I don’t have anything new I choose about which to write this week.  Last weekend was my wedding anniversary, and while there were tears, they were perhaps less intense and frequent than in 2016.

So I have reached back to a poem I wrote in February 2001 — long before I had any inkling my mother, mother-in-law, father and Rick would pass within just fifteen years.

Generational Transitions

We stand at the edge and we don’t understand.
We don’t seem to grasp the situation.
My mother’s dying; his mother’s failing;
Decisions, closure, but time’s sailing
too fast for those in our generation
who have aging parents and new demands.

To lose the generation ahead causes pain.
We’ve taken for granted they’d be there always,
and valued their roles in our lives.
To lose them hurts our hearts like knives.
But now our lives move to a new phase
where our parents don’t wax but wane.

We now become the elders of our world.
Whether we’re ready or not, it’s our turn
to face the inevitable future,
wondering who’ll provide our nurture.
Do you think we’ll ever learn
to age with grace in acceptance of the world?

So we gird up for the effort we now face,
to love and support our parents, you see.
I don’t want to be old; I don’t want to die!
Is there a way that this process I can defy?
Are those the words of my mother or me?
On to death; all are in the same race.


Sands of Time


For the last few days, I was at a Gulf-side beach hotel. I’ve loved the feel of sand between my toes and the sound of waves coming into shore for as long as I can remember. My parents took me to Jones Beach and Cape Cod every year. As soon as I was old enough, my parents watched from their beach towels while I bobbed and body-surfed in the ocean. Sometimes I made a friend for the day, but oftentimes I was by myself in the water. In my 30’s I explored Georgia’s Golden Isles on my own. So staying at the beach by myself doesn’t seem odd — and at the old and elegant hotel, no one cared about my past, just that I was a current guest.

The first morning I took a nice long walk along the beach, leaving imprints of my bare feet behind in the wet sand. I didn’t intend to collect shells, but after passing others with their heads down, shell-filled bags in hand, I began to gaze downward as well. I came back to my room, triumphant with three small conch-shaped shells cupped in my hand, just a bit worn around the edges – like their collector!

There aren’t a lot of memories of beaches with Rick. He was careful about getting too much sun and he didn’t see much point in just lying on the beach. The years we rode to Daytona Bike Week, however, he reserved an ocean-view room so I happily could stroll the beach, splash in the water and dig my toes in the sand. Give Rick a mountain-view room out West instead, and he was as happy as a clam. (The full mid-19th century phrase, for those who care, was “as happy as a clam at high water” according to; I just couldn’t resist extending the beach references.)

In a few days will be our wedding anniversary. During the last week of his life, Rick reminded me that our premarital counselor told him, “If you get five good years with Mary, it will have been worth it.” With a smile he said we had had twenty good years. Yet I wanted twenty-one, twenty-two and many more years of marriage to Rick – who knew the sand would pour through the hourglass so fast?

Just another Statistic


This past weekend I was in a historical museum in a little town nearby, doing research for another writing project. While making my way to the main exhibition area, I was drawn to a small display of black crepe clothing – widow’s weeds, to be exact. The case description enumerated society’s expectations for widows during the Victorian period. (I don’t know why we Americans felt obligated to adopt Queen Victoria’s practices upon the death of her husband, but we did.)

The display listed three consecutive types of mourning garb: 1) a black dress with full crepe for twelve months plus one day following the death of a husband, 2) some black crepe over a black dress for nine more months, followed by just a black dress for three months, and 3) subdued color dresses for the remaining mourning period of six months. So for two and half years a widow’s clothing revealed the change in her marital status – and even after that, she was expected to never wear bright colors again.

The above rules, by necessity, could only have applied to women who had the means to afford the proper dress and to adorn their homes with even more black crepe as directed by societal norms.

I wore a black dress and jacket to my husband’s memorial service, and others in the immediate family tended to wear black as well. Beforehand I tried jackets with white or another neutral color, and they just didn’t seem right. I felt I was representing Rick by my choices and that I needed to be traditional and respectful. (Does the choice of all black label me somewhat of a Victorian, too?) In the first months of widowhood, I found myself drawn to black and white clothing, feeling as if I wore something bright it would suggest I wasn’t properly grieving the loss of my beloved. Over time I became more confident that my clothing choices were not an outward representation of my internal feelings, and now I wear whatever I choose.

The 2000 U.S. Census indicated half of women over 65 are widowed, and 70% of them live alone. I haven’t reached that age, but those figures just amaze me. Where are they? We all know some widows, of course – but when I look across my mostly senior community, I don’t perceive that a third of the homes are inhabited by widows. We widows seem to just disappear from the scene, which seems populated more with intact couples. As a married woman I met recently said to me, “You’re widowed; get over it” – with the implication that the rest of my life was now constrained because I no longer had a husband.

