O Captain! My Captain!

For the Poetry Writing Challenge I’ve been participating in, which consists of 30 Poems in 30 Days — it is day 27, and the challenge is to take part in a Poem in Your Pocket Day, and for the challenge, we were invited to read, write, or share poetry that is meaningful to us. For me, one of the most meaningful poems, one that has deeply affected me, is Walt Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain!

pirate ship

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head;

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;

From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

But I, with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

I first encountered it when I was in high school, and being an avid fan of Civil War era history, I thought it was a splendid tribute to Abraham Lincoln. Later on, it was a pivotal piece of the plot in Dead Poets Society and affected me deeply the first time I saw a stage production based on the movie.  

The second time I saw a stage version, my son was playing Neil Parry, and my husband, Kelly, was playing his overbearing father. It was an amazing experience to watch the two of them on stage together, there was a realness to their dialogue, fueled in part by elements of their real personal relationship — my teenage son navigating the journey to adulthood,  and his father who didn’t always understand.

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Walking in the Rain

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The other day, at a second-hand store, I bought a book of poetry featuring four poets for The Book Nook Inn. Three of the poets I was already familiar with —Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost—but the fourth, Langston Hughes, I was not. As I skimmed through the book of poems both familiar and new,  one poem, in particular, caught my eye. The words evoked memories of me walking in the rain, Stormy, my German shepherd at my side, the gentle pitter-patter of raindrops falling on my upturned face, the wet-hair smell of my hair transforming into bedraggled curls, resting, damply against my neck as I walked, breathing in the damp smell of earthiness reawakened mixed with wet pavement.   Drops of rain glittering amongst the apple blossoms of my favorite reading tree, dripping on my head as I walk beneath.  Or watching a multitude of drops dancing across the smooth surface of an irrigation ditch, silvery in the stormlit afternoon. Oh! how I love walking in the rain an invitation to my senses to see the world born anew.  So then the poem that sparked this bit of musing.

In Time of Silver Rain

            by Langston Hughes

In time of silver rain
The earth puts forth new life again,
Green grasses grow
And flowers lift their heads,
And over all the plain
The wonder spreads

Of Life,
Of Life,
Of life!

In time of silver rain
The butterflies lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry,
And trees put forth new leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky
As down the roadway
Passing boys and girls
Go singing, too,

In time of silver rain When spring
And life
Are new.

Body Butter Sheets and Sweet Dreams

Blog TBNI

I blame my daughter. It’s because of her that I’ve become a sheet snob — which is actually good news for my guests, the ones who come stay at The Book Nook Inn, because I did a lot of research and spent a lot of time finding sheets for my guest rooms that pass the sheet-snob test. (It’s a simple test, really, would I sleep on these sheets?)

Prior to visiting my daughter and sleeping between the sheets she provided, I hadn’t thought much about sheets. They were on the bed in the evening, and by morning the top sheet was either a) tangled around my legs, b) pulled over my head, or c) limply wadded up at the foot of the bed. Luckily the bottom fitted sheet did not share the same fate. However, my daughter, who became a sheet snob at some point after she left my home at age eighteen, proved the wisdom of splurging for the pricier sheets.  They are so much better.  Sliding between the body-buttery softness of an Egyptian-Pima cotton blend sateen, 400 plus thread count sheet cannot be understated. It is sheer bliss. It is even better than feeling the smooth crispness of percale, cotton sheets under your cheek on a sticky summer night, or the warmth of flannel coziness on a cold winter night.

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Daffodils

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I’ve always loved the imagery of this poem by Wordsworth, the imagery speaks to my heart. For years I thought it was titled Daffodils, but it’s not; its title, I Wandered as Lonely as a Cloud, is taken from the first line, a common practice for poetry and songs from that time period. I love the image of daffodils dancing as clouds roll by. I love to watch the clouds. When I was a girl and had the leisure time, I used to spend hours outside reading, lost in faraway places having amazing adventures via the pages of my book, but every now and then I would pause, coming back to awareness of a summer day, the smell of warm grass, the wind fluttering through the leaves of the trees, and looking up at fluffy, white clouds in a blue, blue sky. I would let my imagination take flight, fancying this and that pictured in the clouds, whether a fairy, a fox, a dragon, or a castle, I loved finding pictures in the clouds. Oh, what I would give to have time to enjoy a spring or summer day, outside on a magical afternoon watching the clouds in the sky and losing myself in the pages of a book!  I wrote a poem about those days, so perhaps I’ll share it, (it’s called Sun Drenched) as well as the one by Wordsworth — though mine is much simpler, indeed. 

            Sun Drenched

On a sun-drenched afternoon

I hear the distant hum of bees.

Fresh-scented clover cushions my back,

As I gaze at wind-swept trees.

