Wednesday, July 6, 2016

North to Alaska

Tongass Island early 1800's
Next week the girls and I will head to Alaska for a very important trip.  This trip will be to spread some of Don's ashes on Tongass Island. Don's wishes were for me and girls to go there when we were ready and tomorrow marks 2 years since Don drifted off into the Universe and I think we are ready. Some may have questioned my waiting as long as I did, and I will just remember when my dying husband was holding my hand and telling me to do this on my own time. He knew that others would not understand, but I was lucky to have a husband that knew I couldn't part with him until I was ready.

On Sunday, July 17, the HOFF girls (Audrey, Erica, Lisa and me), Lisa's husband Scott and Don's brothers Kenny and Ken will board a chartered float plane to Tongass Island. An Island that is not exactly easy to get to! I know that Don is having a great big laugh when I was trying to figure out how to get there! I thought it was a hop, skip and jump to get there ... NOPE, it is a 1.5 hr float plane ride to this uninhabited island.

The reason Don chose Tongass Island is because it is his Tlingit ancestral land. He always felt a connection to it and when we used to talk about running away from reality he always suggested moving to Tongass Island and subsist off the land.  I always laughed at the idea ... ME, subsist off the land. I am city girl! But, now Don will forever be a part of Tongass Island just as his ancestors are. It will be very powerful being on this island. I don't know how we will spread his ashes there, I think some things you can't plan and they just have to happen. But we will have Don's raven drum and will sing a song. I feel so good in my heart that we are doing this. The time is right.

I will include some pictures after we return from Alaska and I am sure will have a powerful story to tell.


Here is some additional information I found on Tongass Island:
In the 1830's, members of the Tlingit nation's Tongass Tribe, or Tantakwaan, moved to Tongass Island from nearby Village and Cat Islands. A permanent village was established at the site of earlier Tlingit encampments.

Three clans inhabited the village: the Ganax.adi (Raven clan); Teikweidi (Eagle, Brown Bear); and Dakla'weldi (Eagle, Killer Whale). Each clan was represented by several house groups. The Ganax.adi had 8 houses, Teikweidi 6 and Dakla'weidi 3 houses. Click here to read more. 

Here is an editorial Don wrote to Sitnews regarding Tongass Island -- click HERE. Boy that man loved to write editorials!
1887 Tongass Island

Thursday, April 7, 2016

640 Days

I have been a widow for approximately 640 days.  Crazy to think of it like that.  For the last 640 days I have longed for my husband. Wished that cancer did not take away the one person that I loved more than life.  During those 640 days I have become a stronger person, I know that dealing with losing the love of my life has prepared me for whatever may come in my future. 

I am ready to start living life again.  I am ready to embrace whatever ma
y come into my life with open arms. I am not going to be afraid, as anything that has come to me has come to me for a reason. Good or bad, I have to find out. I will try to follow my head and just have fun with life. 

So, let’s get this life going again. Let’s embrace love and have a life. I am ready to discover my Second Firsts.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Special Visit

I'm sick.  I have a cold and anyone that really knows me knows that I like to be babied and pampered when I am sick.  Well, when you are a widow, there is no longer a spouse to do the pampering. My stuffy nose was horrible last night and I tossed and turned. Then around 4am I awoke from a wonderful dream .....

In my dream, I was laying down on the couch and Don came over and put a blanket on me and laid down with me. He laid there facing me, rubbing my arm. He didn't say anything. He just laid there looking at me. The dream felt like it went on forever, just the two of us laying on the couch looking at each other. No words were spoken. Just looking into each others eyes. Then ... it ended.

When I woke up, I tried very hard to go back to sleep to hopefully see him again, however, he was gone. But, I felt such a wave of peace when I woke. I smiled and felt like a warm blanket had been wrapped around me. 

