Thursday, December 17, 2020


I was thinking about why I stopped posting this fall.  I know I wrote about 3 posts for every one I published.  Too much angst and negativity.  Not that 2020 has been easy -  but it hasn't been easy for any of us.  I guess it just felt like piling on.

Anyway.  It is now a year and 1 week since my husband died.  His birthday was yesterday.  I felt a little pressure to commemorate his birthday but coming on the heels of the death date it seemed too much focus on what is past and can't be changed and he wasn't into his birthday anyway.

I know I sent out some cards last year, and responded to some of the condolence cards I got but when I sat down to write out my holiday cards I realized I couldn't remember what I said and to whom.  I reflected back on a few things during that first few months and realize I am quite fuzzy about them - at the time I felt very in control and rational.

There was so much that had to be done and decided and so any difficult revelations
after his death that I immersed myself in carrying on.  It really wasn't until this summer that things began to settle, tax issues were adjudicated, credit issues determined, etc. Then I did a bit of traveling to see my aged parents and ailing sister and then I got a puppy.  So still making myself busy and distracted.

It really has been a year of distractions - I kept trying to get out and do things and Covid restrictions kept shutting them down.  I had to deal with a couple of minor medical issues - made not so easy by the current situation.  It was wound up by the election, RBG's death, all the political shenanigans.  And now that much of the dust has settled and we are once again staying home and keeping distances and holiday shopping and mailing is done and the weather has turned frigid - well, grief has been smacking me around quite a bit.

I have allowed myself to accept it, to let it move me.  When I began to cry while walking the dog (there was an older man riding his bike down the street) I just let it happen.  Watching TV shows where older couples are choosing a vacation or retirement home - tears for what I won't experience.  When the couple bicker over stuff when house hunting - I get mad.  When the widow in the movie has a home for her family to gather and trim the tree - I feel sorry for myself for not having that. I kept thinking of things I am not going to be buying for him for the holidays - our little traditions gone for good.

 So it took a year, a lot of distractions and avoidance, but now I feel more.  I wondered if it would happen and it has and it's okay.  I'm not depressed, I am simply in a place where I can feel and acknowledge all that has been lost to me and our kids and continue to carry on without fear of being broken. Sad for what has been lost but making a new life day by day.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020


 By my count we are on day 25 of unsafe smoke filled air here - we did have almost 3 days when the wind blew in from the East sending it all back toward the coastal states -  and then it stopped.  All day it looks foggy outside. And now the inside of my house is almost as toxic as outside.  My eyes burn and my throat is sore and everything smells of wood smoke. 

A new friend and I had planned two outings - both cancelled.   One event was a walking tour of outdoor murals around town.  Masks and social distancing and a small group. I was really looking forward to that.  Dinner with my son and daughter in law and a masked pedicure are the only actual human interactions I have had in 10 days.  Though it could be worse, an old friend still can't see her husband who has been hospitalized for 3 weeks (not Covid.)

Then the Rump and his team decided to come to town and hold a campaign rally.  Reno authorities said no - it was against the state and national Covid rules.  So they changed the event to a "protest" and went to a more rural and red county and held their "protest."  About 5000 unmasked folks crammed together in roped off areas for hours - now they've come home and I expect will super spread the virus here and ruin our good efforts to get our numbers down.  The college kids have done really well - our numbers have been trending down a bit since school started - and the governor was finally ready to allow bars to open.  But this event is sure to mess things up for us all.

I live really close to the University here, but I have not seen any political signs or the like, so I planned to just lay low. After the Woodward tapes came out, I changed my mind about getting a yard sign.

And a tee shirt. 

I have been watching more TV now that I can't spend time outdoors.  I have learned I have to be careful what I watch and when.  I have become very shaken by violence and even tension in programs and have bad dreams, especially if I watch at night.  I am also hyper emotional and find myself choked up and tearful even over the news and programs and events I have seen before.   Someone suggested this is all grief related and they may be right.  Can't exactly join a support group right now though, can I? 

