Last week our oldest child came home from school and proudly announced that he had a Gmail account and wanted to email his friend. This announcement took me and Marathon Girl by surprise. Email? In third grade? I assumed this day would come but I thought it would be something I’d be dealing with in toward the end of elementary school—not at the close of third grade.
Curious to see what was going on, I logged into my laptop and the next thing I know he’s typing in a username and password and there’s an inbox full of email messages from him and his friends have sent over the last couple of days. Then he proceeded to show me that he could email any student in the school district. He typed in the name of a girl who lived next door to us before we moved. Her name came on the screen and he typed her a quick message and clicked Send.
“I don’t know how I feel about you having a Gmail account,” I said.
“It’s not a regular Gmail, dad,” he replied. “It’s a school account that works with Gmail. It’s totally safe. The block out the bad stuff.”
Turns out the kid was right—well mostly right, anyway. After doing a little research I learned that the school district, starting in the third grade, gives kids in their own district email account that is run through Gmail. And apparently they do have decent safety standards because I tried to sending him test emails from work and other email accounts and all were bounced back as being undeliverable. Still, nothing is ever 100% secure in the online world. I work for a company sells computer security software to businesses. It’s a great product but I’m also well aware of the limitations that such products have.
So we’re letting him use email—for now. We really don’t want to discourage him (or any of our other kids) from learning computer technology or using email—especially where our oldest has such a gift for learning anything related to computers, smartphones, and tablets. The challenge is to find the balance between letting him learn and keeping him safe from all the online garbage out there. We have basic computer rules at home (Mom and Dad have access to everything they do online, the computer is a public space, no interactions with strangers, etc.) but now we’re going to have to incorporate some email rules too.
My only real complaint about the email incident has to do with the school district. It would have been nice to be notified that our kid would be getting an email address before he got one so we could have talked about email safety and rules ahead of the game.
Even though I’m a technical person, I always figured keeping up with my kids and new technology would be a challenge. Thankfully, I got an early reminder that it’s time to up my game.
Two emails with a common theme in this week’s Widower Wednesday Column. Here’s the first.
The widower I was dating for 6 months recently broke things off. Needless to say I was heartbroken. A few days after the breakup he called me up and asked if we could just be friends. Is it possible to just be friends with a widower or is this only going to lead to more heartache?
When a widower wants to “just be friends” he’s looking for someone who can be there for emotional support, a booty call, or someone to hang around with occasionally without having to put in any effort on his part. He’s looking out for his needs—not yours. If that’s the kind of relationship you want, then go ahead and be “friends” with him. But if you’re looking for a relationship where you’re treated like a queen, it’s time to move on.
And here’s the second one:
I’m a recent widower who’s become friends with a recent widow. We’re in the friendship stage of things and that seems to suit us both just fine. Do you think it’s possible to maintain a platonic relationships as long as you consistently reaffirm boundaries or is it bound to lead to something more serious down the road.
It’s possible to just remain friends with someone of the opposite sex but it’s very difficult—especially if you’re spending a lot of time with that person and sharing a lot of personal information. At some point hormones and emotions kick in and someone will start to view the other person as something more than friends.
So a lot of it depends on how often you and the widow are seeing and communicating with each other. If you see each other each other once a week like at a support group, then you’re more likely to remain friends. However, if you’re texting/emailing/calling/seeing each other every day or several times a week, at some point something one or both of you are going to start see the relationship as something else.
Having a friendship turn into something more serious isn’t a bad thing (unless one or both of you are married to someone else). Just don’t trick yourself into thinking that it’s possible to maintain a platonic relationship if you spend a lot of time together.
My favorite pair of running shoes was discontinued earlier this year. Trying to find a replacement has been extremely difficult.
Earlier this year Adidas discontinued their Response Trail running shoes. I wish they would have given some kind of advance notice because I would have bought 10 pairs and stored them in my closet. I’ve been running in them for 11 years. (Marathon Girl, looking over my shoulder as I type this, reports she’s been wearing them since 1996.)
It was Marathon Girl that introduced me to the shoes when we were first dating. I resisted trying them until I bought a pair of Nikes that sucked. We went to the store and found a pair of Response Trail shoes. It was love at first wear.
I have flat feet. Very flat feet. Wherever I go I wear customized orthotics in my shoes or else my feet turn inward and hurt like hell. It’s nearly impossible to find a shoe that had the perfect blend of cushioning and support. The Adidas Response Trail shoes were perfect. I could go on long runs and my feet would feel fine. The shoes would last forever too. I could get tons of mileage out of them before they needed to be replaced.
