Hello dear readers. I thought I’d do a little rambling post since I doubt I’ll get a new recipe in before 2023, and I definitely won’t get cards out to friends and family this year. Consider this my very limited year-end review and heartfelt holiday greeting.
Note: Reading through, this post might come off a little “poor me.” That is the last thing I want you to take from it. My year has been spent in grief, and I feel it’s important to talk openly about it. We don’t deal with death well as a society, and if I can clear a little fear around the subject, it’s worth sharing my story. I do talk about suicide, so if that’s a subject you aren’t comfortable with, you might not want to continue.
Today is the 11th of December, exactly eleven months since we lost my husband, Bob. There are no words to convey how the passing of time has felt to me. Let’s just say it doesn’t seem remotely possible to be a month away from the first anniversary of his passing.
In the past several months, I’ve had to show up for life in a way I never imagined and certainly wasn’t prepared for. Bob and I were together for thirty-three years. I met him when I was eighteen, and he was turning twenty-one. We made every adult decision of our lives together. I spent every holiday and major event with him at my side, and the void is indescribable.
The most impactful decision I had to make on my own this year was to sell our business. I managed that with invaluable support from my brother, Michael. Still, it’s been so weird to be the sole signer and last word on business matters. I’m pretty confident I’ve constantly been dropping balls I didn’t even know were in the air.
It’s weird being a widow. People don’t really know what to do with you. I chose early on to put myself out there and not hide from the world despite my temptation to do just that. It’s not the right or wrong way, just my way. I’ve felt I have to keep moving in a forward motion for my daughters and for my own sanity. If it’s made others uncomfortable to see me out laughing with friends (and I think it has on a couple of occasions, especially early on), I make no apologies for that. If I were to offer advice to someone in a similar situation, it would be to let that joy come in because you deserve it more than ever. It will likely be followed by a flood of tears, which were coming anyway. We don’t have to prove the depth of our grief to anyone, not even ourselves.
Having the cookbook on which to focus my attention has been cathartic. I’m grateful to have the distraction of what has turned out to be a fairly big project. I will finish it by the end of January (she says with total confidence, lol) and get the final editing done for a spring launch. It’s been fun working with my brother, Billy, to pull recipes from him amid his busy retirement travel schedule. One of the best compliments I’ve received on it so far was when my niece said the book is like a love letter to our family. I like that. My family deserves a love letter (with about 130 recipes).
Ella and Hailey wanted all the Christmas decorations to be out this year, so we are decked out and in the spirit. I knew we’d achieved our goal when one of their friends said I needed an intervention. We have a tall tree in our front yard that Bob usually put lights on, but that was not a task I was willing to take on. I get to about the fourth step of a ladder, and I’m done. Instead, I used those lights to wrap the porch, and I’m pretty pleased with my accomplishment. Bob would be proud. He loved everything about Christmas, especially choosing gifts for the girls. That was another lonely task for me this year, but I think I did okay.
My daughters are incredible people. I don’t know why their journey has included such tragic loss with our house fire five years ago (that time has flown, too!) and losing their sweet dad. What I do know is they are hilarious, intelligent, talented teenagers whose company I truly enjoy when I am graced with it. Their experiences have given them empathy and maturity beyond their years. That’s enough, though, now. They are plenty strong and could use some lighthearted years.
It’s snowing like crazy here in Bend, and I can’t believe Bob isn’t here to play hero to the neighborhood with his snow plow. It’s times like this when I might curse him under my breath a little while I’m shoveling solo. Mostly though, I’ve established a sort of clear line of communication with him where I tell him I miss him and share things about the girls. He sends me signs that he already knows and is not that far away. It’s less than satisfactory but better than nothing and sometimes feels genuinely magical.
I ask him almost daily why he had to leave. As time has passed, though, it’s become much clearer that the cognitive decline he was experiencing had been gradually taking him away for a long time. Bob was a fiercely independent soul. The thing he valued the most was living his life on his own terms. Ultimately, that’s what he did whether we liked it or not, though he would never have chosen to go when his brain was healthy. It’s hard for people not to judge suicide. I know that, and I understand it, but it’s frustrating. One of my biggest challenges in the last eleven months has been releasing the need to defend and explain what was going on with him. I’m still working on that. I try to focus on how much he loved us and honor his memory by living life to the fullest with our girls.
We have some fun things in store for 2023, the most exciting being a trip to Australia! Hailey has been chosen to perform with a national honors choir at the Sydney Opera House. Ella and I get to tag along as her fangirls (don’t tell Ella I used that term, please). I also look forward to getting my cookbook in the hands of everyone waiting for it! It will be a good year, full of growth and new adventures.
I hope everyone reading this gets to celebrate the holidays exactly how you want with the people you want to be with. I know that’s not always possible but if you are sacrificing peace for obligation, find a way to shift plans. Even just changing your mindset can work wonders. Give yourself a happy holiday season and take that energy into the new year. It’s not about being selfish; it’s about being the most comfortable version of yourself, so you can show up at your best for others.
If you’ve read through this whole thing, wow! Thank you. You deserve a prize, but I don’t have one for you. It’s kind of like one of those Christmas letters that don’t ever seem to end. At least it’s not as braggy.
From my heart to yours: Have a merry holiday season and a peaceful new year.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol