Monday, December 30, 2013

A Special Present

Christmas morning, Munchkin was awake at 4:24 am-you know typical time for an excited six year old!  I snuggled him in my bed for an hour and then we got up.  We had breakfast and we opened our presents.  

My best friends mom had brought a bag over a few days before Christmas and instructed it to be the LAST thing opened on Christmas morning.   We agreed. 

Well, nothing could prepare me for what was in that bag! 
Several years ago, not long after Robert died, there was MASSIVE flooding in our town and
my parents basement where all of my stuff was being stored was hit pretty hard.   Kate came over to help me clean up and see what was salvageable.  I remember that all of his baseball hats were covered in mold and deemed unsalvageable.  We went to the laundry mat and washed everything else trying to save it. 

Keep in mind, this was the second time that everything was taken to a laundry mat---the first time was with another friend that helped me get everything clean from the flea infestation in my house back in Texas!

Anyway, in all of that cleaning, she took some of his shirts and ties.   She has had them for the better part of five years waiting for me to be "ready" but she had a quilt made out of them.    We discussed it years ago but not since then.  Let me tell you--the quilt is perfect!  It has his Chicago Bears t-shirts, his patriotic t-shirts, his shirts and ties, his car show t-shirts.  It captures him perfectly!   The backing of it has a very subtle music note pattern on it.  I am in love. 

More amazing, is that when Munchkin opened it, he knew that they were Daddy's t-shirts and he is loving it!  I asked myself how he knew, and then I remembered that many of the shirts are in pictures of Robert. 

After the chaos of opening, I found him sitting on the couch reading a book wrapped in the blanket as I cooked.  I thought to myself that it was perfect that I was cooking in the kitchen and he was snuggling with Daddy...even if only in memory. 

Once again, I am awed and amazed by the love that we receive on a daily basis.   I know that my words are not doing this justice, so I will just show you! 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Our China

Many years ago, Robert decided that he wanted to help me register for our wedding.  I didn't generally have a problem with it as I thought that he would be helping with the general "house" stuff.   HA!  Little did I know that he wanted input in EVERYTHING.  When I say everything, I mean china pattern, crystal pattern and even my silver.

My silver pattern was picked for me when I was a baby--and I had several pieces.  I put my foot down that I was NOT changing it.  I actually hoped that he would BUTT out of my china and crystal as such luck.

We fought--I mean really fought.   We actually fought more over planning our wedding than we did the entire time we were married.    I swore that we were never getting divorced because I was never again going to endure planning a wedding!   Most of the strife actually came in the disparity on our family sizes.   His was very very small--less than 20 total and mine was HUGE over 100 with only the closest cousins on each side.  At the time, he couldn't really comprehend how a family could not only be so large, but be so close that they actually spoke to each other regularly.

Here is some insight.  I was brought up knowing how to set a proper table with fine china and crystal.   He thought it was a very neat idea and something he had never experienced.   It was a right of passage in our family to be able to learn to care for and even wash it at my Great-Grandmother's house.   Mom and Nana also served meals on their fine pieces and it was a BIG deal to be promoted to the grown up table.  I had my heart set on the type of patterns that I would get to pick.  I didn't even consider that my future husband would even want to bother with those details.   Boy was I wrong.

I wanted simple china, he wanted ornate.  We settled on a middle of the road pattern that he really liked and I tolerated.  What is important is that the  pattern was the very first time that we compromised.  I served on it often.  I was careful to rotate the boxes so that no one set faded more than the rest.  It was our home from work a little early and had time to set the table dishes.   We used it at least once a week and often times more.

After he died, it was boxed up and moved, and moved again, and moved again and finally moved into my house.   I have not used it since the week before he died.  It seemed like every time I looked at the boxes I was flooded with memories that led to tears.   These beautiful dishes had sat unused for far too long.

I decided a few weeks ago that I would serve Christmas on my fine china.  This was a huge step for me.  This morning I pulled it out, and set the table.  Only, I don't have enough pieces for the entire family so I ended up intermixing my other dishes, but I still used them.   Mom brought over a few settings of my great-grandmother's silver for me to use to complete the table and we had a great meal.   Lots of laughter and love around the table today.  It was the kind of Christmas that I remember from before my life was touched by tragedy.    We were missing one brother and his family that were at his inlaws, but my youngest brother brought his girlfriend and my sister brought her father in law.

I am so grateful to have my family around us and to be able to cook and entertain everyone.  It was a very nice day.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why I go out on Black Friday....

The first time I went shopping on Black Friday was the same year that Robert died. 

My best friend who had done her very best to help me survive to that point invited me to go out with her and her husband and her sister and her husband.  Really, she sorted blue bins, laughed with me, cried with me, made scrapbooks out of Roberts letters to me, looked at the paperwork that was coming in from the accident with me.  Answered the phone at all hours, really. at the butt crack of dawn with only grown ups.   Sounded like fun, so I went with it. 

I looked at my budget and decided that I would go.  That first Thanksgiving was horrible for me.  I cried most of the day.   My pain was so raw, because Thanksgiving was one of Robert's favorite holidays. 

But, black Friday shopping was the FIRST new tradition that I started for myself.   It was the first time that I did something that had no memory of Robert attached to it. 

And I had fun.  It was busy, there were lines, but we were in good spirits and had fun looking for stuff for the kids.   Man, I made a HAUL and didn't even come close to spending my budget!

Afterwards, we went to breakfast and we laughed and joked, I felt included and not widowed for those few hours. 

Over the years, we have morphed a little bit.  Her husband stays home and tends to her kids, glad that he doesn't have to go shopping.   One year, we didn't go because my immediate family had an out of town Thanksgiving, but she did get my stuff for Munchkin for me.  

Even though we have evolved, yesterday something struck me.   This is one of the very few times a year that we get to hang out as just us.   We have fun.  We laugh, we talk and shop.  Perhaps in another 30 years, we will still be doing this and be those CRAZY old people out on Black Friday...but we do have a pact-we CANNOT wear fuzzy awful shirts and polyester pants.  Yoga pants and hoodies are however fair game!

Now, so many years later, I can see how awesome it was that I "accidentally" started a new tradition that I look forward to and enjoy. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Couches and Memories

A few years before Robert died, we bought new living room furniture.  It was the first time we bought furniture that wasn't second hand.  They were super soft and comfy.  The couch was great for snuggling and the love seat had two reclining couches with armrests in the middle.  

We made great memories on those couches, both good and bad.  We rocked munchkin to sleep together.  We snuggled our son and our puppies and we were a family on those couches. 

At the literal last minute I moved them to Chicago with me.  They were in my mom and dad's den and I missed him horribly on those couches.  

When I moved to an apartment a few years later, I moved them with me.   It was traumatic.  His spot on the couch and his recliner were empty and it made me miss him even more.  I would sit at night in my spot and look at his and cry. 

So, my sister and her husband had some couches and we were doing a house/apartment swap anyway.   I offered her my blue couches for her green ones.  We swapped.  It worked.  When I went to her house, it was generally full, and I didn't miss Robert because I wasn't staring at the empty space alone and in the quiet. 

I then had a friend who was getting rid of all of her living room furniture and I took it.  It was awesome.  My sister put her green couches in her basement family room. 

Fast forward a few years and they decided to get new furniture for their living room.   She asked if I wanted them back, I said yes.  I had been looking at living room furniture but hadn't found anything I liked enough and was willing to pay for. 

My brothers brought those couches over, then mom came and helped me arrange my living room.  It looked nice.  I had the couches cleaned and we settled into a routine.  However, the same thing happened, I put Munchkin to bed and I would sit in my place and I would see him in his empty spot.  The tears would start to fall. 

My brain and my heart know that particular spot was his.  It was as if I could feel the emptiness.  I could physically react to the memories that were built on that furniture.  Munchkin learned to walk holding on to that couch.  Robert recovered from multiple back surgeries in the recliner.  

I knew I needed to make a change.  I don't want to go back to those memories and crying everyday again.  I have come too far to let something draw me back. 

SO, I when I went shopping and the set that I had been looking at for months was finally at a reasonable price, I bought it.

I gifted the couch and the loveseat to separate houses that will hopefully have a great use for them and I did myself the favor of removing the negative memories.   I have found that sometimes, it is better to put things out of sight or simply to let go of things that are too painful. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Last night I had the opportunity to go to an adult night out.  Like grown ups, all grown ups! And I went. I got dolled up and I drove a few towns away and I went.  I didn't chicken out when I had to park half a mile away and walk by myself in the dark.   I didn't chicken out earlier in the day when Munchkin was coughing up crud.   It didn't even cross my mind to back out.  

Granted it was for PTA and I knew most of the people, but I still went.   And this is huge progress.   I no longer find an excuse to not leave the house.  I don't dread being the odd man out and being the only single person in the room.   

For years, I avoided going out socially after Robert died.   It was mentally exhausting to even think about hanging out with people.  I didn't want to keep rebelling my story, and I hated feeling alone.    Now, I'm used to the alone.  I am used to being me instead of we,  and most times, I can enjoy myself as long as there isn't any trigger for me.  

We had fun.  A bunch of people were bowling and others of us were just hanging out and talking.   I was pretty quiet, but I had fun.  

I enjoyed seeing people and not chasing munchkin around at a breakneck pace.  So much fun, that I really should do this more often! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Memories and remembering

My cousin is graciously putting together a family calendar for everyone.  One calendar with a page for each family that belongs to one of The TEN.  Yep, my dad is one of ten kids, you did read thy correctly.  

I procrastinated.  I didn't send her anything of our family (mom, dad, siblings, nieces and nephews).  I really dropped the ball. 

She posted a preview.  On our family page was a ton of pictures but smack dab in the middle was my wedding picture.   Robert and I smiling.   My heart swelled.  Here, in our family calendar without being asked to do so, she included him.   

I can't express how much that means to me.  There are so many times I feel like my marriage and my husband gets forgotten and yet, here is a reminder that other people around me do remember.  

I'm feeling so loved by such a simple gesture.  My heart is full and I am delighting in the fact that people besides me have sweet memories of Robert and of he two of us together.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

First World Problems...

My first encounter with something that was a "first world problem" came over a decade ago. 

Robert was working at Target.   He had been off with me for a few days as I had just had a miscarriage.  We were fairly early into our marriage and it was devastating for both of us.  

He went back to work to close, and I decided to bring him dinner on his break.   I was up front talking to some people when a person came to the return desk and chewed out this cashier because the top sheet and bottom sheet in a set didn't match exactly.  The cashier apologized for the inconvenience and gave her a refund.   She asked to speak with a manager, and the cashier paged Robert.   This lady proceeded to berate him and I jumped in.  I told her "Wow, if that is the biggest problem that you have in your life, you should be thankful!"  and I meant it. 

Fast forward several years, for a long time, I have not had the luxury of thinking about "first world problems".  I have been in a constant state of battle.   In the last week, I decided that I was going to have my house painted inside.  When I bought it a year ago, everything inside was beige and white, very boring, but not high on my priority list.  

I had a painter come in yesterday and offered to do it very reasonably.   He left me paint sample chips and told me to pick colors.   After about ten minutes, I was stressed, because there are 400,000 different shades of tan.  Seriously, so I made a tongue in cheek post on facebook about being stressed picking colors. 

In my mind, I was giving thanks for having the "problem" of picking paint colors.   I am so blessed beyond belief that my gratitude of having the "problem" of picking paint is the biggest pressing thing at the moment.  I am thankful that I have the perspective in my life to know that this really isn't a problem at all, but a luxury.   

In the end, I told him to pick a "tan" that is in stock so that we can just get the painting done!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Settling into a new routine...

Several months ago I took a new position.  This now allows me to work from home. It was a VERY scary step for me.  I left a decent paying job, for something a little unknown at the time.  All I knew was that my old job was making me so miserable and invading into our family time so much that SOMETHING needed to give.   After much prayer and asking God for guidance, I made the leap.   I worked an extra 6 weeks at my old job to give them the opportunity to find a replacement. 

I should not have waited so long!  Now, I have the privilege of walking Munchkin to and from school everyday and I get the opportunity to visit with other parents whose jobs allow them the same privilege.  This is an accommodation that I NEVER would have received at my old company.  I knew in my heart that Munchkin wasn't getting enough sleep, we were out the door before 7 am every morning and we frequently didn't get home until after 6:30-and he was asleep by 7:30.  We had nearly no time. 

Another byproduct of working at home, is that when he is sick, I don't have to scramble at 6 am and beg my parents or siblings to split a day off with me.   I knew this going in, but I didn't really realize how profound this was until recently.

This school year already we have had a bout of strep, a sinus infection and two asthma exacerbations...overall we are doing GREAT!  Then last week we had full blown bronchitis.  

Breathing treatments every 2-3 hours around the clock with several different meds to ensure that he could breathe...lots of whining and cuddling all night long because he plain didn't feel well.   Last fall, I still would have had to drag myself out of the house and go to work after the first day or two and I would have had to have left him with my mom, dad or sister or brother.  There was no way around it, I didn't have 75 vacation days a year to stay home every time he was sick.

This time it was different.  I have the luxury of working when I can and being measured on the results of my work, not the amount of time that I am in my chair in the office.

When I was at the pediatrician, he asked me if I needed a note for work.  It hit me, I no longer had to worry about whether I needed to file for FMLA.  I didn't have to calculate how many hours I could be in the office and when to make it not count as a vacation day.  I now have a boss that is compassionate and understanding and  actually understands that I am much more productive when I am not having to worry about the number of hours I am in my seat. 

I am beyond grateful to have that stress removed from our lives.   So grateful, I cannot even find the words to express it.   I am so grateful, that I think that I actually work harder knowing that they care about me and my family and that they have thus far shown me that with their actions.  I really don't feel like I am being given lip service about family/life balance, I truly believe that this is where I am meant to be.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Beep in the Night!

One of the things that I will never understand is why things with batteries malfunction and make loud noises between the hours of two and four am. I swear, if I didn't know better, I would claim that it was a conspiracy!

The other night at 3:12 am, I hear an alarm go off.   I jolted awake! I thought that it was the smoke alarm in the hallway.  I literally leapt out of bed and ran from my room.   I went and grabbed Munchkin from his bed and had him in my arms in a split second from the sound of the alarm.  As I got to where the smoke detector was, I realized that it wasn't going off. 

I looked  up and the light was green and it wasn't blaring at me-it was some other fool alarm in the house.   I laid Munchkin back into his bed still asleep confident that we were not burning to the ground and went on a search.   I looked at the CO detectors and they were all green, but there was still a blaring beep coming from somewhere! 

One of the CO detectors, even though it showed green that there was no CO present, was blaring at me.  I unplugged it and it continued to blare at me.  I looked at it in my hands and swore at it.  Loudly.  I was trying to read the small print on the back of it that tells me what it wants.   Concentration at 3 am is barely functional at best.   Couple that with a blaring object in your hands, and well, I felt like I tried for 20 minutes to understand what the machine said.  

In small print, it tells you if it gives you four loud beeps every 15 seconds and is showing RED to call 911.   Well that wasn't it.  

If there is a "chirp" every 25 seconds it needs a new battery. Battery???  oh, yeah, I decided a battery back up was a good idea.   Only this was not "chirping" it was a siren blaring into my brain.  

In extra small print.  "Approximately 5 years after being put into service, the unit will alarm to let you know that it is time to be replaced"

Alarm.  That is more like it.  Ok, so 5 years ago at 3 am someone decided to plug in a CO detector for the first time???  Really, who does this at 3 am. 

So I am still looking at the thing in my hands, and I am trying to get the battery out, only you can't just remove batteries anymore, you actually need a screwdriver.   I figured it would be the same handy dandy screwdriver that I keep in the kitchen for changing toy batteries.   I go digging for it.  

Nope, that isn't even close to fitting.  This is a microscopic screw that is preventing me from shutting this thing off! 

So I trek outside to the garage, in the dark, hoping that a raccoon, fox or some other animal doesn't follow me into the garage to dig through tool boxes.  I finally find a screw driver and get the battery out and silence the alarm. 

By this time, I am wide awake, freezing and irritated-but I realize that I have averted disaster and solved a homeowner issue on my own in the middle of the night without calling anyone to rescue me. 

As irritated as I am, I solved the problem and fixed it and know that I can go to the store tomorrow and get a replacement unit, and now I know what the ALARM sounds like in the middle of the night.   I have also reassured myself that I will awake to an alarm in the night and be cognizant enough to grab Munchkin and get us out.   I calm my irritation and go back to bed content.   I also make a mental note that I should have a bigger variety of screwdrivers readily available in the house for the next thing that starts to go bonkers at an odd hour.

Monday, November 4, 2013

When I grow up...

A few weeks ago, a baggie of frozen blueberries opened into the icemaker in my freezer.   Instead of ice I got mashed messy blueberries.  They have stained the ice chute, gotten caught in the machinery that moves the ice...They are all over my freezer...

Even though I have emptied it multiple times, we still get a surprise of frozen blueberries in our ice every once in a while.  However now instead of a ton of mashed blueberries, you might get one or two random ones at a random time. 

Yesterday Munchkin declared--"When I grow up I am hiding blueberries in my ice too Momma!"

I burst into a chuckle and asked him why. 

"Because it is really cool to get a surprise in your ice and blueberries make everything better!" 

He was emphatic and smiling. 

How on earth can you argue with that!  I love his perspective, instead of seeing a nuisance, he finds the surprise and relished the joy.   I pray that he holds on to that as he grows older and remembers this into adulthood!

So when my Munchkin grows up and you go to visit him, expect the blueberries!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mommy What is a Coffin?

Munchkin is inquisitive.  That is putting it nicely.  He asks a million questions a day.   This morning we were driving to go let my brother's dog out while he is out of town and we spotted someone packing away Halloween Decorations. 

This prompted a series of questions...

Munchkin: Mommy, what's a coffin?
Me: It is something that you put someone in after they die.
Munchkin: Did you have to put daddy in a coffin?
Me: Yes baby.
Munchkin:  I don't think he would have liked that.
Me: Probably not.
Munchkin: What did Daddy's coffin look like?
Me: It was silver with blue lining
Munchkin: Oh, Well Count Dracula's was black with red inside.  Red is my favorite color. 

See while Munchkin has asked his questions in passing and has now moved on to putting together a lego set,  my brain is now trying to force back the memories that I have tucked away. Some memories  are just too much to bear and entirely too painful to keep remembering.   

The memories of walking into a funeral home and telling the person that I needed to make arrangements for my husband.  

The chaos that followed that I am not even prepared to write about, and I don't know if I ever will.

Getting up from the table and walking out of the room trying to find solace and wake myself from what surely was a nightmare.   Only I found myself lost in a room of coffins sobbing.  My father came and sat by me.  I sobbed so hard.  I could hardly breathe.  Even now, five years later, these memories are so powerful and nearly debilitating. 

I remember telling everyone that I highly doubted that we would be able to have an open casket because of the devastation of the accident. 

I remember the next day when his body arrived and I had to go confirm that it was him, crying with relief that they were able to make his face, head and neck presentable enough for an open casket.  I will forever be grateful to the organ procurement team for doing that.  As horrible as it was, I can't imagine if I had not been able to touch his hair one more time or rest my hand on the side of his face where it was made to fit perfectly.  The edge of my palm fit along his jaw and my fingers reached behind his ear to caress him softly.  It is one of the things that I miss most of him.  How our bodies were MADE to fit together.

Don't forget the memories of the wake.  Of actually SEEING Robert in a coffin.  The finality of that.   There really are not words to describe seeing your soul mate dead and cold.  Memories of  my family and our friends.  The eulogies that were delivered.  Seeing his sweet innocent students who were no bigger than munchkin is now, kneeling and praying the rosary.  Handing me hand written notes of how much they loved their "Mr. Bob"  For most of these kids, Mr. Bob dying was the first time that they had lost someone, and they all loved him. 

Memories of my laughing baby boy in my arms at the very end of the wake.   I was holding him near the coffin and he was laughing.  He was calling Daddy, Daddy and tried to leap from my eyes into the coffin on top of Robert.  I let him touch him and all he did is laugh.  I fainted, my dad caught me and Munchkin.  To say that attending my husband's wake was life altering does not nearly serve it justice.  It doesn't convey the weight of that cataclysmic point in time.

I realize that all Munchkin didn't understand then, he asks questions to try and understand now.  I also know that it is my job to help him understand the inexplicable.

He will take his cues from me and he will grow to know about the world from me.  So, now I will take a deep breath, wipe away my tears, pour another cup of coffee and go build a lego castle.  I will wait for the next series of questions and until then, I will keep myself in the present moment. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Random Acts of Mercy and Disclosure

This morning started out as a whirlwind.  Munchkin had a tournament and was extremely excited.  This is the second time where he has competed at the next level up.  We have two rules in our family when it comes to sports...

