I Survived the Year of 2019 – Can I Survive this Year of Jumanji?

For the most part, I am doing well.  Most part.

However, as the year anniversary of my husband’s suicide is about to roll around, I get deep anxiety as to how I am going to face that day.  Will I wake up gasping for breath?  Will I be able to get out of bed?  Will I be able to put one foot in front of the other?  Or will it just be another day?

Thank God I continue working from home, because I just do not know if I want to be around people that day.

Almost a year.  Sometimes it is flying by, some days it is dragging by.  But I know I made tremendous strides in my healing.

When I have to say my husband passed away, those words just do not seem right.  Passed away.  Passed away, to me, seems like a peaceful passing.  His was not.  His was a violent death – at his own hand.

I have not publicly shared what happened that day to try to protect what was good in Bubba, and let him have some dignity.  But by not doing so, rumors abound.  Rumors are worse than the truth.

May 29, 2019 – a day I will remember for the rest of my life.

The years of chronic pain, his body failing and the multitude of medicines he was on, I swear, turned his brain into Swiss cheese.  The last two years of his life were very difficult for him, and his moods were difficult for the rest of us.  His last two weeks of his life were worse.

I will not go into detail, but there are a few things that I would rather utter the words instead of others spreading rumors.  You will know this truth from me – the only other person with him that day.  What anyone else offers is pure conjecture.

All I will say is on May 29, 2019, Bubba had a most difficult day.  I returned home from work not knowing if I would find Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.  I was in the front yard.  Bubba was on the carport – when I heard the gunshot.  I heard the gunshot.  I will never forget that.  I heard the gunshot.

I knew what he did.

I called 9-1-1.  Since no one else was home, the 9-1-1 operator said I had to check my husband to see if he was still breathing.  I could not imagine what I would find.  Yes, he was still breathing.  No, his face was not blown off like someone later told his sister.  How this untruth traveled from north Mississippi to the bayous of south Louisiana beats the heck out of me.  I could have had an open casket funeral if I had not chosen cremation.

To dispel other rumors, at no point was a gun turned on me.  I was not in fear of my life at that moment.

My goal in this is to make people think before they offer opinions to someone who has lost a loved one by suicide.  Death by suicide of a loved one already has enough stigma attached to the situation.  We do not want to hear you state our loved one cannot get into heaven because he took his own life.  We do not want to hear what the trajectory of a bullet does to the brain.  And mostly, if you were not in the room at the time and have no idea what occurred, we do not want you to offer opinions, or repeat hearsay as fact.

I hurt for Bubba for what his mind must have been going through contemplating his suicide.  I hurt for our children and grandchildren.  I see the pain on his siblings’ faces when they speak about him and I could just cry.  He’s left a world of hurt in cousins, aunts, uncle and friends.

His suicide hurts badly enough. Rumors and conjecture hurt even worse.

Fast forward to May, 2020.

As May 29, 2020 approaches, for the most part I am doing well.  Most part.

I am bringing on my own anxiety by anticipating I will have a bad day.

That is an unknown.

What I do know is God’s promise.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This verse brings me peace, for the most part.  For the most part I am doing well.

A common comment heard from someone experiencing new grief is, “I wish I could fast forward from this deep pain to a day this pain does not bring me to my knees.”

This crazy COVID-19, Jumanji year has accomplished that very feat for me – fast forwarded my grief.  I am not making light of others’ hardships during this most difficult time, I am only speaking of my own experience.

Usually during a time of trial and tribulation, God sees it fit to put me in the middle of the turmoil.  But this time, God let me sit this one out.  He gave me rest, peace and blessings.  I still have a job.  I work from home.  I get paid.  And I will return to my job when this over.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

Life is good during my time of quarantine.  I am finding myself, re-kindling old friendships, spending many therapeutic moments in my vegetable garden, eating better, losing weight and learning much.  Learning things such as, did you know you can open a bag of potato chips and not eat the entire bag in one sitting?  Who knew?  I have also learned I can let my bangs grow out, and I do not have to cut them myself.  The hairdo actually looks better!  I can have downtime and enjoy this without guilt.  I can be lazy sometimes, and that is okay.  My soul finds rest.

Yes, my grief has fast forwarded, but I find myself trying to put on the brakes as May 29, 2020 approaches.

Check with me on May 30, 2020, and I will let you know how I survived.

For the most part, I am doing well.  For the most part I have shed my skin and stepped into a skin I like much better.  For the most part I live, I laugh and I love.  For the better part I am moving forward, not just surviving but thriving.

For the most part I am truly doing well.

 

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home town. Pre-Quarantine, they would bring the college students into their home on Monday nights to break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  They have since then had to find other ways to minister to these young men and women.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

After the Spiral…..

