mother is moving to be closer to her husband’s job and Pepper and I will be moving in to their old house.The plan to have both houses fully moved by May 1st.

I’m so very torn. I don’t want to leave this apartment. Jason and I moved in here 9.5 years ago together and this is the only home we’ve ever known together. It’s the only place Pepper has ever lived. I don’t want to leave behind the only place we’ve ever been a family and couple together. I don’t want to risk losing any of that love or those memories. I don’t want to leave my home.

But we have to. This is the best choice at the moment. Pepper just turned five and in New York we have to start reporting her as being homeschooled in July. I want us in a different school district before we do that. One that is less harmful and pushy about public schooling. Not by much though because they are still the same regulations.

It will also get out of this apartment where the land lady has started being very difficult to deal with. The biggest reason to move is that it will be $200 less a month across bills which will help our financial situation dramatically. Pepper will also have a yard to play in and we will be off of the busiest street in town. We will however be even more away from everything and there will be nothing we can walk to if we don’t have transport. It’s a 15 minute walk down a steep hill just to check our mail! I’m not looking forward to that.

Location-wise it is not my ideal, but because my freelance income can be difficult to prove my renting options are limited, so renting from my mother is the best I can do at this time.

Pepper is having reservations about the move which is making me more fearful too, but this is really our only option and I’m trying to remind myself that this doesn’t have to be forever. It doesn’t have to be for a decade like this apartment was. It’s just the best choice for now and there are so many positives about this move.

  • The money saved.
  • The yard.
  • Being away from this landlady.
  • Being away from the busy traffic and violence of this neighborhood.
  • Having a whole room that will just need to house our bookshelves. I’m excited about our library. So so excited about that.

This is the right move to make even if I really don’t want to leave my Jason and my home behind. We’ve started moving some smaller furniture and boxes of things already. It’s too late to turn back now. It’s time for a new adventure for Pepper and I.

Birthday Gifts for a Five Year Old

Today is Miss Pepper’s fifth birthday. My sweet baby girl is getting way too big, way too fast. This year she is having her first real birthday party with extended family and some of her friends from storytime at the library. In years past it’s just been Pepper, Jason, myself, and Pepper’s three grandparents. I think the newness of a big birthday party will help edge out some of the sadness of not having Jason here to celebrate with us any more.

Pepper has asked for a mermaid themed birthday party and the most important part was a pin the tail on the mermaid game. I ordered the decor and plates on Amazon.

She has asked for pink cupcakes, shaped like a mermaid tail, and juiceboxes.

The goodie bags we put together for her friends are filled with bathbombs, nail polish, and lip gloss.

The gifts that I bought for her to open at her birthday party are a set of mermaid themed chapter books, a cooperative mermaid boardgame, a card game called Sleeping Queens, and a few surprise boxes that have llamas in them and one that has a dressup costume.

 

She also has four gifts she will get to open when she wakes up that day. These gifts are Zoob building sets. She seems to end up with a new building set each year on her birthday. Last year it was big girl Legos and this year it is Zoob. The special part about this gift is that Jason and I bought them while I was still pregnant with Pepper. We chose three sets that fit in our budget at the time, but there was another set Jason really wanted her to have too so he used his personal spending money to buy it for her, knowing it would be years before she was actually big enough to play with it. So eight months after her daddy died, Pepper still has a gift to open that he chose and bought especially for her, before she was even born. That’s a pretty special kind of birthday magic.

I can’t find the exact kits she has here because we bought them over five years ago at this point, but here is a picture of an example.

Pepper chose a special bow she wanted on her gift from Jason and she asks every day if she can open her present from daddy first.

There are other gifts too of course. Gifts shipped in from relatives around the country and ones that the party guests will bring, but I think it will be hard for them to top a gift hand chosen for her by her dead father.

I just hope her day is special and happy and filled with love. I’ll do my best to make it so.

Happy Birthday to my amazing little girl!

Birthday Interview

Today is my birthday. I never thought I would have to celebrate another birthday without my husband, but here we are.

I have my daughter fill one of these sorts of sheets out every year to see how her answers change as she gets bigger. Last year I filled one out too and decided we should do it again this year. My answers are first and Peppers are underneath.

Name: Lori

Age: 33

Favorite food: potatoes

Favorite color: Blue

Favorite show: I don’t watch shows. I used to really love Gilmore Girls though.

When I grow up I want to be: Someone that gets paid to read books and drink coffee. This will always be my answer.

I like to play: Slot machine games on my phone.

My favorite book: I need to do a reread to be sure, but I’ll say it’s still The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee.

My favorite restaurant: Red Lobster

My best friend: My late husband.

My favorite cartoon: Dinosaur Train

My favorite place to go: The book store.