I have had dreams about Don since he passed on 7/7/14, but this was the first dream where he VISITED me, not just me dreaming about him. It was amazing. I swear to you he was there with me. I felt him and the longing in my heart for him is so intense today. 

Grief is such a weird thing. Some days I am fine and think that I can go ahead and start attempting to meet someone and then something like this occurs and all I want is my husband back. It just isn't fair.

But, I am not going to focus on the fact that cancer sucks and that life isn't fair, what I am going to focus on is that once again I saw that sweet face of the man I love and I know that he is watching over me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Standing On The Diving Board

Do I dive in again? Test the waters, see what the life of dating is like again? I'm scared. I'm nervous. Actually, I am terrified.

How do I do this? How do you figure out how to meet people and actually date when you haven't dated since you were 22.  I haven't dated anyone since 1995 ... think about that! I don't know how to do this as a 43 year old woman. I don't know the rules anymore. I don't know how you do it.

Really don't want to go to bar and meet someone, church isn't an option. Online dating? Go out with an acquaintance? Blind date? It's so freaking scary! I don't want to worry about psychos and weirdos. But, in order to move forward with my life, I may have to deal with a few weirdos, and I guess that is OK.

It's been 18 months since Don died and I miss him every single day, however, I feel that I may be able to move forward now.  Not move on, because Don will always be a huge part of my life, but I would like to have a social life again. Dinner, drinks, movies, laughter ... those are things I would like again. But, the whole concept is so foreign and unknown to me.

Wish me luck as I hold my nose and jump off the diving board, into the deep end of the pool.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Time Goes By So Fast

August and September slipped right past me with no update!


I have taken lots of weekend trips. Mom, Audrey and I traveled to West Virginia to surprise my Aunt Julia for her birthday. That was great as all the brothers and sisters that were able to travel were there. Always fun when you get my mom with her siblings. Lots of cackling!

For school Fall Break, Audrey and I took off to the Wildernaess in the Smokies hotel. It is a hotel with an indoor water park. It was a blast, however 3 days of waterparks, arcade and junk food may have been to much! I was wore out and ready to go back to work!

Audrey's Fall Break actually included a lot of super fun. We went to the Smokies, once we returned we went to the Banana Split Ball at the Chattanooga Zoo and got to see Jungle Jack Hanna! He told some great stories and Audrey was able to get an autograph. She is going to be just like her Grandpa and love getting autographs!

Our next excitment was Disney On Ice. It was great fun and we scored seats on the floor! Needless to say this little girl is quite spoiled.

I have just come back from a long weekend trip to Kansas City for the International Lineman Rodeo. Don2 competed this year as a Journeyman and I met him, Kimberly and the boys and we had a great time! Asher and Emmett are so much fun. Rowdy little boys that I love spoiling!

So, that's it for now. Life without Don is still strange, but I keep trudging alone!

Love love love.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July is Bittersweet

I haven't been great about keeping this blog updated.  I have thought about it, but it seems to take so much energy to update everyone on just me.  Writing and updating everyone on Don was so easy and enjoyable, but writing about myself ... not so much.

Blue waters of Bimini, Bahamas.
I have been enjoying life. I have definitely been keeping busy! In February I went to Bimini, Bahamas by myself and had a wonderful week at a vegan retreat, Atlantis Rejuvenation Center.  I swam with dolphins, ate wonderful food, enjoyed daily yoga and just relaxed. In April, my niece Kimberly and I flew to Orlando and went to Universal Studios and were nerds and visited the new Harry Potter rides. It was a lot of fun and we loved staying at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel on the Universal Studios grounds. In May, Erica, Audrey and I went camping at the KOA on Don's birthday. We had an fun cooking s'mores, swimming and going to the Wilderness Theater Drive-In. I have taken weekend trips to Nashville to work at another mall, trip to Virginia to visit family, trip to Illinois to visit the Putnams. I have a hard time with staying home. So, traveling has been a great distraction.

