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Finding Purpose Giving Support Healing Learning new skills Maintaining a Home Moving Forward Uncategorized

“A rose by any other name”

Jim Winner

Joyce was always my biggest cheerleader. Many years ago, she encouraged me to become a Master Gardener. The process was a great experience and I learned a lot. Joyce loved our garden. She was proud of my work, and I delighted in creating a beautiful space for us. In the past several weeks, I’ve spent countless hours in that special place. The work of cleaning, weeding, planting and pruning has been good therapy. I enjoy my time in the garden.

At the end of March, I gave my roses a hard pruning. I removed the dead or weak branches and left 5 or 6 of the strongest canes on each plant. I mixed in some new amended soil around the base of the roses, added some feed and nutrients and began the waiting process. As I look at the roses today, I see plants that are healthy. They’re growing, reaching upwards, and if I do say so myself…are looking pretty good.

Like my roses, we all got a hard pruning when our wives passed away. We didn’t ask for it, but a big part of our life no longer existed. We found that part of our life was removed from us. The longer we were together the more of us got pruned away. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A part of us dies with our spouses, but a large part of us is left to renew, recover, regrow and restore.

After a pruning, no rose grows back to be the same plant it was. Canes and new branches grow in different directions. The shapes and sizes are different. The plant may produce more or less flowers depending on many environmental factors. Pests or disease may thwart and impede the health of the plant. With the right care and attention (and a little bit of luck) roses can come back after hard pruning to once again be healthy, vibrant, and full of life. So, can we.

Compare our journeys to these roses. We have endured a difficult and dark winter season. We have had to suffer through our own hard and undoubtedly severe pruning. Here is the good news. We survived. New growth can and does begin to emerge. Hopefully, the deep roots we have shared will keep us strong and hold us steady. Our loved ones, while no longer with us, will always be a part of who we are. They will always help to shape us. Perhaps our feeding and nourishment comes from this group of men. Certainly, our friends, our families, our faith and many other sources of support and resources are available to us. Keep yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually fed. Stay positive. Keep the pests and diseases away. With time, we can all grow again. We won’t be the same men we were. Personally, I hope to become a better man.

No, I’m not saying any of us are as pretty as a rose…and like a rose, I am sure we can all be a bit prickly and thorny from time to time. It is my hope and prayer that you will join me in believing that even the hardest unwanted pruning can create meaningful and healthy new growth for all of us. 

May we all bloom, dear Brothers.

Categories
Learning new skills

Cooking

Nyle Kardatzke

During my married life, there were periods of several years when I did more cooking than my wife, though she was a good cook. Her professional life kept her away from home for many evenings, so I cooked. I enjoyed cooking, and I was reasonably good at it. We enjoyed our quiet meals together at home.

One evening during my wife’s final year of life, I was cooking dinner, and she was at the kitchen table visiting with me. I said, “Do you know that I pray the prayer of the Pharisee?”

She was puzzled, so I reminded her of the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee in the temple. The tax collector beat his chest and prayed for God’s forgiveness. The Pharisee prayed, “Lord, thank you that I am not like other men!”

I said to my wife, “I also pray nearly the same prayer as the Pharisee. I say, ‘Thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men…I can cook!’”

We both laughed, and I have often been thankful that I can cook, especially now that she’s gone. I cook most of my meals, and I like the independence and economy my cooking provides.

If you haven’t cooked much in the past, I encourage you to develop your skills. Cooking can be gratifying, and it gives you a degree of independence you won’t have if you must eat out all the time. Eating out is expensive, and it can become a chore. Your home-cooked meals can be healthier than restaurant food: probably cleaner and more varied, and you can control the fat, carbs, salt, and sugar. Try some recipes from the internet to build your repertoire. Dr. Google can provide lots of cooking help. Make judicious use of some packaged or frozen meals to speed things up and eat out when you must, but don’t be a slave to restaurants. You will build up your cooking skills just by using them.

Even if you have done a lot of cooking before, you now confront the task of cooking by yourself and for yourself. When I became a widowed man, I became weary of hearing widows say, “It’s hard to cook for just one.” I was unsympathetic, thinking to myself: “Okay! Cook for four, eat that twice, and freeze two meals for future use! How hard is that?”

I was in my third year of widowhood before I felt an emotional weight about cooking for myself. It became harder for me to think of my next meal and to start work on it. I knew how to cook, but I didn’t feel like doing it. Then I began to understand the widows’ lament: it’s not the physical work of cooking for one; it’s the emotional effort of cooking when there is no one else to cook for. But cooking can be its reward, once you start a meal.

