Check out my honors! (Click on the badges to see other great blogs too)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hibernate...

I think the bears on are to something. I want to hibernate. I am over-stimulated, over-saturated, just plain over it. Too many people are vying for my time and attention. I know they have good intentions and mostly want to see the girls, not necessarily me- but I’m feeling overwhelmed with trying to keep up with all the obligations. So many friends and family want to get together to do something over the holidays, and all I want to do is stay inside and not speak to anyone. The more people are trying to reach me and connect with me these days the more I want to pull away. Like a turtle retreating into its shell for protection. Like a bear hibernating in the cave until better times come along. I just want to ignore everyone.

Many other widows and most other people are happy about the new year. They are excited to get a "fresh start". To start anew. I feel exactly the opposite. I do not want a new year to come, I do not want a fresh start, I just want my old life back. And the reoccurring theme in my life of time moving too fast is staring me in the face with the countdown to a new year. Once the clock strikes midnight, a whole year is over and a new one is there to face. It’s daunting. It’s depressing.
I don’t want to ring in the new year with celebration- it is gut wrenching for me to think that this year, this last year that my husband was alive, this last year that my girls were held by their father, this last year that everything I’ve worked for and lived for, will be over. I don’t want it all to be over. I don’t want to let go of it. I don’t want it all to be so final. But, that’s what death is- finality at its finest.
From here forward years will be remembered and marked as “after Andie was gone”…no longer the years “we” did this or that, but now the years “I” will do it all without him. No more “remember when” that includes his name, for now the new memories made will not include him. So this new year is not a reason for me to celebrate or to look forward to ...It' s merely one more hurdle in this long race.

So if I don’t return your calls, or make plans to see you, or email you back….please forgive me, I’m hibernating.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The art of distraction...

If distraction were an art I’d be right up there with Picasso, Monet, and Rembrandt. I’m really good at distracting myself and staying so busy that I don’t have time to focus on the grief. I’ve figured out that I tend to stay connected to the blogs and hang on every word that other widows say as they are the only ones who truly understand me, and I them. They have become the greatest source of comfort for me. Almost the only source of comfort. I feel bombarded by all the distractions in my "real" life, and when I'm on the blogs I can connect in a different way. I stay so busy with the day to day tasks of life that the only time I really allow myself to think about the grief is when I’m alone in the car, or when I’m on the blogs.

We traveled out of town for the holidays and I purposely didn’t take my computer so I wouldn’t have ready access to the blog, or facebook, or email. I considered taking my journal but ultimately decided to leave it at home too. I felt like my mind needed a break from writing and processing. I wanted to just exist for the holidays. I wrapped myself up in a bubble and screened phone calls and didn’t return messages. I just didn’t want to talk to anyone about anything. I wanted to disconnect from the world. I just wanted to be. To be with my girls, to be away from my life for a moment, and all that connects me to it. Ironically, I wanted distraction…though in a different way than I am accustomed to.

For the first time in months I truly enjoyed myself. We had a wonderful vacation and I think getting fresh air and a change of scenery, and cutting off all communication with my “real” life helped tremendously. A weight was lifted and I lived. I felt joy. I ate good food, I cherished simple things like sunsets on the ocean and the sound of the surf, and my kids’ laughter. I was in the moment and connected with my girls like I haven’t been able to be for months. We stayed so busy sightseeing and doing activities that I stayed distracted, but in a good way.

The weather was glorious on the 23rd and the 24th so we visited the beach and got some great pictures. The cold front rolled in on Christmas Eve and at about dusk the sky turned a dull gray and the water reflected it’s color; the point on the horizon where the ocean meets the sky became indistinguishable. For just a moment it seemed that heaven met the earth and I wondered if God was bringing the angels down to meet us. On Christmas night I ventured out to get some milk for the girls and pick up a pizza for us adults. Alone in my car driving along the seawall was almost surreal. I was one of only a few cars on the road. There was a definite sense of calm. A serenity that I crave. The night was pitch black and the moon was covered with clouds so there was no reflection of it glinting off the ocean. Except for some barges and ships way out on the horizon whose lights twinkled, it was just a vast chasm of black. The water and the sky so dark, that again you couldn’t distinguish where one stopped and the other began. I guess that’s all this life really is…points along a spectrum with no definitive beginning or ending for our souls, despite the fact that our bodies have a definitive start and end point. Our souls just move in and out of this realm and into another, as seamlessly as the ocean meets the sky. And I wondered on this dark night, where was Andie’s soul? Was he beside me in the car taking it all in with me, was he back at the house watching over the girls, or was he somewhere out of our reach completely?

The 26th was Andie’s 35th birthday and I wanted to celebrate his life that day but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I could hardly acknowledge it, past singing him Happy Birthday with the girls the minute that we all woke up that morning. After that it was a return to the hustle and bustle of packing to go home, and then making the road trip back, unpacking when we got home, then dinner/bath/bedtime routine. And there it was again, distraction.

Sweet distraction seeping back in and working it’s magic…

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Have yourself a merry little Christmas...

Well, I'm officially out of my funk. No, really I am, honest.
I am a pretty optimistic person in general, so it doesn't take me long to start seeing the good side of things. I can't ever hold a grudge, and I can't ever stay in a bad mood for long. Though I did buy a bottle of wine yesterday called "The Pessimist" to drink the next time I'm feeling a little blue! The background text on the label says "half empty" and the description on the back says it is "exactly the kind of wine for selfish consumption". I thought it was cute. I buy wine solely for the name or label...not quite a connoisseur I'll admit, but it's fun that way. Anyway, I divagate... A friend of mine at work and I are always on the hunt for new words. I recently learned that divagate means to digress or ramble on and wanted to be able to use it in a sentence. Ha! I just double digressed...okay, moving on.

Yesterday I went Christmas shopping and really got into the spirit. I was almost giddy buying gifts for the girls and imagining how they're gonna react when they get to see all their new stuff that Santa brought. In the evening I went to dinner with my extended family and it was really good to see them all and be a part of conversation that didn't revolve around death/dying/grief/widowhood/et. al. and how I was doing/feeling/handling it all. It was great to focus on them and all the neat things going on their lives. I only felt a little melancholy and bittersweet for half a second when my grandfather asked my brother what the score was in the Spurs game, and I thought about how Andie had an app on his phone that kept up with scores in real time and he would've had the answer for my grandfather in about half a second.

Me and the girls had a great day today. We played with a cowboy hat and I got some cute pictures that I've added to the blog. I'm getting excited about going out of town for the holidays. Traveling with the twins is always stressful because there is so much to pack, and so much planning goes into keeping them semi on schedule with meals and naps. But, I'm really happy to be leaving town and getting a change of scenery. We are going to stay in my aunt's house in Galveston. We're going to Moody Gardens to see the aquarium and the Festival of Lights. We might even hit the beach if the weather permits, and the girls can see the sand and ocean for the first time. I think the girls are really going to enjoy it, which means that I will by proxy.

Anywhoo, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here... and I need to finish wrapping.

Happy Holidays Y'all! And don't forget to have a merry little Christmas in your own special way...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Frayed nerves...

Wow! Single parenting sucks! The girls are in a new phase where almost anything and everything can induce a tantrum…an all out, on the floor, kicking and screaming, tantrum. Furthermore, they outnumber me!

Here’s a list of things that have led to a tantrum in the past few days:
Changing a diaper
Sister has a toy I want or is in my general vicinity
I’m hungry and mom can’t get food in front of me in the next 30 seconds
A stranger looked at me and waved (No lie, this happened twice in the past week at two different restaurants)
Mom left the room
Mom is on the phone and not giving me her undivided attention
I want Mom to hold me…I don’t want Mom to hold me
I don’t want to eat what Mom gave me so I will spit it out, throw it on the floor, or better yet rub it in my hair- especially if I just had a bath.

They are so fast and curious; in the time it takes me to change one’s diaper the other is into something they shouldn’t be into (xmas presents, Kleenex box, all the dvd’s in the cabinet, the toilet, you name it.)

Even laundry is no simple feat. This morning this is how doing laundry went in our house. I go to my room and gather my dirty laundry. I leave the room with hands full, not able to shut the door behind me, and as I’m leaving my bedroom they are crawling in. My bedroom and bathroom are forbidden territory and they know it- when they see an opportunity to cross enemy lines they seize it. I take the clothes to the laundry room and drop it off and go back to get them. In the time it takes me to walk back from the laundry room, one is in my make-up drawer and the other is standing at the tub and has turned the water on. I get them both out of the bathroom and shut my bedroom door behind me. I go back to the laundry room to load the washer. I hear screaming while I’m in there but figure they can fend for themselves for 15 more seconds. I come out and find Addie is eating something out of the fireplace. While I am washing ashes out of her mouth, Allie comes to the kitchen and unloads the entire Tupperware cabinet. After I hastily pick up the Tupperware and throw it haphazardly into the cabinet (gone are the days of the organized cabinet where all pieces have their matching lids) I find Addie tearing up a magazine in the living room. When I take it away she screams, throws herself on the floor, and repeatedly hits my foot- as it happens to be the closest thing to her. Allie crawls around the corner and sees Addie crying so she starts too. Afterall, the only thing better than one upset child is two. And in this house it is “monkey see, monkey do”. Whew- I’m exhausted and it’s only 9:30 a.m.!