But now it is July.  The month I have been unconsciously counting down to. This month marks that on July 7, Don  will have been gone for one year. The first anniversary is bringing up a lot of anxiety as the days get closer. I have survived all of the other firsts and did so by planning on doing something to honor Don on those days. This is actually what I have planned for July 7, 2015. 
Universal Studios, Orlando trip with Kimberly.

When anticipating the emotions of July 7, I knew that it would be emotional and I knew that being at home and going to work on this day was just not feasible. Our little family needed to be somewhere special. So, we are going to Florida.  When we wake up July 7, 2015 - we will be in one of Don's favorite places, Daytona Beach Shores. He loved our summer vacations. We will spread some of his ashes in the Atlantic Ocean, where he loved boogie boarding and we will dine on Alaska King Crab legs and of course drink Coca-Cola and we will laugh, remember and tell stories of the great husband, dad and granddad that Don was.

I am getting emotional just thinking of the next 6 days leading up to the 7th of July. I still miss him so much and wish that life would have been different and that I still had him by my side. Some days it feels like more than one year has passed and some days it feels like it just happened.  My heart still misses him and I still find myself wanting to tell him things that have happened in my day. I miss having that person that you get to tell how your day went. I have learned to live without him, but not sure I will ever learn to live without the love that he gave me.

I am stronger because I have to be.

Love, light and blessings ~

Visiting my cousins in Virginia.
Pit-stop in Metropolis, Illinois.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Trying to Re-Enter the World Again

Reentry Definition

  • The act or action of reentering.
  • The return of a missile or spacecraft into the atmosphere. 
  • The act of rejoining as a participant or member. 

I don't have but one regret from the many years Don and I were together. My regret is that I didn't maintain friendships.  For so many years (before and after Cancer diagnosis) it was just Don and I. We didn't go out with friends. We had acquaintances and friends we would see at native socials, but no close friendships.  Don was only home on the weekends and I just wanted to be with him since we were not together during the week.

So, I neglected those friendships for years and I regret that.  I am in the Reentry phase of widow life. I am trying to reenter a world I haven't been a part of.  I am trying to find friends to do things with and become social again. It is hard.

I am 42 and all of my old friends are either married or have little kids.  I have neither, so I am an outcast. I can't do the double-date thing with them and their spouse and I can't really do the kid thing either. I do have Audrey, so the kid thing might be feasible. But, I don't know where I fit in anymore in this world of adult friendships.

Reentry is hard. I am getting to a point where I am lonely for friendship.  I am not interested in dating, I just want to find some people to hang out with. I want to laugh again and have a life outside of work and home.

I want to once again reenter a world where I am rejoining as a participant or member.

It is a new feeling, being an adult and trying to establish old friendships and having the courage to forge ahead with new friendships.

Sigh .... never thought that the simple word reentry would be so important to me. Hold so much meaning and be the once thing that I need most in my life. I want to reenter life again and find the joy in little things with adults that I have something in common with.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~ Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wedding Ring Etiquette for the Modern Widow

Did you know that there is an etiquette to your wedding ring when you become a widow?  I never really thought much about it.  I never asked my Mom when she would remove her ring or move it to the right hand after my Dad crossed over. The thought never crossed my mind.  But apparently it is big news and its meaning has more than I truly understood.

It has been 254 days since Don has passed. Yes, I keep a weekly count of how many days in my organizer. I don't physically count the days on a daily basis, but I do have a week-by-week account of how many days it has been. I want to know without doing much thinking. I look at my organizer every now and then and am in amazement that many days has passed.

