Thankful for a Weekend of Firsts!!

God knows I’d been dreading Thanksgiving Day and the weekend typically known for family and shopping. For at least half of the almost 31 years that Tim and I were married we hosted the huge Veney family in our home for Thanksgiving dinner. It was always busy, loud, comical and most of the time it was fun. This year, after handing off the Thanksgiving dishes I purchased years ago to Tim’s niece Ralphaella, I decided to have my first Thanksgiving dinner after Tim’s death alone. I had many invitations, and not everyone was thrilled with my decision to spend the day alone, BUT they supported it.

On Wednesday night my stomach was really queasy…Did I really want to be alone on Thursday? To calm my nerves one of the projects in my plan for the weekend was a new LEGO build which I hadn’t done much at all since Tim’s death. My boss had given me a card which mentioned what was behind the gates of heaven, so I built what I believed Tim’s place in heaven would look like. I loved the end result, because I’d wanted to do a setting that included pieces of furniture for a long time! What better place than Heaven?

After finishing the LEGO project late morning on Thursday, next up on my plan was to remove the plants I received after Tim’s death from their baskets and re-pot them into cute orange pots. This was risky!!! I kill everything that grows, but in honor of Tim, I wanted these plants to LIVE! I had purchased potting soil and gloves and I anxiously got to work. I felt like I was handling Tim’s life and didn’t want to screw it up. I gingerly placed the soil, then the plant into each pot and ensured that I covered the roots with the soil. Funny that at my age, I’ve never re-potted anything. After I placed the newly potted plants in front of the bay window, I felt as if new life that included Tim was growing. My tears as I stood in front of the window where Tim always sat for hours were cleansing and I suddenly see all the plants in a new light.

Next up on my plan of action was visiting Mom. I had downloaded some Thanksgiving coloring pages and I was excited to see whether or not she’d like to color like we did together when I was a kid. She loved it!! So much so that she worked constantly on her page for an hour. I was very surprised at how she carefully stayed inside the lines and though she only finished a portion of the page, she was pleased with her work and so was I. After a few hours hanging out with Mom, it was time to head home for my dinner alone.

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My dinner of baked chicken, spinach with mushrooms and onions and a baked sweet potato was awesome! I loved my plating too, and of course I shed some tears thinking of all the meals Tim and I prepared together in our kitchen. I could hear him reminding me that I’d forgotten the wine, so I quickly poured a glass of Riesling and then toasted Tim, thanking him for all of the years of great fun we’d had in that kitchen. By the end of the dinner, I was smiling more than crying.

On Friday, after working for a few hours, I took Memory Maker II to the dealership to get it winterized, which prevents the water systems in the RV from freezing during the winter. This was another task that had always been handled by Tim that was now my responsibility. I had ordered a cover for MMII to protect it from the elements and asked one of my neighbors to help me put it on this weekend. We decided to tackle the task on  Saturday afternoon. It took us less than 40 minutes to complete, and I am thrilled that MMII will be protected from the elements all winter!

The most soul-shaking event of the weekend occurred Saturday morning. The bed Tim and I shared is a split-king Sleep Number Bed. I hadn’t touched Tim’s side of the bed since June 30th when we left home for Herkimer, NY. I had only changed the sheets on my side of the bed. I was finally ready to take the sheets off of his side to wash them. I noticed right away that the sheets no longer smelled like Tim and that made me cry. I then saw something sticking up from Tim’s side of the bed. When I lifted it up, it was Tim’s favorite pair of Redskins shorts that we had torn the house up looking for before we headed to NY. They were his favorite workout shorts and he didn’t want to leave home without them. I started to yell out, “I found them!”, but of course Tim isn’t here to hear me. I cried more.

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Most shocking was that the shorts still smelled like Tim. I clutched the shorts and didn’t want to let them go. I fell on my knees and I cried even more. Then I got up…. I put the shorts down so I could put the sheets and pillowcase in the washer. I waited so long to wash them because I didn’t want to feel like I was washing Tim out of my life. Thankfully, I didn’t feel that. I watched the sheets go round and round first in the washer, then in the dryer. Then I folded them up and put them away, selecting another set of sheets and comforter for the bed. It took me more than 4 months to find the strength to wash Tim’s sheets, and I’m glad I did it on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Redskins shorts will have to wait for another day to be washed. Finding the shorts wasn’t included in this weekend’s plan and I have already expended all of the emotional energy I had. I’m thankful for the ups, downs, tears and smiles of the last few days, but I’m blown away by the unexpected gift I received in finding Tim’s workout shorts. When a loved one dies I think we all look for a special sign from them. Tim sent me the biggest sign of all – his favorite shorts of his favorite team. It doesn’t get any better than that and I’m Thankful! I hope you had a Happy Heavenly Thanksgiving Tim, mine was pretty great because it was in our Happy Home! Love you and miss you!