Clumps of widowed, divorced and single women are seen, but that is not yet for me. I go to the movies alone and dine in restaurants by myself. I take trips, even overseas, without a traveling partner. (I socialize with women, too, but just a few women at a time.) Despite the aforementioned woman’s mean-spirited or simply ignorant comment, my life is not constrained — just different. My current endeavors, while they may be a bit uncommon within my immediate community, bring me confidence and pleasure.

Sunday = Solitude


My great-aunt Alice never married, and only one of her two siblings had a child – my father. So my father was spoiled by his mother’s side of the family and had the opportunity to visit his aunt Alice at her Bronx apartment numerous times. He recalled that she hummed to herself, which he thought was odd.

I wonder what Dad would think of my asking Amazon’s Alexa to play Bruno Mars and dancing through the house. I haven’t started humming, but there have been occasional self-directed comments  Every night I still pat Rick’s pillow and tell him, “I love you.” Are my behaviors peculiar as well?

Usually the Monday through Friday workweek is chockfull of appointments, exercise and social outings. Even Saturdays I either bicycle or dragon boat paddle — and now that Rick’s beloved Florida Gators have begun their football season there’s games to be watched!

When Sunday finally rolls around, it frequently is a quiet day of solitude. I often don’t talk to anyone the entire day, although there’s the usual typed communications on social media. I may sleep a bit later, do laundry, read the paper and putter around the house. I now have three writing gigs (including this blog) so it is also a nice time to put my fingers to the keyboard.

Yet I feel trapped by the busyness of my new life — and I’m the one who created this craziness! It is time for a reset. I need to determine what activities I want to keep, what ought to go and what else I might add.  A few solitary Sundays should bring clarity.



Well, I’ve now been “blooded” by a hurricane – I guess that makes me a real Floridian now. I, along with many others, became more frenzied by the day as the weathermen and women made their predictions and hyped the destruction inevitably headed our way. Since Rick died, I haven’t been watching much TV, even the news, but I found myself glued to The Weather Channel and a Tampa station hour after hour.

I keep this prayer from the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer taped to my computer screen, and I read it each day as Irma approached:

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth,
But make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.
If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.
If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.
If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.
And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.
Make these words more than words,
And give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

This prayer brought me comfort when Rick was still with me, too.

I make lists. For years I drove Rick crazy with my endless to-do lists and now I have one for hurricanes. What to pack, what to store safely within the house, what to have loaded in the car for evacuations – it’s all typed up in excruciating detail. I had a full gas tank, food and water; however, I did not anticipate guests. Friends of mine live on the Gulf coast and faced mandatory evacuation, so they came to my house for a night. Fortunately I had a big container of frozen homemade soup I could defrost – so that’s a lesson for me to have more food on hand for the next hurricane. I have quite a few bottles of wine, too, but it didn’t seem wise to imbibe while the winds howled.

News flash: I have fallen in love with Bob – waterBOB to be exact. One of my friends recommended these tub liner bags as a way to not only store up water, but potable water. I ordered a couple from before Irma began to affect deliveries. A Florida lady can’t have too many BOBs in her life!

As I write this post, it seems so poignant that today is September 11. Just sixteen years ago we watched in horror as the World Trade Center towers fell, the Pentagon was attacked and a plane was brought down in Shanksville, counting our blessings that we and our family were safe. Today I am safe, my house held up well in the storm and the power remained on, but I cannot reach some of my other Florida friends and I know their day(s) are not as pleasant.

This is another day, O Lord.



I have been wracking my brain to come up with something positive and upbeat for this week’s post, but I’m just not feeling it.

Several people in my life have lost loved ones this past week – everyone from a father, nephew, husbands and daughter. It hurts them to have to let go of someone they’ve loved for decades and didn’t want to lose – as if anyone is ever ready. It hurts me to know they’re in pain. I sit here at my computer, wondering about their upcoming journeys and the resilience each will need to bring order to his or her disrupted life and build a new existence. There are family and friends who can advise on the house, the paperwork and the innumerable chores related to death. There’s no one, no one, who can prescribe what has to happen emotionally, or how the survivor fills his or her time.

I have written before about family and friends who unexpectedly and generously cared for me after Rick passed away. New friends emerged as well.  Some couples seemed to drop me from their social circles, relegating me to women-only events.  Other couples reached out to schedule time with me – providing stimulating conversation, mirth and warm connections. Girlfriends have enticed me to attend events that I would have skipped, giving us time to laugh, share confidences and even dance.  In speaking with other widows I understand these relationship changes are common.

There’s a cycle to life and there’s often a cycle to friendships. As I have rebuilt my life, expanding my activities and developing my writing skills, I recognize that I am a different woman from a year ago.  Transforming my life means some friendships just end, or at very least, diminish.  That happened this past week, and it hurts – a lot. While I intellectually understand why these things happen, the little girl in me weeps.

As time goes by, I find my upward emotional trajectories usually exceed my downward spirals. Just over a week ago I was with family, feeling cherished and on a high.  This past week, however, I’ve swung lower than expected.  Stasis will return.

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.