Friday, December 21, 2012

Side Project with a Good Cause



Ladies and Gentlemen...I'm back in the game!

Back in the non-profit, fundraising and event planning game that is.

Its nice to return to my roots.
Invigorating even.
I haven't been this excited about anything that took serious effort in a LOOOONG time!

Last night I had the opportunity to combine my social circles (widowed and non-widowed) to brainstorm how to support the cause of One Billion Rising.

One In Three Women On The Planet Will Be Raped Or Beaten In Her Lifetime.
One Billion Women Violated Is An Atrocity.
One Billion Women Dancing Is A Revolution.

I have my own story with the unique journey as a woman on this planet. I will find the strength to elaborate on those stories during this journey. But this project isn't about me. It also isn't about sorrow or being a victim. Its about rising up, dancing and claiming the happiness and peace that any woman - any human, deserves.

Please check out our page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OBRSlc
And the new One Billion Rising SLC specific blog: www.obrslc.blogspot.com

I couldn't be more excited for the things we have planned. You should check it out!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Sometimes loss DOES make the world pause






Via Creative Commons

When someone dies you wonder why the world keeps on moving. 
People keep posting funny jokes, 
and pictures of their lunch on Facebook. 

You wonder why everyone else is so crass -
how could they be happy at a time like this?
Eventually the anger and resentment fades
with the cold realization that the loss of those most dear to you, 
didn't affect others the way it changed your world. 

It is weird to me that today, people experienced horrific loss
-and in many ways everyone did look up and take notice
and the world stopped moving - just for a minute. 



PS. I haven't left, deserted you or fallen off a bridge. I tore the ligaments in my elbow, making typing complicated and painful. I will be back to my blogging, yoga-ing, and krav maga-ing badass self in the near future. 

With love and light, 
Jess



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Uh huh, Yep, Sure, Fine...wait what?


In general I feel like I am able to fit into normal society with typical emotional and physical reactions to life. I can at least fake it until I get home. The auto shop is one of those places that, even 2 years later, invokes complete "widow brain".

feels like the world is coming at you like this






Widow Brain (noun): The state of complete disbelief and inability to remember facts or function logically after the death of spouse. See Also: break downs at grocery store, mechanics, car pool lane and any serious/mundane decisions points. Visualization can be seen at right:








Today I took my car to my usual mechanic's office, at the entire other edge of town, so running on my lunch break wasn't the brightest idea. This is the mechanic that I used when I lived on this side of town (read: when I lived with Mike in "Our House") (also note the inherent potential for underlying anxiety at getting off the exit which used to mean "home".) In spite of all of these things, I was cocky: I figured it would be a quick "nothing big" visit. I needed an oil change and my check engine light had come on over the weekend. But since I have a 13 year old Subaru, I wasn't worried about the check engine light, it wasn't flashing the impending-doom flash, and old Subarus are notorious for ghost lights.
http://flic.kr/p/73Ud55
Via

I was lucky enough that my little brother was headed to the same mechanic's for his emission and inspection. So he brought me a Pelligrino and I shared a bite of my lunch and we chatted and harassed each other like brothers and sisters do.

Then came the lecture from the mechanic:

  • I apparently use the wrong gas (didn't know that was possible)
  • I also apparently drive a legacy like a baja (whatever that means)
  • not enough undercarriage washes (like I even knew that was a thing)
  • dented exhaust (apparently, from a family reunion up a dirt road NOT meant for low clearance vehicles)
  • leaking power steering (I don't want to deal with it!)
  • leaking oil ("if its our fault I'll warranty it, but if you're adventures punctured something it'll be several hundred dollars")
And my not so composed responses:
  • Uh huh
  • huh?
  • Sure
  • Great
  • Bring it in when?
  • ok
  • whatever
  • Can I leave now?
I realized as soon as I pulled back onto the freeway to hurry back to work (after my now TWO HOUR lunch break) that I hadn't heard a thing. I called my brother = not that much help. So I called the mechanic back and explained that I had just been panicking instead of listening. He laughed and said "as soon as you left I turned to the other guy and told him you didn't get a word of that".

Its true. I panicked. I was shaking and in a cold sweat. Cars aren't my thing. Mike dealt with cars needing to go to the shop, he even dealt with oil changes. (I've learned that cars still need oil changes even when spouses die. ITS TRUE! Even when your husband dies, you're supposed to remember to take your car in for an oil change. Even if you haven't done that yourself in 6 years. Otherwise you have to pay to rebuild the engine. True, and pitiful story. )





I am reaching a new normal in so many areas of my life. But there are still these Kryptonite issues that humble my cocky-ass and remind me that I'm not so special. I can't defeat loss. I have good days and bad days, and sometimes both at once. In some ways I think its kind of (nice isn't the word) comforting maybe, to know that there are still places that Mike's life affects mine, for better or worse. Its good to be reminded that his impact in my life is still there. 


You can watch the tree today because it is still alive, but it is only alive because of the rain and the nutrients of all the years before. 




With Love and Light, 
Jess



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Moving from "Late" to "First" - losing the need to tell everyone I'm a widow


Lately I have noticed a change in myself. Something shifted. I no longer automatically refer to Mike as "my late husband". There are a lot of people who don't even know that I was once married. When he comes up in anticdote I sometimes refer to him as "my first husband". But always with a smile.

