A Month of Me!

I kept my promise! I had promised Pontheolla Mack Abernathy that I’d celebrate my January 3rd birthday for the entire month, just as she’s done for her birthday for most of the years I’ve known her. The Abernathys and the Veneys have always celebrated our birthdays together, me and Pontheolla in January ,Tim in May and Paul in June.

On my first birthday without Tim, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to my birthday. So when Pontheolla asked me to join her this year in the month long celebration, I thought it would be great idea for me to focus solely on myself. I started right on January 1st, with a New Year’s gathering with the Vorgangs, and our other great friends Phyllis and Jennifer. I had never been to Phyllis’ home and we all had a blast. There was an incredible amount of food to eat and of course Linda sent a ton of food and an entire cake home with me. She also made my favorite lemon cake and everyone sang an awesome rendition of Happy Birthday! It was awesome!

On my actual birthday on the 3rd, I went to work instead of taking the day off as I usually do because I didn’t want to be home alone. But I got to spend the evening with my family. Kim and Kendal gave me a beautiful plant, card and a balloon and we had a great evening and dinner at Ruby Tuesday!! They sang to me too and we ended the evening with a great dessert!!

The very next day, our friend Joe (Tim’s brother from another mother and fellow sedan service owner) took me to Wildfire in Tysons Corner, VA, a place I’d never been (another goal I had for the month). The food was to die for and served in HUGE portions so I even had lunch for the next day. Joe brought me flowers and an awesome card. We had a blast, mostly laughing at all the good times we all had together! But we also shed a few tears while talking about Tim. Like me, Joe misses Tim terribly.

Every morning from the 1st until the 5th, I read a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. before heading to work, which gave me lots of inspiration and hope. On the night of the 6th I was treated to dinner by Louise at our favorite Democratic Club. We had great food and great conversation as usual.

The afternoon and evening of the 7th was a true blast. Kim and I took Kendal to see Flying Bach, a breakdancing group that performed to Bach’s classical music! It was stunning, and definitely something I’ve not done before! I named the week of the 9th, international food week! On the 10th I had dinner at Bonchon Korean Chicken with Vicky and on the 16th I went to Azucar Mexican restaurant with Brenda, followed by dinner with Eva on the 17th at Lebanese Taverna, a place I’d passed many times but had never tried. My dinner of chicken kabobs and Lebanese rice was one of the best meals ever!

From the 5th to the 10th I read meditations written by clergy for dementia caregivers. Each of the meditations were inspiring in a different way. From the 10th to the 19th, I went through hundreds of our photos from the more than 30 years of trips that Tim and I took. Reviewing those memories was very therapeutic for me and inspired me to write some notes and quotes to go with some of the photos. On the 11th, I made a change to my appearance by getting a new hairstyle, cutting the sides short and getting rid of the part in my hair that I’ve had for more than 20 years. I love the new look and have received lots of compliments on the new style.

The weekend of the 13th was incredible! I had a girls weekend with Kendal, our first sleepover since Tim’s passing. We did her favorite Chick-Fil-A on Friday night so she could play in the play area after we had dinner On Saturday we watched movies all day and had pizza for dinner! The highlight of the weekend was taking her to church on Sunday where she served as Junior Verger for the 11:15 service working with me! She was an amazing helper for me, and so many people mentioned how professional and focused she was with her duties!

I started a new trend on the evening of the 19th. My friend Brenda had told me about a swing dance class that she had just started on the 16th at Transfiguration Episcopal Church and she talked me into going as well. I was skeptical, but I showed up for the next class and liked it so much I paid for the entire 11 week course. It was quite the workout, and it requires counting steps, so I’m hopeful it’s yet another activity to keep my mind sharp. I’ve been to four sessions so far and am thoroughly enjoying it! The class members are a group of really fun and encouraging people! Also during this week I built my largest LEGO piece to date, the US Capitol with more than 1,000 pieces. It’s amazing and was very inspiring to build!

On the 20th, I headed to our South Carolina home, Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens in Spartanburg, the amazing Bed and Breakfast owned by Paul and Pontheolla. I was worried about how sad it would be on my first trip without Tim, but they put me in a room we hadn’t stayed in before so that I can make new memories now that Tim isn’t here. On the night of the 20th we went with three friends of the Abernathys to Northhampton Wines Restaurant. We were in a private area called the “office” which we had all to ourselves. Not only was the room very cool, but the food and service was incredible. Before heading back to DC, I went to Paul’s church, Epiphany Laurens to hear him preach! It was as inspirational as I knew it would be.

The last 10 days of the month, I shifted to making a dream Tim and I had come true. After working hard to close up the last few things from Tim’s business Bear Sedan and get his taxes ready, I began focusing on opening a shop on the website called Etsy to sell my fidget toys made with my favorite LEGO bricks. It was a goal Tim and I had to set as part of our work we would do on the road in our RV. I’ll be carrying on that work alone, but Tim would be thrilled that I followed through on that part of our dream! My Etsy shop, called CreativelyLoretta should be open by the first week of February.