Branches drifting to and fro,

From lofty heights they wave;

As I watch and dream below,

On a sun-drenched day.

I  Wandered as Lonely as a Cloud*

by

William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a Cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and Hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden Daffodils;

Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced;  but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:-

A Poet could not but be gay

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude,

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the Daffodils.

*Text from Wikipedia

Project Update #16 —The Three Musketeers Room Completed!

Life has been crazy busy, and even though I’ve needed to update my progress on The Book Nook Inn, it simply hasn’t happened. But today is the day. The biggest news is that The Three Musketeers Room is complete! This makes me very happy (which is an understatement, to say the least).

When last we spoke, the room needed a new ceiling, some electrical work, and suitable bedding. I have to admit, the biggest job, the ceiling was in a word, intimidating. I wanted it to look good and based on my past experience in doing taping and texturing, my results were functional, but not necessarily pretty.  In theory it’s a fairly easy process — tape, texture, paint. But watching You Tube videos and actually doing it are definitely two different things. I know this from personal experience gained during a plumbing project.. So, I did the next best thing, I called my brother, David, who has a lot of house building and remodeling, to ask him the best way to go about it. His answer, “Hire a professional.”  Which was great advice, except for the fact that my budget for doing this project was zilch. I had the materials to do it on hand, but that was it. I had to laugh though at his comment, and agreed, adding, something to the effect that it would be great to do that, had I the funds. Then he said, find someone to do it, and I will pay for it. (Bless him! Bless him!)

Capture

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It’s a Classic

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With the Oscars just having occurred, I thought I’d share my “best” movie choices; many of them won Oscars.  They are on my list because I like them. My criteria is essentially, have I watched the movie more than once? Do I love it every time I see it? If it came back to the big screen would I pay money to go see it. If the answer to these questions is yes, then it made my Oscar list.  Enjoy!

Classic Movies 

Comedies

Oscar

What happens when a crime boss, Angelo “Snaps” Provolone, makes his dying father a promise that he will become respectable? Mayhem ensues as “Snaps” puts his efforts into changing his life with the help of his loyal henchman and the hinderance of crying daughters. Throw in a stammering informant, an elocution coach, and police detectives, and you have the recipe for a delightful farce.

McClintock!

A western comedy classic, McClintock! will leave you laughing out loud. Watch the sparks fly as Mclintock (John Wayne) and his estranged wife, (Maureen O’Hara) engage in a battle of wills, only coming to a temporary, short-lived truce for their daughter’s homecoming. Throw in the conflict between the settlers, the Indians, and the town folk, and you have a recipe for mischief.

Some Like It Hot

When two male musicians witness a mob hit, they take refuge disguised as members of an all-female band; and then the fun really begins. Starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis, this movie won Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Director (Billy Wilder).

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family.

Romantic Movies – Dramas and Comedies

Roman Holiday (1953)

Starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, this story of an overwhelmed, bored and sheltered princess who escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome is a wonderfully funny, romantic tale.

Houseboat (1958)

Cary Grant stars as a government attorney who can’t seem to shake his bad fortune. Living on a houseboat, widowed and left with three unruly kids, he hires Sophia Loren as a governess; and the sparks fly in this cheeky, urbane comedy.

Father Goose (1964)

Cary Grant stars in one of his funniest roles as a boozy beachcomber sitting out WWII in peace until the Allies recruit him to be a lookout on the South Pacific isle. During an enemy attack, he answers a distress call and discovers a beautiful French schoolmarm (Leslie Caron) and her seven girl students. And so begins a hilarious battle of the sexes between the messy American, the prim mademoiselle, and seven mischievous little girls. Who will win is anybody’s guess, but you can be sure that Father Goose delivers plenty of romantic fun and adventure along the way.

Teacher’s Pet (1958)

Movie legends Clark Gable and Doris Day headline a comedy with class! Gable plays Jim Gannon, a school-of-hard-knocks newspaperman who despises journalism schools. . .  until he sees who’s doing the teaching. Attracted to the lovely professor Erica Stone (Doris Day), he masquerades as a novice in her class. Soon he’s her prize pupil, all the while trying to make her his own prize. Who will come out on top?

It Happened One Night (1934)

A spoiled heiress running away from her family is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story. The rest, as they say, is history. It Happened One Night won the first Oscar grand slam, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress. It won the first Oscars Columbia Pictures ever got and lifted it right into the ranks of the major studios. And it set the standard for screwball comedy.

Send Me No Flowers (1964)

A hypochondriac believes he is dying, and makes plans for his wife which she discovers and misunderstands. Stars Rock Hudson, Doris Day, and Tony Randall

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

If you liked You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, you will love this one too! Because You’ve Got Mail was based on this movie about two lonely coworkers who don’t realize that they’re actually each other’s beloved penpal.

Dramas

The Quiet Man (1952)

Newer Movies

Comedies

What About Bob? (1991)

A successful psychotherapist loses his mind after one of his most dependent patients, an obsessive-compulsive neurotic, tracks him down during his family vacation.

Bill Murray drives his psychiatrist, Richard Dreyfuss, crazy on his summer vacation.

The Dream Team 1989

Four mental patients on a field trip in New York must save their caring chaperon, who ends up being taken to a hospital in a coma after accidentally witnessing a murder, before the killers can find him and finish the job.

Romantic

The Princess Bride

When the lovely Buttercup is kidnapped by a ghastly gang intent on fermenting an international incident they find they are pursued by the Dread Pirate Roberts who just might be Westley, her one true love. Also after everyone is nasty Prince Humperdinck to whom Buttercup is now betrothed but who seems to care little for her continued survival. The stage is set for swordfights, monsters, and tortures – but will Grandpa be allowed to finish telling the story with all these kissy bits? (IMDb review)

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?

Kate & Leopold (2001)

An English Duke from 1876 is inadvertently dragged to modern day New York where he falls for a plucky advertising executive.

Kate’s ex-boyfriend, Stuart, lives above her apartment. When Stuart goes through a gap in time and brings back a 19th century gentleman, Leopold; the old world meets new in a charming story, of being in the right place at the wrong time.

Somewhere in Time

Even more transcendental is 1980’s “Somewhere in Time,” a time-travel fantasy where playwright Christopher Reeve recognizes his soul-mate, an actress played by Jane Seymour — except she’s long dead.

His journey into the past is heart-stirring and heartbreaking. It has one of the most romantic first kisses ever. And, okay, it’s kinda drippy. Just go with it.

Enchanted

Disney brings postmodernism to the traditional fairy tale by displacing Amy Adams’ pure-hearted princess into the stark reality of contemporary New York. Fish out of water funnies ensue

Drama

Dead Poets Society

Prep school and uniforms and autumnal scenery in Delaware. This inspiring movie is a classic way to connect with the majestic surroundings of fall. Honing in on an unconventional teacher that helps his class connect with what they’re learning outside of their textbooks. Robin Williams gives an outstanding lesson in bringing what we learn to life. And with his recent passing, this is a great way to look back on his emotionally moving career.

 

 

 

Matchmake, Matchmaker. . .

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I recently shared an essay about my early social outings as a new widow. I’ve recently been thinking about perhaps dating. Which is a scary thing to consider. I mean, things have changed a lot since I was dating. I’ve changed a lot – emotionally, physically, umm in just about every way.  Yet, there remains some of the younger me there. One of the things that attracted Kelly to me was that I was such a flirt (and I thought that he was rather a stuffed shirt) and thus we proved that opposites do attract.

The thing is though. I have no idea about how to go about dating in today’s world.  I mean, do you just say, hey world, I’m ready to date now. My kids are raised, I own my home, I have a job. I’m ready to find someone to spend the rest of my life with. Oh, yeah, I also started a diet, because I realize I’m not the same size I was when I was nineteen, and I know my chances of someone asking me out would probably increase significantly, if I can decrease significantly.  

But today, I’m feeling like I should just give up on the whole idea, and I can tell God that if he wants someone in my life, then he’ll have to plop him on my doorstep. What brought me to this frame of mind you ask? Well tonight I received a chat message from someone wanting to join a widow/widower site that I’m an admin for – we ask for verification of being widowed before adding people to the group to protect members from would be predators. The message I received just makes me want to just give up on the idea of dating.  To whit:

ME: I see your request to join  _________ Widows & Widowers Facebook page, a support group made up of widowed members. . . . I’m sorry for the loss that brings you to this group.

We have many requests to join the group and a large percentage are from those who are not widowed. In order to protect the integrity and purpose of the group in addition to keeping it safe, we have a vetting process and ask for verification that your spouse has passed away. If you can send a link to an obituary or as a member of the group who knows you to vouch for you, that will do. Thanks for understanding our need to verify.  

HIM: Amen

I hope you are doing well

Are you busy?

ME: It’s after midnight here. I was just going to bed.

HIM: Are you still  widowed till now?

ME: Yes.

HIM: I’m too

Past 20 years ago

Well I will like to tell you that am a sensitive to woman, am honest, kind, caring, and truthful.. I seek for a true and serious relationship that will last forever.. You are so good in your words…I don’t play games

ME: Well good for you. You asked to join a support group. It is not a dating site, and we do require verification of being widowed.  So if you can share a link to your spouse’s obituary, we will consider adding you to our group.  Unfortunately there are those who prey on and try to scam widows, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want that to happen.  So send me a link. Thanks.

HIM: Not that try to understand me

My wiFe was lost

That’s why I joined the widowed group maybe I can find my choice

Are you getting me?