So I spent much of this week organizing cabinets, moving things around in the basement and rearranging my pantry area.  I stuffed batting into my couch cushions to shore up the divots.  I cleaned. I made real dinners.  I baked keto cookies.

This morning when I woke up my house was dim and smoky.  I checked the air quality site and it was at the most dangerous level yet -  going outside was not advised. I slumped on my couch and I thought - how can I keep this world from squishing me?

Thursday, September 10, 2020


 Last night I could see the stars again!  We had a cool wind blow through from the east and the smoke has cleared.  So wonderful to see the stars at night and our deep blue sky all day.  We have just this short break then the smoke is supposed to get to dangerous levels by the weekend.

In my last post - sorry for the dark mood - I failed to mention some nice things that have happened this summer.  I keep hearing how disappointed people are about all the summer festivals and events being cancelled.  But here in NV we have had some things opened back up for a while.  With strict guidelines restaurants (not bars) and most other businesses are open.  You can't try on clothes or sit at a bar and masks are required everywhere.  The good thing is that people here, for the most part, are following the rules.  

There are those stupid, selfish people out there pulling their mask down once inside - my DIL has had confrontations with them.  She is an oncology nurse and has already been exposed twice and had to quarantine and be tested.

My sister who calls herself walking co-morbidity was threatened by a man with a gun in the Spokane Washington Costco when she asked him not to stand so close since he wasn't wearing his mask.  She has barely gone out at all in 6 months and that is why.

Anyway - for those of us being vary careful but wanting some bits and pieces of normal life - Reno is doing okay. Week to week I stick to the same 3 or 4 shopping and walking locations and resist spreading my outings into too many uncharted spaces.  I did go to a craft store when I completed a needlepoint and wanted to finish it as a pillow.  I also went to Home Depot and a local nursery a number of times.  

But when the "Women of a Certain Age" social group I had joined right before the shut down resumed some activities, I jumped right in.  We keep outings to 6 people and stick to the same places that have hosted us for years.  We are known and therefore well looked after.  This group has had a lot to do with saving my sanity the last couple of months.  I made sure to exchange phone numbers with a couple of the people I felt might become friends and have gone on walks and even to a museum! 

The biggest, risk I have taken this summer was two trips to Idaho.  The first time I drove to visit my elderly parents.  They were going stir crazy in their tiny apartment in a seniors community and wanted a brief getaway.  They had reservations at a condo in a small resort town so I took them there for 3 days.  They don't get around very easily, so we mostly ate in and drove around looking at the sights from the car.  People there were great about mask wearing so our 2 ventures to eat out felt safe.  We all quarantined before and after the trip - and made it through safely.

Then my sister up in northern Idaho invited me to visit - mountains, lake view,

boat and keeping company with my sister was just what I had hoped summers might be like in retirement. I agonized over how to get there - drive alone for 2 days each way, staying in motels and getting food on the road?  Or fly there and back?  Every single flight included plane changes - so in and out of multiple airports on planes with people from all over?   The worst part was most flights are routed through Las Vegas which is the Nevada cesspool of Corona. My sister easily agreed to get up at 3 am to get me to the airport for my return flight via Oakland.

I wore goggles and wiped everything in reach, wore my best mask, kept my distance from others, stayed in well ventilated areas and didn't purchase food during my layovers. I kept the overhead fan on and took a window seat - all per recommendations from medical experts.  It went fine - had a really nice visit, took walks, went out on the boat one day, hung around the house learning mah jong, started a mosaic tabletop, and talked and talked.  I know there are a lot of people being very judgy about others taking "unessential" trips.  Part of me agrees - on the other hand, we still have to live our lives and make the best decisions for our mental and physical health.  

Next year I hope to be invited back, make a real road trip if the drive, bring my bike and be able to treat my hosts to a nice dinner out.  Here's to a great summer of 2021!

Monday, September 7, 2020


 Outside it is 96 degrees  the sky is a smoky gray that will turn orange when the sun begins to set.  We've had only a few days in the past month that being outside didn't leave you with smoke smelling hair and stinging eyes.

