Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year! Reflections on 2012

I am sitting here at about 10:30 local time.   Munchkin is long asleep-we celebrated early complete with pizza, video games, movie, grape juice toast and confetti poppers in our yard. 

I have been reflecting a lot on this past year.There has been so much that has happened in the world.  So much tragedy, so much heartache and yet, there were good things as well.   I think that is true of most years, but I always have liked to reflect on the world around me.

  The year started off very rough for us, but in all it was a very good year.  I can see immense growth in the both of us individually and as a family.   I would love to share some of our highlights:

~ Our new house-WHAT a blessing and miracle!!!

~ Munchkin starting kindergarten at the same grade school I went to and having the PERFECT teacher for us!

~Munchkin got to enjoy the Olympics on TV with me and man did we have fun watching and learning!!! 

~While  I am not a fan of the political rhetoric that preceeds elections, I did get to take munchkin to vote with me and explain in simple terms why it is so important for grown ups to vote.  I am hoping that I can instill this sense of duty into him.   I even explained who I was voting for and why-hopefully he will remember the process of being educated on candidates regardless of whom you choose to vote for!

~Many, many family gatherings this year, including some great times with cousins on the beach.  Enjoying sunsets hand in hand with munchkin is such a treat! And on that note, I got to close the cottage with my an entire day of him to myself-don't think that has happened in close to 20 years and it was wonderful!

~ Band was phenomenal for me this year, I actually missed less than 10 rehearsals in the second half of the year---this is a new record :0

~ My writing--this blog and a few others that I guest post on have been a huge blessing to me.  I do write daily, and I still struggle with what to type here as opposed to keeping private in my journals so hopefully I can find a little better balance this coming year. 

~ My immediate siblings and parents have had a great year as well.  We have had many many opportunities to be together and I am grateful for that!

~Taking munchkin to his first Notre Dame Game!  GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO IRISH!

~Munchkin has advanced THREE TaeKwonDo belts and medaled in TWO Tournaments!  I am so grateful for all of his teachers and that he likes to work hard!

~Taking munchkin downtown to enjoy the Christmas decorations and enjoy lunch with his Papa.  It was so much fun to share with him a memory that I treasure from childhood! We used to always go downtown and meet dad for lunch. 

In all, 2012 was a good year.  I can remember back to December 31, 2008 where my simple plea to God was, "Dear God, please, please let 2008 be the worst year of my life-EVER"  In my mind, I did not think that I could endure let alone thrive.  Thus far, it seems as that prayer has been answered!  I am THANKFUL for that each and every day. 

Perfect moment in December


Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

On the last Monday of each month we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join.

To participate in Perfect Moment Monday:

Follow Write Mind Open Heart.
Write up your own Perfect Moment and post it on your blog (or other site).
Use LinkyTools below to enter your name (or blog name), the URL of your Perfect Moment post, and a thumbnail image if desired.
Visit the Perfect Moments of others and let the writers know you were there with some comment currency.
Once you make a Perfect Moment post , you may place this button on your blog.What Perfect Moment have you recently been aware of? Visit these moments of others and share your comment love.

The next Perfect Moment Monday event will begin January 28.

(Cross-posted on BlogHer.)

1. Feeling Beachie

2. BereavedBlessed

3. Aloha/Thank God

4. Choosing grace

My perfect moment for December was on Christmas morning, As I sat and watched my son open his presents. I was soaking in his joy. He loves Legos and games so everything he got was a hit. He was so excited. I looked around our new house and looked at him and my heart was full of contentment. He opened his stocking and started chomping on candy canes. He even offered me a sticky half of the one he opened. He was in awe at the gifts that Santa left. He was beyond excited to give me the mini treasure chest he picked out all by himself at the Santa Secret workshop at school.

It was cold outside, the Christmas tree was lit, coffee was brewing. We finished and made pancakes together. We ate our breakfast and went to build Legos. I marveled at the fact that I am now relegated to the role of onlooker. He wants me nearby, but doesn't really need the help in assembling the sets. I realize that no matter how much i would like it to, this wont last forever and I marvel at his reading skills!

For those simple moments, it didn't matter that it is only two of us, the car accident didn't matter and my worry about whether I am enough didn't matter. What mattered was that I am present in the moment to experience magic with him--candy cane kisses, sticky hands and all!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas thoughts

This year...we spent it in our new house. Munchkin was sick...strep and flu and breathing treatments every three hours around the clock....starting a week before Christmas. I was a zombie. I still am!

