Don’t Get Hooked


First of all, I have to say I hate fish – red snapper, grouper, tilapia, salmon, whatever. One of Rick’s friends pledged to cook me trout right after he caught it, but he’s never come through with that promise, so I remain unconvinced that I’d enjoy the taste. I’d make an exception, however, for steamed hard-shell Maryland blue crabs strewn across newspaper and accompanied by a pitcher of ice-cold beer!

Today I want to fuss about catfish: not the slimy, cold-blooded kind that lives in the water, but the slimy, cold-blooded kind that lives on the Internet. According to the Urban Dictionary, “A catfish is someone who presents to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.”

As Charles Dickens’ wrote in the opening of his famous novel A Tale of Two Cities, “. . . it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness . . . .” Those words resonate powerfully with all of us these days for a variety of reasons. We want to help others, we want to help ourselves, yet we don’t want to become victims either. A single woman of a certain age has a target on her back – and we women were raised to be generous, empathetic and beloved.

My last two posts have been about the wonderful Modern Widows Club started by Carolyn Moor not too many years ago. There’s a public Facebook page on which paying members of the Club are encouraged to share the positive experiences and support we’ve received — any woman on this page can be identified both by widows sincerely in pain and by individuals with ill intent. Paying members also have access to a private Facebook page on which, presumably, there are only other widows who want a safe environment to express themselves, seek advice and support one another. I have posted on both of these Facebook pages numerous times; as a result, I have probably received over two dozen friend requests from bogus men and a few grammatically-incorrect messages from others.

I am lonely more often than I like to admit.

I miss the physical touch of my husband Rick more than anything. I want to bury my face in a dog’s furry coat, embrace a girlfriend because of her kindness and even receive a bear-hug from a dear male friend. Fortunately catfish can’t do this through social media – they’re relegated to false photographs, plagiarized romantic notes, bizarre explanations for absurd accents and other assorted scamming tools. I’ve seen enough episodes of Dr. Phil to be horrified by the ignorance of desperate women who give love and money to slimy, cold-blooded monsters who do not even exist.

God give me the strength to keep my wits about me!


Modern Widows Club Part II


(This post is the second half of my takeaways from the Modern Widows Club Empowerment Weekend.)

Widow and life coach Jodie Rodenbaugh asked us individually to ponder who we are, what we want and why we are (still) here in this life. Of course I came up with the usual suspects, but the strongest vibration was around writing – and here I am in my first year of blogging! Startling was the absence of a strong desire to date or re-partner. So I want to explore that a bit further for myself, down the road.

A surprising number of widows in attendance had re-partnered with husbands or boyfriends* – yet they still felt a need to be there. Others were many years out from the date of their loss – yet they felt the same need. While widows likely will grieve in some way for the rest of their lives, these women anticipated the weekend’s program would provide information and support.

* Boyfriend is such an awkward label at my age. MWC speaker Dr.Kathleen Rehl has             written an amusing post on this very thing at           for-boyfriends-in-our-60s/ . My favorites were bedfellow and undocumented                       husband!)

A woman who has experienced widowhood is no longer the same person. She has, in most cases, lost a beloved life partner and now has to manage to raise children, earn an acceptable wage, find new activities, etc. She has to transform! In just the first year my changes include a greater variety of physical activities (bicycling, dragon boat racing, yoga and strength training), a radically different hair style, a concerted effort to develop more female friendships and a better appreciation for fine wine!

The reality for women in my age group is that only 8% of us remarry, although there are many more who enter into new relationships for which there are no adequate measures. Widowers marry much more frequently and, as a result, 80% of men die married and 80% of women die single, as reported by Dr. Rehl.

One widow remarried after meeting her new husband on Her adult children were upset and did not like him – but after probing and consideration, this woman realized their upset was more about her not being the same old “Mom” they knew before their father died. I’ve noticed this reaction in my own life. I’m not as predictable as I once was, I’ve taken up new activities and I’ve ignored outdated societal expectations for widows. Some applaud the changes; others are taken aback.

We were also told that 25% of widows in new relationships have significant conflict around financial issues. Retirement and healthcare, asset distributions upon death and sharing expenses are all fraught with emotions, leading to disagreements or at the very least, misunderstandings.

Since I don’t want to be in anyone’s box, all of this makes me even more anxious about dating. I don’t want to be a nurse, a purse or someone’s mother. I want a rich life and that may or may never include a man. This weekend I felt a shift inside myself that made that prospect okay.

As one widow said with sass, “You take me as I am or just keep walking!”


Modern Widows Club Part I


This month I attended the first Modern Widows Club Empowerment Weekend. Close to 150 widows were there. I had a lot of trepidation about attending since I have assiduously avoided being lumped with other widows simply because of our common loss. As the Modern Widows Club (MWC) founder Carolyn Moor said on the first evening, it is brave “to walk into a room of widows and hold yourself in that space.”

There was so much good energy in the room throughout the weekend, and we felt safe sharing our stories with one another. We wore nametags and most of us had a ribbon attached to them with the cause of our spouse’s death: cancer, suicide, heart attack, car accident, etc. Besides asking from where a woman hailed, the next most common question was, “How far out are you?” When I answered that I was thirteen months out, most looked at me with sympathy and told me my grief journey had just begun. The general rule of thumb is not the one year we’ve all heard, but three years of grief-processing. Many of those in attendance had lost their spouses years earlier, or had even re-partnered, yet found called to be there.

