Thursday, January 17, 2019

Fighting the wintertime blues

January has always been a dreary month for me.  There are too many days that are dark and cold, often combined with rain, mist or fog and I usually get a bit down in the dumps during this time of year no matter what else is going on in my life.  This year I was already feeling depressed after Rob's death and even though I survived the holidays relatively well, the winter blahs have now arrived in full force.  This depression is frustrating, but I also know it is perfectly normal and it will pass over time.  I just have to figure out the best way to muddle through the next few months.  It's not easy for me to find any sort of motivation when I'm depressed, but I have managed to attempt a few things.

My office at work is a dark, windowless cave which is a plus during the hot summer months, but a total drag in the winter.  Right now it's dark when I go to work, dark when I come home and I never see any daylight until the weekend.  That's certainly not helping things so I've decided to work from home one day a week with my desk strategically positioned between two windows that will give me the maximum amount of daylight.  Today is the first day I've tried it and it's a nice change of pace. 

I've spent the last couple of weeks packing up Rob-stuff to go through later.  The packing up part has been difficult and hasn't done much to improve my mood, but looking at it all the time didn't help either.  If I have no immediate use for it, such as beading supplies, or it's something that will probably never bring me joy, like that really ugly skull shaped wooden thing hanging on the wall, then it goes in a box or a closet and I'll make the decision to keep it or get rid of it later when I'm in a better frame of mind.  The house is still 90% Rob, just pared down a little.  

I also got rid of the couches.  He died on one of them and there wasn't any way to keep them and not be constantly reminded of that day.   With that space freed-up, I moved the band equipment from the upstairs bonus room downstairs to the old living room and turned the dining room into my new living room.  We never used it as a dining room since it's by the front door rather than by the kitchen and the dining table just became a place to plop stuff down when you walked in the door.  It's too small of a space for a couch, but a love seat and a few chairs will fit and that's really all I need.  It will be a while before I have saved enough money for new furniture, but in the meantime, I have my camping lounge chairs and camping rocking chair.  They are actually quite comfortable despite looking a bit odd as indoor furniture. 

The junk car in the driveway is gone.  Rob insisted he was going to fix it some day, but he's certainly not ever going to get that done now so I donated it to my local public radio station. 

Cooking and baking are things that I used to really enjoy doing so this weekend I made five different quiches, chopped them up into individual portions, vacuum-sealed them and threw them in the freezer.  

Is any of this helping?  I can't say for sure, but at least it's more productive than just staying in bed under the covers, binge-watching Netflix which about all I really want to do. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

I survived the holidays!

This was a really tough holiday season.  Thanksgiving without mom and dad was hard enough, but without Rob?  The man who loved to cook and thought Thanksgiving was one of the best holidays ever?   Yeah, it was tough.  And then there was Christmas.  A big part of the fun of Christmas for me was finding as much cool stuff as possible for Rob on a limited budget. Skull shot glasses, Grateful Dead ashtrays, cheap novelty knives (one year I found one that looked like a grim reaper riding a motorcycle!), novelty salt and pepper shakers (he collected them) and silly gag gifts, it was so much fun!  I'd spend a whole month searching for these things.  But this year I only had to buy gifts for my remaining family; off-the-shelf toys for the younger grand-nieces/nephews and gift cards for the rest.  What a big yawn and it took me only one day to do all of it.  And when I was done wrapping the gifts, I realized that I had bought wrapping paper that was mostly black, with just a little bit of red and white. That wasn't a conscious decision, but it accurately reflected my mood. 

Overall, I never could get into the holiday spirit and quite frankly, I was pretty much depressed for the most of November and December.  But I did promise to go to my brother's house for the traditional family Christmas Eve dinner and gift exchange, now held there and no longer at my mom's house.  That thought stung a bit, but I forced myself to get out of the house and drive out of town to do it, fearing if I didn't go that I might start a new habit of never celebrating Christmas again. 

My sister-in-law did a great dinner spread and between my niece and nephew and their kids, there was plenty of family there.  Much to my surprise, I had a really good time and you can't beat having an adorable grand-niece fall asleep on your lap when she finally crashed around midnight.  I'm so glad I spent the night there with my remaining family instead of driving back home to an empty house where I'd be sorely missing Rob. 

Once I got home, late in the afternoon on Christmas Day, I proceeded to cook my own version of the perfect Xmas day dinner feast - tamales with chili con queso and my secret recipe for 60's side of the highway mom and pop restaurant where no one speaks English style Mexican rice.

I not only survived, but I came out much happier than when I started.  That is probably the best Christmas present ever. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

On the road again

I was able to drive to work yesterday.  It was very uncomfortable when I tested out my ability to do a "panic stop", but it didn't seem like I was going to be dangerous out there on the road so I went ahead and drove to the office.  It's about a 30 minute drive with several long traffic lights and always one or two panic stops on the way because the drivers here are horrible.  I pulled it off, but 30 minutes is about the most I can do and I'm not good for much walking afterwards.  That pretty much rules out making a grocery store run any time soon. 