I digress...we had a quiet morning. He got a video game he wanted so after breakfast we went down stairs to play. As I sat there watching munchkin play I thought of the only Christmas that the three of us had together. I thought of how much Robert would have loved to be playing with him. Assembling toys and playing with them first as he was Santa.

It makes my heart ache to know how much he misses out on in life. I know he lives on in heaven but I also know how much he loved being a father and how much he had talked for years about sharing Christmas with our children.

In the end, I decided that I would focus on how blessed we are. Not only this year but all of the time. I choose to look at all we have been given instead of all that we lost that morning so many years ago.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


So this quarter, munchkin has been studying families in school.  They take care in class to recognize that families are different.   I appreciate that-however, I am wondering why on earth they are spending so much time on this topic?

This process has been hard for me...I have taken care to not label us as "different".  I have taken great care to keep us as "normal" as possible.  I answer his questions when he asks them...which up until now, has been sporadic at best. 

Lately, it has been a near daily topic. 

Mommy, I want daddy back.
Munchkin, people can't come back from Heaven
Mommy, but everyone else has a daddy in class, can you go get me a new daddy?
Munchkin, it doesn't work that way. 
Mommy, can you just go back and marry daddy again?
Munchkin, I can't marry daddy again as much as I would like to, he is in Heaven and no matter how much we love and miss him he can't come back.
Mommy, it isn't fair that daddy is an angel.
Munchkin, you are right, it isn't fair, but it will be ok.

uhhh...not sure which is more unsettling as an adult.   The fact that his little heart and brain want Robert back from the dead, or that he thinks a "new daddy"  would make it better.   While my brain knows that he is simply trying to fit us "in" to the mold of his classmates, it doesn't really help. 

What strikes me is that I have to have this conversation with a FIVE YEAR OLD!  When I was five, I recall playing in our play room with my brother, making cookies with my mom and playing in the yard with dad.   I remember preschool and kindergarten--well I mostly remember the cardboard bricks.   I don't remember having any deep conversations with my parents.  We had people in our family die, but not in our immediate family.   I remember being carefree.  

What cuts to the core of my heart, is that my son has an understanding of loss.  He has experienced pain that many people go decades without even considering.  Even if he doen't express it as pain per se, he is learning as he grows how unique we are.

Maybe in my attempt to make him feel like we are normal I have done him a disservice.  Perhaps I am pretending to be normal, to be whole.  Maybe what I should do is embrace our "un-normal" situation.   Really, it is not normal to watch your spouse die in front of you.   It is not a choice that I would expect anyone to make. 

For him it isn't normal for a parent to be widowed.   He has some classmates that have divorced parents--but the kids still have TWO parents on EARTH.  They get to hang out with their dads even if they live with their moms.  He is the only kid in his class that has an angel for a parent and while I realize that it makes us special, for now, in this unit when studying with his peers, it makes him different.  Somehow, it is my job to make different ok. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God whispers

After Robert died, I sold our house and moved home. I needed to reset the foundation of my life that had been shattered into oblivion and I knew that I needed my family. It was crazy to expect them to be there for me 1300 miles away. This was an easy decision for me as we had been talking about leaving Texas for home before munchkin was in preschool anyway. We felt strongly that we wanted him in school where we grew up. I knew it was what we would have done anyway. While that made the decision logical it was not easy to do. I felt as if I was walking away from our life.

We lived with my mom and dad in the house I grew up in for a long time. It was what I needed. I had the blessing of my parents and munchkin got to be spoiled by them. I worked through some of my hardest grief while living there. There are pictures of me for that first two years where my face simply looks haunted, My eyes are glassy and I am obviously still in shock.

We then moved into an apartment. It was what we needed. I needed to solidify our foundation but munchkin was still too young for me to be able to handle a house on my own. I honestly didn't know if I would ever be able to manage a house.

While the condo was good for me, it wasn't the best for munchkin, There was no place to run around. He had to be quiet inside. We adapted. We went to parks everyday. I kept his baseball mitt, soccer ball, scooter and tee in the back of my car.