I spiraled Valentine’s week.  I am not proud of it, but it is what it is.  I know spiraling can be expected during grief.  Does not mean I was ready for it though.  It was a bad spiral.  I was not sure I was going to climb out of that rabbit hole this time.

I had a panic attack in Dollar General.  I barely made it through the check out, ran to my vehicle, and cried once I shut the door.  Cried all the way home.

Grief is rough.  On top of regular grief, trying to process your husband committing suicide makes you wonder how you function every day.

With the help of my therapist, I realized I was missing what might have been, and going down the What If rabbit hole.  What if my old vehicle dies?  What if I can’t fix the problems in my old house?  What if I never get my vegetable garden started ever again?  I have to re-till and amend the soil because I have not had a garden for 3 years.  What if I can’t do this by myself?  What if I can’t fix the potholes on my dirt road?

The irony is, the hope of ‘what could have been’ sustained me through my husband’s mental illness.  I always had hope his physical and mental ailments would be cured and we would grow old together as planned.  Now, after his death, the ‘what could have been’ was driving me insane.  Identifying this emotion, owning it for what it was, sure helped propel me to once again put one foot in front of the other.

Another factor playing into my depression was the weather.  Our region normally has mild winters.  We didn’t have particularly extreme cold days, but we had a wet winter.  Most times, there are nights where we can go outside, light a fire and have outdoor movie night.  There was none of that this winter because it was just too wet.  Not being able to be outside, on the land I so love, was much more draining that I ever could have imagined.

Fortunately, Saturday was dry and mild.  With my newfound grasp on reality, I was able to spend some time in sunshine and this lifted my spirits tremendously.  I felt empowered!

I tackled the yard, starting with cleaning up some messes.  Then, I learned how to drive our zero-turn lawnmower while wearing my bright pink Avon Mattitude Liquid Lipstick.  I also learned how to connect my headphones to my cell so I could listen to music while cutting the grass.

Progress!

I broke the lawnmower.

Not progress!

And as if widowhood wasn’t enough, a lizard got in my house.  I picked up a magazine, saw a little stick sticking out of it and proceeded to remove it, when said stick jumps on my finger.  Said stick turns out to be a baby lizard.  I shake my finger while screaming and hopping around.  The baby lizard scampers to parts unknown and can probably live in this house to adulthood because I am not picking it up.  I realized I should have known that wasn’t a stick because why would a stick be sticking out of my magazine?

Not so much progress, but that’s okay.

So heck on this day!  I went out for boiled seafood and $2 margaritas for National Margarita Day.

Problems not solved, but who cares when you can get $2 margaritas?

Sunday rolls along.  I decide to pick up sticks in my yard to burn, which gives me the idea that I can burn some oak logs in my garden area.  That would go a long way in amending my soil.

Hallelujah moment!  Garden problem partially solved!

Later, I went down my muddy dirt road, noticing my husband’s shovel that he kept in the woods to dig little trenches when the rain got bad.  So right there, in my good tennis shoes, I hopped out of my vehicle to dig a few trenches to drain some of the water.

Pothole problem temporarily solved!

I go back home feeling really proud of myself.  Now to clean my tennis shoes and take a shower.

And then….

I see that baby lizard in my tub.  I run out the bathroom, stop in the hallway, and say ‘time to man up, Gretchen.’  I march back into the bathroom with new resolve.  Taking the advice of one of my widow friends, I threw a face cloth over the lizard.  She said she heard little lizard screams as she carried it outside.  I am hard of hearing so I did not hear any little lizard screams, but I did feel it wiggling in the cloth.  I almost threw up.  I opened the back door to release said lizard, and it was clinging to the face cloth for dear life.  Before it could jump on my hand, I threw out the cloth, ran inside and locked the door.

Lizard problem solved!

Days later, when I know the lizard has left the face cloth, I will just burn that cloth in my garden burn pile.

Problem solved!

Man, it’s grand not to be stuck in a spiral.

 

The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  My daughter and her husband are the sweetest Valentines I know.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

Avon tip of the day:  For a limited time, you can join Avon for FREE.  Got to my website and click on Become a Representative.  Start selling immediately. Your sign up comes with loads of perks, benefits and goodies to help you start strong. Plus, you can earn up to 65% in sales and bonuses!  Personalize your free online store and then text or email the link to friends and family for instant sales. Sell anywhere, anytime with our mobile app and get paid fast in 2 business days with Rapid Pay!

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

 

The First Valentine

I did not think Valentine’s Day would be too bad.  We had been married for 37 years and didn’t really celebrate the day anymore, for goodness sake.

Or did we?

