Learning to live life again as a Modern Young Widow.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Time Goes By So Fast

August and September slipped right past me with no update!


I have taken lots of weekend trips. Mom, Audrey and I traveled to West Virginia to surprise my Aunt Julia for her birthday. That was great as all the brothers and sisters that were able to travel were there. Always fun when you get my mom with her siblings. Lots of cackling!

For school Fall Break, Audrey and I took off to the Wildernaess in the Smokies hotel. It is a hotel with an indoor water park. It was a blast, however 3 days of waterparks, arcade and junk food may have been to much! I was wore out and ready to go back to work!

Audrey's Fall Break actually included a lot of super fun. We went to the Smokies, once we returned we went to the Banana Split Ball at the Chattanooga Zoo and got to see Jungle Jack Hanna! He told some great stories and Audrey was able to get an autograph. She is going to be just like her Grandpa and love getting autographs!

Our next excitment was Disney On Ice. It was great fun and we scored seats on the floor! Needless to say this little girl is quite spoiled.

I have just come back from a long weekend trip to Kansas City for the International Lineman Rodeo. Don2 competed this year as a Journeyman and I met him, Kimberly and the boys and we had a great time! Asher and Emmett are so much fun. Rowdy little boys that I love spoiling!

So, that's it for now. Life without Don is still strange, but I keep trudging alone!

Love love love.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July is Bittersweet

I haven't been great about keeping this blog updated.  I have thought about it, but it seems to take so much energy to update everyone on just me.  Writing and updating everyone on Don was so easy and enjoyable, but writing about myself ... not so much.

Blue waters of Bimini, Bahamas.
I have been enjoying life. I have definitely been keeping busy! In February I went to Bimini, Bahamas by myself and had a wonderful week at a vegan retreat, Atlantis Rejuvenation Center.  I swam with dolphins, ate wonderful food, enjoyed daily yoga and just relaxed. In April, my niece Kimberly and I flew to Orlando and went to Universal Studios and were nerds and visited the new Harry Potter rides. It was a lot of fun and we loved staying at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel on the Universal Studios grounds. In May, Erica, Audrey and I went camping at the KOA on Don's birthday. We had an fun cooking s'mores, swimming and going to the Wilderness Theater Drive-In. I have taken weekend trips to Nashville to work at another mall, trip to Virginia to visit family, trip to Illinois to visit the Putnams. I have a hard time with staying home. So, traveling has been a great distraction.

But now it is July.  The month I have been unconsciously counting down to. This month marks that on July 7, Don  will have been gone for one year. The first anniversary is bringing up a lot of anxiety as the days get closer. I have survived all of the other firsts and did so by planning on doing something to honor Don on those days. This is actually what I have planned for July 7, 2015. 
Universal Studios, Orlando trip with Kimberly.

When anticipating the emotions of July 7, I knew that it would be emotional and I knew that being at home and going to work on this day was just not feasible. Our little family needed to be somewhere special. So, we are going to Florida.  When we wake up July 7, 2015 - we will be in one of Don's favorite places, Daytona Beach Shores. He loved our summer vacations. We will spread some of his ashes in the Atlantic Ocean, where he loved boogie boarding and we will dine on Alaska King Crab legs and of course drink Coca-Cola and we will laugh, remember and tell stories of the great husband, dad and granddad that Don was.

I am getting emotional just thinking of the next 6 days leading up to the 7th of July. I still miss him so much and wish that life would have been different and that I still had him by my side. Some days it feels like more than one year has passed and some days it feels like it just happened.  My heart still misses him and I still find myself wanting to tell him things that have happened in my day. I miss having that person that you get to tell how your day went. I have learned to live without him, but not sure I will ever learn to live without the love that he gave me.

I am stronger because I have to be.

Love, light and blessings ~

Visiting my cousins in Virginia.
Pit-stop in Metropolis, Illinois.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Trying to Re-Enter the World Again

Reentry Definition

  • The act or action of reentering.
  • The return of a missile or spacecraft into the atmosphere. 
  • The act of rejoining as a participant or member. 

I don't have but one regret from the many years Don and I were together. My regret is that I didn't maintain friendships.  For so many years (before and after Cancer diagnosis) it was just Don and I. We didn't go out with friends. We had acquaintances and friends we would see at native socials, but no close friendships.  Don was only home on the weekends and I just wanted to be with him since we were not together during the week.