A year ago, I couldn't imagine not speaking about Mike. Not making sure that EVERYONE knew that I was once married, he had left and now I was a widow. Doctors, grocers who inquired about my crying over the produce, mechanics who questioned my inability to make a decision without staring at my phone - wanting to call Mike but not knowing the number to heaven: all of them heard that I USED to have my act together, and death ripped it apart.

Maybe its because I'm less "apart" these days. I don't feel conflicted, or even guilty about living. I don't feel mad at Mike the way I used to. And I don't feel like I need to justify his absence with the shock word "widowed".

This doesn't mean that I feel any less widowed, I guess I don't feel just widowed anymore. I've been married to Mike in death longer than I was in life. We spent 8 (mostly) happy years of our lives intertwined. That may be a lie. We probably spent 6 1/2 (mostly) happy years and 1 1/2 insanely hellish (with blotches of joy) years.

I believe that being with Mike was the most revolutionary force in my life to date. But that doesn't mean he, or even his death, has been the only force. The sands of the desert are scarred by wind, sun and water. Etching deep samskara or scars/grooves that show the next rounds of breath and tears the paths that have already been carved.

via

There will be more pain, there will be more loss. There are more arguments, more relationships. Though each is affected by the existing scars, the new experiences shape the scenery and are constantly changing it into something new.

My landscape has now been shaped by so much since the loss of Mike, that though the chasms of his death remain, the lines are no longer sharp and the edges not so steep. They have been weathered and worn with time and patience.



















Here's a song that I heard that completely expresses how I feel about Mike and our marriage. It brings happy, contented tears to my eyes every time. No Regrets.

 Darling, no regrets
I'm so glad we met
Even though we made a mess
I'm glad we said yes
Darling, no regrets

You know I love you still
and I always will.
Love is not a test,
I know we did our best.
darling, no regrets

oh darling,
no regrets
oh darling,
no regrets

Darling, no regrets
Here's to your success
may all you do be blessed
i wish you every happiness
darling, no regrets

oh darling,
no regrets
oh darling,
no regrets

- "No Regrets"  Forest Sun

With Love and Light,
Jess

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Are you enough for YOU

via
Are you enough for you?
When was the last time you validated yourself?

You can live life looking for someone else to validate you, prove your worth:
the pat on the head for a job done well,
a hug of appreciation for helping out a friend,
warm fuzzies of doing "the right thing".

But when was the last time you told yourself
that you are enough,
that you are doing the right thing,
that you are the best you can be?
Right now. As you are!

Are you enough- for you?

I am not advocating indiscriminate selfishness.
But you should be selfish with validating yourself.
You don't need to be enough for someone else,
in fact its really hard to be enough for anyone else,
if you aren't enough for you.

Sad is ok.
Happy is ok.
Grumpy is ok.
In Love is ok.

All of it is ok if it is what you are feeling.

You aren't going to be able to pass THROUGH sad,
and onto whatever is next,
if you don't sit in sad-land and accept it.

Listen to yourself.
Why are you sad?
It is probably pretty logical to be sad
Can you tell yourself its ok to be sad?

On the other end of the emotional spectrum,
Why should you hide when you are happy?
Even if others are struggling.
You may feel like you should hide your "glow"
because it will make them more sad.

Truth is, they are already sad,
hiding happiness is no way to reinforce that happiness exists
that there is something more worth hoping for.

I see this often in widows who are moving forward,
when they find happiness they try to hide it, so others don't feel bad.
Its the silliest thing!
What could be better for a grieving soul,
than to see one that was once just as pained as our own
flourishing with life and happiness.

My favorite quote is by Marianne Williamson.
It is so awesome that it is even mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela's 1994 inaugural speech.

(please read with intention):
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let your own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Will you re-read that quote one more time? Please


"We are all meant to shine, as children do"
What imagery!
Children do not hide their happy, or their sad.
They exist as perfect expressions of themselves.

By epsos.de


Please accept the happy, the sad, the bitchy, the glamorous
They are all essential, they are all you.

I know that I can live a more fulfilling life:
one with more direction, worth and purpose.
When I live for ME
not you
not my partner.
Just live every day knowing that whatever I do
I am enough
for me.

Are you enough for you?




With Love and Light,
Jess

Friday, October 12, 2012

Malala's Dreams


Free Like Butterflies

"My life is like a movie, full of dreams. I used to dream of becoming famous, to see my valley freed from the clutches of Taliban, to see girls flying like butterflies, free from any restrictions. It is becoming as a reality so I am happy, happy, and very happy," she said. "I want to change the political system so there is social justice and equality and change in the status of girls and women. I plan to set up my own academy for girls." Malala Yousafzai

I haven't written on a current event yet. I have always left that to the journalists. In fact, I haven't felt like I had much to offer the writing world lately, so I have been much quieter.

But today I feel I need to speak up.

Today I will speak, purely because I can.

And that is why I must.

Because today, someone else can't.