1. Have Fun!
2. Do your best!

That is it.  That is the extent of my expectations for him.  

While today was a bit of a challenge.  He was in a ring where he was outsized by a literal sixty pounds.  I didn't think that there was any way that he would do well, and as I stood there and watched the kids get assigned to rings, I had in my mind, that there was no way that he was going to go up against these bigger kids.  We had discussed previously, that in order for him to compete in these categories, that Mom has the right to pull him out and have him forfeit if I thought he could get hurt. 

Well, as I stood there praying for guidance, one of the high ranking Senior Masters, pulled my Munchkin and stood him next to the biggest kid and took a picture and sent it to headquarters.  I didn't really know what was happening, but she asked Munchkin where his parents were.   He said that Daddy was dead, but Mommy was right there and pointed at me. 

She walked over to me and said that she had requested a split ring based on size and that headquarters had agreed.   She was extremely gracious and nice and I was thankful.   Munchkin would not be walloped on by gargantuan 8 year olds (he is a very small 6!)

Senior Master was available around our ring and watched a few of the kids.   I thought it a bit unusual.   The high ranks generally watch and judge the other higher ranks, not the kids color belts.  At the end of his competition, I thanked her and we made some small talk.  And when I say high rank, this wonderful woman, is an extremely high rank! 

She asked me if he was an only child-I said yes.  She then told me that her father died when she and her brother were little.  Her mother was widowed at 29 years old.  I was floored.  She went on to share some of her story with me and I had tears in my eyes.  At one point she told me that she believes that it takes a village and at that moment Munchkin's teacher and my dear friend walked up.

I was engaged and fighting tears speaking to Senior Master, but handed her Munchkin's results slips and she was congratulating him.  Senior Master asked me who he studied with and  I reached for our instructor and gave her a hug.  I told her, that we have a phenomenal family in our school and I felt very lucky.  Senior Master went on to tell me how wonderful our instructor is. 

This completely random encounter has left such an impression on me today.   Someone whom I have never met, took the time to share her story and not only that, share how perfectly fine she and her brother are and that her mom was remarried and happy.  Her words gave credence to the fact that kids can turn out okay in spite of the circumstances that the universe dumps on them.

She did share that he mom remarried after she and her brother were off to college, but she personally felt that she had wasted a lot of years.   I told her that my belief is that if God has planned for someone else to be in our lives, then He will put them there.  She said she would pray for us. 

It feels as if the world had given me an affirmation at a time when I really needed to hear it.   Our instructor looked at me with tears in her eyes and told me how proud she knows that Robert must be. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Perfect Leaf

Halloween for us kicks of the sprint through the end of the year.   Life always goes more quickly than I would like, but now it kicks into warp speed!

This year is no different.  I find myself looking around at all the things that need to get done and I start calculating when I can do them and dig in.  I am ashamed to say that there are times that I plow through just to get done.   It isn't how I would like things to work, but sometimes, there are only so many hours in a day and I need to be doing in order to keep us up and running on all cylinders!

However, in spite of that, I find little reminders to slow down. 

Munchkin has been sick this week, so instead of trick or treating for hours, we did less than 10 houses of people we knew and then went and had dinner with my brother, his girlfriend, my sister and her husband.  It was a ton of fun.  Dinner was good and the company was even better.  I felt contented to be surrounded by my siblings and for the first time, the tears didn't creep in to steal my joy.  Not even when Munchkin carved his first pumpkin!  It was nice to sit and have dinner and have Munchkin rough house with his uncles and run around squealing at hide and seek on a sugar high. 

As Munchkin was rough housing with "guys" it was nice to just sit still for a few minutes!

Because Munchkin has food allergies, I have to check his candy to create a "safe pile".   As I sorted-and he generously was handing candy out to the grown ups around him, I found a leaf.  I looked at it quizzically and as I was about to toss it out--Munchkin said---Mommy can we keep it?  It was on the sidewalk and it was little and perfect so I rescued it from the rain. 

And you know what-it was a perfectly beautiful maple leaf.

So I kept it for him, and for me as a little reminder to slow down these next few weeks and look at everything around us!

I am so grateful for my little boy and all of the reminders and lessons that he brings be every step of the way!

Monday, October 14, 2013

An Innocent Wish

The other day, I was lucky enough to have a friend from out of town come to stay with us.  It was an absolutely beautiful fall day and we decided to hit the outdoor shopping mall. 

This particular mall has beautiful fountains and waterfalls everywhere.   It is by far Munchkin's favorite place to shop.  He loves to "balance and walk along the stair step waterfall fountain, jump through the mist that blows from the gigantic water fall, and touch the walls of water and reflecting pools. 

It is pure bliss for him, and pure bliss for me to watch his face and hear his laughter as he explores the water and feels the mist on his face. 

His other favorite pastime is to throw pennies for wishes.  For him, it isn't just any coin, but specifically a penny that he needs.  He was armed with pennies on that particular day.  

This particular fountain is his favorite.  It is about 3 feet high and the water runs down the sides.  

At this particular fountain he made a silent wish.  Silent wishes are either hilarious or heartbreaking depending on the day.   My breath caught in my chest as he threw his penny and didn't announce his wish. 

I asked him what his wish was and he told me that he couldn't tell me or it wouldn't come true. 


This is so tricky.  I racked my brain as to what he could have wished for.   There are so many things that are precious about childhood-holding on to and believing in you wishes is top of that list!

I told him I would guess-he told me not to.   In the past he has wished for a baby sister, a dog, a house, and with startling frequency God to send Daddy back from Heaven.   My heart sunk.  It sucks explaining that there are just some things that will never come true-no matter how earnest and innocent the wish is.

This is different from dashing the dreams of a child wanting a pet unicorn.  Those you can use reason and realism and feel okay about telling them that unicorns are not real.  

How do you explain to a six year old that Daddy can't ever come back from Heaven no matter how much we all would like him to?  We are religious.  I have to teach my child that God is compassionate and good even though he is the one who decided it was Time for Daddy to go to Heaven.  Yeah, try explaining that to a grownup.  Now try and explain that to a child. 

Yet, everyday, all over the world, there are widowed parents having this same discussion.  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  We do it with grace and kindness, we do it because we have to.  Our children listen and understand as best they can. 

Here I was bracing myself for this conversation yet again...Muchkin excitedly takes my hand...

"Mommy, I wished that I do well on my spelling test!"

Whew! The breath I didn't realize I was holding escapes.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Worse than a nightmare?

I think the only thing worse than waking up from a nightmare, is waking up and realizing, it isn't a nightmare...its a flashback.

Flashbacks happened, they are real and sometimes, no matter how deep you bury them, they come back to the surface. 

Estate Planning & Messy Stuff

I know for a lot of people this is going to be hard to read, but please, please do! The post below talks about very important grown up things, and even if you don't count yourself as grown up-if you support other people, you are!