I opened FB that morning and 10 years of memories hit me.  We didn’t do elaborate celebrations anymore, but I realized we quietly marked the day with sweet little traditions.  He would cook me breakfast before work, which included a heart shaped omelet.  I would pick up a couple pounds of crawfish for a quiet dinner to be eaten in front of the TV (watching Walton’s re-runs, no doubt).  Filling a vase with whatever we could find growing in the yard to decorate our dining table.

I will never experience those moments anymore, and that made my cry.

I have been growing stronger each day, so this step back took me totally off guard.  The mourning was so tense, it became physical.  My heart was burning and felt tight and constricted.  I could swear someone had my heart in their hand and were squeezing as hard as they could.

I reached out to a few other widow friends, and we were all suffering.  Julia and I discussed how memories were normally comforting, but today we were drowning in them.  Debbie said even after 3 years the pain was still so raw for her.  Julie told me God’s got us, the firsts are always the hardest and we will make it.

I do not want to bring others down on this day of celebrating love, but my co-workers find me crying in my cubicle.  I do not want to allow this sadness and anger to turn my heart to stone and become bitter.  I want to celebrate love and I want to always be happy for couples who get to celebrate this time together.  God, please allow me to be happy for others even though my heart is breaking.

I’m still mad at him for taking his own life, and that anger continues to buffer some of my sadness.  I took his picture off of my cubicle wall, and threw it in my top drawer.  Then I removed the picture and flung it in the bottom drawer because I decided he wasn’t top drawer worthy.

But on this day, there was no anger, just deep, gut wrenching, heart constricting pain

My therapist advised me to accept these days and just to sit in my grief for a moment.

But oh God, it just hurts so bad.

For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.  Isaiah 54:5

 

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  My daughter and her husband are the sweetest Valentines I know.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.)

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

Avon tip of the day:  For a limited time, you can join Avon for FREE.  Got to my website and click on Become a Representative.  Start selling immediately. Your sign up comes with loads of perks, benefits and goodies to help you start strong. Plus, you can earn up to 65% in sales and bonuses!  Personalize your free online store and then text or email the link to friends and family for instant sales. Sell anywhere, anytime with our mobile app and get paid fast in 2 business days with Rapid Pay!

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

A Happy Saturday

I don’t know why.

Maybe it was a residual affect from the steroid shot I had to have the evening before.  Maybe it was that my grief is progressing through the next phase where I feel like living again.  Maybe it was a blessing from God, saying, “Child, you have been through so much these past few years that I am granting you a joyful Saturday.”

Maybe it was all of the above.  I woke up that Saturday morning feeling like a million bucks.  I woke up really early – around 4:00 a.m.  I wanted to try to fall back asleep, after all, I set my alarm for work 5 days a week.  Can’t I just sleep in for a bit on the weekend?  But I was feeling to euphoric to stay in bed.

Sure I still had the same issues I had the day before.  My husband took his own life 7 months ago. I am facing repairs on my house alone, something I have no idea how to handle.  But for some reason, I was euphoric.  And I am going to ride that euphoric horse for as long as I can.

About dang time!

I had forgotten what euphoria felt like.  I lived years having to be the sole provider of the family due to my husband’s disability. And I would do it again, for better or worse – that was my vow.  But living for years with an alcoholic had taken its toll.  Add on top of that, the man was living in severe chronic pain from his body turning on itself, which caused him to turn on me.  I watched my fun-loving husband morph from the life of the party to a bitter old man, who couldn’t be happy about anything or anybody.  I couldn’t do anything right in his eyes, and I finally gave up trying – and didn’t really care anymore.  When he would start his rants, I would simply go in another room.  All I can say is life was downright miserable for all of us the last two years of his life.

I was able to handle all of the responsibilities only by the Grace of God.

So when I woke up feeling euphoria, I figured I better treasure that moment because I don’t know when that next tidal wave of grief is going to hit me.

I leisurely piddled that morning.  Felt like a luxury.  I was facing a day of house chores, but I decided I was going to look dang good doing it.  Normally, I throw on ratty weekend clothes, don’t bother with hair and make-up, have to run to the store for something or the other – and run into

Everyone. I. Know.

I am the Avon lady, at least I should look the part.  Right?