Three days ago the young woman who wrote the quote above was critically shot in the head and neck. She was shot because she spoke out against the Taliban.
She wanted to be allowed to go to school. She didn't want to weigh life against education. But that is what she did.

"She was fearless. Whenever we spoke about it she would tell me how the Taliban is still alive and well, they can do anything, but of course that would never stop her," said filmmaker Adam Ellick.

She refused to be quiet about the war that was tearing her home of the Swat Valley apart. She continued her education at every chance and wasn't afraid to talk to the rest of the world about the injustice she saw. On Tuesday full grown men, members of the Pakistani Taliban, boarded a van packed with children and declared that she must be punished as they shot her at point blank range. She now lies in critical condition after several surgeries. Malala Yousafzai is 14 years old.
Malala Yousafzai - age 14


I don't know which shocks me more. The strength of this 14 year old girl to stand up, blog on BBC, meet with top government officials and plead for government intervention to the closure and destruction of schools.  Or the fact that any organized group would have the heart to be proud of shooting a child? A child. They have made public that they shot a child. And will continue to target her until they succeed in killing her. Again I ask - you shot a child?

But they were wrong. They thought that by shooting Malala they would silence her voice - but now her voice has been taken up by so many others. Women, men, school children and politicians all over the world are reading her story and becoming more informed. I have read comments by Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. She did exactly what she set out to do. I knew that it was difficult to gain higher education in other parts of the world and that I was blessed for having my Masters degree. I did not realize the depth of the fear and fighting denying elementary aged children from school. I thought ignorance, or inadequate facilities and poverty impeded education - not savage hatred.

As I look at the opportunities I take for granted. This week I watched my aunt making cloth letters for her daughters at the table while they slumber peacefully. The stories that I watch being read to my little sister. The books that I already have sitting on a shelf for children that have yet to be conceived. I take all of these things for granted. I know my children will be educated. I can say this with certainty. I didn't realize it needed to be a conviction.

When did this become worth killing for? When did someone decide they would kill to prevent a girl from sitting in a desk and learning?

When I write I usually have a point, a challenge, a goal. But today, I don't know what the point is.
I'm dumbfounded and shellshocked. Wondering how to make a difference and wondering how much else I don't know about.
I hope that the evil in this world will be met with the Malala's of this world. I hope, and I pray, and I commit that when the decision to sit down or stand up comes - I will stand up. Even when fear is around the corner with guns. Because speaking up is the whole reason we can think, and I would argue the whole reason we are here.

Malala's voice will not be silenced. Neither will mine. Will yours?

Other articles regarding Malala:
Hello Giggles: 14-YEAR-OLD PAKISTANI GIRL MALALA YOUSUFZAI SHOT BY THE TALIBAN FOR BEING A FEMINIST BLOGGER
New York Times: Taliban Gun Down Girl Who Spoke Up for Rights
BBC: Malala Yousafzai: Portrait of the girl blogger

With Love and Light,
Jess

Monday, September 24, 2012

Taking control of your own path

Via creative commons

I am not one to assert that you can choose not to grieve or have bad times.
When life hits the sh*t fan, you simply can't catch all the pieces.

But you can choose how you grieve.
You can choose to get help,
choose to receive help.

There is no "right" way to grieve that will make everything easy,
you will still make decisions that you wish you hadn't.
You will still have to work at it.

I wrote a few weeks ago about loving yourself
accepting where you are, letting go,
and moving through it, not against it.
Also about recognizing what you are putting out to the world.

There's another step in this equation.
OWNING IT.

Grief, life, the world did not happen "to you"
I hate to destroy millions of pity parties.
But the world is not against you.
No deity singled you out to crap on your pretty life.

Sometimes life didn't go as planned,
if you ask most people,
life didn't go as they planned - sometimes its just a bigger deviation.

But you know what you can control...YOU.
Get yourself up, brush your teeth, and keep trudging.

If you feel "stuck",
think to yourself - "self, have we done anything different lately,
or are we expecting new results from old behavior?"

If working out isn't working, try a peer group,
if dwelling in grief chat rooms isn't working, try running,
if playing atlas and carrying the world on your shoulders is crushing you with its weight, try allowing others to help. You may even have to ask for help because you've pushed all of your helpers away for so long that they've stopped asking.

But if you're willing to change,
if you want to own your path,
you are going to have to step out of your comfort zone.

There are days when you need to hide under the covers,
ignore the world,
and sit with the pain of love, loss and the world.

But that is not every day,
there is balance in this world.
You must own the responsibility for finding happiness to balance your sorrow.

Watch a funny tv show,
go for a bike ride,
appreciate the beauty of the changing colors,
snuggle a kitten.
Most importantly: appreciate what you have, and create what you want.

This weekend I watched a group of 10 widows and widowers do just that.
They took control: they showed up, they opened up
they made a difference: for each other and for themselves.

I heard how much they hate the word "widow"
and that it applies to them.
How they hate raising fatherless children,
feeling crazy all the time,
and not knowing what to do with their beloved's posessions.

I also heard how they wanted more,
more from life, more for themselves
more for their children.
How they were terrified, but going after "more" regardless.

These women (and man) have been handed what's considered the worst cards in the deck,
but they show up, take control, and dare for something more.
I am inspired and in love with the energy and compassion and *hope* we share.

My hope
is that everyone will find it in themselves
to imagine more
then have the guts to proactively go get it.

Its not easy. But its worth it.

What can you do to take more control?

With love and light,
Jess

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

October Unprocessed


Via Creative Commons

So we all started a 30 day challenge around here...about 30 days ago.
I'd love to hear how everyone did.
Here I come with your next challenge.

30 days of unprocessed foods.
AKA
OCTOBER UNPROCESSED!

The original idea came from a re-post from one of my favorite blogs: 100 days of real food.
The concept is as follows:
can you,
for the month of October
give up processed foods?

30 days...its not so bad right?

"Processed" being anything that when you look at the label,
you don't have the ingredients in your kitchen.
(not because you haven't been to the store, but because you don't stock potassium sorbate or maltodextrose in a normal kitchen).
If you (given superpower cooking skills) couldn't make it, then don't eat it.

BUT, just because a Big Mac contains crap you shouldn't eat,
doesn't mean you are hamburger-less.
Go home and MAKE IT YOURSELF!

Its amazing the satisfaction that comes from cooking with whole ingredients
and producing a product that is: spectacular, fulfilling, yummy & edible!

Visit Andrew at Eating Rules to learn more
and to sign up for their daily emails during the month of October.

I know I will be participating,
and you may thing "but she already eats like that, so its easy"
If you think avoiding a list of 30+ allergens is easy, try it.

Also, a mere 2 years ago I didn't watch my diet,
I ate all the processed foods:
Dr Pepper, Reese Pieces, Dominos Pizza ......
One by one I started eating healthier, and making my own "take out favorites" at home.
My body appreciates the dedication and commitment I have toward putting good fuel into it.
I feel (and look) a million times better.

I'm not asking you to go organic,
I'm not asking for you to remove soda for forever.
But 30 days of a little change...you can do that.
You already have!

With love and light,
Jess

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bored with Grief

Bored - Moyan Brenn

I am bored with grief.
I want it to retire,
grief is tired. (or I'm tired of grief)
Its like the drive to work -
I know every turn,
every pothole, every advertisement.
And I'm bored.

I want to take a new road
The side street with lush trees
cute little houses,
and kids walking to school.

I'm so sick of grief.
Its not even really traumatic anymore,
just worn-out and tired.
I see it coming and I just sigh
"oh this again, really?! We've done this before"
can't we change the channel?

My grief is becoming similar to a video
not one that I like,
but one I know every word to regardless.
Like the favorite of my little brother that was always playing.

Akin to Beauty & the Beast - I know every word to my grief story.
I can recite it without even thinking.
It can run in the background for a while before I even notice.

I have lots of other emotions,
lots of other movies.
But time after time,
every month or two,
something happens
and that same old dingy film plays again.

Today I am bored with grief.
But it won't turn off,
and I can't find a good side road to take instead.



With Light and love, 
Jess

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't let fear run the show


via creative commons

I realized why it is so hard to fundraise for the AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) and their Out of the Darkness Community Walk.

Fear.

We don't want to talk about suicide.
We are afraid that we will be labeled.
We are afraid that we'll be looked down upon.

People will assume things.
They will assume that we have problems.
Assume that we know someone who died of suicide.
Assume that we weren't good enough.

F-K THAT!

You know what I'm afraid of?
I'm afraid of hearing that one more person
is heartbroken and confused.
That one more person thought about suicide but didn't know where to turn.

I fear going into the house when I don't see movement.
There is no peaceful calm,
in the still silence
only fear,
petrifying fear,
that today is the day I lose someone dear to me again.

So yes, I'm afraid of talking about suicide.
I hate fundraising for this.
I hate having to tell friends and family why its important.
But I can't just keep waiting.

Waiting until it is too late.
Until someone I didn't expect to lose
is ripped from me again.

I will make you uncomfortable when I talk about it.
Hell,
I make myself uncomfortable.
But, you don't get it - I don't care about the fear.
Its worth it. 

I will not lose one more person
because I was afraid.
I need to know that EVERYONE who knows me
knows that I am someone they can come to.
Because I "get it"
without judgement
only love
and desperation
to please look at those you love, who love you
and realize that you are irreplaceable.

On Saturday I walk,
I walk with family,
I walk with friends,
I walk with widows.

I don't walk "for Mike"
he let his demons take him.
I walk so that somebody else -
has the strength to confront theirs. 




Also seen here on thewiddahood.com

For the Love of Corgis

I'm stuck on a post that I feel like I should write, but can't. So in the meantime a few people have suggested that I pull out of my writing slump by writing about something that I love. Writing-candy if you will.

So what is my cotton candy of the blogging world......

CORGIS!

Via Creative Commons

I freaking love corgis. I don't know if I have ever even met one in person. I think I might burst. Like the feeling when I got to give Jane Goodall a hug! But maybe even bigger. And if you know my love of Jane Goodall, you can extrapolate how much I have the experience of playing with a corgi built up in my heart/head.