He couldn't have friends over...we had to be quiet...five year old boys by definition are not quiet...they are bundles of laughter and energy...

In July as we pulled in from the park, he looked at me.
"momma, I am going to ask Santa for a house for Christmas"
I replied "buddy, if Santa said a DS was not in his budget, I'm pretty sure a house is out of the question"
"besides, it would take the elves a long time to build it then they would not have time to make as many toys for everyone!"
"ok, mommy. I will just ask God instead. Nothing is to big for God to do"
"you are right buddy, nothing is too big for God"

Oh boy. I was floored in my tracks. Unbeknown to munchkin, I had applied for and been denied a mortgage. I had decided that it was not in God's plan for us to have a house.

I had no idea what to do. I was proud that munchkin had the understanding that things in this world are not up to us but at the same time, five year olds are not great at patience. I also know that things happen in God's time, not ours. As I lay in bed that night I gave my wish to God and got out of the way. I resolved myself that whatever happened I needed to have faith.

I secretly hoped that munchkin's wish was a phase to be quickly moved through. Such was not the case.

The next week he started telling people that we were moving.

The week after that he announced his new house would have a huge playroom to play with his friends and a big backyard with a "swing house"

Nightly in his bedtime prayers he would ask God to give us a perfect house. I would listen to him and silently pray for my son to not lose faith.

A few weeks later was the first week of school. As we walked with neighborhood friends, he told them God was giving him a house for Christmas. Oh boy! I had no idea how I would make that wish come true. I had nothing to do but put my faith in God as well. Out of that conversation came the PERFECT mortgage broker who got a loan approved for me.

I began searching for a house. I didn't tell munchkin. After six weeks I found one that was perfect for us. The process was maddening. Things kept popping up. I kept saying a prayer and letting it go. I had some very close friends that I engaged in specific prayers for the process and at the end of the day, we moved into our new home.

It is an amazing blessing that I never thought I would have again and I am thankful that munchkin nudged me into believing what I thought was impossible. I am thankful that I was able to stop my doubt and fear and join my child in relying on God to provide for us instead of dismissing his dream as childish or impractical. I am blessed.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thoughts on Newtown Shooting

I was in the air when the shooting happened.   I saw it on the monitors in the airport when we landed.  Hearing the details and seeing the parents and teachers on the news, cut me to my soul. 

I realize that we cannot protect our children from everything, probably more than most.  However, I instituted a "media blackout" in our house this weekend.   First off, I have been wary of any footage of main stream media since 9/11 and I wanted to be the one to control the explanation to munchkin.  This is not unusual for our house, I actually don't usually watch the news with him, we tend to read the newspaper and talk about the world and what is happening, by eliminating the graphic footage that tends to replay on TV. Secondly, I know that watching TV coverage won't help these families.   There is very little I can do other than pray for them.

I really don't know what to say.   I am at a loss for words.  I cannot imagine the pain of the families, teachers and children.  

I did discuss breifly with munchkin that something happened in a school far away and a lot of people were hurt.  We talked about how important it is to listen to his teacher all the time.  I anticipate that his school will have some "lockdown drills" soon and we will talk more about that then. 

As a parent, one of the scariest things for me was simply sending him to school this year.   Starting the year, I knew he would be out of my control, sight and direct influence for 7 hours a day.  Daily I offer prayer that he is safe, happy and working hard.  I pray that his teachers are caring and compassionate.  It is all I can do.   I know that this is opposite of many parents who can't wait for their kids to go to school, but honestly, I think that this stems from the fact I know firsthand that life can and does change in a random instant. 

Friday was a defining moment in his childhood, and I am sure that he won't realize it until many years from now.  I too had a pivotal moment in the late 80's when a similiar situation happened in Winnetka, Il, a suburb not too far from where I grew up.  Until then, schools were not locked.  Parents, babysitters and grandparents came and went, students didn't even need to check in and out with the office.  That changed.  I am not sure what will change for this generation of children, but I know that there will likely be reactive changes. 

This evening, I have caught up on the current theories and evidence surrounding the shooting. I am still at a loss. All I can ask is that all of you take a moment to hold your family tight and offer a prayer, good thoughts or whatever you so choose for those whose lives who have been irreversibly changed. 

Evidence of life?