My five year old’s answers:

Name: Pepper

Age: 5 (on Saturday)

Favorite food: Happy face fries

Favorite color: Pink

Favorite show: Anndroids

When I grow up I want to be: A ballet dancer and doctor

I like to play: toys

My favorite book: The Princess in Black

My favorite restaurant: Chinese Buffet

My best friend: Shannon, Jayla, and Stella

My favorite cartoon: My Little Pony

My favorite place to go: The library

It is interesting which things changed and which things stayed the same from one year to the next.

Eight Months as a Widow

Eight months ago today my beloved husband of nine years died from brain cancer. He was my best friend, my cheerleader, my parenting partner, my everything. Now it’s just my four year old daughter, Pepper, and I.

On Thursday it will be my 33rd birthday, my first without my husband. Friday is Valentine’s Day. And on Sunday it will be our daughter’s fifth birthday. Her first birthday where she will have a party with friends in addition to family. Our baby is growing up and I hate that my Jason isn’t here to be a part of it and to see how amazing she is. He always wanted a daughter and he loved being Pepper’s daddy. He loved every minute of it, even the minutes I didn’t. Somehow Jason loved being a daddy even when everything was hard. In those moments I often regret having a child, but he loved and appreciated it so much, all the time. And he was so good at it. He was patient and loving and kind no matter what. Some of that could have been his age, he was 10 years older than me. Some of it could have been the foster training he did when he was in his early 20s because his father was adopting a four year old. Or it could just have been his innate ability to see the best and the wonderful in every situation. Jason often said “Go in to every situation expecting good” and he didn’t just say it, he lived it. That’s not something I do. I am very much a pessimist in every situation. His optimism balanced me out and I miss that so much.

I miss everything about him though.  This month has been really hard in that regard. Every minute that isn’t filled with something to keep me busy has my thoughts and memories attacking me and overwhelming me and forcing me to relive where we were last year. In 2019, on January 30th, I woke Jason up with a hot cup of coffee like always. He sat up, took a sip, and then had a seizure. He had never had one before. I was panicking and on the phone with 911, while trying to keep Pepper calm and get my mother and my father in law here to help with Pepper and Jason. The seizure led to all kinds of tests and a few days in various hospitals. Jason had brain cancer and an estimated life span of 18-24 months. He lasted 4. In those three days I had my husband’s seizure, the hospitals, the tests, the diagnosis, my first nights without Pepper, my world starting to end. And over this same time period this year I’ve been reliving all of those moments over and over and over again. Tears fall freely and often. I have been keeping myself as busy as possible to try and keep the worst of the memories at bay, but they still get in my brain and they still leak out of my eyes and in to my nightmares. I turned off Facebook memories completely because I refuse to watch my husband die all over again, but it doesn’t actually help because I have all of those moments forever seared in to my mind.

I am realizing more and more just how lonely I am. For nine years it was just Jason and I and then Jason, Pepper, and I. We didn’t need anybody else, specifically friends. We were each other’s best friend and we were together every possible minute from the time we met until he died. He left such a huge void in my life that I can’t seem to begin to fill. I never expect to fill the romantic void he left, but I didn’t think I would have such a huge friend void. I don’t have anyone to just talk to about life or stress or Pepper. No one I can talk to openly and honestly and without judgement. There is no one I can send funny pictures or dirty jokes and I have found that to be one of the most awful and surprising parts of losing my husband. I just feel so alone all the time, like I was before I met Jason and he showed me what happiness was like. I’m afraid without him I’ll never find such a thing again.

I don’t have an update for my eyes yet. I go this afternoon to see if the glaucoma drops and steroid drops are doing any good yet.

We’ve started looking in to a new place to live and I have started slowly getting things packed up. Currently it’s looking like we will be moving in April, but nothing is for sure yet.

I am now using all of our dishes, even the mugs, and I’m cooking something other than pizza for most of my meals. I’m slowly expanding the list of meals I make and I’m reading a beginners cook book to get some new recipes and skills under my belt. So far so good.

Pepper’s behavior has been fluctuating. Sometimes we go a few days with no big tantrums or meltdowns. Other times I spend all day trying to diffuse a situation she can’t or won’t name, but is screaming and throwing things as her way of dealing with her overwhelming emotions. My grief counselor helped me set up a box of resources she can use when she is sad or angry or overwhelmed. It includes scented lotion that she pairs with some calming breaths, paper to rip in to the tiniest pieces she can, post its and pens that she can use to try and scribble on until the whole yellow page is covered, coloring books and crayons, etc. We also have a list of other things she can try. She has really been enjoying guided meditation for kids as a way to sooth herself. She is also working harder at letting me hold her without hitting me when she is upset. It’s a long difficult process and sometimes our solutions work and sometimes she just needs to stay upset until she wears herself out. It’s hard. It’s all hard.