So I picked out clothes I could do my chores in, but ones that wouldn’t make me look homeless if I ventured into the public eye.  It was going to be a humid day (well, that is almost every day in our neck of the woods).  So I had to do something with the wild locks spiraling out of control.  A few bobby pins later and I had a messy updo look that still manages to present ‘I kind of have it together look.’  I figured I came this far, I better put on foundation.  For my age, my skin is in good condition due to my Avon products, but I do have rosacea.  (My favorite skin care is our Avon Anew Hydra Fusion line.  Check it out on my website.)  So let’s dab on a little foundation.  My go-to product is Avon True Flawless Cream-to-Powder Foundation – heavy enough to cover my rosacea, but feels like a part of my skin – never cakey or heavy feeling.  My favorite is Natural Beige (#593-360 if you are looking for something new).  I could have stopped there – but you know – euphoria carries you a long way.  Let’s dab on some blush.  I have dry skin.  I like something creamy on my face, so I use Avon True Color Be Blushed Cheek Color Stick (#578-295 Blushing Nude).  I wonder if I can accomplish a little eye shadow, applied just so, so that it is an enhancement, but looks natural.  What’s in my stash?  Avon True Color Multi-Finish Eyeshadow Quad – Naked Truth (#528-117).  If I put on eyeshadow, I must put on eyeliner.  Now that my face is – how should I put this – is much bigger than when I was younger, my once big eyes have disappeared into my chipmunk cheeks and round face.  I have to use eyeliner so people even know I have eyes.  Have you ever tried Avon’s True Color Glimmersticks Waterproof Eye Liner?  I used Blackest Black (#488-328).  This goes on so smooth.  One of my customers quit using Lancome eyeliners because Avon went on just as well, and is oh so affordable.   Well now my lips look pale, unadorned and sad.  They want attention too.  Hmmmm.  Need to be careful what I pick here because my daughter tells me some of my lipstick is New Orleans Bourbon Street worthy.  Hey!  So what!  New Orleans is where I am from and proud to say it! And I am a product of the disco era where everything was flamboyant.  But still, I didn’t want to look like I was heading out for a night on the town. I just wanted to feel good about myself.  Let’s use Avon 2-in-1 Lip Tattoo Lip Line & Fill Duo, Inked Rose (#494-239).  I have to put a little color on my lips.  Nude lipsticks do not do a darn thing for me.

Well now that the face and hair is all done, a little costume jewelry will be the crowning glory.  I put on my necklace that says “Avon,” combined with a necklace that says “Beauty Boss.”  Then that led to earrings.  My hair was up so I could show off earrings.  I couldn’t find any of my post earrings.  I guess I still have not unpacked those from my move 7 months ago.  But wait!  I belong to the best Avon group ever.  I had just received a pair in the mail from the best upline ever, Karen!  I ripped open that envelope and put some earrings on that may have been a little too fancy for chores – but hey – euphoria – what can I say?  (You need to check out Avon’s jewelry line…..)

All of the above explained in painful detail is to give hope to those newly grieving.  I know you feel you will never think of anything else but this sorrow.  I was shocked I was able to concentrate on something trivial as hair and make-up without thinking of my husband’s suicide.  Those thoughts usually plague my mind almost 24/7.

I sat back and looked at the face in the mirror.  Oh how she has aged – and gotten rounder.  A few weeks ago I had been going through old photos and missing that young, skinny woman with the great hair.  Oh how I would love to go back to those carefree days that didn’t involve bills, mortgages, alcoholism, DUIs, fines, chronic pain, clinical depression. But that face in the mirror today is so much wiser than that face that looked back at me in my younger years.

It is what it is and I am who I am. And I can hold my head up high.

I am going to treat that woman in the mirror right.  She deserves it, and she will preserver.

I am living, I am breathing, and I am functioning in society without all of my husband’s added drama.

This Saturday morning was a blissful moment for me.  This was proof that I am healing.  Finally, a turning point to the good.

I like that person in the mirror!

James 1:2-3 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights – sometimes over 20 people are fed – on a youth minister’s salary!  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

GLORY TO THE ORDINARY!

 

Glory to the Ordinary

For 37 years, just before midnight, I would say Happy New Year to the same man.  For 37 years, upon waking, I would say Happy New Year, again, to the same man.

Needless to say, I have been stressing and dreading this New Year.  I feel I am stepping forward into the future and leaving my husband behind.  In 2019, my husband was alive.  In 2020, he isn’t.  2020 won’t know him.  2019 knew him.  This seems to solidify he is gone.

I have started New Year’s with him for 37 years.  How do I not do this?

Well he left me no choice, did he?

In the year’s pre-kids, we would go to nightclubs, drink champagne and ring in the New Year.  Once kids arrived, we hosted family parties at our home, making great, great memories.  Years later, we rang in the year with the two grandchildren living with us.  Most of the time it was just the 4 of us on our little acreage, lighting sparklers and throwing snappy pops.  Such a cozy setting.

Fast forward to this year, the oldest grands are in their teens now, doing their own thing.  I don’t want to go to any parties – socializing – that would hurt too much.  But I don’t want to be home alone.  I figured I would go to Waffle House, sit at the counter (because booths are reserved for 2 or more), and have a lonely dinner.

