Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Birthday in Heaven

Today Robert would have been 38. This is the fifth time September 21st has come and almost gone. Another reminder that time marches forward.

Today was a wet day one of the first days of fall which will throw us full force into winter before we know it. It was drizzly and dreary all day.

This afternoon I got the picture below from my best friend. We have known each other more years than I care to admit but she always has and always will know me like no one else can. Her text was simple "happy birthday to Robert. Look at the rainbow from heaven". I am blessed that I have such great friends.

I had several other calls and texts and Facebook messages and I am feeling very lucky to have such an amazing group of friends and family that love me.

I miss him. I believe that I always will, but I am thankful for the rainbows that he sends me and the people who stand by my side.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September is Golden

Do you know what a gold ribbon means?  (no not pink) Gold is for Childhood Cancer Awareness and September is designated to promoting awareness of childhood cancer. 

Children are amongst the most vulnerable people on the face of this earth, parents are programmed to protect them at ALL cost.   Sometimes, we cannot protect.  Sometimes, the child teaches the parent things that no parent should have to learn--bravery, courage, hope and grief.

Last September I was introduced to a sweet lady, Mary Tyler Mom.   She lost her precious Donna to cancer and she and her family have chosen to find hope even in their loss.   For the month of September she chronicles Donna's journey through surgeries, treatment and heartbreak and she shares her with us.  Last year a friend showed it to me in the Chicago Tribune.   I was having a hard time and she thought that maybe I could find some solace in the words of wisdom and caring that were being posted.

In the past year since I have been following this family I have been so inspired.  I have seen her share her charm and wit and her sadness with readers all over the word.  Mary Tyler Mom really and truly demonstrates hope and grace everyday.  She is candid and she is caring and awesome. 

In her spare time she raises money for research for pediatric cancer. Dedicated research is underfunded to say the least, and I will save that rant for a later post along with an action of what you can do to help (especially if you live in Illinois!)  She runs fundraisers, she attends races, she runs a foundation "Donna's Good Things" oh and she works full time and cares for her husband and son! In between she shares herself reminding us to CHOOSE HOPE. 

Again this month she is sharing their journey and Donna with us.  This time not in just the Chicago Tribune but she is being featured by the Huffington Post! She chooses to share her precious girl with us and give us a glimpse into their lives.  If you have not yet done so, please mosey on over and take a look.  I promise that you will not regret it and maybe just maybe in reading and sharing Donna's story you can find some hope and witness a whole ton of love.


Sometimes I just take a step back and like to count my blessings.  I have an AMAZING family.  Brothers, Sisters, Parents, Cousins, Aunts, Uncles....they are all awesome.  We laugh, we have fun, we love and we care.   I know that is how it is supposed to be, however I know that isn't how it works out most times in real life. 

I have been so blessed by my family that I cannot put it into words.  We work as a unit, when someone needs help, we are there, we are strong, we are a unit and I am constantly awed and thankful. 

Serioulsy, with everything that we have been through collectively, we would be better than any soap opera out there!  We seriously have won the family lottery.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

God is There

Funny. They say hindsight is 20/20. When you look back over things that have happened to you, you can see things that you didn't realize the importance of at that time. You can see all the ways that God has shown his hand in your life.

The morning of March 30, 2008 was a beautiful, warm Texas morning. The sun was bright, the dew was heavy and the bluebonnets were in full bloom.

We had a leisurely breakfast with friends. We got to visit with people that we rarely got to see. Lots of laughs, hugs, handshakes and prayers. We were full and we were blessed.

One of Robert's childhood friends came all the way from Georgia. Father Paul and he went to the same church when they were children. Msgr Reagan was a mentor for both of them and Padre, as we called him, is currently the pastor of their childhood church. It was a blessing for us to spend what we know now was Robert's last day with him. The two of them shared some very profound conversation and Padre blessed our family.

Before we pulled away, our friend Ray hugged me, rustled munchkin's head, shook Robert's hand and told him "if you run into any problems buddy, I'll be right behind you". He died six months later. Hindsight.

We drove. It was dewy. We stopped for gas, I changed munchkin. I handed munchkin to his father and I went inside. When I came back out, he put his arm around me, and told me I was a wonderful mother. I bent down and out munchkin into his carseat. He was a happy bubbly baby boy. He kissed me softly and told me he loved me. This was how we treated each other every day. I am very blessed for that.

We got in the cars and continued on. A little while later it started to rain. He used the Walkie talkie to say he would take the lead and said "I love you". I said I loved him too.