In one of the previous posts I talked about the method of packing up my house four years criteria was-"If I could not repurchase this when needed and no longer hold this item in my hand, I would be heartbroken...then it gets packed"...everything else was packed sold, or donated.

The methodology made complete sense at the time.  However let's take a look at some of the crazy things I sold:
1. dishes and silverware-I was living with my parents and didn't see a practical need of storing them
2. all of my bakeware (ten years worth of items I purchased to make cakes and candies...)
3. vacuum cleaner
4. household stuff--rakes, shovels, ladders etc
5. furniture
6. patio set
7. 90% of my clothing (we packed up six months after the funeral, and I had lost 50 pounds and moved to a different climate...)

Here is a partial list of the odd stuff that I kept:
1. his laptop computer that was in the accident--literally in a million pieces
2. every CD we ever owned
3. every piece of music we ever owned
4. my wedding dress and flowers (yes FLOWERS from 1999!)
5. a box of pens from drug reps (I have NO IDEA WHY!)
6. fairly certain EVERY piece of his clothing

Now in the grand scheme of things, the stuff we sold, yes I have repurchased over the years, however the items I kept, for the most part stay in blue totes and collect dust until I pull them out to clean them.  Over the years that has become less and less.....but I guess for me it is evidence that he was here...that we were one.  Evidence that his life was not for naught.  Maybe, my heart knows more than my head thinks it does.  Maybe just maybe I will find a use for the tangible things that I have left. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Still Smiling

I am currently on a business trip. My morning started like this.
3:30 am wake up call
Hair dryer did not work in my hotel room
Iron did not work in my hotel room
Called the front desk...his reply was that they had no other hair dryers or irons
Went to check my work email and my blackberry server was down
Spoke to munchkin who wanted hot lunch, even though I didn't send him money-grateful my sister and her husband were kind enough to indulge him.

I donned a "wrinkle free" shirt and pulled my hair into a pony tail and headed down stairs to meet my boss to head to the airport for our 5:30 am flight. While walking to the security line someone ran over my foot (the one I broke last year that has been achy and tender since the weather got cold) with a REALLY heavy suitcase.

We get to the security check point and my boss commented that I must have had a good morning because I was still smiling. I laughed and shared the antics of this particular morning. He looked at me in disbelief. He said "but you are still smiling".

And I am still smiling because in spite of everything...this morning doesn't even rank in the top ten of bad mornings that I have had in my life. I realize that all of this is trivial. It doesn't matter.

What matters is that I get home safely to my precious munchkin. What matters is that I am lucky enough to have a job that lets me support us. What matters is that I remain present in the moment and realize what really matters. So I have a semi wrinkled shirt big deal. I have two flights before my meeting anyway. So my hair is curly in a pony tail...not a big deal.

I guess sometimes it helps me to be reminded that I do have a healthy perspective and outlook on life. To be reminded that I do put emphasis on the things that matter and that's I truly do let everything else go and keep on smiling.

It helps to be reminded that even in all of the true tragedy that it have endured, I have not lost my ability to smile or my ability to laugh about circumstances.

Cheering Section

I think one of the things that is hardest for me in being widowed is the realization that I am truly alone. There is no one on this planet who has me as their number one priority. I am very blessed that I have many people around me that have me in their top five and top ten. But at the end of the day, I am on my own in so many things.

There is no one to ask me how my day was and allow me to have an adult conversation about it. No is there to tell me to go easy on myself. To share my parenting worries. To reassure me that I am enough.

Now, I have been creative in my solutions. I have a five year old munchkin that is great at conversation. At dinner we both talk about our days and we talk to each other just as I envision that we would if Robert were still here.

I have friends and family with kids of similar age to discuss parenting with. I have an amazing family. They are there when I need them and listen.

There is one place in particular that there is not really a good solution. I play in a symphonic band. My brother watches munchkin every week so that I can go to rehearsal. It is my two hours of grown up time that is just for me.

My family does not share my musical passion. Especially when it comes to classical music. It simply isn't their cup of tea. That is fine. What that means is that I usually perform with no one in the audience there for me. It is heartbreaking because if Robert were here, he would be there with munchkin in the audience. Now if I ask, my family will come. My dilemma is whether at my age should I be asking people to give up several hours doing something that they would not do otherwise to make me feel better. Keep in mind I have been playing for 25 years so my family has endured decades of classical concerts and performances. I have concluded over the years that it isn't fair of me to ask. Munchkin is too young to sit by himself for a concert, so he generally stays with Nana and Papa when I perform. I do bring him to my dress rehearsal and he loves it. He sits there and closes his eyes and pretends to conduct. It melts my heart to see him enjoying music so much!