I learned so much from these women!

This post covers a few points about self-compassion and self-awareness. Next week’s will have thoughts about dating and re-partnering.

Among the amazing speakers was the director of Compassionate Tampa Bay, Brett Cobb. He spoke to us about having self-compassion – far different than self-pity! Brett said a focus on the past trauma leads to depression; thinking of the future creates anxiety. Building on an earlier session of meditation, he recommended that as we go through the grief journey we simply stop, breathe deeply and, if appropriate, reach out to someone. Widows often are so busy with their to-do lists they don’t give themselves permission to simply be in the moment and replenish their energy.

We all know the power of physical touch, and some of us no longer have it in our lives without our spouses. Brett suggested two ways to nurture ourselves (in a nonsexual way!): 1) place your hands over your heart to warm it and calm you, or 2) rub the back of your neck and leave your hand there, reminiscent of the way you may have been held as a baby.

Widow and wealth manager Joy Kirsch discussed the way widows may approach finances. She noted, “We make decisions differently than our husbands” and that is okay. My husband, a former Chairman and CEO of a bank holding company, approached finances in more detail than I ever will. I researched and selected a wealth management company to help me achieve my financial goals without requiring excessive oversight by me. Both men and women, she believes, tend to make emotional decisions which we then justify afterwards with logic. We often rely too heavily on one piece of information when making decisions, rather than being open to more sources. (Watch this video to see the impact of our singular focus:

A final word from Joy to the MWC widows, “We survived the worst thing we can imagine happening to us. We don’t lack competence; we lack confidence.” Agreed.


Over Dinner . . .


The other weekend I invited two couples for dinner. I always am apprehensive about entertaining; I worry about the menu and my dubious cooking ability. Although I’ve set aside the “good” china acquired long before my marriage to Rick, I pulled out our crystal and my grandfather’s flatware. The table did look lovely, covered with a fresh white tablecloth and my new teal and white dinnerware.

If company is coming, I want my house to be spotless, even in the rooms in which no one will venture (rather like the age-old maternal admonition to wear clean underwear in case one has to go to the hospital). When Rick was healthy and couldn’t find a legitimate excuse for a solo motorcycle ride, he helped me clean house. He was great at cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming, which made the whole effort go so much faster.

When guests arrived for our infrequent dinner parties, they usually expected a drink first. Rick didn’t drink hard liquor, so a red and a white wine were generally the only options. I always asked Rick to get the drinks so that I could focus on the appetizers and dinner – and in twenty years I don’t think he ever, ever did what I asked. He was an extrovert, he loved people and he loved to talk. He’d welcome guests into our home and immediately engage in conversation, drinks forgotten. I’d get them.

After the parties ended, he stepped up his game. Quickly he’d clear the table and then roll up his sleeves to tackle the dirty dishes piled in the kitchen sink. We’d be done with clean-up faster than I could imagine.

Now it’s all on me. I sit at the head of my dining table with my guests seated along the sides; across from me is an empty chair where Rick should be. But it’s OK — I’m with friends, I no longer have to wish Rick had a wife with better culinary skills and I muddle through.  It was a good evening.


Mother Nature


I was half wrong about this hurricane season.  The World Meteorological Association has a six-year cycle for storm names and this year’s fourth and fifth Atlantic storms were named Don and Emily — my parents’ names.  I predicted Don would be an easy-peasy storm, but that Emily would wreak havoc.  Both storms, however, blew through without major intensity.

So I am reaching back in time to a poem I wrote in 2003 about my mother.  I hope you enjoy it.

Old Mountains

An only child grows up a loner, with too much time to think —
to ponder the meaning of this and that or the intent of something else.
The hurts piled on by an angry and disappointed mother
become hills and crags to overcome, and darkness to fear.

My mother died a year ago; she is at rest at last.
Daily I think of her and my struggle against her demands:
expectations of beauty, motherhood and such I could never meet.
The near half-century struggle between two stubborn women.

But time has a way of making it easier
to forget the sharpness of pain taken or given.


Just as new mountains protrude from the earth,
pushing up sharply here and there, destroying sparks of life,
the pointed words of my mother criticizing me —
my looks, my friends, my life choices —
scarred me and caused self doubt and resentment,
leading me to wonder why I was so flawed.

And yet, and yet, I think of the Appalachians.
These once strong, sharp mountains now worn with time,
rounded by years, by mankind, by nature
now give off a benign air and send out an invitation
to ramble up and down old paths, to explore their beauty,
and to give time to reflect on good not bad,
remembering past seasons each with its own disappointments,
inevitably leading into hope for the next.


Grieving over the death of my beloved dog Cheddar
I hiked the A.T. of North Georgia often.
Tromping up steep paths, scuffling feet through leaves,
processing my loss through changing seasons.

Twelve years later what is most dear to me
are memories of great dog-walks and amusing play,
and how it felt to stroke my dog’s ears and belly.
Oh, the remembrances of good times long gone!


So it will be with my mother.
There were good times; sometimes she gave good counsel.
I recall occasions when my heart filled with gratitude
for her understanding and solicitude.

Even while my mother shrank before me,
her body losing its battles, eroding like limestone,
I began to soften my life-long view, and
saw a woman of principle, intelligent and proud.

Good memories push up, joining with the sad.
In just a year I feel my anger erode further away
as I recognize more and more the basis for her desire
to have me be something I never was.

My mother only wanted what was best for me,
albeit according to her world, not mine.