What would I do if I got to play with a corgi? I'd pretty much do this.....
Via Creative Commons
Then go for a swim at the lake
via Creative Commons
Maybe a drive to the park
via Creative Commons
Where we would play with some toys
via creative commons

My buddy and I would have to hike in the mountains
Via Creative Commons
And definitely not settle down until someone dragged us home!
via creative commons
How are you feeling after some corgi lovins?
I'm feeling a bit better. Still don't know how to write about the AFSP and why I'm walking for the OUT OF THE DARKNESS Suicide Prevention walk this weekend.


So just cut me some slack and join our team or donate to our cause.....the corgis would do it.

via creative commons
With Love and Light, 
Jess


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Adventures in Food Allergies, and Becoming a Home Cook

I've never been much of a cook. My elementary, Jr High and High school lunches were composed of peanutbutter sandwich crackers and an apple. Its a miracle I didn't starve in college.

In 2009 I posted a picture of my first attempt at handling raw chicken. This was my version of fajitas, I was 25 years old. I'm not lying, I had never handled raw chicken before this. Sad but true.

These fajitas weren't bad, but they were far from complex, or even really that good. It was literally pre-slicked chicken, peppers, onions and pre-made taco seasoning.

In July of 2011 (thank you FaceBook for giving me a timeline of my cooking adventures) I made a dinner with more than 3 ingredients for only one person...this was a huge step! I totally cheated used stew meat so I didn't have to man-handle raw beef and slice it into edible portions.
Again, this was edible, healthy even. But my seasoning was soy sauce, hoisin and garlic chili paste. A far cry from a complex flavor profile and probably had enough sodium to crystallize if left out overnight. 

However, my shopping trips now look like this:
Fresh organic veg from my local co-op
And I make things like this for work snacks:
kale chips

This weekend alone I made 2 loaves of bread, a homemade pizza (literally an amazing pizza that would have made local stores jealous), oven fries as a midnight snack, and I assisted on beef dumpling soup & breakfast potatoes. 

So where did these changes come from?

dun, dun da dun!

FOOD ALLERGIES!

You might have food allergies if:

  • You have cried because you miss eating grilled cheese, and you can't find a bread you can eat.
  • You eat before going out to eat with friends...just in case there is nothing on the menu that is safe.
  • Half your suitcase is composed of backup safe food when you go on vacation.
  • You have cried in the grocery store because "your flavor" is sold out or not stocked, and despite freezing your ta-tas off in the frozen case for 10 minutes you can't find an alternative that doesn't contain allergens.
  • You have to have a designated partner in fitness classes, someone who agrees on "nut-free Wednesdays" so they don't kill you with their contaminated hands. (thank you Addie!)
  • Your significant other jumps to block the table when the brings out an allergen, even if you aren't there, just out of habit.
  • There are "rules" to your potlucks "Please come to our BBQ! Bring something! (as long as it isn't A, B, C-Z)" It doesn't have the same ring to it, trust me!
  • Your international travels limited by your ability to pronounce your allergies in the native language, and their prevalence in local cuisine.
  • Your friends could be professional "contaminant taste testers" because they try everything before you do in questionable situations....ESPECIALLY in bars where tired/flirty/creative bartenders don't know what "tequila and oj ONLY" means. 
  • Have your friends ever had an argument in a bar about who was most qualified/sober to use your epi-pen given above situation?
  • Your office have a "nut-free" floor (and no edible Christmas presents) because you stopped breathing when someone walked upstairs eating almonds?
Do you have any other hi-jinks from food allergies? I love relating to others, it makes me feel a little less crazy. 

Food allergies used to be the plague of my existence. Now? They still are, but I make some damn good food as a result! It first started when my (now) boyfriend insisting on making me dishes that I'd never had because of allergens. (Fried rice minus the egg, sesame, ginger and chestnuts). Then soups when I was sick, because everything in the store had celery. Recently, when yeast went out the window we started making our own pasta, biscuits, breads and pizza dough. 

Pasta rolling expedition.
It took 5 grown men to play with the pasta roller and make a noodle
that stretched several times the length of our kitchen!
This has allowed us to make delicious food, at low cost and high quality and share it with our friends and family. We even buy most of our produce and ingredients locally and can throw entirely local dinner parties.

I don't love my food allergies, but I do love the way that they have pushed me into a forum that I never thought I'd participate in. I now mix seasonings & ground beef into patties without gagging & washing my hands 8 times during the process. I can make a dough without getting nervous. I make dinner when I am home alone. I rarely eat out, even for lunches at work. I no longer rely on soy sauce or spice to make my asian dishes edible. OHH I even have a garden. And it loves me back....I know because it sends me tomatoes shaped like a heart!


Next up:
  • Coconut free curry
  • Sesame free teriyaki
  • and more yeast free pizza - because that was AWESOME!


With Love and Light,
Jess



Friday, August 31, 2012

Muscle Memories

Christmas 08
Mike, Me & my fav. nephew opening stockings

Muscle Memories

When I first lost Mike I didn't know how he smelled, tasted or felt.
I couldn't remember. 
I worried that I had lost those feelings forever. 

When I started dating, and then falling in love again, it felt even further away. 
It seemed like when I tried to think of holding Mike's hand, all I could conjure was "hand", 
this was indistinguishable from my new man's hand. 