Life gets crazy and things change.  You pay bills every month or every year and you look for ways to cut back. In a cost cutting measure, we dropped our life insurance.  We figured that we both had employer sponsored life insurance and that it would be ok to drop the large policy we had when we got married.  Only later when he had back problems and didn't work full time anymore did we consider it, but, by then it was too expensive. 

I had NO life insurance on him when he died.

It was a situation that I was completely unprepared for.   I wish that someone had told me about the "worst case scenario" before he died--and not a sales person either.  Someone my age, that said, hey I made that mistake, learn from me and don't do it.  Really, I do.  So here I am.   Here are a few technical things I wish were different.

1. Get life insurance...lots of it, more than you will ever think you will need.   Enough to cover paying off your house, your cars and living on for quite sometime.   If you die, your spouse will need this support.  If they are working they can use it to put the kids through college or something.  Run, don't walk, go do this NOW.  Seriously, you are still reading? GO!!!!

2. Write a will...who gets what (it can be as simple as my spouse gets everything) even though most states this is the law and most families don't argue with it, if your spouse needs this damn piece of paper, TRUST me, things are not good and the very least you could have done is have a piece of paper that gives your surviving spouse rights to everything.   Believe it or not, families and friends can get CRAZY when people die.  

3. Have a power of attorney.  Do you want to be on life support?  Do you want your organs donated? All of your organs? Do you want to be cremated? Where would you like to be buried?   Have the discussion.  As hard as it is to have now when you and your spouse are healthy, it is much, much harder for your spouse to sit and defend their choices to people.   If it is written down, the paperwork defends your spouse in carrying out choices that you agreed upon.   Again, people get CRAZY with grief. They are in a tailspin and like little children they lash out---protect your spouse from the grave.  Get your crap in order and make your wishes known.   Do it now, when no one is ill and time is not pressing.   We had this discussion many, many times, I knew exactly what he wanted and I did it--but--it wasn't in writing so I had to explain and keep defending our decision.

4. Have a plan in place.   Who are your go to people?  Who will be the ones that your spouse can call to help them with everything that HAS to be done.  I was lucky here in that my parents and siblings got their butts down to Texas ASAP and spent time telling me-sign here, do this, you need to call this person yadda, yadda, yadda.   I am beyond blessed to have such  a great family that looked out for our interests I cannot even express it.

What I can say is that there are people that come out of the woodwork immediately and then again later and will try and get things that aren't theirs to get, or they will take advantage of someone grieving a loss.  It is sick, it is wrong, I believe there is a special place reserved for this kind of behavior, but know that it does happen, it can happen and it likely will happen.   Who are your "people" that your spouse or you could turn to?  They may not be family but you just need to know. 

Take it from me, please, please go make sure that you have these things tied up.   That you have legal documents in place.  Do it when you have the luxury of time.  Learn from my experience and at my own personal expense.   Your spouse will not need to deal with the crap that doing these things will prevent.  

I know that it is hard, no one wants to think about the worst case.  No one wants to imagine life without their spouse.  I get that.  We didn't.  Let me tell you it is harder than anything you can imagine, so I beg you--go do these simple things.  Do them because you love your family and you would like to protect them just a little bit.   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tragedy Today

The world is different than it was when we were kids.   I know this is true for every generation.  But hear me out. 

There is a ton of tragedy in this world.  Think about the past year.  Think about the  headlines.  Odds are that the headlines that came into your thoughts were some of the really terrible things that have happened.

Think about how we welcome tragedy into our lives via the media.  We are shown suffering of others on the TV and we read about it in the papers.  Now think about 50 years ago.  Network television was in its infancy and didn't permeate every facet of our lives.  Today, the media can literally bring us to tragedy.   Things that we would not have otherwise witnessed we are watching through our own eyes.   We literally watch people fall apart.   What the short news cycle doesn't show us is that people get up.  The pick themselves up and they put themselves back together. 

Now if tragedy has struck close to home either in our community or your circles of friends, you might have seen this.  Maybe, if you looked hard enough, you saw the mom of the sick kid actually playing with her kid on the playground without tearing up.   You saw the single parent walking down the street with their child smiling.   You see people all around you persevering and simply putting one foot in front of the other.  This part of the human story, we don't see in the news nearly as often.  We don't see people recovering from their struggles and we don't hear the stories of the "common people" in everyday tragedies. 

So yes, while tragedy does touch all over the world, remember that there are people in your community all over the country living through their tragedies everyday.  Something as simple as a smile from a stranger can make a world of difference to these people. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Attack of the Widow Brain....

There is this fog that descends upon a brain when it is in shock.   There is well researched "chemo brain" and people refer to "senior moments" when they get to about 50 and start to forget things here and there.  

In the widowed world, we don't have an official term, however I will just call it "widow brain".  Where you are standing there and you know you have to do something, but you are dumbstruck as to whatever that could be....forget the obvious clues, like an open dishwasher and dirty dishes in the sink---we will forget about the part of me running into the dishwasher and going flying through the kitchen....yep we will totally forget about that. 

But in my case, I forget even the most mundane the ability to count to 6! Yes, I did say 6!. 

See this weekend, I had a birthday party for my sister.  Taking after her big sis, she has her birthday and wedding anniversary in the same week.  Smart girl!  Earlier this week, I went out to find her a suitable gift.   I looked it up, and the traditional gift for five years of marriage is wood.  Huh, I thought, hmmm...her husband built her a beautiful swing and trellis for their 4th anniversary, that's cool-maybe he should have waited a year. 

I'm wracking my brain on what to get made out of wood.  Well she loves to cook and host parties so I settle on a large nice bamboo cutting board. 

I go about my week.   My brother in law comes over and takes my son to the store to pick out a cake.   They come back and it says happy 33rd birthday.  I could have sworn she was 35...oh crap wait, that is my brother who is 35, she really is 33. 

Well, I fill out their card, with something sappy and sweet and wish them a happy 5th anniversary and wish them a hundred more together and happy. 

Well they get here and my dad says, wow, guys six years together.

WAIT. WHAT??? Now wait a second dad, it is five.   My sister laughs, "nope it is 6...munchkin is 6 we have been married six years."  

DUH.  I said, well when you open your card, just know I can't count!   The afternoon wears on and the kids make sure to fit all 33 candles on her is peppered with jokes about how they can count much better than I can!

Fast forward to this morning, munchkin was home from school yesterday so this morning was rushed with breathing treatments and getting ready.  I ordered some stuff online with a friend to save on shipping and I needed to bring her money this morning.   She just sent me a text, I gave her an extra $20! 

I am planning on blaming these transgressions on lack of sleep.  I think I seriously either need more sleep than my body will get in several months or I am the one that needs to be in FIRST GRADE!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001

Twelve years ago this morning, the world as we knew it changed.   I was working at the hospital and after reloading a crash cart, I looked up on a TV screen and thought it was very odd that they were showing the movie "Armageddon" in an ER.   I completed my rounds and a little while later heard that we were under attack.    I was expecting my sister to fly to see us for her birthday the next day and I said a prayer of thanks that she was not in the air when everything happened.  