Seems you are a widow like me

That means we are compatible

ME: And you are playing a game. Sorry dude. Get a life and quit preying on the bereaved.

And then I blocked him, denied his request to join the group, and warned others not to accept friend requests from him. The same kind of thing happened years ago when I went to an online dating site, same type of messages. Ten years later, same scam. I’ve gotten very good at seeing them quickly. Once I went along with it. Messaging back and forth, simply to see how long it would take before I was asked for money. Three days.  Once upon a time I used to correct their grammar and sent back their message. None of them wanted to talk to me again after that.  Guess I lost out on that Saudi Prince. 

So my question remains. If I am interested in dating, how do I go about it? Without attracting the would be scammers? Enquiring minds want to know.  But, you know, he’s a widower. I’m a widow, therefore we are compatible. Yeah, right. But to leave this on a positive note. I have many widowed friends who have found love again — wonderful men and women who have found each other, and I am truly happy for them. Maybe matchmaking should be a thing again – but then we remember this song

However, I will continue to hope. Because, I am a hopeless romantic and I believe in love — and good grammar.

Going Out on a Limb: Into the Breach, My First Social Forays

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This is an essay I wrote a few years after being widowed about my social experiences. Since that time I’ve been content with socializing with family, friends, and my fellow widows and widowers.  However, as my children are all now launched, I’ve recently been giving some thought to whether or not to date. It’s something I think I want to do, but I really don’t know how to go about it. I mean it’s been a lot of years since I was the biggest flirt ever at college and dating a lot of different guys. Things have certainly changed in the dating world since then. When I was young, a woman certainly didn’t call a man or do the asking out. (I think that has changed?) A conversation about dating came up recently, and it brought to mind this essay. So I decided to share it, and also ask for advice about how to go about dating after so many years. So please feel free to comment with helpful advice.

Going Out on a Limb: Into the Breach, My First Social Forays

During the first year that I was a widow, I felt rather like a hermit.  I was content to remain in my dank, dark cave, and I was irritated at most intrusions. I didn’t feel like doing much socially even though family members and a few close friends encouraged me to get out.  Occasionally, I left the confines of my self-imposed solitude to go out and socialize, but even then, my heart wasn’t in it.  I recall thinking the mourning period and the convention of limited social activity that was typical in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries may not have been such a bad idea. While I wouldn’t want to be restricted to wearing black, black, black, for “a year and a day,” I can see that limited social activity could be a huge relief. During the first six months of my widowhood I certainly wasn’t in a frame of mind to be any sort of social butterfly, except perhaps a bruised and battered one.

My first foray into social life came via the Internet.  I found a website for widows and widowers with an announcement for a get-together. I thought it would be nice to go to a support group and talk with others who might actually “get” what it’s like to be a widow. I was extremely nervous when I arrived, and it took me a little while to will myself to knock on the door. Eventually I did, and was invited in by a gracious middle-aged, slightly distracted host. There were quite a few people there already, eating and chatting, and it was apparent that many of them were already acquainted. I was waiting for a moderator-type person to begin the support group meeting, when one of the ladies announced they would be starting a speed-dating game soon. My mind flashed, Warning! Warning! And that’s when I realized I was at a party, not a support group. Amidst my rising panic, my first instinct was to flee — I was not ready for socializing, yet everyone had been so nice to me for the short time I had been there I didn’t want to be rude by leaving abruptly. Pulling myself together, I put on a brave face, and stayed. During the speed dating game, I saw several sets of eyes go wide when I said I’d been a widow for only five months, confirming that I was a babe in the widow woods. After this misadventure, I think I would have welcomed a crepe mourning veil, circa 1820. As it was, I retreated socially for several months sans the veil.

My next venture into social life was to try out a fireside. A fireside, which in my experience has never actually been held at the side of a fire, is a social/spiritual event sponsored by my church* where a group of people, in this case a group of single adults —widowed, divorced, never married, over the age of thirty (and up to at least ninety, I swear) get together to listen to inspirational music and a speaker, and then partake of refreshments. My thinking was that a fireside would be safe. I could go, listen to the speaker, and then bail if I wanted to. I found the information online about where and when the next one would be held. Stephen Covey, a popular author, was the scheduled speaker. That convinced me it just might be worth attending. I show up to a crowded chapel, the handy-dandy-official-smiley-greeters shook my hand and gave me a card printed with Single Adult Activity Information — all the phone numbers and websites, for me to be integrated into the wonderful world of Single Adults — which was fine, except I still felt very married.