Not five minutes later, our lives shattered. He was in a head on collision. The debris totaled my car. I had no steering, no brakes and my car was veering toward the ravine. My car stopped perfectly on the side of the road. God did that. Munchkin and I did not have a scratch. My door was crumpled, my dashboard came into my car. I had not a bruise, not a scratch.

Robert died instantly. God spared him from pain and suffering in the final minutes of his life. His last minutes on earth were filled for the love of me. I am blessed.

We were hours from home. I have an aunt and uncle in Dallas that had retired to Florida a year prior. Their house was not sold so they were there in Dallas and came and got us. God was there. Their house sold very quickly after the accident.

Our friends were not with us....God spared them the horror of witnessing that, but had them close enough to get to my side. God was there.

Two cars...we were in two cars. When we had left home days before, we were all in one car. As we backed up, I looked at the car seat. It was not PERFECT in the backseat. I
I asked him to pull back in and literally at the last second we made the decision to be in two cars. God was there. Never in almost nine years of marriage in all of the road trips that we had taken, had we ever taken two cars. This is key. I am here today because God guided me to be in a separate vehicle.

There was an older couple that morning. Instead of going to church the felt called to take a drive and enjoy the bluebonnets. They stopped. They prayed with me for hours....literally hours. When I was allowed to leave they drove us up the road to meet my friends and await my family. That was God. He put faithful people in my path to remind me that he was there. While I was physically and mentally shaken to the the point of barely being able to speak, my faith was not shaken. I am grateful.

In writing this I am hoping that people can see as I do, that literally in the darkest of time, if you look hard enough you can see God's actions.

In the days, weeks, months and years since that fateful day, God has been there at every juncture. I have been shown so much of God's love and God's grace that it is far too much to even list. One of my favorite quotes is "The will of God will not take you to where the Grace of God cannot protect you". That is my mantra. I tell myself that if God has provided for me in the darkest time of my life, then surely if I trust in God with patience in my heart then it will all work out. I also know that God gives us what we need.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Band Season

I have played music since third grade. Music has always been a huge part of my life. It was a passion that we shared.

I have this theory that there are "natural musicians" and "learned musicians" Learned musicians can play whatever is in front of them with work and practice (me). Natural musicians have a direct conduit from the brain to instrument. The music flows effortlessly and beautifully. This was Robert. He is hands down the most gifted musician I have ever seen. He could compose beautifully. We could play music together completely. He wrote pieces for me for clarinet. He arranged for vocals and it was awesome. Our lives and our souls entwined with music. It was ever present in our home.

Fast forward to the months following the accident. I did not have within my being the physical or mental stamina required to touch "his" piano, my clarinet or anything relating to music. It was devastating to me on so many levels.

The fact that on March 29th, 2008 music was like oxygen to my brain and on March 30, 2008 it became a tortuous reminder that my world was sucked away in an instant. To touch "his" piano made me physically ill. I was consumed by the realization that he would NEVER play with me or for me again. His students would never learn from him again and our son would grow up without sharing the piano with him. It was brutal and it was too much to bear. So I avoided it.

That fall, I was invited to play in a community band and although it made my heart hurt to do it alone, I chose to do it. I chose to try and find myself and rediscover the joy in music again. I told myself I had music before him and I would kick myself later if I didn't hold on to music for me.

For four years now, I have been going to rehearsal, playing in concerts and practicing through tears and memories. Literally, there were rehearsals that the silent tears flowed the entire time. The first concert I let the tears stream down my cheeks. I left the stage sobbing so hard I couldn't breathe all because he was not in the audience. He would never be there sitting next to munchkin to cheer me on, and I would never get to sit in an audience with munchkin and cheer him on. That hurt. It took my breath away.

But I came back, and I kept coming back. And I kept pushing through. I have played pieces that I played with him. There was a piece that we played in high school together...I swear I could hear him playing his trumpet. Then we played a piece originally scored for a brass quintet "Saints Hallelujah" by Canadian Brass. Seriously go to you tube and search for it. A medley of the "Hallelujah Chorus" and "When the Saints go Marching In". I didn't know if I could keep it up but I did. I pushed through the tears....more tears than I care to remember.

Each season was filled with a mixture of dread and hope.

Well this week it was different. This time I walked in...I still had the memories and the anticipation. But this time, this time I didn't lose it. Not only did I not have the tears running down my cheeks, but I finally felt a sense of peace about myself. I hope that I have finally found a way to rediscover joy in music. We are playing a full slate including one of my all time favorite pieces.