On the night of the 27th my St. Mark’s support group gave me the final celebratory dinner of the month. Louise made minestrone soup which was fabulous on a very cold night, and there was salad and grilled veggies, bread and a ton of dessert, even cupcakes made by my very own Kimberly! Even my love of LEGO bricks was included in the evening, as Jan had everyone build what it meant to them to support me! I was blown away!

I spent the final weekend of the month just pampering myself. I slept it on Saturday but got up at the crack of dawn on Sunday and began creating a variety of potential new LEGO toys and doing lots of writing, while watching some great women’s movies I had recorded. On Sunday, I wanted to have one full day of inside activities and rest, because I have a big month of evening work and travel coming up in February. The weekend worked out even better that I had hoped.

For my inspirational reading for the end of the month, I began reading the book, Michelle Obama, A life by Peter Slevin which was a great gift from my cousin Willette. It’s an amazing book! On the 30th I did yet another thing I hadn’t done before. After work, I headed to the movies in Silver Spring to see Hidden Figures before the start of my dance class. I had never been to the movies alone, but I’m so glad I went! It was such an inspiring movie and I was very proud of those women and their story! After the movie I had plenty of time to grab a quick dinner and get to class. What a night great of class we had!! We are all starting to get all of the steps down, and the class paired off into 30 couples and danced (switching partners every 2-3 minutes) for the entire 90 minutes of class!

Now that the end of the month has come, and I look back on all of the special dinners I enjoyed, the time spent with groups of friends, the deeply reflective and spiritual things I read and experienced, I’m thrilled that Pontheolla encouraged me to celebrate each and every day. It felt so good to focus on me and to care for myself in an intentional way that I don’t believe I’ve ever done, and certainly not for an entire month. I feel better and stronger and ready to continue tackling whatever comes my way. I pray that this feeling of joy and empowerment will stay with me for the remainder of this year and I am thankful to everyone who made this month one of the most special of my life, during a time that I needed it most! My journey continues! Love you all! bday

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I’ve Finally Found The Words To Say Thank You!

Dear Tim, 

Six months ago today I felt as if I had stepped out of my own life and into the starring role in a really bad movie. Last week as I watched President Obama say goodbye to the country in that amazing speech, it reminded me that I hadn’t said a proper thank you and goodbye to you after our incredible 36 years together. In the hours and days immediately after your death, like a dedicated actress I stepped into my role with gusto. The “End of Your Life” movie began with Kim and I planning a celebration of life service that we knew you would love, and it truly was a joyous event! 

Using all of my organizational and planning skills, I put my grief on hold and did all the things I knew you would want me to do! I sold your car, our truck and our beloved Memory Maker I. I handled your estate and business affairs and paid off our home. I brought a new car and Memory Maker II which I know made you proud! I even took two trips alone (one with RVing Women) and one with Kim and Kendal before the camping season ended! I felt you smiling down on me and on us! I’ve cried every single day since you’ve been gone letting my grief pour out a little at a time, because I knew you wouldn’t want me to be as sad as I’ve been for too long. Every day I can hear you saying “keep going, you’re doing a great job!”

I felt you guiding me as I selected the photos and wrote the words for Kim and Kendal’s birthday books and I believe I captured everything you would have wanted me to share with them. Now it’s finally time for me to write the words I need to say to you! So bear with me as I have a lot to cover! 

From the moment in 1981 when you walked into The George Washington University Marvin Center in response to that bomb threat, I knew we’d be together forever. 

So thank you Tim, for loving me unconditionally, for introducing me to Kim and giving me the opportunity to be a mom. Thank you for supporting me through the amazing ups and downs of my career, especially during the tumultuous end of my corporate career and the energizing start of my own business! 

Thank you for supporting me in every possible way during my 25 years of active membership in ASIS International, especially during my 6 years on the Board of Directors becoming the first African-American female to serve in that role. Through the many ASIS conferences we went nearly three-quarters of the way around the world and we extended all of our trips to spend quality family time together. Thank you for exploring, hiking, biking, sailing, flying, and climbing through more than 30 years of adventures with me. 

Thank you for supporting me through the search for my father, and through the illnesses and deaths of my grandparents, my beloved aunts and my sister. Though all of that was incredible, it was the care for me during my illness that earned you the Gold Medal in my heart!  It seems so inadequate to just say thank you for the 13 years of my 34 hospitalizations and 20 surgeries where you did everything I needed except have the surgeries for me. I would never have gotten through all the pain and suffering without your amazing care and jokes, without your holding my hand in the middle of the night, and without you holding me and my IV pole up in the shower. 

When I finally got well you turned your great deeds to my mom, taking her for four months to physical therapy after she broke her shoulder falling off a Metrobus. After her dementia diagnosis, you stepped up again providing great love and care to her for 10 years, and you encouraged me to self-publish my book about our journey, and supported my amazing book tour that took us around the country. 

I thank you for the two decades of dedication and commitment you gave to MPD and the citizens of D.C. and for the incredible way you cared for your Bear Sedan clients for almost twenty years. You set the customer service bar high by always providing your clients with their favorite newspapers, coffee and snacks and by getting to know them and their families as if they were part of your own. Your clients miss you like crazy! 

Thank you for the more than 31 years of cooking great meals, taking care of everything in the house and lovingly caring for our yard. Thank you for running thousands of errands for me without complaint, driving me everywhere I needed to go and most of all for treating me like a Queen!  I never fully appreciated how much you did for us until now, as I fall into bed exhausted each night from trying to do all the things you used to do so effortlessly. 

We made the absolute most out of our lives together and we enjoyed our adventures to the fullest! My only regret is that I didn’t have the opportunity to care for you and to nurse you back to health as you had done so enthusiastically for me. I’ll never forget waking up from every surgery to see your smiling face! You gave me the will to fight for my life for all those years and I thank you for fighting as hard as you could for yours after your strokes. I miss you more than I ever thought was possible, but I find joy in every day as I continue the journey we had planned for the rest of our lives together. 

I’ll keep good watch over Kim and Kendal and will continue to teach Kendal all the things that were important to you! You laid an incredibly loving foundation for the rest of Kendal’s life and I’ll take it from here! I’ll cheer loudly for you at all of Kim and Kendal’s events and accomplishments ensuring that they know how proud you are of them. I’ll try not to cry as I represent us at all of life’s milestones and special memories you can’t be here for. For the rest of my life you can count on me to watch over their lives! 

Tim, thank you for simply being one of the best people to ever walk this earth! I’m Blessed to have been married to you, to have been loved by you and to have been at your side as your life on this earth came to an end. You always used to say that you couldn’t live without me, so I hope you’re resting well with the piece of my heart I sent with you. I pray that you know you will forever be a huge part of my soul until I join you in heaven.


Love Always, 

Spunky 

Sometimes Your Emotions Just Need to Pour Out!

I finally didn’t have any words. I thought I was in charge of this grief thing, but I was wrong. I sailed through Christmas with three busy days of activities with the family. But the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve were hard! I tried my best but I was beyond sad. I had plenty of invitations to New Year’s Eve celebrations but I knew I wouldn’t be good company. I had planned on doing what Tim and I used to do most years, watch old movies and eat popcorn while in our pjs. It was always such a blast! I recorded some movies on the DVR and brought some popcorn too. I thought I was ready but things didn’t work out as I had envisioned. I woke up crying on New Year’s Eve and it went downhill from there. I cried most of the day.. Sobbed actually. By early evening my shoulders and chest hurt so much I thought I was having a heart attack. I considered calling 911 but knew what I was feeling was normal grief.

I smiled and even cheered at the activities some of my favorite couples, Paul and Pontheolla, Don and Jan, Bill and Josie, wrote about on Facebook. I wanted them to have as much fun as possible because it can be gone in a moment and I didn’t want them to feel what I was feeling. I didn’t watch any of the celebrations on tv, until 11:58 pm as the ball actually started to drop. As midnight arrived I cried some more. Sunday morning wasn’t any better, and I woke up crying again and even had a meltdown during church. Thankfully there was Josie, who held me as I cried. Some people said to me “you should have called me yesterday”…but no one would have been able to even understand what I was saying I was crying so much. I absolutely know who I can call when I need to, but I also know when I have to work through things alone.

The tide started to turn when I walked to the Botanical Gardens after church and delighted in the amazing holiday exhibit of sculptures of National Park and Historic Places made out of plant materials. The line was long but it was worth the wait. Tim would have loved it since we are both National Park fanatics. I had a great time, smiled and took some pictures.

botanical-gardens

I then spent an amazing evening with friends Phyllis, Jennifer and the Vorgangs, or “my sister, brother and the siblings” as I call them. We ate way too much delicious food, laughed and cried and even had cake for an early birthday celebration for me. I not only came home stuffed, but also with lots of food for future meals and an entire cake! I definitely have to keep my workouts up as I eat all of these wonderful meals.

Though I did send out quite a few Happy New Year messages, I was so out of it during my crying day that I forgot to work on my annual LEGO New Year’s build. So this morning I completed it, with lots of orange of course. If you look closely, you can see that Tim was the “center of my joy” but now that he’s not here, I’m surrounded by many other loving people.

2017-lego

It’s a new day in a new year and I’m starting to feel like myself again. I understand now that these crying phases will come and go. I also realize that it’s ok to have days like that because sometimes your emotions just have to pour out! In between all of the crying I did get a lot of writing done for the project I’ve been working on. Today I’m going to do something I haven’t done all weekend and that’s to spend the day playing and watching the movies I didn’t watch on New Year’s Eve!! I’ll be 58 years old tomorrow and that gives me JOY!! I’m really going to miss going out to dinner with Tim and how special he always made me feel on my birthday, but the Adventure Girls (me, Kim and Kendal) will make some new birthday memories! Here’s to 2017 and whatever it brings – tears, laughter, sickness, health – I’m ready for it, and I now feel free to let all of my emotions pour out!