 

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A Very Special Group of Women! 

I’m guessing that few of you have heard of RVingWomen, also known as RVW. It’s exactly as it sounds, a group of adult women who love to travel the country in their RVs. Tim and I had met a woman earlier in the summer who told us about the group. I joined in September as a promise I made to Tim months before his death, that I’d keep going RVing if something happened to him.

I belong to the Mid-Atlantic chapter of RVW, and this weekend was their final “rally” of the year, celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. Wanting desperately to meet the group before the end of the RV season, I paid two weeks ago to attend the event being held in Lancaster, PA. I was so excited about the opportunity to have an early Thanksgiving dinner with my new friends given that I still have no idea what what I’ll be doing on the actual holiday.

Then came the election, followed by several days of protesting and outbreaks of hate motivated events around the country. I started to question my upcoming journey to PA. I had a cold too, another excuse I could have used to cancel my plans. I was pretty sure that I would be the only African-American participant at the rally and wondered how in this “new post-election world” I’d be received and welcomed. I was actually even starting to question my purchase of MMII and my dream of seeing this country now that so many people feel empowered to publicly display their hate. But I could hear Tim’s voice telling me not to let fear get in the way of the plans I (we) had made. I knew this group of women could help me learn so much about RVing in general and answer some specific questions I had about Memory Maker II.

So with some trepidation, I set out as planned on Friday morning and headed to Lancaster. I had so much confidence driving there, and I parked among the big rigs at a rest stop and a gas station in PA. It was awesome! I arrived at the campground where the rally was to be held. Ironically, it was the same campground where our family stayed three years ago when we took Kendal on the Thomas the Train ride. It felt surreal and so sad being back here without Tim, and once again I felt a twinge of fear as I drove up to my campsite. I could see that I was going to have to make an S-like manuever for me to get into my assigned space. As I was thinking of how to best approach this, my new friend Gayle appeared in my mirror, smiled and said, “would you like some help getting into the space?” YES, I replied. And from that moment on, women came from everywhere to help me plug in and hook up everything I needed to make MMII my home for the weekend. Everyone surrounded me with welcomes, smiles, hugs, and their names, teasing me that there would be a test of names later. Some of the RVingWomen are members of the LBGT community, making them potential targets for hate too.  So though I was indeed the only African-American female in the group of 70 women, I felt embraced, loved and right at home.

In the first three hours I was there, I had started to ask questions about MMII, and women showed up with their dogs and shared all kinds of information with me. I was writing as many thing into my phone as I could as fast as I could. My new friend Meg brought over her tool kit and fixed all kinds of things for me, particularly my two piece bedroom door that has never worked properly. She fixed the door in 2 minutes flat. I was amazed! She then began to explain how my propane system worked for my heat and explained many other things I hadn’t previously understood. It was exactly why I came to this event!!

Friday night’s dinner was great!! Everyone brought an appetizer to share, and the main course was a choice of homemade soups, salad and assorted breads. For dessert, offered right before the evening entertainment, there was make your own sundaes. Breakfast on Sat morning were several flavors of oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, cereals, breads, bagels and sweet rolls and fruits. Right after breakfast I discovered that I had no heat, which meant I was out of propane! Uh Oh! But Meg appeared again, and we unhooked the RV from all its connections, drove MMII down the hill to the camp office, got the propane tank refilled and parked it again. What I thought would take 30-60 minutes took less than 15. I think I’m getting the hang of this! Note to self, whenever the propane is showing less than 1/3 full, get it filled, BEFORE I hook everything up! If breakfast wasn’t filling enough, lunch was grilled hot dogs and chips. I only had one hot dog so I’d be good and hungry for Saturday night’s Thanksgiving feast!

