My life changed dramatically and forever when I lost TJ.

I welcome you to follow along as I adjust to my "new normal".

It is not all puppies and ice cream but it is my life....real and honest.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Growing Old

Oh how we hate to admit to getting old.  We do everything we can to avoid it.  We lie about our eyesight and buy the cheap cheaters at the drug store instead of going for an actual eye exam and getting prescription glasses or worse yet bifocals! As women, we indulge in wrinkle creams for our eyes, necks, face, etc. and of course we color our hair to cover up the gray.  Even men are in on the anti aging market with products such as, "Just For Men".  Do we not realize what a privilege it is to get old?  To grow old with the one you love?

TJ's life ended at the age of 49.  He didn't have the privilege of growing old.  I don't get to grow old with him.  When I see an elderly man in the grocery store or at the gas station I frequently think of TJ.  What would he have been like if he had grown elderly?  Would he have been like the grumpy old man I saw in the grocery store the other day?  Would life had dealt him some blow(s) to turn his happy go lucky attitude into disdain for his fellow man?  Maybe.  But, I think he would have been more like the elderly man I chatted with at the gas station just a few days ago.  He was filling up his truck next to me and we immediately struck up a conversation.  We talked about the weather and other mundane things but when I drove away I felt as though I had just made a friend.  TJ always made people feel that way. Everyone liked TJ and his zest for life was contagious.

Growing old is a gift; something we should not be afraid of.  Yes, I believe it is a privilege, a privilege that too many are denied.

Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read. - Francis Bacon

Friday, February 25, 2011

I Am Beginning A New Blog

I am very pleased to announce that I have begun blogging at

When TJ was first diagnosed I immediately turned to the internet for information and support.  I had no idea of the support available on the web.  When a new side effect of the chemo would pop up TJ would immediately tell me to get online and find out what we should do.  He saw the support I had from my online friends and I read him all the well wishes they sent to him through me.  We often talked that when he got better we would share what we have learned with others on the internet.
When he died I knew that our plan to share our experiences must continue.  It took a while for me to "get my poop in a group" and begin working towards the goal of helping others from my experiences, but it was always on my mind.  I continued intermittently blogging about my feelings and experiences here and reading some of the emails I have received I know that it was helping some who would stumble across my blog.
In my blog on Facing Cancer I will cover in detail TJ's treatment.  I will talk about some things that I have never told anyone and I am starting from the very beginning of his diagnosis.
I know many of you have been readers from the beginning, but I would like to invite you to read my new blog in addition to this one.  I will still be blogging here about my present feelings and experiences.
A big thank you to all of you for your support!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Very True and Everlasting Friendship

The following is a "message" that, Mary Rogers, my best friend all through middle school and high school wrote and posted on Facebook for all our friends to see.

Over a year ago I went on a trip with family to see family. Part vacation, part obligation -but in a good way. After several days of going to every museum and an' important' house in the area (plus eating $24.00 salads for lunch) I was ready for a change. "Look, I have never been to this part of the country before, let's do something touristy. Find some really tacky fun thing to do that is really LOCAL." My family said okay and after pouring over many brochures I found just the place. So we drove out to the middle of nowhere and had a ball. Tourist trap city. I knew I was being shown a caricature of historic events, (reality be damned!) but it was great.

As we sat at a picnic table eating some lunch I was struck by a very powerful feeling that I was sitting where someone that I loved had sat. That I was exactly where they were and had been happy. Being a reasonable person I thought ' No one I know has ever been here. I would have known about it." That little voice we all have told me no. Okay someone that I haven't met yet,maybe? "No. Someone who is very important to you." I decided that there wasn't much point in trying to figure it out. That maybe I should just sit still and take in the gorgeous scenery and be glad that they had had a good day there too. I hoped that someday the mystery would be resolved.

All throughout middle school and high school Sandy Bolton was my best friend. Almost all of my significant memories from that time in my life featured Sandy. Jammed lockers? Check. SAT Saturday? Check. Boyfriend drama? Check. Maybe possibly breaking curfew and getting drunk on a disgusting combination of Coca Cola and Cherry Vodka? Che--No comment. 

Sometimes the people who have had a profound impact on your life don't stay in your life. It's not your fault. It's not theirs. It just happens. Sandy was supposed to go to Hanover when I did. We even got assigned to the same room in Ide Hall. It was going to be a 4 year extension of all of the fun we'd already been having. Sandy had a change of heart and decided to go to Franklin College instead. I was disappointed, but not upset. Whatever she needed to do was okay with me. Eventually she left Indiana and lived "out West" somewhere. We wrote a few times, there was a phone call or two, but we were doing what people in their 20s were supposed to do. Changing jobs and changing residences as opportunity or foolish desire dictated. 

I didn't know where Sandy had landed or what her last name was, but thanks to the miracle of the modern age and Facebook, Sandy found me. My joy at reconnecting with the great friend of my youth was quickly tempered when I learned that her husband, TJ, was seriously ill with cancer. Sandy pointed me to the blog she had been keeping during his treatment. My hopes for a favorable outcome faded as I read the posts. TJ lost his fight on October 25th, 2009. 

I couldn't and still can't quite to come to terms with Sandy being a widow at our age. 

I wanted to write to her and let her know how badly I was hurting for her, but I couldn't find an address. There was no way I was going to do something as inappropriate as sending an e-mail. I couldn't stand the thought and let the note go hoping that some of the friends we had and have in common could provide me with a mailing address. 

Finally on December 31st I couldn't ignore the little voice that kept telling me to write anyway for another moment.. Medium be damned, it was the message that counted here. It was far worse to let Sandy be out there somewhere in the world thinking that I didn't care that her life had fallen apart. 

I wanted to spend a minute finding out a little bit about TJ before I wrote my words of condolence. Through a series of previously unexplored links on her blog, I was able to see a few hundred photos of Sandy and TJ on Flickr. It seems that for sixteen years this man had given Sandy the life she had dreamed out loud about when she and I were 13. There he was, a handsome cowboy who lived on a ranch. Complete with all the horses and dogs in middle school Sandy's fantasy. 

I laughed even as tears filled my eyes. How strange life is. Joy and sorrow in what she had and what she lost...all in the same moment for me as I came late to their love story. 

I kept flipping through the photos until I saw the one that I knew instantly I was meant to see. 

There was Sandy and her beloved TJ sitting at the same picnic table at the same tacky tourist trap in the town of Goldfield, Arizona. I understood then just how happy she had truly been.

Yes, above is the picture she was speaking of.  But most importantly is that TJ did give me the life of my dreams and I told him this frequently.  When I would tell him how grateful I was for my dream life he would smile that huge smile of his and laugh at me....I only wish he would have seen this "message" from Mary to know that I was telling him the truth.

I got what I wanted in my life.  I may not have it now and I doubt I will ever have it again. I do know how lucky I was to have it as some never do get to live the life they dreamed of as a young girl.

See TJ, I told you.....

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Widow Card

It has been a really cold winter in Arizona.  I am sure all you readers back east are rolling your eyes about now, but it has seriously been cold as far as Arizona standards go. We are not accustomed to several nights of below freezing temperatures.  I had one neighbor that unpacked all of his outdoor worthy Christmas lights and put them on his trees for the warmth.  I laughed at this every morning while on my way to work.  Yeah, I laughed until I realized the freeze killed my ficus tree and miscellaneous other bushes.  The freeze also busted one of my corral pipes.  This is a corral that I don't use so the thought never crossed my mind to insulate this pipe with a blanket or something similar on those below freezing nights.

A few weeks ago upon arriving home from work I was greeted by my neighbor.  He informed me about the busted corral pipe.  He had been outside when it busted and was able to shut my water off at the main right away.  For him I was grateful.  He even said he was going to fix it but did not have the right size PVC.  Well now, thank you very much Mr. Neighbor!

I called my plumber who came out right away and had it fixed within 90 minutes of me making the call.