I stumbled on the above picture today and it took my breath away. 
I could smell that sweatshirt, 
feel that day old scruff on my neck, 
taste those earlobes,
run my fingers through that wiry hair, 
feel what his giant hand feels like, 
stretching my fingers apart in an attempt to interlock. 
I could feel Mike again. 

This is an amazing realization. It feels like muscle memory. Akin to getting on a bike for the first time in a decade. I can truly feel Mike again. It took getting over two years away from the trauma of losing him to realize that he hasn't entirely left. 

I've felt shocked by my ability to recall Mike with my senses once before. When packing for Golden, Colorado's thewiddahood.com retreat I pulled out Mike's old sweatshirt from the box of clothing I kept hidden in the office closet. I put it up to my face and smelled. Inhaled all of the molecules of that sweaty neckband. I almost vomited, or passed out - or passed out in my vomit. Holy cow. It was overwhelming. I went to text a widda friend, and accidentally texted my boyfriend in my shaking haste. (He was a little stunned, but recovered gracefully.) 

I sat in my office and sobbed, truly sobbed. For one of the few times since Mike's death I allowed myself to cry alone. I usually didn't trust myself to really breakdown when alone. I knew what Mike's demons had led him to, and I extrapolated that to mean that I could never really let my grief, PTSD and heartache rule the show. As such, I tried to have a safety net if I really needed to break down.  I would either wait until I had to leave in 30 min,  someone was coming over shortly, or there was someone in the other room so I couldn't really be alone with the nitty gritty freak out indefinitely. But not this afternoon. I cried unabashedly. I wasn't alone. I had Mike there holding me. I held his sweatshirt, breathed him in, felt his presence, allowed myself to feel his love, and allowed myself to miss him. 

I look back on this day with fond memory actually. I remember having a glimpse of Mike again, not the "background task" of grief, but a front and center show of the man I missed and loved. I wasn't mourning a loss, I was missing a man. A flesh and blood person who truly existed. Smelling him again brought his actual existence into focus. 

This is what I experienced an hour ago when I found this picture. A "holy sh*t!! I loved a man that existed. A man who loved me, and I loved him. It really happened. I can feel/smell/taste and touch it again." Thank you muscles for remembering Mike, even when my crazy brain thought I had lost him for good. Thank you for saving pieces for me to find again later. Breadcrumbs back to memories. 

With Love and Light, 
Jess

I hope this message finds you well and happy. Anyone had similar circumstances? A picture that brought back memories that other pictures failed to elicit? A smell that took you to a moment in time? 



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Announcements & Guest Blog: I am worthy!


Celebrate via Creative Commons

Today Is A Day To Celebrate!

  • Happy 1 month birthday to ButtonToBeans!
  • First re-post/guest blogger opportunity over at thewiddahood.com *see below
  • 2 weeks into the 30 Day Challenge
  • With that comes 2 challenger's updates: **see below below
  • 300 blog views....in the past 48 hours! (holy-crap-a-moly)
  • and personally...I get to go to my second Krav Maga class tonight and I'm super excited! *Watch out bad guys, Here I come!!
Its been an exciting last few days!
Here's a screen capture of my post being hosted on thewiddahood.com. Yup! I'm a total nerd and I captured it as soon as I saw it! As you can tell by the fact that it says "a few seconds ago", way to look desperate Jess!

The fact that my divorcing widow post was so popular totally blew me away. I have received dozens of emails and comments thanking me for writing this. Widows who didn't know that there were other complicated widows out there and no longer felt alone, and individuals who had never even realized that this kind of situation existed and will now be more conscious and kind. Both scenarios are EXACTLY what I was hoping for. 
This is why I knew it was a story that needed to be told. 
Thank you for receiving it with the positivity and light with which it was offered. 

On to our 30 Day Challenge updates:

Kim: 

Kim boldly (like so many of you) accepted the 30 Day Challenge by deciding to take a photo every day. You can see those photos on her personal blog. Here's my favorite:
Longest Day

I think she really captured this moment well. I also appreciate the effort she is putting into making something unique and indicative of the moment.
She also put a challenge out to her blog readers and gave some really persuasive reasons why you should do something, or not do something for 30 days. Her final point of persuasion...If you chose to do something everyday for 30 days, imagine what you would have to show for those 30 days. It doesn't matter if it is 30 crunches everyday, walk on a different trail everyday, take a picture everyday, or do something you have never done before everyday... Any of these goals would be beneficial to you. Your 2 pack stomach may develop into a 3 pack! Or you may take some really beautiful pictures you may have never taken before! Besides, if you don't take the 30 day challenge we both know you will just sit on the couch creating a permanent butt imprint that everyone will see when they come over and they will all whisper behind your back about how you are such a couch potato. And I know you don't want that.
I think she makes a good argument.

WiddaGoddessMomma04 (WGM04 for short)

This lady is one of my favorite humans on earth. Her light shines like the goddess she is. She helps everyone with a radiant smile and is one of the best mamas I've had the pleasure of knowing. She has one small problem...she doesn't see it! She doesn't know how loved and beautiful and SPECTACULAR she is.

But! Wait! There's Hope! She's learning. Her 30 day challenge was to follow her plan for affirmations that she picked up at Camp Widow. She's agreed to author a guest blog (its awesome) about her affirmations and her experience on the condition that it remains anonymous.
Here it is....... Please leave her some love in the comments section at the bottom. Maybe next time she'll even post under her own name!

I am worthy

Guest Post from: WiddaGoddessMomma04

This past month at Camp Widow 2012 I met an amazing woman named Barbara.  In the few moments I was privileged to speak with her she taught me so much. About life.  About loss.  About love.  About me. In one 15 minute conversation she drew thoughts and feelings out of me that I hadn’t allowed in 21 months.  

You see, when P died, my confidence went with him. My self- worth.  My self- love.  Whenever I would have doubts about myself he would tell me “Well,  I love you, so that’s all that matters.” Or “Who cares what others think?  If they don’t like it,  Fu*k Em!” He had such a great outlook on life.


I always struggled with my self -esteem and self -worth. 

There’s nothing significant in my life that caused this, it’s just the way I’ve always been.  Being married to my best friend, true love and soul mate filled up my “cup” of self- worth.   Having children together and being a family with a home, jobs and security caused it to overflow. Then losing him in an instant shattered that glass into a million pieces.  


Fast forward to almost two years later- on the tail end of my first relationship since his death, and  I have been left questioning my self worth. How can I give to others when I don’t even love the person who’s dishing it out? One thing that Barbara said to me in those first 15 minutes: “You can give and give and give but you aren’t really doing anyone any good if you don’t love yourself first.”  She then went on to tell me  about affirmations and saying them with intent (by putting your tongue behind your teeth on the top of your mouth you are signaling your brain to “pay attention”) and the need for committing to at least 30 days.  I committed to saying my affirmation within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning, and again 30 minutes before going to bed at night. These are times of day when our brain is most open to accepting the thoughts.  Barbara also stressed the importance of saying my affirmation ALL DAY LONG. With INTENT! You have to let go of the negative and allow the positive to flow in in order to create change.  


It hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t really LOVE me.  I am told all the time about the great things I do for people, all the great things I offer them.  But in my head I immediately dismiss those compliments.  I ALWAYS  return with “Oh, no! – But,  Thank You.”   Compliments on my looks, ideas I have or things I do for others- (I always dismiss the great that I’m doing for others).  Thinking about Barbara’s statement,  and in talking with her a little more, I decided that I needed to instill that self -worth and confidence back into my brain.   I picked one simple sentence for my affirmation.

I AM WORTHY.  

I am worthy of all that life has to offer.
Of what people have to offer.  
Of what I offer myself.  
I am worthy of all good things.  

It’s been just over two weeks, and I am still saying my affirmations.  I am starting to see a change. I don’t dismiss compliments as much.  I still have my down days- but that’s to be expected.  I know I am not going to change completely  “overnight”.  But, by telling myself that  I am worthy every day , I am boosting my own self- worth and retraining my brain to accept it.  I can’t wait to see what the next 2 weeks (and beyond!)  brings!
To learn about Barbara's book “True Love True Self” - visit www.truelovetrueself.com




Monday, August 27, 2012

The Divorc(ing) Widow

Complicated Love - used by Creative Commons


"When I saw how much pain love could bring I felt sorry for those in love, when I saw how much joy love could bring I envied those in love." - Unknown


Many widow/ers have a beautiful love story of the man/woman who passed long before their love could ever run dry. Of kissing someone and not knowing it was going to be the last time. 

I knew I'd kissed Mike for the last time. 
Not because he was physically ill. 
But because we filed for divorce. 
The day we decided that we could not continue to hold each other back, 
we both left work early, curled up in bed together and cried. 
Cried and cried 
and held each other as if there was a death in the family. 
It was the death of our "family".

We cried for the hopes and dreams that would never be, 
we mourned the relationship that never reached the potential that we dreamed so vividly.
We hated that we were giving up, 
but neither of us had the strength to carry ourselves 
and the gimping, bleeding, festering relationship any longer. 

We praised each other for the accomplishments and goals we set for our new lives. 
I was going to continue doing yoga, 
Mike was going to finish school. 
We would find our true selves again,
then remarry someone new.

The plan:
Learn from the mistakes of our marriage, 
and find our friendship again.
We always were best friends. 

We were good at that. 

I was so excited for him to find his path. 
I could see it vividly....
he would finish school, find a pretty young woman, 
more in-line with his parent's expectations - 
and they would raise a family and be happy. 
I wanted this for him. 
I loved him so much that I wanted him to find his peace, his family and his future - even if that meant without me.

That may have been my plan, 

may even have been Mike's plan, 
But that wasn't fate's plan. 

Turns out, 
I wasn't the one holding Mike back.
I was the one treading his water.
I was the one fighting the demons.

Sometimes when you let the baby bird out of the nest, 

they fly right into the window.
But you still had to let them fly. 


I don't regret filing for divorce.
Mike and I agreed it was the right thing to do. 

But he never signed the papers before he took his last breath. 
A breath filled with desperation, escape and inhalants.