The fireside was great; Covey an inspirational and motivational speaker. Because I was on a roll, having enjoyed the music and the speaker, I decided to brave the post-speaker socializing, and at least check out the refreshments —vegetable platters with ranch dip, cookies, and of course the inevitable fireside staple, punch. So far, so good.  I ate a few sprigs of broccoli and cauliflower, opted for water instead of the punch (because I am notorious for spilling on myself), struggled to juggle my cup, my plate, and leave a hand free for shaking, – then gave up, disposed of plate and cup and drifted to stand near a wall to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes, people watching. While I was engaged in watching the maneuvering of a man in a western-cut suit and bolero tie tentatively edging towards a lady in flower-printed skirt and peasant blouse, I was interrupted when this guy randomly walks up to me, beginning a conversation saying, “The power of your stare brought me to your side.”  I mumbled a noncommittal reply, thinking, pleeeeese! How lame is that? The power of my stare! Then I hastily excused myself, turned on my heel, and headed straight for the doors searching my sweater pocket for my car keys. Yes, I bailed.

Not being a quitter, or perhaps just being a glutton for punishment, I later tried another round of social mingling. This time, I tried out a Super Single Saturday event. Different areas take turns hosting these monthly events, each with a particular theme. I went to one that had a luau theme, complete with imported dancers for entertainment, and another with a let’s see how many break-the-ice- get-to-know-you-games-we-can-play-in-an-hour theme.  Unfortunately, the games were pretty lame, one in particular. We were sent to a room where pictures of various animals were taped to the walls. Our instructions were to “choose an animal and stand by the picture,” simple enough. I stood by the picture of an eagle because a cute guy in a polo shirt was there, and I hoped to start a conversation with him. And then they explained the rest of the activity, which was to “tell why you chose that animal.”  Well, it would have been flattering, but I decided against giving my real reason for standing by the picture of the eagle and went with something about eagles having no boundaries. It sounded good at the time. I tried one more Super Saturday but gave up when the same people were there playing the exact same games. It was back to firesides for me. At least at those there was a chance of some spiritual enrichment.

After one particular fireside, during the meet and greet (or maybe it should be meat and greet?), I was trying to get past a couple of guys so I could talk to a lady I met at a singles Super Saturday event, and a bottleneck developed.  So middle-aged balding guy says, “shall we dance?” in a lighthearted attempt to clear a path. Being polite,  I pause to chat with him, and he handed me one of the Single’s Hotline Cards, and on the bottom, scrawled in ink, was his number –Icky, tacky, yuck! The conversation turned to the fact that I am widowed, and the next thing he asked was, “So are you sealed to your husband?” I thought, what a strange thing to ask, but answered, “Yes, I am.” And moments later, he excused himself and I continued on my way. Later, I came across other men who asked the same time-saving “are you sealed*” question. I guess they want to cut to the chase and only date women who are available to be their eternal companion – and I’m already taken.

Talking to men at these social gatherings was an education (and to be fair, I’m sure the men could say the same sorts of thing about the women they meet). I met one fellow who wasn’t divorced just yet, but was “checking out available women;” another whose former wife had a restraining order filed against him, but who told me he was “totally harmless;” and one man whose number one concern was not dating or marrying a woman who had mental problems — and apparently felt it was proper to inquire into my mental health; and there was the guy who wanted to know my age, because he only dated women who were at least ten years younger than himself. All of these confessions and questions made me think I had a “share your personal information and ask me strange questions” sign on my forehead. I think I would rather just skip this middle-aged meeting men thing, not that I was necessarily going to firesides and super Saturdays to meet men, but because I felt a stirring of the need to do something socially with someone of my own generation.

One small problem though, at this point, I didn’t really know how to go about it. Of course Kelly and I had friends that “we” used to do things with, but that has changed. I’m not invited to do the “couple” things we used to do — there is a certain awkwardness, and being an extra person is like being a wart at the end of a nose.  It’s uncomfortable for everyone. Every now and then I still hang out with girlfriends, but you can only watch so many chick flicks before  vicarious romance loses its allure, especially when there is zilch for romance in your own existence, and you feel like a dried up prune, as far as being a woman is concerned. Fitting in somewhere and having a social group I felt comfortable with wasn’t happening. Being the fifth wheel, or worse, doing things by myself was not appealing. However, the specter of ever looming loneliness pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the Twilight Zone of the Singles World again.  I continued to torture myself with stilted conversation over punch and cookies; I felt uncertain, awkward, and painfully shy.

My next venture was a Halloween party; the invitation was posted on an Internet widow’s web page. I still didn’t know anyone in person, but I decided to be brave and daring and attend the party — and I don’t do Halloween. Courage came from the fact that I could wear a costume and hide my shyness behind a persona. So it was that in the persona of KyneWynn (from my medieval re-enactment hobby), arrayed in a simple, green, Italian dress with complicated sleeves, that I knocked on the door of an unknown house. The host, answering the door wearing a complete Egyptian Pharaoh costume, greeted me warmly and invited me in. And to my surprise, I had a great time, eating, laughing, and playing games with other widows and widowers — it was after midnight when I left, the latest I’d been out in months.