I know that a lot of the help I get is because of my "Widow Card".  While there are times that I readily use my Widow Card there are also times when it is somewhat embarrassing and I feel really guilty.  Women who are single by choice don't have this advantage nor do divorced women.  Us widows get one handed to us immediately and in the beginning it is a tough card to play because it is hard to say "I am a widow".  As time passes those words get easier to say and it is learned that the Widow Card is often a free pass.  Once I got used to it I played my Widow Card frequently, but lately I have stopped using it so much.  It has been 16 months since TJ passed and the feelings of guilt when using it outweigh the benefits, especially if it is someone who knows when TJ died.  I feel like they are thinking, "good grief Sandy, at some point you are going to have to deal with things on your own!"  While nobody has said this to me, I am afraid of them feeling that way.  I am really not a helpless woman, but I do miss having a man to do some things that I just don't want to do.

I am not sure what the expiration date is on my Widow Card or if it even expires.  I do know that I intend to use it sparingly and not overload it.  I also know that it is a card I never wanted and never thought I would have, hell, I didn't even know such a thing existed.  If given the opportunity I would gladly return it.  It was given to me too soon.  Yes, the Widow Card can help me, but just by having one I lost out on so much.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Dad

I think I discovered why my Dad has been on my mind so much lately.

I received a Facebook friend request from a high school friend.  I am not a fan of  Facebook (fb) but I accepted his request assuming, like most fb stuff goes with me, that was the end of it.  I then got a message from him with an email address and asking me the dreaded question, "how is your family?"  This is generally translated as, "how are your Mom and Dad, husband and kids?" Most everyone knew and loved my parents and at 45 they assume I have a husband and kids.  Generally when I message back that Mom, Dad and Husband have all passed and I have no kids I don't hear from them again.  I understand, people just don't know what to say and I am fine with it.  Instead of my normal everyone is dead message, I sent an email with basic kids, I live in Arizona...blah, blah, blah.  To my surprise I got an email back telling me about his kids, wife etc. and asking me more about what I have been up to.  I replied with the everyone is dead email but with a few more details and I just knew for sure that would be the end of this reunion.  NOT!!  He emailed me back and said some really moving things about my Dad.

My Dad was a difficult man to get along with to say the least.  I cut ties with him as an adult because we just didn't see eye to eye on anything.  It was TJ who encouraged me to reconnect with my Dad and with much prodding I did.  I saw him for the first time in years when TJ and I went to my brother's wedding in Las Vegas.  He and TJ became very good buddies and my Dad moved to Arizona to live his last couple of years close to TJ and I.  He was at our house every night for dinner and he spent time watching TJ build stuff.  My Dad apologized to me for all the bad stuff and we got to say "I Love You" to each other.  When he became ill he pleaded with TJ and I to not let him die in a hospital and not to stick him in one of our back bedrooms all alone.  TJ rearranged our living room to accomodate a hospital bed and with the help of hospice we brought him home to spend his last hours.  He lasted less than 24 hours at our home but the last thing he said to me was, "Where the hell am I?" I said to him, "You are home Dad, you are with TJ & I."  He passed away the next morning at home, just what he wanted.

Here are some excerpts from our emails when my friend spoke of my Dad:

I thought your Dad was quite a character. I always got the feeling that you and him did not see eye to eye on several things. I always wanted to talk to him after I joined the service but I always missed him and never knew where he lived after the house on the lake sold. Your Dad treated me well and I never forget people who were nice to me when I was a young man.

I am glad that you and Rex reconciled, I am sure you would have had great regrets had you not done so. Your Dad seemed like a well traveled person who had been around a bit and he always had some stories that mad me laugh. I think he thought I was a bit crazy at times and probably useless at other times. He wanted young people to do the right thing and I knew it by the way he took time to tell me stuff. He had probably made a lot of the same mistakes so he didn’t see the need for anyone else to repeat them.

Reading these kind words about my Dad made me cry.  A lot of people can justifiably say lots of bad things about my Dad but the above words show that he did make a good impression on some people.  He was my Dad, the only one I had, and I loved him regardless of his past.

When you measure someone's worth, put the tape around the heart instead of the head ~ Covey