One of our pharmacists had family in Pennsylvania, and she left after not being able to get in contact with them.   We were the closes trauma center to IAH and it was eerily quiet to not hear planes in the sky.  I called Robert and roused him from his sleep-he had worked the night before.  When I got home from work we sat glued to the television watching the news reports as most people did.  We held each other, not knowing what would happen next, only knowing that it would be ok because we had each other.  I remember seeing images of people jumping from widows in the upper stores of WTC and thinking to myself-what is so bad up there that they would jump to certain death and I cried for them and I cried for their families. 

Today, 12 years later, I think of all of the families that have had to go on missing a piece.  I think of all of the children that grew up without a parent.   I think of all of the soldiers that were deployed and all that gave their lives so that today I have freedom.   Think of that.   Think of all of the families that lost someone.  

Then I think about all the courageous people who stood up and refused to let their loss define them.  I think of Taryn from the American Widow Project who works with military widows.   I think of the parents that got up everyday and put breakfast on the table and got the kids off to school and kept plugging along even though their spouse was killed in a horrible attack.  I think of all of these things.  

I wonder when my son will start to ask questions about September 11.   Thus far he has not, but one day he will.  I wonder how I can explain hatred to a child.  How can I explain that there are people that let their lives be so ruled by hatred that they are blinded and they do terrible things.   But, today, today, I just remember. 


Yesterday morning walking to school, we encountered a big fat fuzzy caterpillar in the crosswalk.  He was yellow and he was moving pretty darn fast for a caterpillar!

Munchkin immediately saw him and wanted to save him.   There were no cars, so I told him he could pick him up.   He gingerly bent down and tried to coax him into his hand.   It didn't work.

A car came and we exited the crosswalk.   Munchkin yelled to the car not to run over his caterpillar.   I am not sure that there are words to describe his animation and conviction that he used.  Suffice it to say, that had I let him, he would have covered that caterpillar with his body to protect him.  We tried again with a stick, and again, that caterpillar had other plans.

Another car approached and we again exited the crosswalk, this time it was a teacher and she said we could cross, I replied, go ahead we are rescuing a  caterpillar.   She chuckled. 

This time we went with a leaf,  the caterpillar crawled into the leaf in his hand.  He very carefully walked with that leaf and caterpillar cradled in his hands.  He was so cute and so determined to make sure that caterpillar didn't get hurt or scared.  He took it to a tree next to the playground and whispered to the caterpillar.  We went on to put down his backpack and play. 

When I picked him up, he asked me if I made sure that the caterpillar stayed out of the street.  I assured him that I did not see him in the crosswalk. 

This morning, he asked me if the caterpillar would remember his message.  I assured him that he would.  Curious, I asked him, "what did you tell the caterpillar?"

He replied, "I told him when he turns into a beautiful butterfly, to please fly to heaven and tell daddy that I love him"

I am awestruck by my son daily.   I am currently sitting here and being grateful for having such a special and loving child.  He has such an understanding of things that no child should have to experience.   At the same time, I am awed by his grace and compassion.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Past, Present and Future....

This past weekend, one of Munchkin's scouting outings was at Robert's Alma Mater.  It coincided with 15 years to the day of when we got engaged and celebrated our engagement with a mass at the Abbey across from campus.  We were actually engaged the day before, but you know being the busybody that I am, I had gotten us Bears tickets as a surprise for him and he had planned our engagement.  In light of the Bears game, he had to push our engagement celebrations over a few days.  I was perfect.  

Fifteen years ago, I was looking forward to a wonderful long marriage together.  Today, I am an only parent.  It was a day filled of memories.  Filled of ghosts of the past on that campus. 

I made a decision.   Munchkin and I were there to do scouts.  He was there to have fun with his friends and really I didn't think it would have been fair of me to share my ghosts with him.  So I didn't.  I did post on Facebook so that my grown up friends knew what I was thinking, but I hid my sorrow from my little boy in his Tiger Cub uniform.  He was busy being a boy with his friends and he deserves to have his time unburdened by my memories.  Right, wrong or indifferent, I try very hard to have balance in our lives.   Instead of dragging us through the past and opening old wounds, I try to keep us grounded in the present.  When Munchkin asks questions, I answer them honestly and truthfully.   He goes through phases where he asks lots of questions and then times when he doesn't ask any.  I try and follow his lead-I figure he will ask what he wants to know and as long as I answer him, he will keep asking. 

As I was helping clean up, the skies opened to a spectacular display of rays of light shining down from heaven.  I know Robert was with me.  I know he lives on in my heart, and the visual was just a simple affirmation for me.   Let me tell you, the pictures below, don't do it justice.  It was as if the rays were reaching down and touching the stadium. 

It is decidedly odd to have my life come full circle.  A place I shared with Robert that brought us great joy, is now a place I shared with Munchkin.   It is such a dichotomy-to have a place of joy with each of them, that they don't get to share together.   I am having a hard time describing what that feels like, which is weird because it pretty much encompasses my life.   I shared joy with Robert, I now share joy with Munchkin yet, I am the only commonality between the two of them.   Robert doesn't get to help raise his son whom he wished and wished to have for so many years.  

At any rate, I take a deep breath and just try to enjoy it for what it is-the daily goings on of my life. 

Friday, September 6, 2013


I have gotten immune to writing "deceased" on forms that require Robert's name.  Either that, or I just grind my teeth and get through it, with the speed and force of ripping off a Band-Aid.  It hurts for a second, but if you just pull it quickly it is over.   The scab is still there and the skin may be raw but, the Band-Aid is gone.  I guess I have come to terms that I will be writing deceased for a LONG time to come.  I don't agonize over ever form and every blank, or even shed a tear at every letter.   Now, the forms that demand a second contact, those tick me off to no end.  I usually write my name twice and wait for someone to question it.  They usually don't. 

What I am not used to is selecting my title.  I no longer feel like I am a Mrs.  I am definitely too old to be a Miss, and Ms. just doesn't seem right either.  I guess I don't feel like a Mrs.  because that is half of a pair.  Like Yin & Yang, it should be Mr. & Mrs.  only Mr. isn't here anymore. 

The other thing is that sometimes people can assume I have a husband.   Couple that with my tendency to answer questions about him in the present tense, well that makes it very confusing and awkward when I blurt out "my DEAD husband" to clarify.   Yep, just send me off to the Looney bin now!

I digress.  There needs to be another designation.  I mean, widows have earned their stripes so to speak.  We have endured and persevered through things that are unimaginable.  Even in a worst nightmare, most people would not picture our car accident.   They wouldn't picture all of the things that I went for that I still don't have the words to share with all of you.  

I know this.  Those of us widowed know this.  but at the end of the day, we are still left with three choices, any of which are considered proper etiquette.  So I chose Mrs. 