Emboldened by my success at the Halloween party, I decided to go to a New Year’s Eve dinner-dance that one of my new single girlfriends told me about. The room was decorated to resemble a big city skyline, with hundreds of white lights creating the desired silhouette; an enchanting effect. The dinner featuring a cordon-bleu entree and the accompanying conversation were good — I actually knew several of the people at my table. Then the tables were cleared, and the dance began.  My protective mantle of shyness fell over me, and I slipped int a chair on the side lines, content to listen to the music and watch the dancers. Many of the songs reminded me of Kelly. He played guitar in a dance band for awhile, and I used to go with him, sit in the background, and listen to them play. Here, I was doing the same thing, but my reverie was interrupted with an invitation to dance. This was why I had come, to test the waters, so I accepted.  Big Mistake. It was like junior high all over again, except this time I was actually asked to dance.  It seemed as though I had five left feet, and I was so tense and nervous through the whole dance I could barely move. It was awful. . . . the gentleman though was very kind. I accepted one more dance invitation, trying to prove to myself that I could do this social thing, but the whole time I was dancing, I was crying inside because it was some other man, not Kelly.  I felt clumsy and incompetent –it was such a contrast to the way I fit physically with Kelly; I knew how he moved, the feel of his hand on my back, holding me securely, the pleasure of looking up into his face, the scent of his aftershave holding a promise –whereas my current partner’s hand was placed loosely in the region of my hip, and instead of looking up at Kelly’s familiar face, I was nose to nose with a musk-wearing stranger. I was never so grateful for a song to end as that one. I left the dance, fighting the onset of migraine-induced nausea. Dancing was out, at least for now.

This was why I had come, to test the waters, so I accepted.  Big Mistake. It was like junior high all over again, except this time I was actually asked to dance.  It seemed as though I had five left feet, and I was so tense and nervous through the whole dance I could barely move. It was awful. . . . the gentleman though was very kind. I accepted one more dance invitation, trying to prove to myself that I could do this social thing, but the whole time I was dancing, I was crying inside because it was some other man, not Kelly.  I felt clumsy and incompetent — it was such a contrast to the way I fit physically with Kelly; I knew how he moved, the feel of his hand on my back, holding me securely, the pleasure of looking up into his face, the scent of his aftershave holding a promise — whereas my current partner’s hand was placed loosely in the region of my hip, and instead of looking up at Kelly’s familiar face, I was nose to nose with a musk-wearing stranger. I was never so grateful for a song to end as that one. I left the dance, fighting the onset of migraine-induced nausea. Dancing was out, at least for now.

Time. It takes time to heal. I heard those words often during those first years, and I was finally ready to start believing them. For the next six months I kept my social activities firmly anchored in the midst of family, church, and old friends. The only singles world venturing I did was via the internet — and that was anonymous, emotionally safe, and even amusing. There’s nothing like reading a profile that describes someone as, “A bit run-down on the outside, but the motor still works fine,” or receiving emails from Romeo wannabes like the following:

Hello Angel

how are you doing today is my pleasure to read your profile, I noticed that you are a very nice woman and a Gorgeous lady. wish I could be the one for you. am Honest, Loving, Caring, and Trustworthy, and am looking for who to spend the rest of my life with and love. I really cant stay lonely forever We need someone to laugh and share Dreams with.. I am a Good loving Christian man who believes in Faith and Miracle and I guess this is my faith to connect with you. I am well committed to God, and he has sent me to come to you and tell you my feelings maybe you will consider me and Accept me as your best friend, if more God will say. thanks….  don’t be shy to E‑mail or add me at caleb_jackson2007@yahoo.com so that we can start getting to know each other. will be waiting for your reply.  Take care babe God bless you.

I corrected the email and sent it back to him with my best wishes for him to find his “best friend” which definitely wasn’t me. I later found out that spammers use these introductions to troll for unwary women, lull them into a sense security, and then ask them for money. Eventually I discovered the chat room, and made some friends. We had random conversations and harmless flirting. The chat room was mostly amusement value, but it also led to my second, (and last, mark my words) dance experience.

I was chatting with a fellow from an area near my hometown and mentioned I would be headed there for a visit soon, and he invited me to meet him at a singles dance. Because we had developed a sort of rapport via chatting, and it had been eighteen months since my last attempt at going to a dance, I told him I’d come.  My arrival was heralded by nervousness, a touch of excitement, and raw fear — which hadn’t been helped by the teasing I endured from my children about “going on a date” — I maintain it wasn’t a date,  I was going solo, in my own vehicle to a dance, where I would meet someone. Not a date.