Then, when I went to buy a pair in March, I couldn’t find them anywhere.
Since then I’ve been trying to find a pair that has the same mix of cushioning and support. I haven’t been able to find anything that works. At least not yet.
All the ones I’ve tried so far leave my feet feeling like I’ve run barefoot on cement. It’s made it hard to go running every morning. I’ve done it but it’s not the same.
Tonight, while looking for another alternative, I noticed that Adidas brought out another response shoe—the Running Response ReRun. It’s not a trail runner but a lot of the people who have bought them are former Response Trail runners. Reviews are mixed. Those who wore the old Response Trail either love them or hate them.
Hopefully, when the shoes arrive later this week, I find myself in the former category.
Last Thursday I had a chance to teach a boot camp at a writing conference. I had a group of four talented, aspiring writers who took turns reading a couple chapters on their projects, then, as a group, we talked about what we liked about their writing and what could be done to improve their manuscripts. It was the first time I taught it and I really enjoyed the experience. I was especially impressed with the quality of writing from the four people at my table.
Me and four awesome writers at Storymakers Boot Camp, Thursday, May 9, 2013
One of the writers at my table was writing a guide for women in an abusive relationship. She had been in an abusive marriage for many years and was fortunate enough to get out of it with her life. What was really interesting, however, was the lessons that she was trying to get across to her readers are very similar to the messages in my books and my Widower Wednesday columns.
For example, there were warning signs in the first couple of dates that he was controlling and manipulative but she ignored the warning signs. As the relationship become more serious, she ignored her gut feelings that she needed to end things and move on because for every bad moment they had there was a good one. Finally, when she realized she was in an abusive situation, she felt that if she just stuck with it that he’d eventually come around and be the good man that she saw glimpses of from time to time. It took her nearly a decade to get herself and two children out of that relationship. Though she’s smarter and wiser now, she admitted that she could have avoided 10 years of physical and mental anguish if she had just followed her instincts from the very beginning
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that dating a widower is the same as being in an abusive relationship (though there are some widowers you use their widower status to mentally and emotionally manipulate family members and the women they date). Rather, we all have an innate ability to know when something isn’t right with the person we’re dating or married to. Yet despite this ability it’s easy to ignore the red flags or gut feelings when we really love that person and see so much potential in that relationship. It’s also easy to deceive ourselves and think that a person will change and make us the center of his universe if we’re patient and wait for him to realize how lucky he is. That rarely, if ever, happens.
If you think the widower isn’t ready to make you the center of his universe, you probably have good reason for feeling that way. Ignore or rationalize widower red flags and warning signs at your own peril.
Note: I’m behind on email from readers. If you’ve sent me something in the last week and I haven’t responded, please be patient. I hope to be caught up by the weekend.
From Thursday through Saturday I’ll be at the LDStorymakers writing conference in Provo, Utah. Thursday I’ll be running one of the Boot Camp sessions with 5 talented students. Friday I’ll be presenting a memoir writing class and be signing books with lots of other talented and wonderful authors later that evening. The book signing is open to the public. If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by. For those readers who will be at the conference, I look forward to seeing you there.
First, thanks to everyone who is giving ideas and feedback for a series of columns on dating a widower when children (his or yours) are involved. I’m still taking ideas and feedback for the next week. If you’d like to share your story, leave a comment here or on the DAW Facebook group, or send me an email.
My column two weeks ago on wills and prenuptial agreements started an interesting side discussion in the comment section on inheritances and what, if anything should go to the widower’s children or his second wife’s children. Though I’m not going to dive into the subject of inheritances today, frequent visitor and commentator Annie has written a great column on it that I encourage you to read.
But the side discussion got me thinking about becoming one with your (future) spouse. A lot of the emails that reach my inbox there’s a tendency for at least one person in the relationship to become extremely possessive about their “stuff”. Whatever possessions they bring to the marriage divided up between his and hers. Fights ensue whether or not to put his couch or her couch in the living room. The couple has separate checking accounts, cars, and other things. One woman recently wrote about the frustration she felt when she and her husband went on vacation and split all the expenses of the trip 50/50. After they got back, her husband started complaining that she hadn’t paid her fair share of the trip.
If you want a long, successful marriage, there shouldn’t be any idea that there are his things and your things. Everything belongs to both of you—and yes that includes things that may have belonged to the late wife.
Both Marathon Girl and I didn’t have much in terms of material possessions when we got married though I probably had a few more things simply because of my previous marriage. In the weeks before the wedding we decided which things of hers and mine would be moving with us to our new apartment. The things we decided not to take were either given to family members or thrift stores. There was no discussion about whose stuff this was going to be after we were married because we both felt that whatever we brought into the relationship would become ours.