Currently the fires are in California but we have had a few big ones here in Nevada. The afternoon winds I used to complain about are not happening much, so the air just sits still, hot and thick.  If it weren't for the fact that so many people are being displaced and losing everything I would complain bitterly about this new pile-on to the pain of 2020.  But I just look forward to the very early mornings when the air is cooler and if I walk through the thick greenery of the Arboretum, the smoke doesn't sting so much.

The calendar says Fall starts in 2 weeks. I am not sure I am ready to give up on summer - the months of construction noise, dust and inconvenience on our street had finally come to an end right about the time the wildfire smoke descended.  While I enjoyed the effort of planting things and making the yard a bit nicer, the heat, noise and smoke reduced the pleasure.

As a newly retired person and on my own for the first time in 37 years -  it's all a big adjustment.  Having Covid-19 crush most normal life and cancel all the researched, well planned and hope filled ideas I had in place to start my life in a new place left a lot of hours to fill and not much to fill them with.

My routine has been to go walking at 8 then do errands or just head home to water and tend to my plants and stuff.  I take my protein drink outside with my book and enjoy the outdoors before it gets too hot - usually by 10 or 11 I am inside again.  

I have discovered these online surveys that "pay" in gift cards.  They get redundant but it is something to fill time and knocks down my Amazon habit.  (I generally have 5 books lined up to read on my Kindle.)  I also subscribed to the NY Times online.  Sooo much content!  

My son figured out why I couldn't watch stuff on my streaming channels and fixed it so I have been watching more movies and documentaries and less news.  I managed to make it through the two "conventions" but my mood has gone decidedly downhill in their aftermath.  

Some days I see that my easygoing, do whatever I feel like doing life is something others envy - even under these limiting circumstances.   I have enjoyed many of my days meandering through the hours.  I am now thinking I need to do some work - on myself.  I need to figure out my new life, my purpose,  my roles.  

Not sure how to go about it, though.  Any suggestions?

Monday, July 27, 2020


I spend several mornings each week dealing with the many loose ends following the death of my spouse.  I know that much of what I am dealing with is due to the fact that many things were managed by my husband and left in disarray (because his death was completely unexpected) and others that I was not privy to due to his business and his desire to "shield me" from the reality of our financial situation.
In any case, if it is helpful at all for recently widowed women who find this post, I am going to set out a few things I have learned.

1.  Everyone says you need a lot of certified death certificates.  Frequently mentioned is to get at least a dozen of them.  Because of my husband's business - I got about 20 of them. Turns out this is one of the few areas where modern technology has changed the rules.  Many places were just fine with a scanned and emailed copy.  Some copied the original I brought in person and gave it back.  In fact, many requested that the Social Security number be blocked out for liability and privacy concerns.

I suggest starting with half a dozen and then order more if needed.  As they cost about $23.00  per copy - it makes no sense to have any extras sitting in a file - like I have.

2.   My husband was self employed.  I worked so we had healthcare benefits.  I didn't make a lot of money, but enough that it had an effect come tax time.  We changed my  401k  contribution to try to ease that - so 40% of my pay went into that account pre-tax.  Since here was a matching element - it grew fairly fast.  He asked me to take a large distribution shortly before he died.

The distribution he had me take was intended to go into a new retirement account he had opened -  a SEP IRA.  He made an issue of letting me know how I could access the account - however, either he didn't know or didn't consider the consequences if he died and we did not go through probate.  Under those conditions, I have no claim or access to the funds - at least per Vanguard Brokerage Services.  There is only a few hundred dollars in the account that they won't pay out to me for whatever arcane rules they get to hide behind.  (Unless I spend more money than is in the account to provide legal documents that satisfy "the rules".)

So the large sum I had just taken out of my 401k to be deposited into that account remained in my hands because he became ill before the transfer could be made.  The sole saving grace I managed out of the mess of finances I inherited.

The lesson?  Learn more about the various kinds of accounts there are and question the rules around them.  I did that when he became eligible for his pension.  He had planned to defer it until he was 70 because the value was so much higher.  I questioned what the rules were if something should happen to him before that milestone - and we learned I would end up with a tiny fraction of the amount as his widow.  We changed the option and he began taking the pension at 65.  Thank goodness I questioned it - wish I had done the same on the SEP IRA!!

