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!