The kitchen table that my late wife bought for a steal a year into my first marriage was never thought of as “Krista’s table.” It was our table and served us well for the first seven or eight years of our marriage until we needed and bought a new one. Same went for our cars, pots and pans, books, and the small amount of money I made from selling my house right a few weeks before we tied the knot.
If there are things from the late wife that the widower wants to leave his children, or family heirlooms you want to leave yours, then give it to them now (if the kids or adults) or find a safe place to store them until the kids are old enough to decide if they’re even something they want. But don’t let those items fill up your home and become a source of contention. It’s simply not worth it.
Sometimes becoming one it means re-evaluating and re-prioritizing relationships with others. Maybe becoming means less time with the late wife’s family or less time with friends or with coworkers in order to spend more time with your spouse. Marathon Girl and I moved about 30 miles away after we were married in part because we thought it would be easier to spend more time with each other and rely on each other more if we lived in a city where we didn’t know anyone and had to make a fresh start.
The more things come between spouses and divide them the weaker their marriage becomes and the easier it becomes to fall apart. However, you should both have the desire to become one and make each other a stronger and better person. Whether that means combine the checking accounts, material possessions, or moving to another city, your marriage and your spouse should come first. Period.
If you can’t see yourself giving up some possessions, re-prioritizing other relationships, or starting over in a new home or city in order to make your marriage work, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship and decide if the person you’re dating is someone you really want to spend the rest of your life with.
When I was in first grade a classmate, Carson, broke his arm during recess. I can’t remember the circumstances surrounding how the accident occurred but what I do remember is him showing up to school the next day in a shiny, white plaster cast. During the day we all took turns signing our names on it. As happens with kids of that age, his cast became the envy of everyone in the class.
The envy didn’t last long. Within a couple of weeks Carson was complaining about his arm itching. And then there was the smell. Since he couldn’t get the cast wet, his arm under the cast was hard to clean. I remember sitting by him at lunch and telling him his arm smelled and him explaining to me that it was hard to clean. I think I still scooted down bench a foot or two to eat my lunch.
At some point the cast came off and life in first grade returned to normal. What I do remember from that incident is that Carson seemed uncomfortable enough wearing a cast that I hoped I’d never break an arm or any other part of my body that would require me to get a cast. Even though everyone could sign it, it just didn’t seem worth it.
Fast forward to 2013.
Last Sunday my 5-year-old daughter fell off her scooter and broke her arm. Thankfully, she didn’t need pins or any other surgery. The doctor took x-rays and put her arm in a splint. A few days later she went to get a cast.
How times have changes since I was a kid.
I came home from work on Thursday and discovered that not only did she have a cast that looked like an exploding rainbow, the material it’s made from is waterproof. She can take a bath or shower, swim, or do any other water activities without worry. For the most part, she’s going on with life like nothing ever happened to it. And though I still hope I never break an arm or any other part of my body, I have to say that wearing a cast doesn’t seem as bad as it did when I was in first grade.
Lately I’ve been going on some 12-mile, Saturday morning runs with Marathon Girl (who is trying to get back into shape after kiddo number six). The first question most people ask when they hear about these long, Saturday morning runs is what race I’m training for. I always smile when that question gets asked because I’m not training for anything. I’m not a big fan of races whether it’s a 5k or a marathon. I run simply because I love running.
Every runner has their own reasons for strapping on the shoes and hitting the road. Some train for races and look to improve their time while others do it to lose weight or numerous other reasons. But for me running is like writing—it’s something that’s in my blood. I have to do every day or I go crazy. If I don’t get at least 30 minutes of running and at least an hour of writing in every day (preferably first thing in the morning) my day just doesn’t feel complete, I don’t have as much energy as usual, and I can’t think as clearly. And if I can squeeze 90 minutes of uninterrupted, kid-free running time with Marathon Girl, that’s even better.
So if you see me pounding the pavement early in the morning, just note that I’m doing it because I love the fresh air and the way each step makes me feel. It’s my sanity check in an increasingly crazy world. It’s a way to bond and grow closer to Marathon Girl. It one of the few things I truly love to do.
Lately it seems like the biggest issue in my inbox from GOWs and WOWs have to do with children. In some cases problems have do with the complexity of blending families. Sometimes it’s the widower’s adult or minor children or the GOW’s children that are the problem. Other times it’s the widower who uses his grief (or his children’s grief) as an excuse not to be a parent anymore.