Mr. Internet looked somewhat different than his profile picture on the computer, and I suppose I did too. I had thought of him as being taller than he was, and younger. And he probably thought I was younger than my picture suggested, because everyone who meets me thinks I am younger than I am. The pictures were close enough likenesses that we recognized each other when we met in the parking lot. The music was decent, and we danced a few dances.  I wasn’t having a panic attack, and my emotions were under control, all good signs. I wasn’t exactly enjoying myself, but it wasn’t pure torture either. Taking a break to have a drink of water, he told me he’d claim me for a waltz later as he was going to dance with the ladies who don’t always get asked. So while he was off performing his self-imposed duty, I was enjoying the music, which was actually pretty good. It was then a fellow bustled up to me — and that is the description of what he did — bustled, and asked me to dance. Away we went, and I being out of practice, stumbled a bit. I murmured an apology for my clumsiness, and he proclaimed, “Don’t worry, if you can walk, you can dance.”  And then, to prove his point, he motored me all over the dance floor, then marched me back to my seat. After a couple of more dances with Mr. Internet, that had all the spark of dancing with one of my brothers, I was approached by a man clearly old enough to be my father.

Now, I like to dance with my Dad, but this? However, not wanting to be rude, I accepted his invitation. So there I was imprisoned in a dance embrace with Mr. Geriatric in the middle of a dance floor with the lights flashing, the speakers shrilling the Bee Gee’s, Staying Alive, staying alive, ahhh, ahhh, ahhh, ahhhh     S-t-a-y-i-n–g   A-l-i-v-e. . . .and my white-haired partner, nearly shouting to make himself heard, was telling me how he was back out on the dance floor only two weeks after his triple-by-pass heart surgery. What more could a girl want? I was just hoping he wouldn’t keel over then and there with a relapse. It was at that point I made a vow to myself: No more dances.

Again I returned to my safety-net of family, church, and old friends. For the most part I’ve been content with this arrangement. It helped that Mr. Pharaoh from the Halloween party and I became good friends; everyone should have at least one good friend who “gets” what it means to be widowed.  Many people have suggested that it may be years before I’m ready to date or marry, or that I may never marry again. That thought saddens me. Maybe it would have been easier to contemplate if Kelly hadn’t loved me so deeply. Even though we had our difficult times, I always knew he loved me beyond belief. Knowing what it is to be loved like that makes it that much harder to be alone. It’s kind of a Catch-22. For a very long time I had little desire to socialize. I had to force myself to do anything. When Kelly died, that part of me died too.

Slowly, over time that changed, I’ve learned to maintain my equilibrium in social situations. Recently I’ve begun to attend some widow/widower’s parties (which definitely have a different feel to them than other “singles” gatherings I’ve attended), and I have had a great time conversing with intelligent men and women, comparing travel notes, vocations, education, and having fun. Introductions at these parties go something like this:

“So how long has it been for you?”

“Going on five years now.”

“How did he die?”

“His heart. It was sudden and unexpected.”

An instant rapport is achieved, and for a few moments the conversation is about being widowed, but then it moves on to other topics, and it all happens without the usual awkwardness that telling about Kelly’s death brings about.

Yes, I’ve come a long way baby. I don’t think I need to be married to be happy and have a good life. In fact, I would be okay with being alone for the rest of my life, but that isn’t what I want.  I miss being married. I liked being married, and I would like to share the rest of my life with someone. An amazing thing about love is that it has the capacity, as it is freely given, to grow. We don’t have to love just one person in a lifetime, and I’m open to the possibility of one day falling in love again.

*There are references to activities and doctrine relative to my beliefs as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For more information about those references, please visit Mormon.org and click on the Beliefs tab.

An Idaho Odyssey

I had a good travel plan in place. However, it was thwarted just a wee bit. Let me explain. Because the Xterra is a gas hog and because the check engine light was on, I didn’t want to try to take it all the way to Idaho (a five-hour drive from Utah) for a long, weekend visit. My plan was to head for Idaho after work on Thursday and come back on Monday, and I came up with a pland that was economical and not too bad logistically.  It went like this: 1) Drive to work (Spanish Fork to Lehi), 2) after work drive to the Lehi train station; park and leave Xterra, take the Frontrunner to Ogden, 3) my daughter, Katie, picks me up in Ogden and takes me to the boarding point for the Salt Lake Express, my ride to Rexburg, Idaho, where a family member picks me up; reverse for the trip home. That was the plan—but you know what they say about the best laid plans . . . .