So, after a wonderful retreat to Bimini Bahamas (next post I will share my trip news and photos), I decided that it felt right to move my wedding band to my right hand. There was nothing symbolic of the gesture, there was really no thought behind it. I had taken off all my jewelry while in the Bahamas when we went to the Mangroves so they would not get damaged. At the end of the week when I put my ring on, I thought I would see if it fit on my right hand. And it did, so I left it there. I didn't think anymore about it until it was brought up to me that it was shocking that I have "moved on". Really?! Just the simple act of moving my ring means that I have moved on? For me, moving on would be putting it into my jewelry box or actually dating. To those that truly know me, they know that I have not "moved on" and it will be sometime before I do move on. I don't have a time frame, when the time feels right I will move on and I feel sad for the person that brought this up, as they truly don't me.

So, #BreakingNews, I have moved my wedding band encrusted with diamonds that holds so many precious memories to my right hand and it doesn't mean a damn thing!

I still feel for the ring that used to be on my left hand, it has only been a few weeks since it moved. The indention of wearing it for 19 years is still there. The man that gave it to me is still in my heart and I miss him every day.

Thanks to those of you that know me, for allowing me to do this without questioning me. Without making me feel like I did something wrong.

Being a widow sucks when you are questioned on things you do.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Filled with Anxiety

Summer of 1995
I am filled with anxiety that I can't seem to shake whenever I think about spreading Don's ashes in Alaska.  I know that I will do it, but when I start to think about the plans and carrying it all out, I literally start to shake.

I have little anxiety issues from time-to-time and had them big time as a kid, so this is nothing new. However, having anxiety about honoring his last wish is stressful.  The islands that Don wants to be partially scattered on are not islands that are easy to get to, so that in itself is stressful just thinking of getting me and the girls there. Also, the thought of touching my feet onto Ketchikan's earth without Don holding my hand is a devastating feeling. I just don't feel mentally strong enough to go there. And knowing that I don't have the strength right now to go to Ketchikan makes me anxious. I feel like a failure, like I am failing Don.

I have talked to both Lisa and Erica and told them my feelings. They are 100% supportive in whatever I choose, but I keep going back and forth with what I want to do. I just don't want anyone to think that I am not following through with Don's wishes. I don't want to be judged and talked about for not doing it "in a timely manner".  I wish I didn't worry about what people think, but as a life-long people pleaser, it is something that I just deal with.

So, you can see why I am filled with anxiety.

Do I go to Ketchikan, even though every cell in my body is filled with fear of being there without Don, or do I wait and go when it feels right to me?  Do I go to Ketchikan and just get it over with or do I wait until I feel like it is the right time?  Why does it feel like I am being judged by certain family in Alaska for not bringing Don home? I am so torn. I hate being filled with this incredible amount of anxiety.

I know what I need to do, but it just isn't something that I want to do right now.  I will honor Don's wishes one day. But I don't feel like planning a memorial in Ketchikan is something that I am able to do. I am not mentally strong enough to handle all of the memories that will come with going to the town where I met and feel in love with Don. At least I am not ready right now. It has been 7 months since he passed, but it feels like it was just yesterday to my heart.

I still miss him immensely and yesterday was a good cry in the shower kind of day.

So, please don't judge me for not planning anything in Ketchikan at this time. I am always acting so strong, but I am not and I just can't handle the thought of going to Ketchikan at this time. I promise that I have every bit intention of honoring Don's wishes, but it will have to be on when I feel strong enough to do it. I am sorry if this offends anyone, but I have to worry about myself and I know what I am able to handle and what I am not able to handle at this time.

I am going on a Healing Retreat in a few weeks, just me alone. I am going to hopefully help myself heal by fully processing the tremendous loss. I need to do this by spending some time alone with my thoughts. Writing them out and feeling them without worrying about anyone else. I will be at the Atlantis Rejuvenation Center in Bimini, Bahamas for one week. This is a small place that will help me focus on me and my thoughts and feelings. I have never done something like this before, but it feels like a trip I need to take. I need to fully deal with his death. I need to get back to myself and figure out who I am without Don. I don't know who I am anymore and I hate this lost feeling.

Please understand my thoughts and feelings without judging me.  I am trying the best I can.

Blessings ~ Susan