Widower relationships when children are involved is a topic I’ve only addressed occasionally in these columns as Marathon Girl and myself didn’t bring any (living) children into the relationship. However, as a father of six now, I’m seeing a lot of themes and patterns in my inbox and discovering that a lot of the issues aren’t really widower or grief problems but due to a lack of parenting. As a result, I’m ready to write more about these topics.
In order to meet the needs of as many readers as possible, here’s what I’d like you to do: In the comment section below, list the top three issues you’ve had to deal with if you, the widower, or both of you have children. It doesn’t matter if the children are young and still live at home or grown up with families of their own—I want to know what have been the pain points of blending families, parenting, and moving forward when you and/or the widower have brought kids to the relationship. If you don’t feel comfortable posting these in public, you can send me an email with the information.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll post the results from the comments, my email, and the Dating a Widower Facebook group and, at the very least, write a series of columns about the top issues. Maybe something more will come out of it but it’s an issue I’m not going to sidestep anymore.
Leave your top 3 issues below. And if you have successfully navigated the problem, please include some information on how you solved it.
Thanks and looking forward to hearing what you have to say.
Last Friday, my alma mater had Jon Huntsman, Jr. send 4,327 graduates into the real world. Most commencement speeches (if you’ve sat through enough of them) are more or less the same. If you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all. But occasionally a person actually delivers a speech worth listening to. (Full disclosure, even though I remember who my commencement speaker was, I can’t remember what he or anyone else said that day.) So, as usual this time of year, I post the two great commencement speeches of the last 10 years. The first was the one Steve Jobs gave to Stanford graduates in 2005 while the other was delivered by David McCullough, Jr. to Wellesley High School. They’re good speeches because they’re unconventional in their message but also because they deliver a message most graduates sorely need to hear. They can both be watched below. Enjoy!
Steve Jobs commencement address to Standford 2005
David McCullough, Jr. commencement address to to Wellesley High School
Sometime during my first years of elementary school, my brother, Sean, and I came across a book in the school library titled GWOT! Horribly Funny Hairticklersby George Mendoza. The book, at least though our young minds, was anything but funny. The three or four stories the book and the creepy illustrations (by Steven Kellogg) that went along with the stories scared the hell out of us. Still, it seemed like one of us was always checking out the book and bringing it home in order to enjoy the frightening thrill ride again and again.
The book crossed my mind the other day when my older kids were clamoring for a scary bedtime story. I thought it would be fun to get a copy of that book and see if it would frighten my kids as much as it did me and my brother. So after I tucked the kids in bed for the night I went online to see if I could find a copy.
A creepy illustration from GWOT.
Much to my surprise the book is out of print and has been for at least 20 years. The cheapest copy I can find is a used one in “acceptable” condition for $75. Most copies are selling for three figures. All are out of my budget for one children’s book.
I’ve looked all over Internet and scoured all of the local used/rare bookstores in the Salt Lake City area for a less expensive, used copy so far with no luck. Is there anyone out there that knows where I can find one? I’d be willing to pay up to $25 for used, fully intact copy of the book. It doesn’t have to be in perfect condition. All I’m looking for is a book that I can read to my kids at night when I feel like scaring the crap out of them. J
If anyone out there happens to get a lead on this book, please shoot me an email. I’d really love to get my hands on a copy of this book again.
The last couple of weeks I’ve got several emails in regards to prenuptial agreements. Here’s one form a GOW who gave me permission to share it with readers.
I’m dating a widower who is very well off financially. Since we’ve become serious his children has expressed concern to their father about what will happen to his estate should he pass on before I do. I understand their concern but at the same time I don’t want to be left with nothing should he die. (I don’t have much.) I’m not marrying him for his money. I’m in my 60′s and have lived frugally most of my life and don’t need or want much. However, at the same time I don’t want to find myself turned out of his house with nowhere to live go should he pass on before me. I’m happy to sign a prenuptial agreement if he wants but worry that I’ll sound like I’m greedy if I bring up the subject of his finances and money. What is the best way to handle this situation?
If you’re in a serious relationship and the two of you have talked about spending the rest of your lives together, you need to able to talk about things like money, finances, and the with him. The sooner you do it, the better it will be for you, him, and anyone else involved in this situation. When you have some time alone, bring up your concerns and let him know why you’re asking these questions. You’re not being greedy by bringing up the subject. It’s something you need to know now so you can decide what consequences you might face should the two of you get married or move in together.