Well, this particular concert, my brother planned months ago to bring munchkin. He picked him up, they rode the train went to dinner and got ice cream and came to see me play. It meant so much to be able to have him there. He cheered me on and had a great time. I could see him from my chair snuggling up on his uncle listening to the music.

My best surprise was that they brought me flowers. I cried tears for joy, it had been over five years since anyone gave me flowers after a performance.

I am not sure why it touched me so. It really did. For just a little this new normal that we live everyday didn't seem horrible and empty. Maybe it was the sheer joy and excitement on munchkin's face. He was so happy to be there and he was so happy to give me the flowers. Maybe it was the peace in my heart that there are people that do put us really really high on their lists of priorities. Maybe it was just the simple fact that this time I got to share my gift of music with people I know. People who chose to be there to listen to ME.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


When Robert was alive, we had a love/hate relationship with math. I loved it, he hated it. I love to manipulate numbers in my head...calculate things and what not, I am the definition of a math nerd and I am proud of it.

I credit my love of numbers and reading to my parents....they made it fun. My dad is an accountant and always made math fun for us. Yesterday munchkin came home with a math paper on which the teacher wrote "future accountant" with a huge star. No one was there to notice the irony with me. He does so many things that are innately Robert's traits, that he would enjoy math as much as I, well I can imagine the conversation between Robert and I!

I'm not quite sure which is worse, not having Robert here to share the story with, or the fact that he has been gone so long that I can have the entire conversation myself? Neither scenario is a natural evolution of marriage and parenting.

My choice is to put the paper on the fridge and a smile on my face and make sure munchkin knows how proud I am.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Yard Sales

After the accident, when I finally went down to Texas to put the house on the market-we had the sale of all yard sales. 

I had decided that it was best for us to be by family, but had only been working for about 6 weeks.  Munchkin was 1, so living with mom and dad was by far our best option.  That being said, it was not practical nor necessary to move my entire house.  So after much thought, prayer and tears, I decided to sell everything that I could.   I was still in shock at  how much the funeral had cost and I was determined to repay my father for the thousands of dollars that he had paid for me.  Literally, he paid everything without a pause.  

So as we walked through the house, the criteria I used was that if it could be replaced, I would replace it when I decided to move from mom and dad's.  At that time, I was pretty sure I would be there forever.  I could not see how I could manage to live on my own and take care of us.  If it had sentimental value, I packed it. 

I remember standing in the middle of my house sobbing.  I could not focus on anything.  I could not bear to go outside and see people picking apart my life---deliberating over pennies.  We sold my dishes, they were a wedding gift.   We sold my craft was a wooden table that had folding leaves and I made beautiful creations on it.  We sold my son's baby clothes--he was not going to get smaller, and I am not going to have another child.  We sold 90% of my clothing, I was living in a different climate.  I no longer wear scrubs to work and flip flops are not year round attire.  We sold out patio set, where we used to cook out and relax.   We sold the contents of my kitchen, all of my bakeware and stuff--I no longer had my own kitchen to create in.  We sold the workbench that we build together.  We sold his car parts-the car was totalled, they were useless reminders to me anyway.   It was heartbreaking.   We sold anything that pretty much was not nailed down and then some. 

What did I pack? Surprisingly a lot of memories.  Most of his t-shirts and sweatshirts-which consisted of every Bears t-shirt known to man! I can picture him in everyone of them.  about 25 different Bears jerseys.  12, count them 12 huge blue plastic totes of music.  Enough for a library.   And while I am a musician, I will never teach middle school band, so about 4 of those got given to a new teacher for her use in her career-but not until this past year.  If I never see a blue tote again, it will be too soon!  Everytime I tried to unpack one, I was floored and paralyzed by the memories. 

So now, as I try and rebuild things, even though yard sales are a great way to get things cheaply, I usually can't bear to even go see them.  I know that my yard sale was a very rare reason, however, to see people's belongings spread over tables and grass, welll, it just reminds me of my own heartache.