The only thing they both enjoy no matter what is the bath, and if I could get away with leaving them in the bathtub for 4 hours at a time, I just might. Better yet, maybe I should stay in the bath for 4 hours...

They are draining me in a way they have never drained me before. By the end of the day I have picked them up, put them down, crouched down to clean something up, and picked up toys so many times that my back and neck are achy and sore. Added to the stress and exhaustion of grieving it is all too much. It makes me lose my patience and I react in ways that I never would under different circumstances; yelling and spanking over things that don’t deserve such reactions. Then I feel like a horrible parent and my guilt weighs me down even further. It is a vicious cycle. I feel terribly guilty about the little amount of time I get to spend with them (3 hours at most on days I have to work) and I just want to be with them, but then they are so taxing that when I’m with them I just want to be away from them. I am on edge with them, with myself, with everyone.

My emotions are raw, like live wires and if you come too close you might get shocked.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Settling in...

I visited his grave today as I do on the 18th of every month. It is still mostly just a patch of dirt, tendrils of grass slowly making their way in and blurring the edges, but mostly just still dirt. It looks so fresh and is a visual reminder in the here and now that all of this is still so fresh. I sat and watched my tears roll down my nose and land in the dirt. Someone has placed new flowers and a big red bow on his grave. I realized with a sense of irony that the new big red bow is mocking me like it is a present…”open me” it says. Certainly the only present I could ever want is for this to not be my life. For half a second I think about clawing through the earth with my bare hands to get to him. To unwrap my present.

After I left the grave I went to the lake house to water the tree that we planted in his honor. As I sat on the deck overlooking the lake I was aware of the stark contrast between the beautiful, crisp, clear day with the sun warming my shoulders, and the darkness brooding within in me. I sat there listening to the breeze rustling through the trees and the waves lapping against the dock. I begin to cry again. This is exactly the kind of day he loved. If he were here with me now he would be on the lower dock with a fishing pole. I close my eyes and I can see him there- he’d be in his cargo shorts and a sweatshirt. Very likely it would be the exact UT sweatshirt I pulled from his closet and put on today. He’d have his sunglasses and a hat on. I can see him turning around and giving me that wide grin- the very one I see every day in Addison. He’d throw up the universal sign language gesture for “I love you” and I’d smile and do it back. I open my eyes hoping that when I do I will actually see him there, even if it is just an apparition. But I do not. So I cry some more.





Today is monumental- it is 6 months today that he has been gone. The full weight of the pain is palpable. I literally feel it in my chest. Today if feels more real than it ever has- the pain is deeper and stronger. I have been very distracted the past few weeks. I can’t concentrate or focus, especially in conversation. It’s the ol’ Charlie Brown, ‘wah, wah, wah”…then I have to ask people to repeat things or pretend like I know what they’re talking about. I am apathetic, not caring about most things. I want to escape it all. If I’m asked one more time if I’m okay I just might book the next flight to a foreign country and not come back. Of course I’m not okay, I just don’t want to talk about it cause I spend every waking moment thinking about it. The impending holidays and his birthday (the 26th) are ever present in my mind- like vultures circling overhead waiting to poach as soon as I show weakness. I’m giving you all fair warning that thus far it has been the calm before the storm.

I am losing my grip.
I am slipping.
The darkness is settling in…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I win.

People often say that there is a reason for everything. Many times over the years I’ve wondered the reason for having to lose my father when I was so young. Perhaps the reason I had to lose him was to prepare me for this loss. To guide me through this grief. To allow me to see hope and fulfillment in my future so I may continue to go on living now. If losing Andie had been my first experience with tragic loss I would not be coping and functioning very well, and that would prevent me from being a good parent. Because I’ve walked this walk before, I have some coping skills to draw on and I am able to continue functioning for my girls.

Losing Dad was actually a gift in a way, which even as I type it sounds INSANE. But living through that, and working through that has helped me cope with this loss of Andie. Because I have experienced sudden, tragic death before, and come out on the other side still alive and able to find joy, it gives me hope for my future now. I know that I will not only survive the loss of Andie, but also thrive and find fulfillment again. Just in a different way than I expected.

I’m different in that regard from other widows who have not experienced loss prior to losing their husbands. Their outlooks are so bleak and they have a hard time believing that it will ever get better. I completely understand where they are coming from because that is how I felt after losing my father. But I don’t feel this way about losing Andie because losing my father has taught me many lessons. I have learned how to deal with grief, how to process it, how to accept that while the pain seems unbearable now there is truly a light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t deal well with my father’s death; initially I tried to deny it, detach from it, compartmentalize it. It wasn’t until 5 years after he died that I finally started to deal with it and got some really good therapy.

I won’t make all the same mistakes this go round as I did with my first bout of grief. I still struggle with the tendency to compartmentalize and detach, but I’m at least aware of these tendencies and can work to combat them. I still want to move through it very quickly and not give the process the time it deserves- so I constantly have to remind myself to slow down and let it be.

But I’m wiser to the process and know what to expect this time. I know that some days will be good and others will be awful. I know that just when I think I’m getting my feet on the ground, grief will throw me a curve ball and knock me back down. The difference is that now I know that I can get up.
I can still win the game.
Grief can’t defeat me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Becoming an angel...

Excerpts from “Angel” - by Sarah McLachlan

Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay
There's always one reason
To feel not good enough
And it's hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
Oh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins
Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight

In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there



I have to work really hard to picture Andie as he was alive. To capture the essence of him in a memory that is not overshadowed by my memory of his last moments on this earth. I guess these are snippets of PTSD manifesting themselves; such a horrific flashback to have to relive even for just moments. They hit me at random times. I was struck by this image of him while driving to work this morning, with no idea of what triggered it.

To combat these awful last memories I have to literally push them out of my awareness. I have to conjure specific happy times like how he looked when he walked in the door from work, a smile because he was happy to be home. The boyish grin he had as he laid next to me in bed each night and said he loved me. The embarrassed smile he had when we were driving in the car and he had just danced and acted silly for my benefit. These are the ways I want to remember him. I want to erase the night he died from my memory all together.

I have been wondering lately about the exact moment that his soul left his body; maybe that’s why the night he died is at the forefront of my thinking. Exactly when did he become an angel? Wondering if it really happens like it does in the movies where the soul leaves and can look back and see what is still happening here. I know he was gone long before the actual time of death, before that minute printed on the death certificate. I could sense that. But when was the actual crossover? I pray it was not while he was in the back of the ambulance and I was not allowed to be with him…I want to have been there holding his hand when that exact moment occurred. There was a moment before the ambulance arrived when my cousins were doing CPR and I had been holding Andie’s hand. I let go for a short second and his hand twitched, as though he was reaching for me. Perhaps that was the moment, his last attempt at connection before he knew we would have no more connection in this physical world.

The question rolls around in my mind and haunts me…exactly when do you become an angel?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kaleidoscope

My thoughts are like a kaleidoscope. Constantly swirling in my head, one thought seemingly unrelated to the next, yet interwoven and connected, as it is born out of the thought immediately preceding it. What seems like a random assortment of thoughts is really an intricate dance amongst them. One leading, and the next following. With just a subtle shift the thought pattern morphs into something new right before my eyes. The beginning of the word- “kaleid”- sounds like collide. That is my thoughts; colliding with one another and merging together to form something new. Like atoms that collide, bind, and then become a new molecule. My mind is in constant motion these days and often I can’t make sense of it. Ending up in a place in my mind and having no idea how I got there. Here’s a glimpse into my kaleidoscope…

I stood in the shower today as I let the too hot water beat on my back and inhaled the steam. I thought, Andie wouldn’t have liked the water this hot. I remind myself he is dead. Then I think how did this happen to me, how am I alone in this, how is he not here? My thoughts jumped to a girl I know who got married not long ago, and how in all likelihood she would still have a husband 6 years and 8 months from now. Why did I not get the privilege of getting past that point? I’m reminded of my wedding day, my joy, my enthusiasm for the future. Had you told me then what would happen, would I have continued down the aisle? I think not. I know not. This pain would have been too scary. I wouldn’t have willingly walked this path; I would not have been strong enough to take this burden on. That’s all people tell me these days; how strong I am. I am because I have to be, not because I choose to be. Had I had the choice I would’ve been a coward, would have not moved forward down this path. Would’ve chosen the easier, less painful, path. I would’ve broken up with Andie had I known that I would lose him. We would’ve married different people and some other young girl would be a widow right now, not me. Then I think that I would not have had my children; other children maybe, some other man’s children, but not my children. My unique children that only Andie and I could’ve created together. And I would not give that up for anything now, but had you asked me before it all happened, I would have said other children would be just fine, I would've willingly accepted that fate. Because I would not have known the difference then. That 23 year old girl would not have known that the pain would be outweighed by the gifts. Would not have known the joy and fulfillment that Andie and these babies would bring.