Then I would go home and wait for midnight – counting down by myself.  3 – 2 – 1.

I can’t.  I. Just. Can’t.

But the past few days, something started changing in me.  I have been feeling the need to socialize more, and not just with my friends in my computer (my Facebook friends).  I need face to face contact.

Is my grieving progressing to a new stage? Am I seeing light at the end of the tunnel?  Well, I am not to the end the tunnel, because grieving never ends.  But grieving does morph, and I am seeing some light.  I am coming up for air.  I feel I am beginning to breathe again.

Fortunately, a high school friend threw out a rope and saved me from drowning in my pity.  She invited me to spend New Year’s at her house, drinking champagne, wearing our jammies and talking the night away.  (After all, we have 40 years to catch up on!)  We will skip the parties and have a girl’s night in.  This is just what I needed.  I won’t have to be in a social setting, and I won’t be home alone.  The next day, we will cook the required black eye peas and cabbage.  Well, she will probably cook.  She knows my cooking horror stories and she may not let me in her kitchen.

But I still don’t know if I can say Happy New Year.  I am thinking of starting a different tradition, similar to Seinfeld’s Festivus for the Rest of Us.  I think I will say, “Glory to the Ordinary.”

Those of us grieving or hurting just want to be ordinary.  We don’t want the stigma of being the wife whose husband committed suicide.  We don’t want to be the parent who buried his/her child.  We don’t want to be the wife/husband whose spouse left them for a ‘newer model.’  Glory to the Ordinary.

Instead of having “Airing of the Grievances,” we will hold “Remembrance of the Non-Descript.”  For example, I kiss my husband goodbye as I leave for work.  I come home in the evening, opening the front door and smell his famous chili cooking on the stove.  Or Saturday mornings when we were feeling lazy and we would linger in bed while watching PBS, and grandkids would climb in with us.  Or Sunday Saints’ games, boiling a sack of crawfish.  (He took his famous boiled crawfish recipe to the grave with him.  I don’t think I will ever taste crawfish again as good as his.)  These days, nothing out of the ordinary happened.  These were just regular days of existence.  Glory to the Ordinary.

We can keep “Feats of Strength,” but this will not entail wrestling.  Those of us grieving or hurting show our strength everyday just by getting out of bed, showing up for the day, accomplishing what is necessary, celebrating small victories over our pain and managing to make it to nightfall.  Glory to the Ordinary.

We want an ordinary day without the heavy burden of our losses.  Glory to the Ordinary.

We don’t want to say Happy New Year, because we really do not feel it.

So to all of us that are hurting as we approach the New Year, I will not say Happy New Year.  But I do wish you a Glory to the Ordinary.

 “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” – Proverbs 23:18 (NIV)

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights – sometimes over 20 people are fed – on a youth minister’s salary!  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

GLORY TO THE ORDINARY!

Clutter Can be a Beautiful Thing

CLUTTER!  This time of year, parents start thinning out children’s toys to make way for an influx of Christmas presents.  People start looking forward to a new year, and vow to be more organized.  Markets are gearing up for promoting books and items to help you organize.  In other words, buy more clutter to help corral your clutter.  The irony!

I have been back home for 6 months, and have spent way too many weekends battling clutter – purging, donating, throwing away and burning.  I should be out with family and friends, starting to actually live my new life.  But no.  I only have two days out of the week to do this, so I grab every chance I get.  I even joined a site where I get daily messages for one year to re-train my brain how to deal with every type of clutter, whether physical or emotional.  Funny thing is, I rarely open the messages and this is now cluttering my inbox.  More irony!

Just about every weekend has been dedicated to simplifying my life by having less possessions.  I cannot believe how much clutter has been stuffed into this tiny house.  It’s insane.  First world problems.  Clutter is controlling my life.  I made a vow that once this massive project is finished, I will think twice before buying any item and bringing into my home.

This weekend, I parted with some of my husband’s kitchen items I knew I would never use.  That hurt.  I felt so guilty.  I was so sad going through his clutter, and this made me cry.  Did he even think of the mess he was leaving me in when he took his own life?  I guess not.  I am sure clutter was not the last thing on his mind.

I want to get rid of as much clutter as I can so that my children are not faced with clearing out my clutter when I join their father in heaven.

I had to take a break to regroup.  Of course, a break meant perusing FB.  Mental clutter.  A memory popped up from 5 years ago.  It was a picture of two of my oldest grands decorating our Christmas tree.  I remember my granddaughter was quite peeved we bought a tree off of a lot and didn’t cut a scrub pine out of the woods.  I looked at my dining room table and it was covered with clutter.  Groan!  That table clutter was the bane of existence for me and my husband.  We lack storage in this small house, so things ended up on top of our table (including a dirt bike my husband was working on for our grandson – but that is a story for another day).