It’s often said, “The shortest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” The same is true with at least some women. I almost always feel better if I cook for company, and men and women alike enjoy the meals. Occasionally I have a friend over for lunch or dinner, and my enthusiasm for cooking revives.

My companion at mealtime is usually the TV. Hearing the news as I cook simulates the presence of another person, so I nearly always check the news or the weather while eating. If the news is jarring or boring, I sometimes watch a Smithsonian Channel documentary, an old show on YouTube, or a portion of Netflix movie. I’m told watching TV is a bad habit, but it works for me.

Mealtime is an important time for social life as well as personal renewal. Listen to your body and your feelings to find the right mix of meals at home and time away from home. Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a friend at a restaurant, but have the comfort of your own home cooking, too.

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Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, “WIDOW-MAN,” every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at thewidowman@gmail.com

Categories
Dating/Relationships Learning new skills Mental/Emotional Health Mindfulness Moving Forward Self-care

Life 2.0

Recently I viewed an interview with author and political pundit David Brooks. During this interview, he was reflecting on a shift in his thinking when it came to his priorities in life. He termed this new way of thinking as his “second mountain.”

In many ways, many of us who have lost a spouse or partner are facing our own version of the second mountain. Very few of us come out of this sophisticated experience, the same as before experiencing our loss. While I may not term my emergence as my own second mountain, I may look at it as Life 2.0. Upon reflecting upon Life 2.0, I often break down my thoughts in the simplest of terms. To share a few ideas in this article, I will approach this in two simple words, what I want in my life and what I feel I need in my life.

Recently I have started the process of determining if I would like to pursue a new relationship. In beginning to unpack my thoughts, I begin as I often do with what I don’t want. The first aspect of any new relationship I may pursue is that it will have to be different than my prior one. I will not be seeking another version of my wife, Robyn! One of the many truths that I have come to realize in the last four-plus years is that I don’t have the energy to engage in Robyn 2.0 for sure! I am very comfortable with the wonderful memories that I had over the twenty-two plus years we spent together, but to try to duplicate our relationship would be an ill-advised pursuit. Now there are qualities of character that are just a part of my belief system when it comes to relationships. However, a “do over” will not be necessary!

Like so many, I would love to have someone to experience new adventures with, travel with and just simply share my thoughts and ideas with. I would love to have a person in my life that you can share the good news at the end of the day with as well as add value to their life in return. At this stage of my life, the title is not as important as the quality of the relationship. In many ways, this could be summed up in one simple word, companionship.

Another thing that I have found more important in my life is the pursuit of knowledge. I have long enjoyed the challenge of learning new things. Right now, however, I don’t think that school is in my plans. But challenging pursuits such as developing a blog, starting a podcast, mentoring others, and assisting with the development of others are very appealing to me.

On the spiritual side, coming to grip with the blessings and challenges in my life give me great comfort. I believe these feelings were born out of the fight to help my wife get better, only to lose the battle to the all too familiar foe called death. But it was participating in the dignity of the fight that gives me a certain measure of peace. I never served in the military so I don’t know if this emulates the feelings a soldier may have after their time of service is completed or not. I have found peace to be a comforting place to reside on the other side of imperfection. Resigned to realizing that I am not without my flaws, it gives me a reason to improve my station in life.

As it relates to my needs, I have become more keenly aware of the need to take care of my health. As I get older, the desire to maintain both my physical and mental vitality has become more important than ever before. I am more keenly aware of the precious nature of time than at any time in my life. This change has led to the last two “great needs” in my life, enjoying the accomplishments of family and friends as well as being a good steward over my resources.

Recently I have found myself being more aware of the accomplishments of others close to me. I have always been very happy with the success of others. Many times, I used to take the position of “of course” they are going to be successful. Lately, however, I find myself picking up the phone and personally congratulating others, hosting celebration lunches and other small ways of acknowledging the favor of others. In days gone by, we may have termed this as taking time to smell the roses!

Finally, I try to be a good steward over my resources. In my life, resources are more than just money. Resources are how you utilize your talent, experiences, and knowledge as well. Writing the book The First 365 in many ways was being a good steward to me. This is a part of myself that I am so grateful to be exploring.

While David Brooks referred to his pursuit as the Second Mountain, and I call it Life 2.0, what would you call this phase of your life. As always, I welcome the opportunity to hear what you have to say. Until we share again, take care.

Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at twhitener@thedebriefgroup.net, LinkedIn @terrellwhitener or through the Widowers Support Network.