So this experience and all this pain was really worth it in the end- for without it, I would not have my beautiful children, would not have known true love from an amazing man. Then I think, this is why we don’t know our futures… it would paralyze us. We would always be making decisions based on what we saw in the crystal ball and changing the course of the future, never knowing what we were really destined for because we messed with destiny. This is why, perhaps I should not consult a psychic or medium to help me get in touch with Andie. What if they know something about my future that would irrevocably change it, if I too knew what the future held.

I’m awakened from this marathon of thoughts by the sound of one of the girls babbling as she awakes from her nap. Her happy squeals over the sound of the running water in the shower. I turn it off, wondering how long I’ve stood there lost in thought…and where did this all start in my mind?

This kaleidoscope of thought is my existence. I can’t seem to even make sense of things enough to write about them lately. I can’t stay focused on a topic. Just lots of thoughts swirling around, constantly shifting and morphing, into something new...
just like a kaleidoscope.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Grief Inhabited...

This grief inhabits my soul.
It is a place.
It is a feeling.
It is a state of mind.
It is a virus invading, mutating, and taking over it's host.
It controls.
It dominates.
Then it acquiesces.
It grows, changes, and evolves.
It becomes me.
It envelops and surrounds me.
It pushes.
It pulls.
Then it dissipates.
It is a belief.
It is a conviction.
It is a process, a riddle, a puzzle that cannot be solved.
It is me.

This grief...it lives in me.
And I in it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I love you...

Excerpts from “I Love You” - by Sarah McLachlan

and I forgot
to tell you
I love you
and the night's
too long
and cold here
without you
I grieve in my condition
for I cannot find the words to say I need you so


The night Andie died, I didn’t tell him I loved him before we went to bed. We said that to each other every night. I’m not sure why we didn’t that night; perhaps because we were on vacation and out of our routine, nevertheless, I didn’t say it. And he didn’t say it to me either.

Then when the chaos started and I knew the situation was serious, I kept telling him that I needed him. That the girls needed him. That he had to stay alive because I could not do this without him. But I still did not say that I loved him.

It’s strange how in the middle of chaos and trauma you can have moments of clarity- a stillness within when thoughts seem to flow calmly and rationally, and the world around you fades away. I remember a moment like this when I had an almost subconscious fleeting thought that if I acknowledged that this might be the last time I said I loved him, then that would make it true. So I didn’t say it. It was like I was afraid to jinx myself. That if I actually uttered the words, “I love you, don’t leave me” then I was accepting my fate. That if I said it, then that meant that I believed the very thing I could not make myself believe.

I even had a brief thought about the next day, when I thought it was all going to be okay and he was stable, how I was going to tell him how much he scared me. Admonish him not to ever do that to me again. I was going to tell him that I had been afraid he was going to die. I was going to tell him then how much I loved him.

I was going to tell him then…

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tick. Tock.

Excerpts from Time, by Sarah McLachlan

Time here,
all but means nothing, just shadows that move across the wall
They keep me company, but they don't ask of me
they don't say nothing at all.
And I need just a little more silence
And I need just a little more time

Time is a funny thing for us grievers. Things that happened right after Andie died seem like years ago to me, that is, if I even remember them at all. Just yesterday my brother-in-law reminded me that Andie’s whole family had gone to Oklahoma not long after he died to see the extended family. Until my brother-in-law brought it up yesterday, I had completely forgotten that it occurred. And then when I thought about it, I could’ve sworn they took that trip over a year ago- long before Andie died. And yet, it seems like just a few months ago that I was giving birth to twins and we were learning about diapers, bottles, and sleep schedules.

There is a time warp around grief that is truly disorienting. I think to the griever, life literally stops and then when we “wake up” for a moment or two we see that the world has continued to move on and we have to suddenly catch up. So we end up jumping through time. It reminds me of the book I read in middle school called “A Wrinkle in Time” and the ant on a string illustration below. It will take the ant much longer to walk "through time" than if you just put a wrinkle in it and he gets to skip ahead...

Most people’s timelines are flat and continuous, and move at a relatively steady pace. But to a griever, there are many wrinkles in our timeline. Times we seem to skip over and move through events at warp speed; so quickly they don’t even register in the psyche and leave a trace of memory. Then the timeline smooths out again and we’re back to crawling through time where every second seems like it is in the forefront of consciousness.

We widows measure everything by milestones- there are a lot of firsts. The first day, week, month, and year. The first holiday, birthday, anniversary, kid’s birthday, our own birthday. The first time to visit that special place, first time we cook his favorite meal, go to his favorite restaurant, hear a special song. The first time we wash the sheets and lose his scent, or the first time we take off the wedding ring. The first time we check the “widowed” box on some form, the first time we have to figure out a new emergency contact on paperwork, the first time we have to answer the “what does your husband do?” question while making small talk. The first Christmas card pictures without him in it. The first time we don’t buy his favorite snacks at the store because he’s not home to eat them. The first time we make a major life decision on our own without his input, the first time we have to explain it all to our children. The list goes on and on endlessly.

So far I’ve made it through my own 30th birthday, my kids’ 1st birthday, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving…but I hardly remember any of them. They’re all a blur. Seriously, how did I manage to get invitations made and plan a birthday party for the twins a mere 6 weeks after he died?

I’m coming up on the 6 month anniversary which seems monumental to me. Half a year without him. There is simply NO WAY that he’s been gone that long. More like 6 weeks in my warped existence. I get anxious when I think how much time has already passed because it’s going too quickly. Time keeps moving and I don’t want it to- and it’s taking my girls with it. They are growing and changing too much, too soon, and I feel like I can’t savor it. I can’t appreciate it because I’m not really here experiencing it all. I’m just going through the motions- I’m merely existing and not really living. I try often to be present and engaged, especially with them, but most of the time I’m emotionally drained and simply don’t have the energy. I. Just. Need. More. Time.

But alas, time marches on…

Monday, December 6, 2010

Equations...

The other day I was talking with a friend who is going through a rough time in her marriage. She was saying that she felt like there were only a few good months in all the years she’s been married and the rest were wrought with turmoil. Now, I’m sure she is exaggerating a bit since the negatives always seem to outshine the positives when we are upset about something.

But, being the very analytical person I am (I almost got a perfect score on the analytical section of the GRE, nevermind that I barely passed the math and verbal portions), it got me thinking about my own marriage and the ratio of good to bad.

Then I started doing calculations in my head. (Yes, sometimes I am obsessive) Adding up the number of months that I could remember that were especially tough and trying, and comparing them to the really good times. I’ll spare you the sordid details of my multiple equations, percents, fractions, and variables all worked out on a piece of scratch paper. It turns out that my marriage was roughly 80% great and 20% not so great. I would’ve thought that we were closer to about 90% great. It doesn’t really matter what the number is, the point is that our good far outweighed our bad. I don’t know if we were just lucky, or worked harder than others at maintaining a commitment, or were just better suited for each other and extra compatible, or all of the above. Probably a mixture of all of the above, but that’s a whole other equation we won’t get into.

We decided early in our marriage that the unit was top priority; never ourselves, or our future children above the marriage. The sum was to be greater than the parts, so to speak. I think that served us well. Not that we didn’t have times of being selfish, or petulant temper tantrums of “But, I want…”, or focusing on the kids more than us, but the idea of the marriage first always brought us back to reprioritizing in our favor when things got kinda squirrely. Marriage is a delicate balance of sacrificing yourself for the good of the whole, but not losing yourself in the process. There is a lot of compromise, picking your battles, and just letting go. And of course a lot of hope that the scale is tipped in your favor and the good outweighs the bad.

So, today I’m feeling thankful that he stuck by my side. Always put me first. Never let me step down from the pedestal he put me on from day one. And that I did all the same for him.

And in the end, the scale was tipped in our favor and we had it pretty good.
We had it pretty good...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Memory lane...

Yesterday I took a trip down memory lane...literally.

Andie's best friend, Eric, just had a new baby. So I went to see the family yesterday evening and took them dinner. The only problem is that they live on a street off of Lime Kiln Rd.