For some reason, it just doesn't sit right....perhaps I should go back to school and get that PhD?  Then I can solve it by just being Dr.-but for now, you can just call me Princess :)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Just a little HOPE

This past weekend after spending a ton of time at the beach with family, we finished it off with going to watch the start of the sailboat race.   The morning was cool and it was a ton of fun.  The waves were VERY rough, so much so that we thought that they would call off the race.    The picture below is deceiving, that concrete wall is about 25 feet above the the waves are coming more than half way up. 

We were sitting on the harbor side of the breakwall watching the waves crash over the lighthouse.  The first boat started and then turned around.   Another one started out and stopped.   Finally, a smaller sailboat went right by us and raised the sail.   As I caught the backside of the boat I noticed that it was named "HOPE". 

That little boat, skillfully sailed along the breakwall and went right out into the lake and waited.   One by one, the rest of the boats, about 30 in all, followed that little HOPE and the race began. 

As you can see, the riptides were strong...I mean, the life guards went to the trouble to post signs that "death may occur".     When you look at the pictures of the boats, you can see how far they are all listing.   It honestly looked like many of them would be hit by a wave and flipped. 
I am struck by the irony of this.   I am one to choose hope and faith  above all else.  I have always been.  For me, the best part of the morning was family.  I was there with my son, brother, cousins aunts and uncles.   I didn't even bring my camera and I think I took less than ten pictures with my phone.  My cousin is the one to thank for the beautiful pictures.    I sat and was present with my family for some very peaceful time.  Something five years ago seemed impossible.   I let my son play in the sand with his cousins and I sat and visited with the grownups.   It was peaceful and it was   perfect.   So I am glad that my perspective on life allows me to realize what is happening around me and to be present and find joy again.   I am always grateful for hope and joy in whatever way they show up in my life!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Looking for Steady Ground

In a marriage, you have two people. Like a table there are four legs on the ground.  If one leg gets a little wobbly or looses its footing temporarily, there are three other legs to shoulder the load and an extra set of hands to help rearrange that 4 legged table into a three legged table.   That extra set of hands helps make sure that nothing important gets left by the wayside and that the load is balanced so that the table can keep on functioning like a table should.  

I miss my four legged table with an extra set of hands....a two legged table is more like an unsteady stack of Lincoln logs....take away one of the little bitty stacking pieces on one side-even for a minute and it is wobbly and threatens to topple.  Even if it doesn't topple, the load is unbalanced, messy and precariously perched.   You know, when everything goes nuts all at once, and you are standing there like, whoa, wait just a minute here, I am just one person being pulled in a million directions!

Dare I say that I am used to the unbalanced feeling of being stretched too thin? What I really miss is that other grown up in the house.  The one who would help me do everything and would tell me that everything will be ok.   Even something as simple as getting the dishes done or running to the grocery store could be handled with a divide and conquer approach which ultimately made us stronger.  Grocery store, check, laundry, check, dinner, check, clean house, check, homework, check, work done, check....and on and on.   When one of us was overloaded in some area, the other picked up the slack.   No, there is no one to pick up slack and some stuff falls aside.  

Even though my little Lincoln log tower is trusty and proven, I don't have all the answers.  I am constantly second guessing whether I am good enough, whether I am making the right choices.  I worry about being an only parent.  I worry about the stuff that gets left to the wayside.  

I know wishing to have a four legged table back is useless, so I will just have to find a way to work with what I do have....perhaps I can turn my Lincoln log tower into a cool bridge??? 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Letter to Teachers

At this time of year there are tons of letters to parents floating around the internet, asking us to be involved with our kids and back up  the teachers.  DUH.   We do these things.   I know many families don't or simply can't, but there are plenty of families that do.  

Do today I would like to share a letter to the teachers:

Dear Teacher,
I know that you don't know us and you have thirty families to deal with this year, but I wanted to just take a few minutes of your time. 

I appreciate all that you do as a teacher, I know that being in teaching for many years is not easy and it is a service of the heart.  I commend you for that.  I believe that God pick teachers and that teaching is a calling.  

I thought you would like to know a little about us.   My munchkin is 6 but in some ways he is much older.   My wish for him is to have fun learning.   I know that is a tall task for you with 30 kids that have likely 30 different levels of abilities, but really please remember that.

I promise you that I will help to keep him responsible for following all of the rules and using his manners. I promise that we will do our reading, and when he comes to school talking about the books we have read at home, please listen. I want him to be happy at school and not to be bored.   I know it takes a lot of your energy to keep everyone engaged.  

See he is my baby, my one and only, forever.   I take extra care of him and I hope you will too! 
Oh, and when you ask them to draw pictures of their family, please don't be shocked.  He sometimes will draw a smiling sideways head in the sky.  Sometimes he doesn't and that is ok too, but when he does, that is his dad.  He died in a car accident several years ago and thanks to books, Munchkin thinks heaven is in the clouds.   He may also draw a gaggle of people.  That is our family.  Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and grandparents.   We are very blessed to have so many so close to us.  

When you ask him what his wish is for at New Years, please don't be shocked when he says a new daddy.   I am fine if he wishes for that.  I tell him that if God decides that he is supposed to have a new daddy then he will.   He knows his daddy can't come back from heaven even if he wished for it.  He knows death is permanent.   See that is why I say he is older in so many ways. 

Please remember, that I am not your enemy, I don't do things to make your classroom difficult.  I know that it is only by working together as a team that my Munchkin will be able to excel in all of his abilities.

Lastly, I wish that you have a fantastic year with all of your new kids and that they teach you as much as you teach them!

Munchkin's Mommy

Email reminders

Nearly a decade ago, I bought us tickets to the Houston Symphony as a gift for Robert.   We had a high school friend that had just earned a chair and it was Christmas. We went.  We had a fantastic time. 

Yesterday, in my email, I received an email from the Houston Symphony. 

Dear Robert, yadda yadda yadda....

Seriously.  It was a slap.  I mean once I cracked his email password, I stopped checking it.   Really it was too painful to look at all of the stuff that was being sent to him.  At this point in time it is extremely rare to get email addressed to him in my email account.   I unsubscribed from it all years ago...yet here we are.

Six and a half years later...approaching his birthday and looking at another email. 

I simply hit delete because there is no value in looking at some reminders.  It was a one time event in our marriage....there was millions of one time events.  What is most important are the memories that define us and define me.   I choose to focus on the ones that bring me a smile. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hello to a new year

Robert was a teacher, so in our marriage, I got to do "first day" many times.  It was a ton of pomp and circumstance and hoopla to get the kids excited, but there was also a ton of prayer.

Robert used to pray for his students and for God to use him to teach them.   He did this silently and without fail.  It was just a part of him.   Now I KNOW how much his students meant to him and how much he meant to them.  He was a beloved and favored teacher. 

I know how much he longed to send our child off to school, so for me, the fact that Munchkin started first grade today, simply marks another milestone that we didn't get to share.

Munchkin was full of anticipation last night--dare I say almost apprehension?  He was not really looking forward to a new year.  We had a healthy breakfast of oatmeal and apple slices.   He helped pack his lunch and snack and then confided that he hopes he gets to do fun stuff this year.  I told him I KNOW he will get to do fun stuff and off to school we went. 