For that I am thankful. For that I am hopeful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Today I had a phenomenal conversation with one of my mentors. This person has known Robert and I both since high school.

We were discussing the past four years and all that I have endured. He told me that I was a strong woman and an inspiration. I was floored. I don't see that in myself at all! He went on to say that he has seen me make parenting choices and life choices that most people wouldn't make...and that most people would understand if I didn't make. Again I don't see that.

But it really made me think. I know I am not strong-- really not strong. But I do know that I draw my strength from God. I know when I have nothing left, that he will give me what I need. That is what I know.

I also know that as a parent it is my job to show and teach and spite of my exhaustion or tears or sheer emptiness. I also know that giggles and smiles soothe my heart more than anything that I can think of. So I have made some tough choices...taking a good paying job that requires full time work so that I can provide for by my family even though I have a LONG commute in rush hour spending 3 1/2 to 4 hours a day in the car everyday....this way he gets relationships with my siblings and parents far easier than if we lived an hour away. Tough choices. I choose to find the positive blessings every day...easier now than it was four years ago but still hard some days.

I make decisions for us based on what is best for us and what I want for my child. The opportunities that I want him to have, the experiences I want him to have. I have made and will continue to make those choices. Everyday I will be thankful for what we have and I will pray for the strength to do it again.

Maybe that makes me an inspiration and maybe it doesn't. I sure don't see it. But maybe this was just God's way of trying to show me what I am too close to see.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Wow, fall kicks off again.  Today was an absolutely beautiful day.  Bright blue sky, fluffy white clouds.  Gentle breezes and not too warm.

It was also the home opener for the Chicago Bears.  Now I am a football fan, I follow my Bears, I watch the games, but Robert, now he was the definition of SUPERFAN.  He had more Bears shirts, sweatshirts and jerseys than I can count.  He lived in Bears gear year round, between that and patriotic t-shirts, that was the bulk of his wardrobe.  Munchkin had his first Bears jersey at 3 months old for the season opener of 2007.   Sunday afternoons were dedicated to football--in an almost obsessive way.   I have some pretty awesome memories that revolve around football.

So this morning, I dressed munchkin in a new bears shirt (last years was way too small) and we went about our day.  Sometimes I am just reminded how different our life is now.  If Robert was still here, we would have had an all out party to watch the game...likely would have even tailgated.  It would have been fun, really fun.  But that is not the life we live now. 

We will likely have some parties centered around football complete with uncles and papa, but not today.  I could not fathom being inside when it was so beautiful out--especially knowing that in a few short weeks the falling leaves and mold will keep us inside until we get a hard freeze--so we spent the afternoon at the park and I caught the scores of the game on my phone. 

But, munchkin ran around with glee and abandon--he made new friends and showed off his new found skill of going across the monkey bars at warp speed.  And it was fun, and it was great--really great.  And somehow seeing the joy in munchkin's face above his Bears t-shirt was enough.  For that I am thankful.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beach Glass

Have you ever had the privilege to walk on a beach and collect?  Shells, rocks, drift wood, feathers, it is all there before you.  My personal FAVORITE thing to fine is “beach glass”.   It is beautiful. 

Something was once useful, and quite possibly ordinary. 

Then it was shattered.

Over time the waves, sand and stone take the sharp edges and smooth them, it takes the clear glass and gives it a beautiful opacity that is only apparent when it is dried out of the water.  In time, you have these beautiful ornamental treasures.  Since the glass is manmade, they are few and far between.  Some of the best glass hunting days are the really, really rough days.  For some reason the pounding relentless surf brings the glass up to the surface of the rocks on shore.  It is absolutely fascinating that something so ordinary can become something so beautiful.  But it is hard to spot, the white pieces are translucent in the water…you can easily miss them if you aren’t used to what you are looking for.  They get lost in the rocks.  The pretty green and blue ones are a little easier to spot because the color tends to stick out.

I have heard many times that grief is referred to as waves.  Some even joke about needing scuba gear to catch a breath.   It really is a fitting reference.

I have always loved the beach glass from the time I was a little girl, but now, it just represents so much more to me.  It shows me that once something is shattered, even into a million little pieces that it is not shattered forever.  There is hope for a new day.  Something can be built, it can have reference to the original, but it can be completely different and beautiful all on its own.  It is in the roaring surf that we can become molded into something that is far more beautiful that what we started with.  That the forces of God can take something broken and through the course of life, mold it into a rare and beautiful treasure--if we let it.  We have to be willing to endure the trials of life and give them up to be able to see the beauty that the trials bring to our souls. 