So, I neglected those friendships for years and I regret that.  I am in the Reentry phase of widow life. I am trying to reenter a world I haven't been a part of.  I am trying to find friends to do things with and become social again. It is hard.

I am 42 and all of my old friends are either married or have little kids.  I have neither, so I am an outcast. I can't do the double-date thing with them and their spouse and I can't really do the kid thing either. I do have Audrey, so the kid thing might be feasible. But, I don't know where I fit in anymore in this world of adult friendships.

Reentry is hard. I am getting to a point where I am lonely for friendship.  I am not interested in dating, I just want to find some people to hang out with. I want to laugh again and have a life outside of work and home.

I want to once again reenter a world where I am rejoining as a participant or member.

It is a new feeling, being an adult and trying to establish old friendships and having the courage to forge ahead with new friendships.

Sigh .... never thought that the simple word reentry would be so important to me. Hold so much meaning and be the once thing that I need most in my life. I want to reenter life again and find the joy in little things with adults that I have something in common with.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~ Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wedding Ring Etiquette for the Modern Widow

Did you know that there is an etiquette to your wedding ring when you become a widow?  I never really thought much about it.  I never asked my Mom when she would remove her ring or move it to the right hand after my Dad crossed over. The thought never crossed my mind.  But apparently it is big news and its meaning has more than I truly understood.

It has been 254 days since Don has passed. Yes, I keep a weekly count of how many days in my organizer. I don't physically count the days on a daily basis, but I do have a week-by-week account of how many days it has been. I want to know without doing much thinking. I look at my organizer every now and then and am in amazement that many days has passed.

So, after a wonderful retreat to Bimini Bahamas (next post I will share my trip news and photos), I decided that it felt right to move my wedding band to my right hand. There was nothing symbolic of the gesture, there was really no thought behind it. I had taken off all my jewelry while in the Bahamas when we went to the Mangroves so they would not get damaged. At the end of the week when I put my ring on, I thought I would see if it fit on my right hand. And it did, so I left it there. I didn't think anymore about it until it was brought up to me that it was shocking that I have "moved on". Really?! Just the simple act of moving my ring means that I have moved on? For me, moving on would be putting it into my jewelry box or actually dating. To those that truly know me, they know that I have not "moved on" and it will be sometime before I do move on. I don't have a time frame, when the time feels right I will move on and I feel sad for the person that brought this up, as they truly don't me.

So, #BreakingNews, I have moved my wedding band encrusted with diamonds that holds so many precious memories to my right hand and it doesn't mean a damn thing!

I still feel for the ring that used to be on my left hand, it has only been a few weeks since it moved. The indention of wearing it for 19 years is still there. The man that gave it to me is still in my heart and I miss him every day.

Thanks to those of you that know me, for allowing me to do this without questioning me. Without making me feel like I did something wrong.

Being a widow sucks when you are questioned on things you do.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Filled with Anxiety

Summer of 1995
I am filled with anxiety that I can't seem to shake whenever I think about spreading Don's ashes in Alaska.  I know that I will do it, but when I start to think about the plans and carrying it all out, I literally start to shake.

I have little anxiety issues from time-to-time and had them big time as a kid, so this is nothing new. However, having anxiety about honoring his last wish is stressful.  The islands that Don wants to be partially scattered on are not islands that are easy to get to, so that in itself is stressful just thinking of getting me and the girls there. Also, the thought of touching my feet onto Ketchikan's earth without Don holding my hand is a devastating feeling. I just don't feel mentally strong enough to go there. And knowing that I don't have the strength right now to go to Ketchikan makes me anxious. I feel like a failure, like I am failing Don.

I have talked to both Lisa and Erica and told them my feelings. They are 100% supportive in whatever I choose, but I keep going back and forth with what I want to do. I just don't want anyone to think that I am not following through with Don's wishes. I don't want to be judged and talked about for not doing it "in a timely manner".  I wish I didn't worry about what people think, but as a life-long people pleaser, it is something that I just deal with.

So, you can see why I am filled with anxiety.

Do I go to Ketchikan, even though every cell in my body is filled with fear of being there without Don, or do I wait and go when it feels right to me?  Do I go to Ketchikan and just get it over with or do I wait until I feel like it is the right time?  Why does it feel like I am being judged by certain family in Alaska for not bringing Don home? I am so torn. I hate being filled with this incredible amount of anxiety.