3.  Credit cards - sigh.  

In the weeks following his death, each creditor received a phone call requesting the cancellation of the account and any auto payments.  That was followed by a notification letter and a death certificate.  AmEx kept calling and sending letters seeking probate information - we did not go through probate.

Apparently, even though I didn't sign anything, receive or use a card, a couple of the accounts somehow have my name attached to them.  The law is pretty vague on this especially in community property states. 

I would not be liable for the accounts he opened specifically for his business.  He was a solo practitioner and never filed as a corporation - so the accounts can be considered personal.  The credit companies can come after me to pay that debt.  How hard they will come at me remains to be seen.  I was advised to give out no information to anyone who contacts me from the companies or from third party entities.  I no longer answer calls from unknown numbers.

The good news as of now -  the companies he had personal loans with have not come to me for payment.  They seem to be less aggressive about repayment.

I did hear from the bank for my personal credit cards that they are reducing my credit limits by half.  The credit reporting companies are definitely tagging me with his outstanding debts.  I realize it is early days and this is probably far from over, I keep my personal cards and auto loans paid up and hope eventually my credit rating will improve.

4.  With the pandemic, the IRS is backed up.  It does appear that the very expensive tax attorneys I hired are working some magic on the issues of back taxes, payment plans, liens, etc.  Should know soon.  The State of California - not so much - they want payment in full and it is a doozy - wouldn't you know he had a very good income last year.  They are giving me five years to pay off the 2019 taxes.

5.   Bottom line - if you are facing big tax and credit issues - I would advise that the expense of hiring professional help is worth it.  Not those credit fix companies!!  Law Firms or  CPA firms which specialize in these issues.  Call and talk to multiple people until you feel a good fit and communication style.  I had some pretty insulting and negative conversations until I found the great people I am working with.

6.  Remember that this will all settle out.  It may take time and more money that you don't really have to spend to help resolve it - but it will be resolved over time.  This is one area I think it is best to let time pass before making any decisions. The pressure is enormous to just make it go away - resist that urge and take your time.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


It has been hard to start living alone just as this stay at home way of life started.  I know it has been hard for pretty much everyone.  All of us have our different dynamics, challenges and feelings.  The exception has been my youngest daughter.  She has been working non-stop in the food and beverage industry since she was in high school - she was furloughed  and has had the first break in 10 years!  But I digress.

 One of the reasons I decided on the little house I live in now is its proximity to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park.  It has a huge dog park, an Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and covers about 600 acres of space.  I have been going walking through the park several times a week all through the late winter and spring.  

It turns out Reno is really windy.  Did not know that before I moved here.  As a cyclist, I hate the wind - but as a pedestrian, it isn't all that bad. However - gale force winds gusting 30-60 mph is not conducive to a walk in the park.  As a Californian, I am geared for warm weather to start in March. It snowed and hailed and froze the water in my birdbath on June 7 here! 

When I go for a few days making excuses for not walking and then shove myself out the door I am always so happy my better nature took over and sent me out into the fresh air - be it cold and windy or scented with new blossoms.

This past week I discovered that the iris finally bloomed as did the lilacs.  There was a heavenly scent coming from the Mountain Roses. There are little cotton tailed bunnies all over the place and ducklings in a row paddling across the pond.

My sister got me started painting little rocks to be left behind when out and about, and it is always fun to see if my latest rock has been discovered and carried off.  I am no artist - the rock pictured here is my homage to Kandinsky. I made a whole series of them!

I usually walk for 30 to 60 minutes.  I go pretty early and find people are good about distancing and are still friendly.  I bring my mask but have not needed to wear it. 

I have made an effort to reverse my routes and find new paths and to climb at least 1 or 2 hills on each walk.  I don't listen to music on headphones, I listen to the birds and rushing water from the snow run off while it is still melting. I like to walk past the dog park and watch the romping pups.  I usually stop and find a bench and do a brief "meditation." Then head home again glad I made myself go.