If you both come to an agreement or understanding, then have the legal paperwork drawn up. Hire an independent attorney review them before you sign anything just to make sure you really understand what you’re getting yourself into. Just understand that as of now it’s his wealth and he’s free to do whatever he wants with it. He can give it all to you, his kids, his favorite charity, or a pet cat. He’s under no obligation right now it to you, his kids, or anyone else.
I think that you’ll find out that this conversation isn’t a big of deal to him as you’re making it out to be. Most people don’t have a problem discussing this with someone they want to spend the rest of their life with. Widowers are somewhat more willing to have these conversations since they’ve already lost someone and understand the consequences of having (or not having) a will or other legal agreements in place should their spouse die. Just don’t wait to do it or have things changed after your married. Life is short. All it takes is a sudden heart attack or car accident to end things. It should be agreed upon and taken care of sooner rather than later.
According to my seven year old, I have great parking karma.
No matter how full a parking lot or side street, I always seem to find a great parking spot. This parking karma especially comes in handy when I need to travel to downtown Salt Lake where finding a decent parking spot can be difficult or expensive.
Sadly, my awesome parking karma is offset by bad line karma. Say I go to the store and nab the perfect parking spot. I can guarantee when I go to find a checkout line, I’ll get stuck in the line that’s not going anywhere.
For example, the other day at Wal-Mart I got spot as close as you can get to one of the entrances. I quickly picked up the few things that Marathon Girl needed and then headed for one of the express checkout lines. There were three options:
Line 1 had three people waiting. Two of the three people in line appeared to have carts with more than 15 items.
Line 2 had one person. The checkout clerk was about half way through his order.
Line 3 also had three people in it though everyone in that line seemed to be carrying everything they would be buying in their arms.
So which one did I choose? Line 2, of course. It seemed the obvious choice. As I got in line, I had visions of being out the door and to my car in two minutes or less.
Did it happen?
Not by a long shot.
By the time all the man’s groceries had been scanned and I was putting my few items on the counter, I noticed that the man had pulled out a bag of coins and started counting them. Yes, the man was paying his entire $28 bill in coins. A woman pushed her cart in behind me, saw the guy counting out coins, and did a one-eighty back to one of the other express lines.
I looked at the other lines and thought that this line was still the best option.
I was wrong.
The guy was actually pretty fast counting his money but the cashier was a woman in her 60s or 70s. She slowly counted out all of his money—twice.
In the meantime people sailed through the other express lanes. Once thing I failed to notice about Line 1 was that it had a young cashier who seemed to be determined to set some kind of checkout record with every customer.
I spent the next 5 minutes watching people count coins over and over again.
Occasionally someone will send me an email with either an incomplete or no email address to respond to. Today I’ll answer one email that the sender forgot to include a reply email address.
I am engaged to a widower and was wondering if you had any gift giving recommendations for the first anniversary of his late wife. It’s the day after tomorrow. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
I have to admit that I’ve never heard of a GOW or WOW getting a gift for the widower on the anniversary of his late wife’s death. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen but just that I’ve never known a woman dating a widower to do it. I’m curious as to why you feel the need to give him something.
Generally on the first anniversary it’s better if the widower to let the widower take the lead and decide how he wants to spend the day. Hopefully he won’t let this sad anniversary get him down and he’ll realize how much progress he’s made over the last year and that he now has another great woman in his life. But if you really feel that giving him something will help, find a sympathy card or just send him a quick email or text letting him know you’re thinking about him. But leave it at that. Don’t make a big deal out of a day that tends to focus people on the past and their loss. Instead hope that he has the good sense to focus on the people he has in his life and all the other blessings that he has.
When we moved into our new house, MG and I didn’t bother calling the cable or satellite TV company. Instead we decided to became what is called a Zero TV home. Yes we still have a TV but anything we watch are online or through inexpensive subscription services like Netflix. (Marathon Girl is streaming a show on Netflix as I write this.)
Some people have had it with TV. They’ve had enough of the 100-plus channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly bills.
A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service, and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections. Last month, the Nielsen Co. started labeling people in this group “Zero TV” households, because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2007.
Marathon Girl and I have been happy being a Zero TV home and have no plans on going back to regular TV ever again.
Just a few of the positive changes we’ve noticed since cutting the cord include:
We spend more time together as a family.
We spend more time together as a couple.
I spend more time writing.
The kids fight less.
We spend more time outside.
We watch less TV. A lot less. The few shows we do watch tend to be only those we find worth our time and we watch then when it’s convenient—not when broadcasters want us to.
Here’s a list of negatives: .
For those who haven’t tried it, I highly suggest giving Zero TV a try for a month. I think you’ll notice a positive difference in your life too. More time and freedom is a wonderful thing.