I know what I need to do, but it just isn't something that I want to do right now.  I will honor Don's wishes one day. But I don't feel like planning a memorial in Ketchikan is something that I am able to do. I am not mentally strong enough to handle all of the memories that will come with going to the town where I met and feel in love with Don. At least I am not ready right now. It has been 7 months since he passed, but it feels like it was just yesterday to my heart.

I still miss him immensely and yesterday was a good cry in the shower kind of day.

So, please don't judge me for not planning anything in Ketchikan at this time. I am always acting so strong, but I am not and I just can't handle the thought of going to Ketchikan at this time. I promise that I have every bit intention of honoring Don's wishes, but it will have to be on when I feel strong enough to do it. I am sorry if this offends anyone, but I have to worry about myself and I know what I am able to handle and what I am not able to handle at this time.

I am going on a Healing Retreat in a few weeks, just me alone. I am going to hopefully help myself heal by fully processing the tremendous loss. I need to do this by spending some time alone with my thoughts. Writing them out and feeling them without worrying about anyone else. I will be at the Atlantis Rejuvenation Center in Bimini, Bahamas for one week. This is a small place that will help me focus on me and my thoughts and feelings. I have never done something like this before, but it feels like a trip I need to take. I need to fully deal with his death. I need to get back to myself and figure out who I am without Don. I don't know who I am anymore and I hate this lost feeling.

Please understand my thoughts and feelings without judging me.  I am trying the best I can.

Blessings ~ Susan

Monday, January 5, 2015

Trying to Live my Life Like 'Aan Kadax Tseen'

Some may not know that Don's Tlingit name (given to him by Elder Albert Davis) was Aan Kadax Tseen, which means Happy Man in a Village. And from the day I met Don he lived up to that name that was passed down to him. A name that he was proud to carry and often talked about legally changing his name to, however, I wasn't sure if I would be called Susan Tseen or would it be Susan Aan Kadax Tseen. I was never really ready to make that change! I was perfectly happy with being a Hoff.

Don was the happiest person I had ever met. And it was genuine, it wasn't an act. He was a Happy Man in a Village 99.9% of the time. Even in his darkest of days, he was happy. When the alarm clock would wake him up at 4am to get up and get on the road when he was working for TVA, he didn't complain and hit snooze, he got up and embraced the day. As soon as his feet his the floor, he was truly Aan Kadax Tseen, he was the Happy Man in a Village.

I wish I knew what made him be like that.  What made him see the pure wonderful in people and what made him be the type of person that people wanted to be around? Don was just a wonderful and kind person. Now, he had his days when he was upset with something in his native politics, but he had me trying to calm him down from talking about the 'white man'.  I had to remind him sometime that he married a 'white woman'. He would snicker and say that he did it to 'piss off the white man'. Aaahh my Tlingit Warrior!

I am trying to be a better person.  I am trying to not judge people based on their decisions and not condemn people for their past mistakes.  I am far from perfect, so why should I expect anyone else to be? I am also trying to let more light into my heart. Trying to not sweat the small stuff and to look for the good and beauty around me rather than the negative things that want to jump out first. I am seeing a difference in the way my soul feels. It is feeling lighter, which I imagine this is how Don felt every day of his life when he would wake up loving the fact he was alive.

I am trying to live my life like Aan Kadax Tseen would want me to do ... I want to be that Happy woMan in a Village.

One day at a time .... one day at a time I will maybe be as good as a person that my Don was.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cancer Journey Recap 2009 - 2015

I was lucky to be married to the most wonderful man from November 23, 1996 - July 7, 2014.

Only 17 years, 7 months and 14 days ... 6,435 of the most wonderful days of my life, I just wish there were more. Kidney Cancer may have cut his life short, but he lived a wonderful life.

Don was diagnosed basically at the ER. On January 1, 2009 after a night of bowling for New Year's Eve, he started urinating blood. Noticing that it was not normal, he went to the ER. There they did a CT scan and noticed his right kidney had a growth. Even though they were not 100% positive, they told him they were sure he had Kidney Cancer. 10 days later Don had his right kidney entirely removed.

This blog details our 5 1/2 year battle with Kidney Cancer. It shows the highs and it shows the lows.