Filing for divorce doesn't take away the pain of death,

Death doesn't take away the pain of a failed marriage. 
Both are ranked as the most stressful events of your life
Having both together... 
if you haven't experienced it....
just be kind to those who have...
you can never understand...
how deep the betrayal, 
how tangible the regrets
how abandoning the loss
and how isolated you feel. 

Being a divorcing widow is a unique form of solitary confinement. 
You feel
isolated from your family, 
hated by your in-laws,
distanced by your friends,
and (sometimes) chastised by other widows. 

To all of the other separated, divorced, or 
just-plain-complicated widows out there. 
You aren't alone, 
You aren't a horrible person.
You are loved.
You did the best you could.

Try to love the man you married, 
and forgive the man who died.
In time, that combination of love and forgiveness will give you peace. 
Nothing removes the pain, 
But the ever-elusive peace can be attained, even for only moments. 


*Author's note: If you like this post, please share it. Let the "complicated widows" know that they are not alone, that you stand next to them and realize that their pain is just as real. 



With Love and Light, 
Jess

You can also check out this, and other blog posts at http://www.thewiddahood.com/2012/08/27/divorcingwidow/

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rings...and setting your own timeline


I had another visit from a sweet recent widowed employee George. This was my third visit since his wife passed 4 weeks ago. I really had never met the man before this.

He came in to change more forms and pulled me aside hurridly and whispered "But I have one more question too."
"Sure George, whats up"
He is obviously upset and keeps wringing his hands, then he looks at me: "What do I do with this?" Pulling at his wedding ring, "Someone asked me when I was going to take it off, and I didn't know the rule. Do I have to take it off?"

Ughh! He nearly broke my poor widowed overly-sensitive heart!
"George! You do whatever the hell you want to do."

"Ohh, ok. Someone asked me, and I didn't know the answer and I thought I'd ask you." He's still nervously fidgeting with his ring. Obviously not satisfied that he was doing the "right thing". **But I am a little flattered that I have suddenly become the how-to-be-widowed expert to a man 2.5 times my age.**

I inhale a deep breath and realize that attacking him into standing up for himself probably isn't the best technique (though usually my go-to method regardless).

"George," I ask, a bit more gently. "Do you still feel married?"
"Well, yes...."
"Then you are still married. Until you want to take that ring off, or move it to the other hand - you have no obligation. Some people leave their wedding rings on for months, some leave it on for years - some only days. Its completely up to you."

He seems relieved that he doesn't have to leave behind his precious ring. We continue on with the rest of the meeting.
...
I really love that he comes and visits me as often as possible. He always shares his achievements in the grief world.
"I made it past one month!"  "I figured out the washing machine!"
We all need a cheerleader sometimes
...

I have struggled with ring issues in my own life too. I used to get really excited when I had a "widows event" because it was the only time I gave myself permission to wear my wedding rings. I had convinced myself that my new boyfriend wouldn't care for me and wouldn't accept me if I was wearing Mike's wedding rings. (I had no basis in reality for this, but it was a really big fear - deepened every time someone asked me... "well what does "E" think about that?" Now I realize that it doesn't matter what anyone thinks about it - as long as I'm being true to myself.)
I LOVE my wedding set - it is very similar to my grandmothers - because it was her mother's. I knew the second that I saw it that it would be my wedding ring. My grandmother had just returned from visiting my cousins and passing out family heirlooms *like grandmas do* and she asked me if I'd like "this". And she pulled out the most perfect wedding set I'd ever seen. It had a unique "crown-like" setting that held the stone close instead of putting it on display and a simple white gold band. It currently had a crystal in it because it was my great-grandmother's "traveling set". This was even more perfect! Mike and I got to pick out the stone we wanted and make it our own. This ring, it just means so much to me, even if I only got to wear it for less than 3 years.

Around my 1 year mark I got myself a present, a "widows ring" . I wore it every day....For about 6 months. Then that didn't feel right anymore either. I felt strangely smothered. I felt stuck, and the ring that brought me closer to Mike when I bought it, felt like it was holding me in the past. So I took it off and added it to the ever-growing pile of unworn Mike-related jewelry.
Band of black stones on a gold side for Mike,
and a band of white diamonds on a white gold band for myself.
I used to carry Mike's wedding ring in my coin purse. I would pull it out occasionally to see the inscription of "My Favorite". It would make me smile to remember that mine says "My Only". Complete with the quotation marks because the form asked what you wanted inscribed and I wrote "my only" and "my favorite". When they arrived, just days before the wedding, and no time to fix it - I had to learn to live with "  ". Much to my own dismay.

I think I may replace the diamond in my great-grandmother's setting with a sapphire someday so it can be reclaimed as my own and worn on my right hand. I'm not really in an expensive-jewelry-wearing place right now. So we'll just wait and see. I also wish I wouldn't have been so timid about listening to my heart and its desires with my ring in the beginning.

I hereby give permission
(because sometimes we feel as if we need to be granted permission)
to anyone to do anything they want
with respect to their wedding rings and their own grief.
Tell them "some crazy widow who calls herself 'button and beans' told me I could!"

What have you done with your ring? 

I've seen beautiful tennis bracelets made, new rings, necklaces....feel free to share your story here - it gives hope and validation to other people who are fighting the same fight.

With Love and Light, 
Jess