Lime Kiln Rd. is my own personal memory lane. Lime Kiln Rd. is the street that Andie and Eric lived on when I first met Andie. They rented this tiny little house out in the sticks, way down this winding country road called Lime Kiln Rd. You had to cross a cattle guard and drive down a dirt drive to get to the house. Last night I drove that road again for only the second time since Andie's been gone. (The first time I drove it I was still in such shock that none of the emotional association registered at the time.) I've driven that road a thousand times but last night was perceptibly different. Each twist and turn bringing back vivid memories.

That house on Lime Kiln Rd. is where I first met Andie, initially decided I didn't like him much, and then subsequently fell completely in love with him. It's where he would pursue me for almost two years before I would finally give him a chance.
That house on Lime Kiln Rd. is where he became my best friend. Where we would sit on the tailgate of his truck late into the night talking, and watching shooting stars across the Texas sky. That house on Lime Kiln Rd. is where I met his brother Roger for the first time, and he cornered me in the kitchen and implored me to please give his brother a chance because he knew Andie would treat me right and love me forever.
That house on Lime Kiln Rd. was home to many frat parties and bonfires and me being jealous that Andie was flirting with sorority girls and not me.
That house on Lime Kiln Rd. is where I would watch movies with Andie in the dead of winter when they didn't have heat. I hate the cold more than anything, but I wanted to be near him so badly that I would wear my coat and cover up with a sleeping bag, eventually falling asleep with my head on his shoulder.
That house on Lime Kiln Rd. is where he would rub my back until I fell asleep. He wouldn't stop until I was asleep, and sometimes I would pretend that I was already asleep just so he would stop and get some sleep himself.
That house on Lime Kiln Rd. is where I went when I was falling apart during the lawsuit over my father's death. He took me to his room away from everyone, shut the door, and just held me while I cried.
It's where I hoped and prayed that he would kiss me for the first time, proving to me what everyone already said- that he was in fact, in love with me.

Lime Kiln Rd. is where we started. Where we fell in love. Where we reminisced about when we thought of the "good ol days".

Lime Kiln Rd. is where my journey to him began. It's my own personal memory lane.
And it's just not the same anymore.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

If I could...

If I could there is so much I would do, and change, and fix for my daughters. Their world has unfairly been turned upside down and what life they would’ve known is no longer an option. I often wonder about how this is going to irrevocably change who they are. Certainly growing up and having a good, strong, father figure would’ve had a profoundly different outcome for them than growing up without ever even remembering their father. Everytime I see their angelic faces and think of their innocence lost through all of this I am deeply saddened. I dread the day they start asking questions and I have no good explanations.

As a parent my job is to protect them, provide for them, afford them all the best opportunities I can, and sometimes I feel powerless in all of this. I can't protect them from the pain of loss. I can't provide the experiences they would've had if they had two parents. I can't afford them all the same opportunities they are entitled to, as I am now a single parent. I am reminded of a song written by my uncle, Paul Hill.


"If I Could" by Paul Hill (check out hugworks.org for more great children's music)

If I could
I would write a song for you
A very special song for you
A song to lift you up when all your dreams have left you empty handed

If I could
I would be a friend to you
A very special friend to you
A friend that you could call whenever you just need someone to talk to

And if I could
I would stop the pain from ever getting through
I would keep this world from ever hurting you
If I could

If I could
I would give a smile to you
Yes, I would give a smile to you
A smile for anytime that things are not what they’re supposed to be

I know you’ve given more than one to me

At least once every few days, for just a millisecond, the thought passes through my head, "Andie is going to be so surprised to see how much they've changed when he gets home." It's like I think he's just been on a really long trip and will walk in the door any minute. My heart breaks for him and for the girls everytime I am reminded that they have lost each other. Cause the bottom line is, he lost out too. He was cheated in all of this too.

My daughters are my joy, my hope, my inspiration, my amusement, my whole life. They give so much more to me than I could ever give to them.

Oh girls, how things would be different for you if only,
I could…

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sustenance to last forever...

The other day (11/29/10) was the 15th anniversary of my father’s death. I turned 30 this year, making it exactly half my life that he’s been gone. Now that a few days have passed I realize that I’m on the downhill slide of it. Each new day that passes makes it longer that I have been without my father than I had with him.

I think about this with Andie, how in 10 years I will have been without him for as long as I had with him. And each new day after that will be longer without him than I had with him. The only saving grace in this is that what time I did have was beautiful, and meaningful, and awesome. What he gave me was fulfilling, and sustaining, and love at it’s finest. His love was sustenance for my soul.

And I wonder, can all the greatness that we had in a decade sustain me for the next 4 or so decades that I will have to live without him?

All I can do is hope...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Top Widowhood Blog Award Winner!

I have been honored to receive one of the Top Widowhood Blog Awards by PsychologyDegree.net!

As stated on their site:

"The loss of a spouse is devastating; it can take months, even years to recover from such a crisis. Grief counseling is critical in coping and dealing with the death of a spouse. If you have suffered through the death of your husband or wife, these award winning blogs can help you in finding counseling, meeting others in your situation and provide the knowledge that you are not alone. These blogs are also very important reading if you are considering a career in the psychological field; they will provide insight into the important work of grief counselors.

Please join me in congratulating our Top Widowhood Blog award winners presented by Psychology Degree!"

So if you are interested in other award winning blogs, click the button on the right side of my screen to see the complete list. Happy reading!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Numb...

I've been so numb and devoid of feeling lately. I walk around in an emotional haze- not really feeling the full effects of what has happened to me. I don't want to feel it. I don't want to accept it. I'm in a constant state of disbelief. Empty.


Tonight that all came crashing down. A neighbor dropped by and asked if I had any Christmas lights that needed to be hung. He was more than willing to do it for me if I needed- It was really no big deal, he explained. I knew it was a genuine, caring offer and the sweetness of this gesture sent me into a tailspin. It's a pain to hang lights; the very reason we never had them was because Andie refused to do it.


After the neighbor left it hit me: it's so real to everyone else that I don't have a husband.
It's just not real to me.
The rest of the world has accepted my fate.
I have not.


I can't make it seem real to myself except in small doses when I'm reminded like this, and when it does hit me it is overpowering. The pain is so deep that there aren't words to describe it. I guess this is why it's so hard to accept offers of help. Honestly, the offers wouldn't be there if I wasn't a widow. So, the second that I accept the offer it forces me to acknowledge what that person already knows- My husband is gone and he's not coming back. Ever.


Moments like this awaken me from my emotional catatonia. It jars my pain from the slumber it has been in. The Pandora's box of feelings that I keep so tightly locked is opened, and the emotions come pouring out in full force. The protective cocoon I've woven that doesn't let the strong emotions in is cracked, and the real despair seeps in and invades my soul.


And ever so gently it seeps back out and I go numb again...

Ahem, ahem...here comes the soapbox

I’m in my angry phase again. I feel like there is no good or valid reason that Andie had to die. It could have been prevented a thousand ways.

Allow me to step onto my soapbox for a moment. Heart disease is one of the number one causes of death in America; it is largely because of our terrible diets and lack of exercise. After talking with the coroner about his death I learned that what killed him was a combination of genetic factors (predisposition for high cholesterol and heart disease) combined with a poor diet and lifestyle factors that only contributed to more high cholesterol and heart disease. His official cause of death was not even a heart attack. It was severe blockage of his coronary arteries (a condition called atherosclerosis) that led to his heart not being able to get blood and oxygen as needed. Basically, the coronary artery became blocked over time due to cholesterol and eventually it closed up completely- and he died. Because he ate like crap for most of his life! At only 34!

My concern is that people don’t take their health, diets, and exercise seriously enough. Especially when we’re young and think stuff like this only happens to older people. It only takes small changes to make a big impact. One small change we can all make is to eat less sugar-refined sugar, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, all forms of it!

Here is something I found while looking into this issue. It’s from www.healingdaily.com. Not the most “medical” sight, but I liked the simple list they put together about the dangers of sugar. I’ve put asterisks by the conditions that Andie had; all things that contributed to his death according to the coroner. He ate a diet high in processed foods and sugar until he started dieting about 10 months before he died. I believe with all my heart that if he had made lifestyle changes a lot earlier if it would’ve been a different outcome.

Sugar can suppress the immune system.
Sugar can upset the body's mineral balance.
Sugar can contribute to hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, concentration difficulties, and crankiness in children.
***Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.
Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children.
***Sugar can reduce helpful high density cholesterol (HDLs).
***Sugar can promote an elevation of harmful cholesterol (LDLs).

Sugar can cause hypoglycemia.
Sugar contributes to a weakened defense against bacterial infection.
Sugar can cause kidney damage.
***Sugar can increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
Sugar may lead to chromium deficiency.
Sugar can cause copper deficiency.
Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
Sugar can increase fasting levels of blood glucose.
Sugar can promote tooth decay.
***Sugar can produce an acidic stomach.
Sugar can raise adrenaline levels in children.
Sugar can lead to periodontal disease.
Sugar can speed the aging process, causing wrinkles and grey hair.
***Sugar can increase total cholesterol.
***Sugar can contribute to weight gain and obesity.

High intake of sugar increases the risk of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Sugar can contribute to diabetes.
Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
Sugar can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
Sugar leads to decreased glucose tolerance.
***Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.
***Sugar can increase systolic blood pressure.

Sugar causes food allergies.
Sugar can cause free radical formation in the bloodstream.
Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.
Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.
Sugar can overstress the pancreas, causing damage.
***Sugar can cause atherosclerosis.
Sugar can compromise the lining of the capillaries.
Sugar can cause liver cells to divide, increasing the size of the liver.
***Sugar can increase the amount of fat in the liver.
Sugar can increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in the kidney.
Sugar can cause depression.
Sugar can increase the body's fluid retention.
Sugar can cause hormonal imbalance.
***Sugar can cause hypertension.
Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines.
Sugar can cause an increase in delta, alpha and theta brain waves, which can alter the mind's ability to think clearly.
Sugar can increase blood platelet adhesiveness which increases risk of blood clots and strokes.
Sugar can increase insulin responses in those consuming high-sugar diets compared to low sugar diets.
Sugar increases bacterial fermentation in the colon.

If this doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. Decreasing the amount of sugar we take in is a very small step towards bettering our health. People look at me like I’m crazy around here when I say I don’t drink sweet tea. In Texas that’s almost like saying you don’t believe in God. And I also don’t allow my children to drink it- yes, there are parents who start their kids on sweet tea in Texas when they are still drinking out of sippy cups! I find it appalling. It is my job as a parent to make responsible, healthy food choices for my children while I still can. They will have all their adult lives to make unhealthy decisions on their own.

So when I don’t want my kids having tea, soda, or ice cream, or any number of other treats…don’t look at me like I’m a bad mom who deprives her children of life’s simple pleasures. Acknowledge the good choice I’m making for them while they’re young- they don’t’ know the difference now anyway. I’m not opposed to an occasional treat-I promise, I do l let them eat cake on their birthday!

They already have risk factors genetically speaking, given what happened to their father. I can’t control that, but what I can control is what they put in their sweet little mouths! And what I put in mine for that matter. It’s a struggle to make all the right food choices, but I’m doing my best to be a responsible parent.

So I’m starting my new year’s resolution now- less sugar for us all in the Simmons house! Think about your own diet and lifestyle and consider a small change you could make for the better- Push yourself to do it! Consider it a gift to those you love to better your own health.

We often say we’d die for the ones we love, instead why don’t we choose to really live for them…

(Stepping down from the soapbox now)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand words...

When we were first dating one of the nicest gifts Andie got me was a really nice camera- the Canon Rebel (before they had the digital version). I loved that camera and did some of my best work on it. I thought I lost it once when I accidentally packed it when we were moving. After months passed and we couldn't find it he went out and bought me another one for my birthday. He knew how much that camera meant to me and how heartbroken I was to not have it. Ironically, we unpacked and found the old camera about a week after he bought the new one!

Andie was always proud of my photography. It was just a hobby I enjoyed, but he encouraged me to display some of my work in our home and always wanted me to try to sell my photos. I never thought I was good enough but he always did. When we'd see photography for sale for hundreds of dollars he'd always say, "You could do that. Your stuff is way better than this." His encouragement and admiration of me is one of the things I treasure and miss the most.

When they came out with the digital version of my Canon Rebel I drooled over it. Pined for it. Longed for it. But I never thought we could afford it, or should afford it, rather. I was always the one holding the purse strings saying we should put more into retirement or savings- not spend it on extravagant things we didn't really need. He wanted me to have the big expensive camera and tried to convince me to get it for years, but I always put it off because it was so expensive.

The weekend Andie died was Father's Day weekend. I had bought him a new lightweight digital camera as a gift. We had both been wanting a new camera for a while that was small enough to throw in my purse, so I splurged. I planned to give it to him Friday night when we arrived at our vacation destination so he could use it all weekend. Thursday afternoon he ran errands and came home with my "late" Mother's Day present; you guessed it- a new camera! We laughed and couldn't believe we both bought each other cameras. He felt bad that he never got me a Mother's Day present and said he wanted me to have it for our vacation.

When he bought this new camera he told me he had considered getting me the digital version of my really good camera. The Canon Rebel EOS...the only problem was the digital version starts at around $600 and goes up from there. He said he was sure I would be upset if he spent that much money, but that he would go back and get it if I really wanted it. Well, being practical I told him we shouldn't spend that much money on a camera and I would keep the small lightweight one he bought.

So we kept the practical camera. The one we could both use. Point and shoot- so easy. The problem is...I hate this camera. I thought I would like it because it's very compact and lightweight but it takes way too long between when you press the button and when the picture takes. My kids move so quick that I can never get a good shot. Something that would never happen with my Canon Rebel. I'm sure my vehemence towards this camera is only magnified by the fact that he gave it to me a day before he died- it's got bad juju in my mind.

He was often trying to buy me nice gifts, but hesitant because he knew I'd be mad about how much they cost. I should've let him buy me nice gifts more often. I'd have those things to treasure now. Another thing to add to my list of regrets...

So today I bought myself the digital Canon Rebel.
In honor of him.
In honor of his admiration for my photography skills.
In honor of the fact that it's only money- we can't take it with us when we die.
I bought the camera because he wanted me to have it. Because I wanted to have it.

Because photos are the only lasting thing we have after someone is gone, the only thing that can preserve a moment after our own memory fades, the only accurate historical representation of a life. I want to capture the moments that matter with my children- I don't want to be cursing the camera because it didn't shoot quick enough and the moment passed.
My children are changing so fast these days and I feel like I can't keep up. I want to always remember these moments of joy, laughter, and love with them.

I want to capture these moments and hold them close and never let them go...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Better late than never...

So it finally hit me today what I am thankful for this season. I know I'm literally a day late, and probably a dollar short and won't do this post justice to adequately express what's truly in my heart, but here goes...

I am thankful for all of you. All of my readers, all of my friends and family, all of you who support me in this widow walk. I've realized that the reason I blog and share some of my most private thoughts and moments of pain is because I continue to gain strength and comfort from all of you. Your feedback and comments and words of encouragement are what keep me going.

I know there are a lot of people who continue to pray for me and the girls, and who continue to send loving thoughts our way- for that I am eternally grateful. Without the cocoon of love and support I have, I would not be functioning. It is such a compliment, and little burst of joy in my day when I hear from one of you that I've inspired you, or given you hope, or that you understand me, or that you hurt for me. You all help me feel less alone, something I am deeply appreciative of. There are many of you who have kept me afloat for the day with your kind words.

I mentioned to someone the other day that I wanted some good to come out of Andie's death. I don't want it all to be for not. I find that maybe the good that can come is that I inspire you, give you hope, help you get perspective on your own life, as you all do for me- and hopefully there is a ripple effect. A pay if forward moment when you can do the same for someone else. And hopefully the cycle of giving continues- we are all able to give back to each other and lift each other up, making for a better world- even if it's just in a small way.

Cheers to all of you! Thank you seems so inadequate but I don't know what else to say. So,
Thank you!
Thank you!
Thank you!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blah!

Ugh... I was gonna surrender. I had every intention of giving it a valiant effort. The problem is... I can't. I'm a fighter. I don't give up and I don't give in.

I can't give in to this grief thing yet. I want to, or at least I think I do. I know I need to. But for some reason I just can't. I am stubbornly NOT accepting that this really is it. This sleep- deprivation, doing-it-all-alone, never-having-a-break life is what I'm stuck with.

To make a long story short, the girls have been extremely fussy, obstinate, and not sleeping through the night for the past 5 days- which makes for a mommy that is extremely fussy, obstinate, and not sleeping through the night. Not a good combo.

It is so draining to not have the other half of my tag team. There is no hope of passing the buck when he gets home from work in a few hours, or when he gets home from the ranch in a day or two...this is just a never ending reality with no end in sight and no reprieve to look forward to- I will do this alone for the rest of my life. At times it feels so hopeless.

I know I should be blogging about all the things for which I am grateful, instead of complaining about my lot in life. The truth is it all seems so cliche- of course I'm grateful for my children, family, friends, great support system, awesome job, blah, blah, blah.

What I'm not grateful for is like the elephant in the room. The big looming issue glaring me in the face. I'm not thankful, in fact, I'm quite bitter about so much. I think what hurts the most these days is that it didn't have to be this way. If medical intervention had proceeded as it should have when we sought it, then he would be sitting here with me; lamenting the crazy holiday schedule coming up, wondering what demons have possessed our children in the past five days and looking up how to perform exorcisms on the internet, and happily refilling my wine glass. From a box, no less.
Yep, it's gotten that bad. I'm actually drinking wine from a box.

Sigh. Is it too early in the season to say, "Bah humbug"?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Surrender...

Stubborn
Driven
Strong-willed
Determined
Perfectionist
Over-achiever
Independent

Yep, that’s me. I’m the one who expects a lot from others but always expects more from myself. I push those around me to achieve but always push myself harder. It used to drive Andie crazy that I pushed him- I just always saw so much more potential in him than he saw in himself and wanted the best for him.

The other day my mom and I got into a little tiff because she had offered her opinion on something regarding the girls and I took it as her trying to tell me how to parent. In discussing this she says, “Brooke, as your mother it’s hard for me because I think you always want to do things the hard way. I just don’t want you to make things harder on yourself than it has to be,”…or something to that effect.

It struck me in that moment as so true. Most other times I would have argued with her, but this time it resounded deep within me. Why do I hold myself to a standard that I would never hold others too? Why do I always have to do things “by myself” or “my way”? I don’t know the answers, but what I do know is that it is something I have to work on. Just because I’ve always been this way doesn’t mean I have to continue to be this way. I’m a different person now than I was 5 months ago and though I hate it, I’m learning to accept it. Perhaps this is one more aspect of me that needs to change.

As my near constant companion these days, Sarah (Mclachlan, that is) says, “the life I’ve left behind me is a cold room”. Maybe I need to quit fighting it. Maybe it’s time to surrender to all this.
This grief.
This process.
This rebirth of me…

Excerpts from “Sweet Surrender” - by Sarah McLachlan
It doesn't mean much
it doesn't mean anything at all
the life I've left behind me
is a cold room

I've crossed the last line
from where I can't return
where every step I took in faith
betrayed me
and led me from my home

and sweet
sweet surrender
is all that I have to give

I miss the little things
I miss the simple things
oh I miss everything
about you

so it doesn't mean much
it doesn't mean anything at all
the life I left behind me
is a cold room


So today, this fighter is throwing in the towel.
I'm waving my white flag.
I surrender.

The “old” me? Doesn’t mean much...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The show must go on...

Andie's been gone 5 months today and I’ve settled into a new normal.
A routine that is my “new” life as a single parent.
A new way of doing things on my own.
A one-man show.

It is something I despise. It is a routine that is born out of necessity, not out of want. My everyday doing is empty and lonely and boring and mundane.

Get out of bed in the morning. No one to talk to while I get ready for work. No one to tell me I look pretty today.

Drive to work. No one to text when I get bored. No one to text me to say they are just thinking of me.

Drive home. No one to call to say I am on my way as was our ritual.

I come home and decide what the girls should eat for dinner with little regard for nourishing myself. I don’t want to prepare a meal for one.

I bathe the girls and brush their teeth. No one to help me get them out of the tub.

I get them ready for bed and give them their nighttime cuddles- having to take turns with who gets to sit on my lap and who just gets to sit beside me. There isn’t another lap for them to cuddle on.

I tuck them in and wish them sweet dreams- one child at a time. They must take turns with me as I only have one set of arms to carry them to bed.

I close up the house, check that the doors are locked, and turn out all the lights. No one to protect me in the quiet darkness.

I wash my face and brush my teeth- staring in the mirror at a reflection of a girl I don’t know anymore. A girl I don’t want to know.

I crawl into bed, thankful for the reprieve that sleep brings. No one to wish good night.


Then I do it all again the next day because, afterall
the show must go on…

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The necklace...

Tonight Addie did not want to go to bed. So I cuddled her. On the couch. Just me and her. In the quiet and stillness of the evening.

At first she was very calm and laid on my shoulder as if she was about to fall asleep. Abruptly she lifts her head with purpose, looks at me, then begins playing with my necklace. Only, it's his necklace really. With his wedding ring on it.

I tell her to lie down and try to guide her head to my shoulder. She resists strongly and continues to play with my necklace intently. After a few more failed attempts to get her to lie down, I turn her on her side and cradle her where she can still see the necklace- which she continues to play with. Then she starts putting his wedding ring up to my mouth. She continues pushing it on my lips until I kiss his ring. Then she wants me to do this several more times. If I don't kiss it, she just smashes his ring harder into my lips until I give in and kiss it. She's insistent about it.

As all of this is unfolding I'm wondering what made her do this. Is she thinking about him? Is he here with us in the room and she is picking up on his vibes? Is is possible that she even remembers him? He has been gone for 1/3 of her short life...can she really remember him?

Surely she is not smart enough to understand that the necklace I wear is his, and that the ring is his too. But, there is an innocent intuition about her. Right after he died I noticed that she and Allie both would look up to the sky, or get fixated on a point just beyond my gaze and hold it. It was almost eerie- like they could see him or sense him. And I can't help but think that maybe on some gut level she does understand the importance of this necklace. That she knows this necklace was my last connection to him, and his last moments with me.

Interestingly, all week I've contemplated taking the necklace off, watching for a sign to guide me in the right direction. Now, I feel like we are all connected to it more deeply than I realized. I feel to my core.

This necklace and ring- symbolic of no ending and no beginning. Just a
solid,
never,
ending,
connection...

The timepiece...

I have felt rather disengaged and uninspired with my psyche the past few days- hence the reason for no profound posting here today.

What I would like to let you all know about is an awesome shop I found on etsy.com! If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of my blog you will find some of my favorite items from Leslie Janson's shop. She makes incredibly unique jewelry and other fun trinkets from vintage items. I especially am in love with her cuff bracelets!

Her timepiece Christmas ornaments are also pretty cool (there is as picture down there- yep, scroll down). I commissioned a custom one in which the time reads 10:04.

As most of you know, October 4th was our wedding anniversary and we picked that date because Andie was a police officer. Being that he used the radio code "10-4" every time he responded on the radio, as in, "10-4, I'll be in route to the scene" or something like that... we figured he would never forget our anniversary that way! What most of you might not know is that I'm cheesy. And every time I would randomly look at the clock and see it was 10:04 I would point this out to him with excitement, and he would smile. Or roll his eyes. Or both. I always thought it was neat to catch this time on the clock, and often I would make him kiss me in honor of our marriage- no matter where we were when this happened. He really rolled his eyes if this happened in public as he was not one for PDA.

The cool thing is that lately, I catch 10:04 on the clock a lot. A whole lot. At work, in the car, turning out the light and going to bed, while on the computer checking email, when picking up my phone to make a call, etc. etc. You might remember my facebook post a while back when I had done my fastest run time ever and beat my personal record. When I checked the clock to see how long it took me-you guessed it, it was 10:04! I just knew his spirit was running with me and pushing me.

Anyway, it happens way more than chance these days and I choose to believe this is a sign from him. Whenever it happens I send a little loving thought to him and I believe that this is our way of keeping up that mundane daily communication that I desperately miss.

So, for my very first Christmas without him I decided that this very neat ornament with such a "special" time on it would be a good way to honor him. And Leslie Janson obliged me and created a custom piece just for me!

I bet she'd do the same for you- check her out!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Unsettled...

I’ve always had a plan, a 5-year plan, a goal, something to reach for in the future. It was all lined up, and now I don’t have that. It’s the first time in my life I feel uncertain and chaotic and exhilarated by the options. I have so many options and things I hadn’t even thought about doing before Andie died. I feel unsettled in my life, like something needs to change...

Lately I’ve been thinking about my career a lot. A friend let me know about a possible job opening in another district next fall that would be a substantial pay increase, I’ve considered going back to school and becoming a Physician’s Assistant, or getting my Ph.D . in psychology, or just focusing on my neuropsychology certification and doing more specialized contract testing. I’ve thought about picking up my life and moving to Costa Rica for a year to do something adventurous and to teach my daughters a second language. I’ve thought about selling my home and building the dream home that Andie and I had planned on our 2.5 acres in the hill country. I’ve thought about selling the land in the hill country altogether…

I’m scared of all this because I’ve never been on such an uncharted path with no direction. I don’t know how to do that, if I should do that. It feels like anything I would reach, any goal attained would seem unfair because had he not died I would never have done those things. It’s like this whole new life in front of me, no matter which path I choose is the wrong one because it’s not the way it should’ve been or would’ve been.

Is it fair to go down a new path, and am I okay with that? Would I be able to accept it, or would I always feel guilty for moving on without him? I don’t know. Maybe I stay in this life as penance and don’t change a thing, and don’t take a chance, and don’t push myself to grow. Why do I feel the need to punish myself? What did I do wrong, why do I keep bearing the burden and taking on the responsibility for his death? Survivor’s guilt- that’s a whole other topic for another day.

Nah, on second thought...

I gotta push!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Do what you have to do

I know you're all probably sick of my musical inspirations, but Sarah McLachlan is really speaking to me these days. It seems like every song on her Mirrorball CD has some significance for me. Again, my focus is on just doing what I have to do to get through the day. Yesterday was particularly hard- I felt distracted and on edge all day, short and irritable with those around me through no fault of their own.

I want to be with Andie so badly, to talk to him, to hug him, to smell him. I know there is no way to be with him until I meet him again in heaven and that holds a special allure these days. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suicidal- I just know that is the only way I can see him, so on bad days I find myself wishing my life would just hurry up and I could flash forward 50 years and pass quietly in my sleep and into his arms. The rest of the time I just do what I have to do...

Excerpts from “Do What You Have To Do” - by Sarah McLachlan

and fate has led you through it
you do what you have to do ...

and I have the sense to recognize that
I don't know how to let you go
every moment marked
with apparitions of your soul
I'm ever swiftly moving
trying to escape this desire
the yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do
but I have the sense to recognize
that I don't know how
to let you go
a glowing ember
burning hot
burning slow
deep within I'm shaken by the violence
of existing for only you
I know I can't be with you
I do what I have to do
I know I can't be with you
I do what I have to do
and I have the sense to recognize, but
I don't know how to let you g
o


Yeah, what she said...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Baggage claim...

Every so often I get the "someday you'll move on" speech from someone- happened just the other day in the doctor's office. Someone who means well and has their heart in the right place, yet still feels it necessary to remind me that I am indeed a "young" widow, and surely I will find love again.

The truth is that most days I cannot fathom this, though the rational side of my brain knows it must be true because the intense loneliness and loss of companionship is awful, and I loved being married, and having a companion. I loved nurturing someone and in return being idolized by them. It gives me hope to think that one day I can find love again.

I read in one of my grief books that people who had good, strong, happy marriages tend to move on into new relationships sooner than those who had difficult or unhappy marriages. The logic being that those who were unhappy have more reticence to get into another marriage because they have a bad taste in their mouth about the institution of marriage, and they tend to carry guilt about the poor state of the relationship which makes closure harder to attain. Those who were happy though, want that kind of connection again and see marriage as a valuable asset to their well being.

I certainly fall in the latter category and do want to find love again sometime in the future, but right now that seems like a very distant future, and frankly a betrayal of my love and commitment to Andie. And though I said til death do us part, and death actually did part us...it still doesn't feel like it yet (yes, there is still some denial going on here). I've joked to my closest friends that I did it for love the first time around, but the next time I'm gonna marry for money because the odds of me finding the perfect love like I had with Andie again is a million to one, so I better not hope for that. Truthfully, I don't think I'll ever get married again. I'm not opposed to dating or having a companion, but marriage is so sacred. I do believe that I found my true soul mate in Andie, and that I could never find another who fits me so perfectly. I think if I were to marry again I would always feel like I just settled for the next best thing. And I don't settle.

So I was thinking about what it would actually be like for some man to unwittingly walk into my life right now...boy would he be in for it! I wrote up my personal ad for when I think I'm ready to venture into the world of dating again...so here goes.

Single, white, widow with twins seeking a self-sacrificing man that can understand he will always live in my dead husband’s shadow, and he will never really be able to measure up. Must be willing to endure crying jags and temper tantrums on a moment’s notice- either from me or one of my children. Willingness to take on mortgage payments and a part-time live in mother-in-law a plus! Seeking a man that will be okay with rarely having my undivided attention and who loves to help out around the house. Must want a perfectionistic and demanding woman, nicely packaged with a few signs of wear and tear (i.e. stretch marks and hail damage on the thighs). To claim your baggage call anytime- but leave a message as I probably won’t be available to answer during working hours on a weekday, or between the evening hours of 5-9 as I’m busy with the dinner, bath, bed-time, clean the house, routine with twins.

And I think to myself, "Yeah- Good luck with that"...




Monday, November 8, 2010

You just gotta have faith...

I knew my last post was going to create quite a stir and lots of conversation. "Strong" believers always have the clich├ęd things to say such as;

There is a reason you will know someday.
God has his purpose.
We are not to question our God, but just to believe in him.
Just have faith.
God will not give us more than we can handle.

I know some will call my faith weak because I question God, but I say "Who are we not to question god?" I believe that my God gave us free will and the ability to question and make our own decisions for a reason. If he wanted us to all blindly follow his ways he would not have given us free will. I believe in a God that is so confident and steadfast that he knows that even when our faith is tested and we doubt him, that we will see the light and come around with a renewed strength of faith.

Those with a “blind” faith who never question are just accepting what they have been told. Those who seek enlightenment and knowledge on their own and still have faith in God despite their unanswered questions, have a conviction that is born out of pain, tragedy, struggle, and triumph. It is a faith that is won in a hard fought battle, but won nonetheless. It is a faith that is earned, not bestowed upon them by acceptance of a religious doctrine.

I believe that relationships are strengthened through trials and tribulations, and when you both come out on the other side still able to say, "I’m here, I want to stay here, and I still love you," then you have reached a new level of commitment- for me it is the same with God. I believe in a God that wants us to question, that allows us to be angry with him, that understands the need to test his limits, because he ultimately welcomes the opportunity to continue to prove to us that he is here and working in our lives.

So is there a reason that Andie had to die? I’m still not sure I can swallow this one, it’s hard to believe that there would ever be a good enough reason for my children to not know their father. But maybe the reason is to renew my faith in Him and strengthen it. Maybe everyone else is right, and I'll know the reason one day.

My faith is stronger because I have been to the brink of wanting to forsake my God, yet I don’t. He has given me every reason not to believe, yet I still do because the alternative is more than I can bear. I want believe…I have to believe.

I just gotta have faith…

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Prayer rations...

Does God ration answered prayers?

Did he answer too many prayers for us in the couple of years before Andie died when we prayed every night that I would make it through the pregnancy, that the girls and I would be healthy?

I’m the one with a congenital heart condition that made carrying a baby extremely dangerous, and when we found out I would be carrying two babies- we held our breath and prayed. Carrying multiples automatically makes you a high-risk pregnancy, but carrying multiples with a precarious heart condition-well, that’s as risky as it gets. We took a calculated risk getting pregnant and breathed a sigh of relief when there were no adverse complications for the girls or me. When Andie’s mom was diagnosed with cancer we prayed daily for her to be healed, for her life to be spared, and the cancer to go away. And it did.

We thought it was miraculous that all our prayers were answered in the 18 months before he died. Leaving me wondering now…was it not miraculous, but just God keeping score? Marking hash marks on some big chalkboard in the sky.

Did we use up all our prayers and that’s why the last prayers I prayed while sitting in that ambulance, begging for him to stay alive, went unanswered? Did God not answer me because I used up my allotment and it was someone else’s turn to get the good fortune?

It should have been me that died; I was the one that the odds were against…

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hold on...

Hold on
Hold on to yourself
for this is gonna hurt like hell
Hold on
Hold on to yourself
you know that only time will tell

What is it in me that refuses to believe
this isn't easier than the real thing
My love
you know that you're my best friend
you know I'd do anything for you

let nothing come between us
my love for you is strong and true
Am I in heaven here or am I...
at the crossroads I am standing

Oh god if you're out there won't you hear me
I know that we've never talked before
oh god the man I love is leaving
won't you take him when he comes to your door
Am I in heaven here or am I in hell
at the crossroads I am standing

Hold on
hold on to yourself
for this is gonna hurt like hell…
(Excerpt from "Hold On"- by Sarah Mclachlan)


I hear often from others how strong I am, or how well I’m handling things…my take on it is a little different. The work of grief can only be done by the person grieving, for each person’s grief is unique.

So I hold onto myself, I cling to myself, to push me through this. Though I do lean on others for support, really the only person that can truly get me through this is me. So maybe that’s where the strength comes from. Knowing I’m the one that has to take each step forward, I’m the one who has to wake up each morning and make a choice to get through each day, to push myself onward.

I don’t think its strength- it just is what it is...the experience of all who grieve. When you get down to the core of the issue you know it’s you that has to make it through.

Not anybody else.

Nobody else can carry the burden of grief for you, nor should they.

You just have to "hold on"...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I will remember you...

This evening I will be attending a grief seminar at the church and there will be a memorial ceremony in which a candle will be lit for all those who’ve passed on over the last year.