July 7, 2014, this is the day that Don took his last breath at approximately 6:07am with me lying by his side. We had woken up at 4:30am with him breathing funny. I got a wet cloth and rubbed his head and just laid my head next to him and talked. Talked about how much I loved him and how the girls would be fine and how he didn't need to worry about us. Never in my mind that I think that this was the moment when I was speaking to him that he would actually leave this earth. His eyes were open and he was looking at me, a tear went out of his right eye and I wiped it away. I gave him a kiss and said I love you and then he was gone. Very peaceful.

Thank you for reading and for supporting us in our journey! I feel very blessed and loved by our beautiful support system.

Much love, Susan Hoff

Updated: July 15, 2014

Email me: Susanwhoff@epbfi.com

Friday, December 26, 2014

Surviving the Firsts

Audrey Christmas morning.
 I can not tell you how happy I am that the holidays are over with.  The anticipation of how I would feel and how things would go on Christmas, was both mentally and physically draining.  The Holidays were sad, but they were not terrible.  Thankfully kids have a way of turning your frown upside down.

Christmas Day was spent opening presents at our house with Erica and Audrey, followed by dinner and presents at my Mom's house. It was nice, my Mom talked about Don. My sister-in-law talked about Don's love of turkey legs and Audrey mentioned that Grandpa loved turkey butt more than turkey legs. Don was not there, however, he was not forgotten.  I teared up a little, but was able to keep the full fledge crying at bay until I was alone.

I saved all my tears for Christmas night and while Erica and Audrey were at a friends house. I went about removing all the ornaments from the Christmas tree and remembering special ornaments for Don and I. We always bought an ornament when we traveled, so there are 19 years of memories on the tree.  It was special remembering those times with just myself. The tears flowed and it wasn't pretty, but the tears helped my soul.

I miss him. I miss him just as much as I did nearly 6 months ago.  We are all healing and although we may never heal the hole left in our heart, we are continuing to live life just as Don would want us too ... to the fullest.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holidays Bring the Tears

This was quite the surprise! Brought instant tears.
I wanted to name this blog "Holidays SUCK", however, that wasn't exactly true.  The don't technically suck, they just have a little less shine this year.

I miss my Don, my god how I miss him. It has nearly been 5 months since Don died (7/7/14) and I have been OK.  But lately, the tears just come out of the blue. I will see something and boom ... tears. I wish for nothing more than to pick up the phone and send Don a text of something funny that happened.

I didn't think the Holidays would have this affect on me, but they have. I just can't get into the Christmas spirit.  I would not put up a Christmas tree in the house if it wasn't for Audrey.  I went to buy a real tree yesterday and pulled into the lot and burst into tears. A Christmas without Don seems unimaginable and yet, here I am without him.

I did OK on Thanksgiving. We had a #HOFFstrong team for the Grateful Gobbler and walked a 5K at 8am Thanksgiving morning. Then after the Gobbler, we traveled to my Mom and Stepfather's house in Whitwell, TN to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family.  It was fun to see all the little kids in the family and it was nice to laugh and smile with everyone. But under my smile, I was sad that Don wasn't there. Don loved the holidays and he loved when everyone was together. That night I just cried and cried in my room alone mourning the love of my life.

I am crying now, because I miss him so much. I think I've just tried to be brave for so long and act like I was OK and now the tears are demanding to be shed. It's tough. It's tough when you lost not only your huband, but your bestfriend too.  Losing those two partnerships in your life is devastating.

Today after work, Erica, Audrey and I are going to buy a real Christmas tree.  Together we have been able to endure these months without Don. Audrey is amazing and expresses her feelings about missing Grandpa.  The other night we were watching TV and out of the blue she says "I hate that Grandpa died".  All I could do is agree and hug her.  I hate that Grandpa died too.

Erica, Abbey Smith, Kimberly, me, Audrey and Asher
But, time has continued to move on and I just need to get through the holidays, then my birthday, Valentine's Day, Memorial Day, Don's birthday, 4th of July then the anniversary of his death. Each of these dates are dreaded, as they bring a vivid reminder of what Kidney Cancer took from us. These dates remind me that I am virtually alone, a single woman again.

I am feeling a little broken lately, however, I will bounce back again. Just needed to express my sadness the best way I know how and that is to write it out.

Love those in your life without hestitation and without judgement, becasue you never know when the last time you will have them in your life.

Until next time ..................