Truth be told, even if I had someone else do the driving, there's no way I'd be able to walk the distance it takes to get through one of our huge grocery stores.   I won't starve though.  Only a mile from my house is a small convenience store that also has a meat market and carries fresh produce.  Well, "fresh" might be a misnomer, but it's better than nothing and it's the only option out here in the food desert where I live.  They call it a food desert because the closest grocery store is 10 miles away and about a 45 minute drive.  There's also no public transportation access and the cab fare is about $30 one-way.  Although the convenience store is a bit more expensive on some items, the extra cost is still a lot cheaper than paying $60 to go to and from the big grocery store in a cab.

The convenience store is what's called a "Mexican Market" which means things are not exactly the same as what I might see in my regular grocery store.  I'm not really sure what those cuts of meat are (other than the ground beef) and I'm also not sure what to do with them.  The produce is not your normal selections; nopales (cactus), chayote squash and other odd things.  The cheese selection is also interesting and I have already gotten used to putting Oaxaca cheese on my pizza because they don't carry Mozzarella. 

Now I can cook regular Tex-Mex any day of the week, but if I want any variety I'm going to have to go beyond my usual tacos, tostadas and enchiladas.  I'm hoping the internet can give me some clue on what to do with the unfamiliar cuts of meat.  I already know several recipes for chayote squash since I've been eating that for years. but I've never done anything with nopales.  Who knows, I just might be having cactus for dinner tonight.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A hard lesson

I'm a pretty independent person, not usually willing to let others help me out if I can do it myself.  My friends stepped in after Rob died and I was grief stricken enough to let that happen.  But apparently I didn't learn that lesson well enough so the universe saw fit to orchestrate another demonstration. 

This weekend I was out at Bastrop State Park with my friend Tracy for his birthday.  We were setting up a canopy that needed to be moved over a picnic table and I hopped up on the table to help move it along.  When I stepped off the bench of the table, my right foot landed wrong and it made the most interesting noise; sounded a bit like a Xylophone or a bunch of knuckles cracking.  I wasn't sure if it was a break or a sprain, but either way I couldn't put much weight on it.  No bones were poking out anywhere so I didn't see any point in going to the doctor right then; just threw some ice on it and went on with the party.  Other people joined us, we cooked dinner, I drank a lot of beer which dulled the pain, and had a wonderful time.

The next morning, my foot was no better and now this was a problem.  Not only did it mean that Tracy had to load up both cars all by himself, but I suspected that I might not be able to drive my car.  I gave it a try and was able to get the car up to the park office, but only just barely.  There was no way I could drive in traffic on a busy highway to get home. 

Tracy took me from the park to a minor emergency center in Bastrop where I was hoping they could fix me up enough to drive.  They took some X-rays, determined nothing was broken and it was only torn ligaments, but that I would not be able to drive for at least a few days, and most likely not for a week or two.  They gave me a shot for the pain and big boot to stabilize my foot.  I might not be able to drive, but with the boot I could hobble around without crutches for short distances and for that I was extremely grateful. Tracy took me home and found someone to drive my car back from Bastrop, a friend of his who had never met me and no reason to do that, but was more than willing to help out.  Not only did I have to rely on my friends, but also the kindness of strangers! 

Today I'm working from home.  I've got a co-worker who will give me a ride to work tomorrow.  What happens after that remains to be seen, but I suspect I'm going to have to lean on people for at least a few more days. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A party for Rob

Rob didn't want a memorial or a funeral.  Instead, he wanted me to throw a big party like the ones we used to do at our house back in the 90's.  I chose Saturday, October 20th as the date, hoping by that time I could actually celebrate his life instead of crying the whole time.  There were a lot of preparations to be made and out of town guests to accommodate so I was quite busy in the weeks leading up to the event.  I decided to hold it at my mom's house since it has a large backyard. Tracy did all of the work to get that house ready for the party, even using his vacation time to do it!  We rounded up an assortment of tables and chairs.  There weren't enough chairs so I went out and bought some more. There weren't enough beds for the overnight guests so I went out and bought some airbeds (and had to wait over an hour at WalMart just to get someone to unlock the cabinet that held them!)  It had been raining for two weeks and was expected to rain the day of the party as well so I went out and bought some popup canopies (it didn't rain.)  We hauled PA equipment over there to provide the Rob requested music, both recorded and live.  Guests flew in and were picked up at the airport.  Then on Saturday morning a crew of friends descended on the party house to start cooking the food and setting things up in the backyard.  They did a fantastic job and I'm so grateful because there was no way I could have pulled this off by myself.

The party was everything that a Rob party should be, from the people to the food to the music.  I only cried twice, first when Bill brought in a beautiful memorial display and second when Matt Amos played the song that Rob always sang at our friends' memorials, Ain't no Grave.  I had planned to get  drunk, but ended up spending so much time talking with people that I didn't even get a buzz that night.  On the other hand, some of Rob's friends did get extremely drunk and although that might sound like a bad thing, it was just perfect.  Because it's not a Rob party unless one or two of the guests have had way too much to drink and have to be carried off to a bed or couch to sleep it off until morning. 

It was a fitting tribute to my husband and I was surprised that it provided me with quite a bit of relief. I didn't feel any sort of closure or relief from the funerals for my mom and dad.  Those events just seemed to deepen my grief.  This did not and I don't know if it was because more time had passed between death and event or if it was because this was truly a celebration and not some dingy, dirge of a funeral.  Either way, my recommendation from now on to anyone who loses a spouse is to wait at least a month, and then throw one hell of party. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Fall weather

Weather forecast for the Austin area issued 410 PM CDT Mon Oct 15 2018:

  • Short term (tonight through Tuesday night)...
  • much cooler temperatures along with widespread rain and a few thunderstorms can be found across south central Texas this afternoon. Temperatures are currently in the upper 30s to upper 40s across the region, compared to 24 hours ago when temperatures were mainly in the 80s to lower 90s.
Yep, that's Texas weather for ya - almost a 50 degree drop in 24 hours.  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Grief and life without a smartphone

It's almost been a month since Rob died and overall I've been doing okay.  I had some rough days where I'd spontaneously burst into tears at the oddest moments, but as far as I know that's pretty normal given the circumstances.  Last week I was at an IT conference and so busy with work that I didn't have time to think about anything except work and the bare minimum daily home requirements (feed the dogs, do laundry, pay bills, etc.) and that pretty much stopped the spontaneous tears, at least for now.  For the most part, I've done a whole lot of "one step in front of the other" which fortunately, is something I'm very experienced at doing although I've got to say, it's a bit harder than usual this time.

In the middle of all of this, my smartphone started acting up and pretty much died on me. I ended up spending almost a week with nothing more than a flip phone on a different phone number that could only make phones calls if the stars were aligned just right.  Well, it could also get texts, but they were pretty hard to read on that little tiny screen and I never did get the hang of successfully replying to them. It did allow me to call a cab to get to and from the IT conference, but that was about it.

Now that's a pretty minor problem, but when you are in the middle of dealing with the death of your spouse... not so minor.  No one had my new flip phone number and all of their phone numbers were all on my old dead phone that I couldn't access anymore.  Since I couldn't access it at all, I also couldn't forward my phone calls.  And all those applications that I need for work?  Nope, not on a flip phone.  All those things that require two factor authentication from my old phone number?  Nope. It was a huge hassle and not something I wanted to deal with on top of everything else. But deal with it I did and I do now finally have a brand new shiny smartphone.  Going forward the only thing I have to deal with is getting everyone my new phone number and tracking down and fixing all the two-factor authentication stuff. And I'll get there. Eventually. Although I haven't quite figured out how I'll notify people whose phone number I no longer have because my old phone is dead, but I guess I'll find someone who knows someone who knows someone.  And that actually worked quite well for notifying people of Rob's demise since he kept everyone's phone number in his head and I didn't have half of them, but I ended up hearing from quite a few because one person told another and they told another and.. well, it worked out for the most part.

Now jumping back to the whole phone number change, you might ask, why didn't I just keep my old phone number and save myself the additional hassle of switching to another number? Well, the carrier I used didn't have the model of smartphone that I wanted and while I could have settled for a less desirable phone, I also had promised myself that when then time came that I needed a new phone, then I would switch to my childhood phone number that I had transferred to that recalcitrant flip phone when my mom died.  I had memorized that phone number back when I was about two years old and as a result, it's unlikely that I will ever forget it.  Unlike my other cell phone number that I could barely remember even though I'd had it for about seven years. So the timing was less than ideal, but I went ahead and followed through with my plan to switch.  So what if there's a little bit more chaos when everything else has been turned upside down? Just a drop in the bucket, eh?

I'd also like to mention that my friends, family and employer have all been incredibly supportive during this time and a huge factor in why I've been able to keep myself together and functional during this last month. It would be easy for me to feel very alone right now given that I've lost both my parents and my spouse in just three years time, but everyone around me has let me know that I'm definitely not alone.  And Tracy, my best friend, who I've known for over 40 years, has helped with me stuff that I couldn't bring myself to ask for help with and just jumped in and did it anyway.  Dude, I so owe you and I hope I can return the favor someday.