I listened to this song by Sarah McLachlan on my way to work today and thought it quite appropriate for what my evening holds. (More on Sarah McLachlan to come in later posts, as she has been inspiring me lately) The interesting thing is that I used to listen to this song and think of my dad after he died.
Now it holds a deeper, more profound meaning for me.

I will remember you
Will you remember me
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories

I'm so tired but I can't sleep
Standin' on the edge of something much too deep
It's funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word
We are screaming inside, but we can't be heard

But I will remember you
Will you remember me
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories

I'm so afraid to love you, but more afraid to lose
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose
Once there was a darkness, deep and endless night
You gave me everything you had, oh you gave me light

And I will remember you
Will you remember me
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories


I love you Dad. I love you Andie. And I will remember you.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taken...

I hate weather like this. Absolutely hate it. Always have.

Overcast, cold, blustery days leave me wanting a fire in the fireplace and a cozy spot on the couch. Andie would always build me a fire on nights like this, taking pride in making a huge roaring fire. Men seem to like fire…I guess that goes back to the caveman days and wanting to protect and provide for their women. Andie definitely protected and provided for me in a million ways, but tonight I think of him building a fire to keep me warm, and standing back as the flames danced and flickered to admire his work. He was always taking care of me in simple ways- putting gas in my car, cleaning the kitchen, making coffee in the morning, feeding the dogs, taking out the trash. Working hard so we could have the things we dreamed about- the house, the cars, the life. I glance at my wedding ring-to me it is the ultimate symbol of his commitment to provide for me always.

These days I find myself looking at the hands of other people while at the grocery store, the gas station, the car next to me. Searching for wedding rings, and wondering…are they married? What’s their story? Are they spoken for? Do they have someone to take care of them? Even if they have a ring on I wonder, are they widowed like me and wearing it as a disguise? Are they happily married, would they rather be divorced? Funny, I never cared about the rest of the world and their marriage statuses because mine was so perfect and it was all I needed. I was spoken for and didn’t concern myself with the status of others. I have always been proud to wear my ring to show the world that I belonged to someone- to prove to the world that I was worthy and loved.

Oh, how blessed to be provided for,
spoken for,
taken

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The business of dying...

There is a lot to be done after one dies, lots of loose ends to tie up, lots of people to call.The insurance company, the mortgage company, the banks, the lawyers, social security, pension companies, and on and on…it seems to never end.

On my way home from work the other day I was driving down Highway 46- the same route we came home from vacation after he died and a memory flashed through my mind.

The morning after he died my aunt was driving us home and the organ donation lady called. I never knew what went into organ donation or how involved it is. It was probably the most surreal and ridiculous conversation I’ve ever had, and even more so because my husband had only been dead for a few short hours. After discussing which parts of my husband’s body they would likely “harvest”- an interesting choice of words, I thought, she had to ask me a litany of questions that seemed bizarre at the time. (Had he ever engaged in homosexual sex, slept with anyone from a certain region in Africa, or slept with anyone else who might have slept with someone from a certain region in Africa, had he ever used IV drugs, was he HIV positive, etc.) I remember when she asked me if he had ever engaged in homosexual sex I sarcastically retorted, “I think he’d rather be where he is right now than do that.” Then the gravity of the situation hit me again and I realized I was talking about my dead husband- I felt guilty for making light of it. The topic of conversation was too heavy to handle at the moment…

I just received a draft version of my will and advanced directive in the mail from my estate attorney. I have to review it and make sure that I made all the right decisions about what goes where, and who gets my kids, and how my money will be handled if I die. We should have done this before Andie died but of course we thought we had more time. It’s utterly depressing to think about your own mortality especially when the wound of grief is so fresh and you don’t have the “if this should ever happen to us” buffer that most of us carry with us when we’re young. I guess we never got around to doing it because the thought of tragedy was too heavy to handle at the time…

The hardest part is trying to decide what to put on his gravestone. I mean, how do you reduce a person to just a few words on a gravestone? I’m writing a letter to the girls about him and it is already 5 typed pages long. How do I condense all that into something meaningful and true and honest? I’m just not sure that anything I put on there will really do him justice, because he is after all, so much more than what a few words can convey.

It weighs heavy on my mind these days,

this business of dying...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Whisper of a touch

A man I barely know touched my shoulder in conversation recently and I bristled. My body actually stiffened on a noticeable level. I realized that this sort of innocent touch happens often between two who are intimate, such as husband and wife.

Like when I would be at the sink washing dishes and Andie would need to wash his hands- our bodies would brush against each other. Or when I was cooking dinner and he would lightly kiss the back of my neck as he walked by. Sometimes when we were both in a rush to get ready and would end up in the closet picking out clothes at the same time we would bump into each other. I remember our arms touching in the car as we both would rest an arm on the center console- often this would lead to us holding hands for a few seconds, or me rubbing his arm. I think of passing each other in a doorway, he was almost as broad as the doorway and we would both have to turn sideways to make it through but we would have a moment of connection. I remember touching his shoulder often when I talked to him, just like the man who recently touched mine. When I would hand him one of the babies while he was sitting on the couch and our legs would rub against each other. Or our fingers would meet for a second as I was handing him the car keys. The most comforting closeness was lying in bed next to each other and feeling the presence of him- often in the night he would roll over and lean against me.

It reminds me of the studies I've read about infants in Russian orphanages that are left in their cribs almost 24 hours a day with no cuddling and no touch. The psychological damage of that is lifelong and they often go on to develop numerous psychological problems, failure to thrive, Reactive Attachment Disorder. To know that something so easy to give and so rewarding for both people involved, is the very thing that keeps these babies from thriving is truly heartbreaking.

The catch phrase "Reach out and touch someone" holds significant meaning- we need touch, connection, validation from another that we exist and are important and are valued. Funny how an innocent pat on the shoulder can hold so much meaning; "I'm still alive and noticed," it says. I'm usually one that has a definite "bubble"- I've never been a hugger. But these days I'll soak up any kind of touch I can get- I even welcome hugs and the requisite intrusion of my "bubble".

Of course I miss the kind of touch we all think about; hugs, kisses, holding hands, shoulder rubs.

But what I miss the most is the whisper of a touch...those barely perceptible moments of connection that you don't even realize you have.

Until they're gone...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tracks of my tears

This morning on my way to work I decided to change out some of the CD’s in my CD player. One I chose was a Motown/Golden Oldies mix that I put together years ago with artists like Smoky Robinson, The Supremes, Otis Redding, The 4 Tops, etc. Not sure why I chose that one, other than it must have been my unconscious trying to work some things out.

You see, we used to vacation in Kerrville every summer at our family’s one room cabin with no a/c, no TV, no phone, etc. All we had was a radio that was always tuned to the oldies station- my dad loved oldies and especially when we were at the cabin. I think it reminded him of his own childhood summers spent there. Immediately when my CD came on I was taken back to when I was about 8 years old. The sound of oldies on the radio slipping through the screen door while me and my brother climbed trees, or played tag, or explored the woods around the cabin. This was the place where my father taught us to find arrowheads, and make flint rocks spark (in the unlikely event that we ever get lost in the woods and needed to build a fire), roasted marshmallows on the open fire pit, and hiked nature trails with us. It was like a time warp- we did all the things that he and his brothers did when they explored those same woods and hills when they were kids.

So this morning I was taken back to this place in my mind and I realized that in just over a month, my father will have been gone for 15 years. Half of my life. I was struck by the eerie similarities of losing him and losing Andie. They both died unexpectedly of heart conditions that were unknown to all of us at the time. They both were taken way too soon, leaving a wife and two children behind. They both could have been saved if medical intervention had gone the way it should have. And then, there’s Kerrville-the place my father loved the most and I practically grew up, the place where Andie’s parents grew up and graduated high school, the place we were vacationing when Andie died.

Now, as an adult, looking back through my not-so-rose-colored glasses, that place has lost its charm for me. There isn’t a sense of nostalgia when I think of Kerrville-there is a sense of dread. It makes me think of the two most important men in my life, both of whom are gone and never to return.

I picture it like a black hole on map- something to be avoided for fear of what could happen next. Like the Bermuda Triangle smack dab in the middle of Texas- there are warning signs, “Do Not Pass Through- Go Around!” It makes me abundantly sad to think that a place that used to hold so many happy memories is now something I want to avoid thinking about. I feel like the universe is trying to teach me a lesson, as if it is saying, “You didn’t get it the first time around, do you get it now?” I'm still not sure I do...I'm continually trying to find meaning in all of this.

Now as I type this, I find myself humming a song that got stuck in my head this morning...

“So take a good look at my face/

you'll see my smile looks out of place/

if you look closer, it's easy to trace the tracks of my tears"

- Smoky Robinson & The Miracles