The other positive thing that we have is that once our life is shattered into a million pieces, we GET TO CHOOSE which pieces to pick up and take with us.  We get to decide that there are some things, some people, some situations that are  far better left in the past as a distant memory.  And we are given the opportunity to have a clean slate so to speak…to be able to look at life from a different lens and build something with the benefit of knowing what we know.   Yes, I know that may sound a little crazy to some of you, and trust me it has taken me a long time to be able to think this way, but yes we get to choose what we do. 

I think, this is what I really hope for.  That everything is not for naught.  That there is purpose in the endurance of tragedies presented to us.  That at the end of the day, I can look back and see the changes and see the beauty in spite of picking up the pieces of a shattered life. 


Monday, September 3, 2012

Moving Forward

Moving On

I really have come to despise the phrase "moving on". It implies that you just pick up and move on leaving everything behind.

 Now as much as I would like to obliterate the morning of the accident from my memory, that is just not possible. I will never forget leaving the hotel, driving down the road, stopping for gas. Having him kiss me, tell me he loved me, tell me I was a great mother, now those things I don’t want to forget. What I would like to forget however is the screeching tires, seeing his car spin, seeing debris hit my windshield. The smell of burned rubber, antifreeze, gasoline and blood all mixed together. Yeah, that I wish I could forget. Because really, watching your husband die in front of you…not necessarily a banner day in my life that is for sure. Yes that is what happened to me, to us.

We had taken a long weekend out of town with friends. We took two cars, we NEVER took two cars anywhere. EVER. My mommy impulse kicked in at the last minute and decided that it would be easier to have a 10 month old eat, nurse and nap in the hotel instead of at a car show (shocking to you I know!). So we took two cars. We had a GREAT weekend. Plenty of family time. Munchkin was toddling around everywhere talking away, even said “daddy” for the first time on that Saturday. Sunday morning we left and life changed FOREVER halfway home. He was involved in a head-on collision and the debris from the impact TOTALLED my car as well. I was stranded on the side of the road in the middle of NOWHERE with my son and my husband’s mangled body. I was a babbling idiot…literally….I am not sure I was capable of a coherent sentence for weeks.

 But in spite of all that I have survived. I have found “moving on” doesn’t work for me as a widow. I much prefer moving forward. Moving forward for me means that I recognize that living in the past is not an option. It doesn't mean forgetting Robert or our life or all of the wonderful things about us as a unit. It means recognizing that they are a part of who I am and who I have become in this journey of grief.

I choose to move forward, to get up everyday and to put one foot in front of the other--and at four and a half years later I have done things that at the time seemed insurmountable. Everyday is a choice, this is
true for everyone. I choose to find grace and draw my strength from God. I am thankful that I can rely upon the blessings around me. I choose to find new chapters in my life...moving back to Chicago to be with my family, getting a new job, starting Munchkin in pre-school, and now kindergarten, travelling with a toddler. Getting an apartment, living somewhere where Robert has never been.   Some of these things are hard, and man does reality sometimes slap you in the face.  All of these are necessary. These are all new chapters and even though Robert isn't a main character in the chapter he is still there in thoughts and memories.  Sometimes I swear I can even hear his voice narrate.   I don’t do things the same-actually some things are the exact opposite of what he would have liked (my girly floral bedroom for instance) but I like to think that I know what he would say-what he would do.   But I realize that he is not here to do any of it and that is part of the moving on.  Making choices that are best for our family-the best for us.

So moving on...would mean leaving my memories behind...that isn't an I choose moving forward.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Yesterday sitting around a pig roast with a ton of my family we were having a great time. Laughter. Fun. Giggling children. It was great.

Music was playing and the the song "My Girl" came in the radio and it hit me. Music is such a powerful memory trigger for me. Always has been. But while I had been enjoying the day with little intrusion of memories into my brain, that quickly came to a halt.

However, I realized something. While my life is getting farther and farther away from "our life"- the memories are my reminders of our great love. They quell my nagging fear that I may forget him. I am very blessed to have a wonderful marriage that is worth remembering and to have been married to a man that truly loved me and cared deeply for me.

So I will take the memories and I willr treasure them as blessings in my heart.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Today there is a lot to be grateful for. Beautiful day.
Great schools.
Happy munchkin.
Family reunion and pig roast.

So I will be grateful and I will thank God for all of the blessings in my life.

Sometimes it is very calming to me to step back and focus on all of the things God has blessed me with. If I look at things in a positive light it helps me to focus on what I have been given instead of that which I have lost.