We had a lot of good memories around that table – family gatherings – crawfish boils.  But when I moved back home 6 months ago, all I saw was clutter.  The table was really too big for our house to begin with.  And I just couldn’t see gatherings happening there anymore.  My mom was gone, my husband was gone, my stepdad is getting too old to head up this way.  No, it hurt too much to keep the table.  I gave it to one of my best friend’s.  Her family hosts other families after church, and I knew she would create great memories like we did.  This did my heart good.

But back to that picture.  I looked closely at the clutter.  My grandkids were wearing their Santa hats.  Ornaments were all over the table.  The plastic bin holding Christmas decoration clutter was sitting on a chair.  I saw my grandkids school pictures.  We had a clutter of egg cartons donated to us for our 60 laying hens.  There was a garden watering can, probably to fill the tree base.  That was my favorite little can to water my herb garden.

But the biggest memory was my husband’s flannel jacket thrown over a chair.  He wore his flannel jackets until they were in threads and embarrassing.  However, we couldn’t throw any away until we found one to replace it.  That ratty jacket was always thrown over a dining room chair, the back of a recliner or on the bed.  As he got older and was on blood thinners, he wore this jacket year ‘round because he was always cold.  Seeing this flannel jacket tugged at my heart.

This time, clutter was a beautiful thing.

A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.  Ecclesiastes 3:6.

See – even the Bible is telling me to cast a way my clutter.

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order.)

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 Avon tip of the blog:  Of course, Avon IS NOT CLUTTER.  You purchase a product and use it up!  Have you tried Avon’s eye make-up remover (product #579-359)?  Avon True Color Moisturizing Eye Makeup Remover Lotion works quickly and easily to gently remove all traces of eye makeup. Plus, it conditions and moisturizes your lashes and the fragile skin around your eyes.

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

Christmas is What You Make it – so is Life

In 2008 and 2009 we were a little nomadic, moving between the coast and a little further inland.  I was ready to buy a house again and put down roots.  But where?

My son knew of an acquaintance wanting to sell his grandparents house.  We took a ride down a bumpy country road to check it out.  I pulled into the yard, took one look, promptly backed out and told my son, “No way in heck would I ever move there.  Don’t bother making an appointment to see inside.”

Fast forward a few months, no other deal panned out for us.  To make matters even worse, my husband lost his job.  What followed was a frenzy of fighting for his unemployment benefits and trying to find an affordable place to live.

God sure does have a sense of humor.

The only place I could afford on my salary alone was – you guessed it – the place I refused to consider a few months earlier.

We moved in December 1, 2009.   Christmas was going to be tight.  My husband took our 5-year old grandson and 3-year old granddaughter into the woods to chop a tree.  We do not live in an area that abounds with beautiful trees you see in a Hallmark Christmas movie.  They found a scrawny scrub pine, brought it in the house, put lights on it, and whatever ornaments the tiny branches could hold.  The grands and my husband were excited.  I was depressed and cried.  But in the end, we had a very good Christmas.  We made the best of our situation.

From that moment on, the grands wanted to go into the woods to chop down a miserable excuse for a Christmas tree.  I simply refused for that to happen again, and we bought our trees off of a lot.

Eventually, with my husband’s chronic pain taking over his body, I resorted to a fake tree.

Last Christmas, my then 14-year old grandson revolted.  He wanted a real tree.  I refused.

This year, with all he has been through, I was determined to get him a real tree.  I have been busy purging clutter in this house (yes, the same house I refused to move in to 10 years before), and decided I did not have room to store a fake tree.  I donated the tree, which meant I would be forced to buy a real tree.

My son and grandson took a ride to check out real trees and were shocked at the price tags.  Just great.  I donated that fake tree, and now I was stuck.  With other expenses happening, I knew this would be a stretch, but I would bite the bullet for my grandkids.

My now 15-year old grandson took matters into his own hands.  While I was at work, he headed out to the woods to follow his Paw Paw’s footsteps and find us a tree.  The little prankster he is – he chopped down a Charlie Brown tree, drug it into the house, put it in the stand – took a picture – then texted it to me.  Funny kid.  Why can’t you put as much effort into your homework as you do a prank!

I get home from work, just in time to see him setting up the real tree he intended to use in our house.  It looked better than the Charlie Brown tree, and even better than the tree he and Paw Paw cut down 10 years ago.

But it is still a sparse scrub pine and not really Christmas tree worthy.  Oh well!  This child put a lot of effort into this, and I didn’t have the heart to say, “Throw it out because I am going to buy a tree from a lot.”  He jacked it up in a stand, threw lights on it, and hung a few ornaments – all by himself.  We topped it of with his Paw Paw’s Santa hat.