Sunday, June 7, 2020


We all know time is a fickle thing - for me last month seemed to last forever, for you it might have passed in a blur. Six months ago just happened.  Six months ago seems like a lifetime past. Six months ago today was a Saturday.  It was Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.  It was the day my husband died.

I had to look up what day of the week it was.  The 22 days living in the hospital were marked by the rhythm of shift changes.  The whiteboard laying out each day's status updates, planned meds, infusions and procedures. During the last few days spent in the ICU many of those personal connections were lost as treatment stopped and reacting to each new problem and symptom began.  In the ICU they didn't know him when he arrived 18 days earlier, weak but still himself.
Tom at the top of the "Rocky Steps" in Philly. September 2019

And now here I am.  Living alone in a little house in a new state with a fraction of my belongings collected over 37 years of living with my husband.  Each day I am reminded of things planned 

which will not happen. I open a cabinet and see his hat or the velveteen bag containing his ashes.  I usually say "Hi Tommy" and go ahead with what I was doing. I have moved from pain to wistfulness. 

I know for sure that I would be in a more positive mood today if not for the Covid 19 situation.  The classes I signed up for were cancelled, the social groups I had hoped to join have delayed events until late June or July, the gym closed.  The voids in my life I had hoped to start filling will have to wait a little longer.

I have the benefit of living in a small house with a large yard.  I don't particularly like gardening but I find myself pulling weeds, planting herb gardens, fussing over tomato plants, spreading  bark, watering, sweeping off the patio and porch.

There is a large park nearby with many walking paths and I have watched winter turn to spring as I traipse through it several times a week.  I've stopped having the TV on all the time for company.  I make lists of things to do and check them off as I complete them.  I am baking low carb cookies and cinnamon bread, grilling salmon, eating the first cherries and apricots.

My son and his wife have shared their murder mystery boxes with me following nice meals in their home.  I am in touch with all 3 children nearly every day and have Zoom gatherings with other family and former co-workers.

Alone together - isn't that the theme of the day?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


 They say never grocery shop when you are hungry.  I have learned it is very expensive to grocery shop when you are feeling sad.

When I feel sorry for myself I spend $153.00 on things like:

1. Pate (2 kinds)
2. A nicely shaped pot I can put mosaic tile on even though I have 3 at home waiting to be similarly  adorned.
3.  Four sweet indulgences which I hope will last 2 weeks until I shop again - they won't.
4. Shrimp - because no shrimp packing plants are under siege - yet.
5. Three kinds of cheese even though I already have 2 kinds in the frig.
6. A $2.00 avocado - which will never be worth what I spent. 
7. Three kinds of berries not on mark down. 
8. Green onions to replace the 2 slimy bags of green onions I removed from the frig.

I also bought some ground lamb and chicken - because meat packing plants. Four greeting cards which I need to swear off because they are ridiculously expensive. I have been saying that for about 2 years now, it is an addiction.

I couldn't buy any Lipton Tea and a few other things on my actual list.  There were many more empty shelves throughout the store than I have seen before.  My cupboards and refrigerator are full - no more shopping just for something to do. 

Except for plants at the nursery...

Sunday, April 26, 2020


Am I the only one tired of hearing about in these "unprecedented, unpredictable, un-whatever times"  that we are "alone together"?  If those companies spending a fortune on the sappy, repetitive ads would direct that money toward their employees - I wouldn't get so irked.  But that is a rant for another day.

Apparently, I am no longer sheltering on place alone.  The signs were subtle at first,  then nothing for a bit, then they were unmistakable.  Mice.

This nice little house I live in has very little kitchen cabinet space, but there is a sort of semi-finished closet off the kitchen. Previous tenants housed their dogs and pet supplies in that space. I set up shelves and organized my overflow bowls, pans, storage containers and some pantry items I couldn't fit into the kitchen.