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Carpe Diem a Requium

This blog is comprised of something I wrote in August of 2014 when Robin Williams died. It may seem strange to post about that event in November of 2016, but to me, they are inextricably connected. Tonight, I will watch Dead Poets Society and mark the day, the day another man died, who has been “pushing up daisies” for twelve years now, Kelly, my husband—it has taken me a long time to figure out a fitting way to mark this day. It’s not a day to celebrate his life (that I do on his birthday); and it’s certainly not a day to celebrate his death. But there is a need in me to mark the day, the anniversary of his passing, and watching that movie helps me do that. It helps me renew my intention to claim the idea embodied in the phrase Carpe Diem. I will continue to Seize the Day. I will continue to move forward. I will see the good in others. I will see the beauty that abounds in the world. I will be happy. I will look forward to the future. But for today I will pause, I will be gentle with myself, I will remember, and I will honor our life together, and because of the promise of eternity I will  simply say, I’ll be seeing you. 

                                               Love ya, Kelly,

                                                Your Cutestuff

 

Reflections of Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams, Jason,  and Kelly

August 2014

I am saddened today to hear of Robin Williams’ death.  I remember him first through watching Mork and Mindy as a teenager, and then of course his movies, some rather bland, some entertaining,  and some excellent.  Dead Poets Society, however, was the one that stayed with me long after the credits rolled.  As a lover of poetry, Shakespeare, and writing, I loved the story, and it spoke to the creative part of me.  There are so many gems in the movie, delivered so effectively.   These two, delivered by Mr. Keating (Robin Williams)  are my favorites:  

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman: ‘O me, o life of the questions of these recurring, of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, o me, o life?’ Answer: that you are here. That life exists, and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

And this one:

‘O Captain, my Captain.’ Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class, you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you’re slightly more daring, O Captain, my Captain. Now let me dispel a few rumors so they don’t fester into facts. Yes, I too attended Hell-ton and survived. And no, at that time I was not the mental giant you see before you. I was the intellectual equivalent of a ninety-eight pound weakling. I would go to the beach and people would kick copies of Byron in my face….

‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.’ The Latin term for that sentiment is Carpe Diem. Now who knows what that means?…Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Why does the writer use these lines?…Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day gonna stop breathing, turn cold, and die.

Now I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You’ve walked past them many times. I don’t think you’ve really looked at them. They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. Do you hear it? (whispering in a gruff voice) Carpe. Hear it? (whispering) Carpe. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.

In November of 2004, my husband, Kelly; my daughter, Jaimie; and my son, Jason; had the opportunity to perform in a stage version of Dead Poets Society.  Jaimie was playing a school girl, who visits the boarding school boys in the cave scene.  Jason played the lead character, Neil Perry, a student at a boarding school. And Kelly,  his father, played Neil’s overbearing, militant father, Mr. Perry.  The chemistry between them on stage brought an entirely believable element to the play.

Opening night was November 8, 2004.  My whole family, except Cameron, who was twelve years old,  was there. (I couldn’t find him when it was time to go, and I figured he could see it another night.)  The actors did an amazing job,  and I was so caught up in the story,  with the ending of “Oh Captain, my captain,” playing over and over in my mind, that several hours later, I was still thinking about the play,  the performance between Kelly and Jason,  and thinking about how the pressure from his father led to Neil’s suicide.  It also stirred up in me a need to affirm the difference between Kelly the actor,  and Kelly, the father— because even though the dialogue was memorized,  the exchanges felt so real,  almost a reflection of angsty/angry exchanges that happened sometimes in real life, between Kelly and Jason.

But,  after a long day of work, and then the draining of energy that being on stage involved,  Kelly was more interested in eating tacos and watching a rebroadcast of a BYU football game than in having a serious post mortem on the play and how close the parallels to real life it may or may not have been. By this time, it was late, but I sat on the floor next to him for a while,   my head leaning against him as he reclined, watching football.   With weariness claiming me, I kissed his forehead, wished him goodnight, and made my way to bed, and promptly fell asleep.

In the early morning, I startled awake instinctively reaching for Kelly, but he wasn’t there. Glancing at the clock, I noted that it said 4:02. I thought to myself, he fell asleep watching that football game, I’d better go get him to come to bed. Groggily, I dragged myself upstairs. Switching off the blaring TV, I turned, and touching Kelly’s shoulder, I gently shook him, telling him to come to bed. He didn’t respond. I shook his shoulder again, harder, still no response. Then as I touched his hand, I realized something was wrong. His hands were cold, too cold and his face was slack.  And despite everything, calling 911, administering CPR,  he never woke up, he was gone, dead, with lingering bits of makeup from the play still on his face.  It was early morning on  November 9, 2004, and my world changed forever.   

 The life and death theme of the movie/play became my nightmare, my life.  Since then,  I have learned the value behind the idea of  Carpe Diem, seize the day, for you never know when you, too will be fertilizing daffodils.  For me, Dead Poets Society is inextricably linked to Kelly’s death. And now, each  year,  on that anniversary, I watch Dead Poets Society and hear Mr. Keating proclaim,  Carpe Diem, which helps me go on.

PS: Several years after Kelly’s death I wrote this poem, trying to capture the essence of my experience: In Fifty-Five Words.