This young man hasn’t shown much interest in many things since losing his Paw Paw.  I was glad to see his excitement in this project.

I took a chance to peek into my past, possibly opening my heart to some aches.  But looking back, what I saw as my only choice for a roof over our head as a severe setback, turned into years of a fun life I never could have imagined.  I learned how much I loved the country life and this former city girl was converted.

For quite some time, my husband, myself and the two grands were quite the tight little family unit.  They learned about vegetable gardening, harvesting, storing and canning.  They learned about chickens and had the fun experience of collecting their breakfast from the backyard.  They experienced walking down a country dirt road to a pond, catching fish for supper, gutting and cleaning them, and eating this fresh catch straight off the grill.  They learned how to build a campfire, roast marshmallows, make hot chocolate and s’mores, and watch a favored Christmas movie with their daddy on an outdoor screen.

They learned how to take a scrawny scrub pine tree and turn it into a magical Christmas wonder.

What I saw as a failure of not being able to give my grandkids a proper tree from a lot, turned into an adventure for them and their Paw Paw, and taught them to improvise, using what is available to them.  In hindsight, this ‘failure’ was pure lagniappe, giving my grands a priceless memory.

We made the most of our country life in our dinky house with our sad Christmas trees.  We had fun doing the best we could, until my husband’s chronic pain became so unbearable it changed his demeanor, which changed our lives, which ended up taking his life.

This Christmas, drawing upon our God-given strengths, we will start new traditions, while preserving some of our old traditions that are instilled in our brains as happy memories.

Last night I was blogging about not being okay.  I thought it would take quite some time to shake that feeling.  All it took was a 15-year old grandson, a sad looking scrub pine and great memories.  Tonight, I am okay, and I will take tonight for what it is.

Christmas is what you make it – and so is Life!

 

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order.)
YourAvon.com/ghegwood

6 Praise the LORD! For he has heard my cry for mercy.

7 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

8 The LORD gives his people strength. He is a safe fortress for his anointed king.

Psalm 28:6-8

I am Not Okay

Throughout Thanksgiving, I refused to show sadness.  I wasn’t going to blog anything sad.  I wasn’t going to post anything sad.  I wasn’t going to utter anything sad.

Today, at work, the façade cracked and a co-worker noticed.  I had to fess up.

I am not okay.

Throughout my husband’s decline, I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I carried all financial responsibilities, along with watching his decline.

But I still had him as a sounding board.  If I heard a crazy noise coming from my vehicle, I could consult with him.  He would calmly talk me down, explaining what it could be.  It never was as bad as my mind imagined.  If work had to be done on my house, he was the ultimate handyman.  He always had a solution to whatever repair we faced.

I thought I had the weight of the world on my shoulders back then.  The weight has shifted.  And it got heavier.  Granted, without having to pay for his medical issues, I regained some financial freedom; however, I have the weight of every decision being mine and mine alone.  I no longer have a partner to bounce anything off of in order to make a sound decision.

I feel like everything is breaking – my house, my car, my mind…….

I am intimidated.  I am vulnerable.  I am alone.

I know, I know, I know.  I have been preaching God’s word and God’s goodness for weeks now.  I know all about Psalm 69:1 – “Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck.”  I can recite many other verses, but right now my mind is not taking comfort in them.  I need to flounder in my self-pity a while longer.

I am experiencing deep anxiety.

I am not okay.

My friends and loved ones will be nervous to read this.  Don’t be.  Eventually, I will be okay.  Probably by next week I will bounce back seeking God’s word and strength.  I have always been resilient like that.

But for today, I am not okay.

Today, I want to peel my skin off and climb out of it.

Today, I do not want to be me.

 

(Just a note:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and SILs personal ministry of ministering to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Recently, they had 24 people at one meal.  That is quite a lot on a youth minister’s salary.  But God always provides.  I like to give them help when I can.  Please check out my Avon website.  We are not your grandmother’s Avon anymore.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order. )
YourAvon.com/ghegwood

And do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress.  Answer me quickly.  Psalm 69:17

Letting Go of a Dream

It was OUR dream.

We loved to garden together.  That was our ‘good times.’  We didn’t bring any other interference into our garden time.  It was just me, him and Mother Earth – no marital problems – no anxiety – no mental illness.  Gardening was the best times for us these last few years.

Our dream was in our retirement years to have a huge vegetable garden and a roadside stand.  We would can what we couldn’t sell.  We have been in prep mode these last few years, building up to OUR dream.  We gardened, we harvested, we canned.