The first alert was the tiny mouse I surprised while it was exploring the trash under the sink.  I went out and bought the standard glue traps (I know, none of this is particularly humane but those snap and squish things seem worse.) I placed two of them under the sink at the spot that looked most likely to be the point of entry.  Nothing. For weeks no sign.  Maybe the trash explorer returned to the hide out and reported it was a no go.

Then I started finding droppings in various places and the glue traps still perfectly in place.  In the closet there was a nibbled potato and I had to wash a basket of dish towels, but no other signs.  I stopped storing my occasional potato in the "pantry" and put the towels in another location.  Wiped down the shelves with Clorox, put a couple more glue traps on the shelves and started doing daily inspections.

Turns out these mice have very high end taste.  The only thing they focused on were my very expensive low carb crackers which I order by the case from San Francisco.  I tossed the first package they had ravaged and placed all the cracker type items into very heavy duty plastic bags my husband used to store yard and pool chemicals in the garage.

All seemed well. Traps clear and no new nibbles.  Or so I thought.  I went to get a package of my special crackers and I found they had chewed through the plastic and into one of my new cracker packages.  I related my battle to my sister who advised me to get electric traps that zap the mice.  She swore by the effective and more humane little killing devices.

Stay in your own damned house!
Amazon apparently didn't think them essential enough to deliver right away and I didn't want to wait 3 weeks so I left the safety of my home, went to Home Depot and paid more but had my new battle plan.  As directed, I put peanut butter in the traps even though I knew the hearts desire of the mice - so nothing happened.  I left trails of crackers up to the entry of the traps - they ate the crumbs but did not enter.  I moved them around, I cleaned out the peanut butter and put cracker crumbs inside.  No go.  I got the smart rodents.

Meantime I completely rearranged my storage and got all soft packages out of the closet pantry.  Was that a smart move?  Will they just hightail it into the kitchen cabinets now?  Is this really how I am spending my days?

Well, I don't know what changed the dynamic, but all of a sudden, 2 tiny mice on glue traps to dispose of.  Still no action in the $40.00 fancy reusable traps - but progress.  Then another on a glue trap.  Then the big time - a much larger critter entered the zap trap - I could see the tail hanging out.  I am not particularly squeamish and I will step up and deal with this myself with gloves and newspapers to remove and wrap - and try not to look at any of it.  Yuck.

Two days now and no new action.  I may be alone again.

Probably not - still alone together.

Monday, April 20, 2020


Three weeks after I moved to another city in another state to escape the high prices of the SF Bay Area and to be near my son and his wife in Nevada - the stay at home orders came out.  I had managed to get really well settled into my little house and was looking forward to being out and about  - getting to know the area and to start finding ways to meet people.

 I had signed up for a couple of classes and was researching bike and social groups.   I had visited several gyms and chose one to join.  I got all signed up with a local doctor.  I completed the process to get a new drivers license and register my car.  I was all revved up to get out there and start a routine and meet people and fill my no longer work and husband filled time. 

It all came to a screeching halt.  For good reason - I am not arguing that at all.  I don't have health issues, but I am of the age group that is at risk.  The last thing I would want is to do something reckless and cause others to get sick or require care for myself.

It just seems to me when I think back over the last 6 months that this is personal.  Which is crazy, I know that.  It just seems like the universe is really piling it on considering all the drama and problems and issues and frustrations I have had to work through beginning with my husbands diagnosis and continuing to this day.  The number of hours invested in dealing with the fall out from his death, including identity theft, tax and financial issues, settlements from the moving company and disbursement of funds from accounts and even just trying to get mail delivered to the correct address. It seems endless and I have such empathy for anyone having to go through all of it. 

I am glad I was not working and able to be with my husband every one of his last days.  I have the time and the capacity to deal with all of the challenges I am facing. I can afford my little house in my new city and my car payment and groceries and the things I need.  I am near my son and my daughters who live across the country check in pretty much every day.  This will pass - at some point I'll do all the things I was looking forward to.

 Right now I am a bit too steeped in being alone and all the platitudes are getting annoying.  But in writing this I also feel annoyed by my own complaints.  So I am just going to knock it off and make a list of things to do for the rest of this week - and then the next one and just stay busy and active and stop whining.