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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Our First Winter - Alone

There comes a time in many women's lives whereby we experience the first winter alone. It's frightening as we contemplate all the things that can go wrong and that "he took care of". We didn't have to worry about it as it was done for us or we did it as a team - lifting fear from the task. And we didn't worry about heat. Many times, we took care of a domestic chore while he wheeled the tools.

Others believe that somehow, magically, help and funds have always been allotted to take his place and therefore repairs, additional utility costs, and problems disappear from the widow's worries. Not so. (I used my inheritance to bury him and other bills incurred.) Many times, we are left with our wits alone and the advice of others who have not walked in our shoes is unrealistic. 

Even if funds have been set aside, try to find a repair person at any given time. It's no different for her - not to mention the fact that there are so many unethical people out there who size her up as "needing". When that occurs, "cha-ching, cha-ching" the bill triples in cost and she can no longer afford it. It's fine to take the time in searching for someone when time is not of the essence and your roof is not falling down around you. But, that's a whole new article.

This is not a new feeling; it's been occurring since the dawn of time. And the sudden isolated status can cause anxiety just watching the colors of autumn arrive. What used be to one's favorite season is now viewed as another stage of death. The plants and flowers are wasting away, the grass is turning brown and life seems to be ending everywhere. We keep it to ourselves because others would not understand. 

So what can we do to get ready for an upcoming winter season? Though this article doesn't cover all of life, it begins with the basic - warmth. 

It's not that we have to "give up" what we enjoy, it's that we have to rearrange what we enjoyTurning down the thermostat has never worked for me or saved me money. I was still paying about the same while freezing. With one less income, do we need to heat 15 rooms? No. If one has central heat, consider closing the additional unused rooms off. Those rooms will still get an amount of heat - just not as much. 

Where is your thermostat? Is it in the living room, family room, or den? Perhaps it's in a hallway. You want to make sure the "water rooms" bearing pipes are heated, so with that in mind, plan out your winter home. Me? The thermostat is in a centralized dining room, so the house becomes kitchen, dining room, hallway, bathroom. It's a small house and other rooms are easily closed off. The dining room becomes an honorary family room where all my toys are gathered: tv, computer, recliner...I'm happy.

If you wondered where the bedroom fit in, for several years it was in the dining room as well (I do not have central heat). Recently, I have an oil filled space heater that is pretty economical for me. So, it has a heat source of it's own during the night. I keep it low but effective.

If you choose to consolidate rooms, make it comfortable; make it fun. For as long as I can remember, my grandparents lived with curtains across various door openings and they could open and close them at will. As children, we thought it was a great game because we didn't live that way. Now, I have done the same thing. Unlike my grandparents, mine are not permanent, but they serve a wonderful wintertime purpose.

We never worried about those old windows in the past. Now, we need to, if we wish to save on energy costs. Starting to winterize your home can bring on an overwhelming feeling of its own, so take one room at a time - even the ones you're not using. If it's an older home, you can cover the windows with plastic. Inside kits come complete with everything you need and you really don't have to have a hairdryer to make them taunt. So don't worry about that if you don't have one. Cover the windows first that will effect you the most, especially if they're on the north side of the house.

If you are using clear rolled plastic, grab a good roll of duct tape and not the lightly sticky stuff. Get something that will stick. Most likely, you'll end up touching up your woodwork in the spring, but that's minimal to the loss of heat and heat bills you'll experience without it. If your plastic is on the outside of the house and it's against wood, a staple gun is your friend. You'll find a lot of uses for a staple gun and they're not that expensive. Hit the discount store in your area. Oh, and buy an additional box of staples. 

Perhaps the process of covering windows causes a bit of nervousness, turn on the tunes, turn on a favorite movie as a background sound - turn it up loud! Who cares? It's your place. I accomplished a lot listening to "Terminator II" that first year.

Continue to the next room and remember, time is not on your side, so don't wait too late to start. My little house requires both inside and outside plastic in some places. You'll be surprised how much warmer your house will be, particularly if the sun shines on the various plastic. And, you'll cut fuel costs at the same time. Remember, you're not alone in this practice. There are a lot of married couples that go through this every year as well.

Every widow will tell you that the day their spouse died, their internal thermostat blew up. We're cold now. We can't seem to stay warm at night. Sometimes, we can't stay warm during the day and it feels as if we will never be warm again. Don't underestimate sweat clothes (fleece material) and wool socks. Who cares that you need the additional warmth and what you sleep in? I've dressed many times as if I was going to the Antarctic as opposed to just going to bed. Sometimes, the feel of additional material wrapped around us is what we need more than the warmth itself. Where to get real wool socks? Go to the local farm store in your area (Tractor Supply Centers, Southern States, Farm Fleet, etc.) Search online. They may look expensive, but they last...and they work! Starting with just one pair is perfectly acceptable.

Flannel sheets are a great addition and recently I discovered microfiber sheets work even better! I don't believe they breathe so they really hold in the heat. The first year I had one set; now, I have two. They're an absolute god-send for staying warm at night.

RITUAL: And find yourself a ritual that makes you smile internally for the times you begin to get anxious. For myself, whenever this starts to happen, it's special tea in a special cup and classical music - a little Vivaldi, Beethovan, Mozart, Schubert, etc. Through the years, china cups are no longer required, but I've still been known to get one out on occasion. If I feel myself welling up inside, I stop, make tea (I keep a good stock of it), turn on the classical music, and concentrate on treating myself as opposed to worrying. Then, I start again. For you, it may be baking, it may be music, it may be dancing, it may be re-potting a plant....make it fun, make it enjoyable and don't expect anyone else to understand except another widow.

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