For now I’m putting on a brave face so Pepper and I can try to have a good birthday week even though the sadness and grief are trying to steal all of my small moments of joy. This week at least I’ll just have to fake it for Pepper’s sake and get through the days as well as I can.

Seven Months as a Widow

Seven months ago my best friend, greatest supporter, and husband died from brain cancer. It was a four month battle that he lost quicker and more horrifically than we ever could have expected. These monthly check ins just give an overview of how widowhood is treating me and our four year old daughter.

This month we survived Christmas. It was a good day filled with laughter and love and more presents than any little girl needs. And I’m okay with that. We survived and the tree is down and I don’t have to think about Christmas again until I start shopping next June. I am so glad it’s over.

The next thing we’re gearing up for is Birthday Week. In February we celebrate birthday week. My 33rd birthday will be on the 13th, Valentine’s Day is on the 14th, and Miss Pepper turns 5 on the 16th. In years past we’ve done a small gift each day for the whole week or something else to stretch the joy and celebration for all three of us over the whole week, but this year I don’t think we’ll be doing that. Money is very tight and Pepper is hoping for her first real birthday party this year. She’s always had a cake and gifts with me and my husband and her three grandparents. Last year she desperately wanted to have her first real birthday party with friends invited, but Jason was in the middle of chemo and radiation and I just couldn’t handle a party on top of everything else so I promised her we would do a party when she turned 5. And now she’s turning 5 in a few weeks.  Her wishes for her mermaid themed birthday party are a pin the tail on the mermaid game, party poppers that shoot confetti, and a pink cake shaped like a mermaid tail. I’ve ordered everything at this point and am just waiting for it to get here. Unfortunately, even a small party is turning out to be expensive and we’re DIYing as much as possible. That means I likely won’t be getting a birthday gift this year because we used the budget we had for birthday week for her party and a few gifts. Totally worth it though to see her being so excited. I will likely end up with some sort of birthday gift when I share my Amazon wishlist with family so I assume I will end up with a book or two.

No update on my eyes yet. I’m just using the various eye drops 6 times a day and I go back for a check up in February.

We’ve had some drama this month with the landlady that still isn’t resolved. She’s left a note under our door with a complaint and then never bothered to respond to questions about what the issue actually is. At this point I’m just working on finding a new place for us to live. I don’t want to attempt to deal with her any more. It’s hard though, my husband and I moved here together when we had been dating for 7 months and this is where he did the bulk of his dying. I don’t know how to leave our space, our home. I also don’t feel safe or welcome here any more so it has to be done. I don’t know how I’ll possibly afford it though.

I’ve been working with my grief counselor on using our dishes. I now use all of our dishes except for our mugs. Hooray for progress! I’m also working on eating more than frozen pizza. Cooking was never something I was good at or cared about. Jason did all of our cooking because he loved it and was good at it. I’ve eaten frozen pizza at least once and sometimes twice a day every day for the seven months my husband has been dead. I’m finally sick enough of it to try cooking something easy myself and I’ve been doing okay with that this week. I’m pickier with my food than I ever thought so it’s been even more difficult. I’m making progress though.

Pepper’s behavior is somehow doing even worse. I’ve talked to relatives and my grief counselor about her and it seems to just be that she is a very bright and stubborn almost five year old and the behavior has nothing to do with grieving or other issues. It has gotten so overwhelming though. Three times in one week we left somewhere because she was screaming so loud and flailing so much that I had to just take her under one arm and flee the store or library or children’s museum. Absolutely humiliating. Nothing seems to be working so far, but we’re still trying things. Timeouts, taking things away, just holding her and letting her flail. The new technique I plan to try I read about in a grief book I’m currently reading and it really helps me when I’m awake at night and can’t fall asleep because I’m thinking too much about Jason and his dying process. You look around and make a list of things that are the orange or start with a T or something else. Some innocuous list that doesn’t trigger any emotions or memories. I plan to try that with Pepper during her next tantrum and see if that helps her too.

I started a new planner this month and I’m so excited. It’s a page a day planner so I have a full A5 sheet for each day. That gives me enough space for my to do list and appointments, but leaves enough room for decoration with stickers and washi tape, a spot for gratitude so I remember to try and focus on something good each day, and it leaves a large space for journalling or writing to my Jason. We are atheist so I in no way believe the message is making it to him, but I spent 9 years telling him everything all the time and I have so many things I want to say to him each day and I can’t. So having a space to write to him lets me get it out of my brain and then I can focus better on other things. And if it makes me feel at all better, I’m going to do it.

We’re making it. One day, and sometimes one minute, at a time, but we’re making it.