We called our little homestead a faux farm because it was not sustainable.  Some years we had bumper crops, some years we might have a tomato.  We knew if the apocalypse came and we had to survive on our own land – we would be the first to die.

We chronicled our success and failures on our Facebook page, Spooky Hollow Southern Mississippi.  We laughed at our failures.  We took great pride in our successes.  One year, our cucumber crop was so large, we gave those away as party favors for my granddaughter’s birthday.

We even had fun scooping the poop – so much fun that I wrote a poem of one our adventures on May 21, 2010 (never dreaming that 9 years later – almost to the date – my husband would be dead from his own hand).

“I do not like to scoop the poop. I do not like it sticking to my boots. I do not like the way it smells. And now I do not feel so swell. But Bubba-Man says I do not give a dam. We are here to scoop the poop. We do not care if it sticks to boots. We do not care how bad it smells, because this will make our garden swell.”

Such enjoyable times.

But those days are gone now.  My husband killed those dreams when he killed himself.

I am faced with downsizing.  I have a huge assortment of canning jars and nowhere to put them.  I tried to find places to stuff them, but no such luck.  Then I realized I would probably never have need for this many jars and I must face parting with them.  That thought stabbed me in the heart and actually brought tears to my eyes.

Isn’t is silly to cry over canning jars?  Grief – a miserable necessity.

I know I can still have a garden – a smaller one.  I know I will still can my produce – just not as much.  I do not know if I will ever have a roadside vegetable stand.  But what’s the point anyway?  What I do know is I will not be sharing this experience with my husband.  That was the whole point – him and I – conquering this dream together – sharing this intimate experience that was only between us.

The prize was in the process.  OUR process.  Not his process.  Not my process.  OUR process.

OUR gardening trumped every bad experience in life.  We were in tune with each other, and only with each other.  A true union.

Our gardening experience – this is ‘us’.  No, that’s not right.  This ‘was us’ – this was ‘the good us’.

It hurts like heck letting go of a dream.

I’m not sure if I will ever enjoy gardening again.

 

(Just a note – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter and SIL have a personal ministry of ministering to college students in their home on Monday nights.  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  Recently, they fed as much as 24 people, all on a youth minister’s salary.  God provides.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Be sure to check out our other deals. We always have some.  Avon isn’t only make-up.  If you have not seen an Avon brochure in a while, check us out.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

The First Thanksgiving

For this first Thanksgiving without my husband, I didn’t want to do a traditional meal on the actual day.  We agreed to do an informal dinner the weekend before.

Did I think this would lessen the blow of having our first holiday meal without him?  Yes.  Was I wrong in this assumption?  Yes.

This morning, as I was preparing the dishes I was assigned to bring, I opened my oven and noticed this inside was a mess.  We have a propane oven and realized I don’t know how to clean the inside.  I never had to do that before.  My husband handled everything concerning the house, meaning from repairs all the way to cooking.

Sometimes when a wife loses a husband, she is lost because she never handled anything financial in the marriage.  I always knew I wouldn’t have trouble in this manner.  Once my husband became disabled, we managed on one income.  What I didn’t expect was being so lost about how to do just about everything else.

So I looked at the dirty oven, and started to cry.  I continued crying while preparing my dishes.

I knew our daughter was sad, too, because she posted she was dreading this and also posted our last family photo from last Thanksgiving.

I studied that picture and realized how awful I looked.  For months I had been dealing with a husband with rapidly declining mental health.  I let myself go terribly.  I looked like I woke up, rolled out of bed, threw on just any old junk and headed to dinner.  My gosh, I am the Avon Lady, how could I walk outside my house looking like this?

I went through that day sitting on pins and needles, not knowing what would happen, how he would act and who would he offend.  I was constantly in the middle.  “Gretchen, do you know what Bubba is doing?”  “Mom, dad is…..”  “G-Maw, Paw Paw is…..”  Everyone thought I could intervene and change the direction of his behavior.

I was worn.

Have you ever heard the song Worn by Tenth Avenue North?  If not, go listen to it.  That song was my life.

Remembering that final Thanksgiving helped me shift my perspective.  I was going to be sad missing my normal husband, but I was going to enjoy this day being free from mentally impaired husband.  I was going to put that bad Thanksgiving memory behind me and focus on all the good ones instead (there were many).

I put on make-up, fixed my hair, dressed nice, googled how to clean my oven and headed off to my daughter’s house for a wonderful day of making new memories.

 

(Just a note:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and SILs personal ministry of ministering to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Recently, they had 24 people at one meal.  That is quite a lot on a youth minister’s salary.  But God always provides.  I like to give them help when I can.  Please check out my Avon website.  We are not your grandmother’s Avon anymore.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order.  YourAvon.com/ghegwood)