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Right after lunch was an incredible christening ceremony for new RVs, and Memory Maker II was included in the festivities! The ceremony included reading a certificate from our chapter of RVW and christening the RV with wine!! A large group of women went to all 5 of the RVs that were christened and each was opened for folks to tour. I answered lots of questions about MMII and everyone loved it! I’ll always treasure the christening ceremony and my certificate!

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Then came the Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night! WOW is the only word to describe it! There were huge trays of turkey and ham and every side dish you could imagine that group members made. The desserts were also amazing!! There was great conversation at the tables to go with the awesome food!

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The night ended with 10 rousing games of bingo! I haven’t laughed that much in forever! These women are hysterical! Information was also shared with the group about my book, and I sold quite a few copies to members, which was just icing on the cake for this great weekend!

Sunday morning breakfast was as elaborate as the Thanksgiving feast. On the menu were pancakes, and many choices of egg, meat, veggie and cheese casseroles and lots of fruit, pastry and muffins too! I sold more books and then we took a group photo as some of the group, including me, had to leave today. The lucky rest of the group gets to stay until Monday morning! I can’t wait to come back to RVW’s Thanksgiving rally next year, only 363 more days to go til next year’s event. I’m also hoping to get to other Mid-Atlantic chapter events next year too!

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For the entire weekend, there wasn’t any discussion to the large group about the election. There was just fellowship, food, games, alcohol and an incredible amount of fun. None of these women are oblivious to the potential ramifications of the President-Elect taking office in January, and I had brief discussions with a few of them about our own individual fears, however I also believe that when we drove into the campground we chose to leave the outside world outside just for this weekend. I was happy with that. Reality will still be waiting for us as soon as the rally officially ends. The RVW women are a force to be reckoned with, so whatever may come in the future, I’m betting they are up for it!

Here’s what I learned this weekend… Those of us who believe we are potential targets still have to go out and live our lives the way we always have, just with an abundance of caution. I’m thrilled that I attended the RVW event and I’m grateful that I met some women with whom I will be friends for life! I’m thankful that I didn’t let my fear of hate hold me back. I still look forward to our trips in MMII next season, but I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that Kim, Kendal and I stay safe while trying to continue our adventures and learn new things. What I’m so dismayed about is that in addition to our adventures, we also have to explain to Kendal why some people hate others. While I’m great at teaching, it’s a lesson I’d rather not have to give! Miss you Tim, now more than ever! But know that we’ll keep our dreams alive and will show Kendal everything we’d planned to even before she was born! Rest well babe, I’ve got this!

 

 

Lay Hands On Someone!

I fill quite a few roles at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill, but one of them, the Laying on of Hands Ministry, has emerged as my clear favorite. Here’s how it works… Prior to communion, two volunteers go to the Chapel in the front of the church, and listen to the needs the parishioner has. We then lay our hands on them and say a prayer, hopefully something that addresses the specific need they shared. It’s an emotional undertaking, and many times there are tears, both from those receiving and giving the prayers.

I worked both services today, doing the laying on of hands ministry at the early service. A person came to the chapel and simply said she just wanted a hug. We hugged for a long time, and I eventually learned her situation and provided prayer. But it didn’t end there. As the service continued, I sat in the chapel alone with her and we just talked, and hugged and cried. I haven’t felt that fulfilled in a long time, and I felt like I was making a difference in her life! This is clearly my calling, and I wanted more of that feeling.

When the second service started my role changed to verger, but I couldn’t let go of the laying on of hands minstry. People sought me out to see how I’m doing in my grief process, but I also made sure I checked on what was going on in their lives too. Many of us hugged, and a few of us even shared tears. Many of us shared our anxiety about this week’s election too and hugged even more. It felt good to lay hands on someone, even when that part of my minstry was over for the day. It felt good to console others, to laugh with them and just be in community with them.

On this All Saints Day, I’d ask all of you who have neighbors you haven’t seen in a while, or friends you may have had a cross word with, to reach out and lay hands on someone this week, even if that someone is a stranger. It’s one of the most amazing feelings in the world. If distance makes actual laying on of hands impossible, virtual hugs work just as well, as we do it all the time in our USAgainstAlzheimer’s Community Support Group on Facebook, which I help moderate. You don’t have to become a Saint or anything, just reach out to one person this week and lay hands on them with a hug or a sincere pat on the back. If you do and you have time, let me know how it goes and how it made you feel. We are all in this life together, and we need each other (especially now) whether we like to admit it or not. Have an Amazing week!