He could not be more independent if he tried.  He put his backpack in line and ran off to play with some of his friends.  He spent the playground time upside down and I only managed to get one quick photo of the two of us...the rest of them, well he is upside down on the monkey bars.  I figure that when he is thirty I can tell the story of him refusing the obligatory stand in front of the door photo in favor of a few more minutes of fun....and the fact that he mommy let him have the fun and snapped pictures of that.  

So I pray.  I pray that his teacher is a perfect match for us.  That she falls in love with him as only a teacher can.  That she nurtures his curiosity and his love of reading.  That she challenges him.  
I pray all of these things, but I mostly pray for him to have fun and stay safe--He is after all only 6 and 6 year olds are supposed to have fun. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


A week or so ago I was doing a training to be able to be a Cub Scout leader.  After the training, there was a form you have to fill out your current volunteer experience with children.

Wow, I could think of nothing that I currently do.  NOTHING.  NADA.
After Robert died, I was so wrapped up in us that I dropped EVERYTHING.  I needed all my energy to survive.   I needed what little stamina I had for my child.  I needed to work to financially support us, I needed to give him a routine and stability and I needed to heal myself.   I did these things.  I took time for me...often times it was because my mother or sister was lovingly nudging me to do so, but I did it nonetheless. 

Between teething, midnight feedings, working full time, stressing about daycare and preschool, I used up every bit of the energy and stamina that I had.  Every last drop.  That meant that I didn't volunteer for ANYTHING.  No car club, no church groups, no nothing.  Ok not entirely true, I do volunteer for a GFWC club with my mom and sister but that is it. 

I spent three or four days feeling pretty crummy about this lack of volunteerism.  I mean I haven't done anything to help other people.  Wow.   After reflecting, I decided not to feel badly.  I mean, at the time, the tragedy was so life shattering I literally needed every bit of strength to get out of bed.   I swear I walked around with constant tears.  I was in shock, I was in a fog.  I could not function.   Those were very, very dark times.   I didn't have any energy to give.  

I realized something.  My Munchkin was like 18 months old.   I didn't have anything that I needed to volunteer for.   No scouting, no PTA, no doing stuff for sports.   I did what I needed to do.   Now that he is older I AM volunteering. I have made the choice to show up and be there with my child.   I am grateful that I have a choice. 

Now, I have stepped in very, very slowly.  I help out at Taekwondo when they need parent volunteers.  I have joined scouting with him, mainly because it is fun, and mostly because I want to do it with him and I have agreed to do a few things with PTA.  Mostly one time activities.  But I am doing it.  I am doing what five years ago was not possible, and often times inconceivable. 

I still pray that I have the stamina to do these few things and to other parents reading this, it may not seem like much,  in fact it isn't much, but it is all I have to give and that is what is important.  That I am choosing to give my time to serve my family and to spend time with my child.   And that HAS to be ENOUGH. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Last of summer

It seems like we are in a rush to squeeze in every last bit of summer that we can. 

This weekend, we literally had 4 parties in 72 hours.  Tons of time with family and friends. 
We spent three hours at a park yesterday when I was done working.   Then another few hours outside riding bikes and general frolicking. 

Now that the pool is on very limited hours

Our basketball hoop installation is complete.  Munchkin made a basket on his first shot!  Today's agenda includes pool time, Taekwondo practice and quite possibly a bonfire tonight. 

This summer has been awesome.   A far cry from what I was expecting.   See this post HERE

In short we have spent tons of time together and other than one quick business trip, we have been together every day.  We have been to the beach more than I can count and done some pretty amazing things.

Most amazingly I think is that this summer turned out to be nothing like I dreaded.  

As I sit here and reflect on all we were able to do, I am feeling so very blessed and so very lucky.
See once again, God has come through in our lives proving to me over and over that if I just give my worries to Him, then they work out.  Everyday I am thankful for all that He has given us and all of the blessing he has put on my journey.  

I have been given the gift of time, the gift of health (hey we only had three pediatrician visits all summer---that has to be a new record!).   I am grateful.

We have had time to spend with family and time to be alone as our family unit.   I cannot express my gratitude for these simple pleasures.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Library and Legos

Our library does a pretty large summer program.   Each kid gets to read and complete their reading log.   Once they do the main part where everyone gets prizes (children's museum tickets, Midevil times tickets, toys, games, books) they can enter for the bonus prizes.  

This year, one of the prizes was a HUGE lego castle.  The ones that cost WAY too much at the store to even consider buying.   He saw it and he HAD to have it.   Last year, we had a major disappointment when he didn't win a raffle prize, so I again explained to him, that he was going to enter to have a chance to win.  

He decided that every bonus ticket that he earned would go into the drawing for this one prize.   We went to the library at least three times a week and he went at least once more with the baby sitter.   He was laser focused on earning bonus tickets and getting this castle. 

Last Saturday we were out to lunch with my Dad and Brother and the library called.  Munchkin won the CASTLE!  He  literally started cheering. 

He then explained to us, that "statistically the odds were in his favor since he earned 52 tickets with all of his library trips and put them all in the same box"

I literally about fell off of my chair laughing. 

Today he got to pick it up, and he got his photo taken for the newspaper.   He was so excited about the picture that he got up early and did his hair himself.   When we got there and he got the prize, it was nearly as big as him.  He could barely hold the box for the picture, but he did and he had the biggest grin on his face.  It was priceless. 

I cannot express how proud I am of all of the hard work that he has done in reading this summer.   He has read so much and I hope that he can continue to keep on reading and loving it as much as I do!!! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Taking a Pass

As Munchkin's only parent, there is not much I get to take a pass at.   I'm the one who makes him eat his veggies, puts him in time out, stays up with him when he is sick, does homework with him.   I'm the one who talks to him when his feelings get hurt or when things don't go his way.   I am his only protector.  

Th entirety of the life of a single parent is too much for most people to fathom.  Being the only grown up in a house is beyond exhausting.   But I live it every day.   I rarely, very rarely take a pass at anything.   There have been occasions where my sister or mom has pushed me out the door while they babysat with clear instruction to go have fun.   That is about the extent of it.   

I do have a line in the sand.  When he had a spider bite and needed wound packing, I held him, mom did it.   We all cried.... 

When he pulled the skin glue off the gash in his forehead....I couldn't bear to mess with the cut....we went back to the pediatrician and he did it.   I took a pass on those, not because they are gross but because I can't bear to see Munchkin hurt, and having me cause any of the hurt is inconceivable. 

He has had some warts on the bottom of his foot.  I have been treating them with the OTC crap for weeks to no avail.   Today we had a dr appointment for his asthma and I called and asked if we could kill two birds with one stone (copay).   The dr did his thing, froze and removed them.   Then I showed him where he had one by the nail that had fallen off but still looked funny.   He said that I just needed to pull the last piece out.   I laughed and responded, "go ahead".  Literally those were the words that came out of my mouth.   Sometimes I'm so flippant I shock myself.   But, that's my line.   In pulling that last little bit out, it was going to hurt munchkin and I was not about to do that.   The doctor looked at me, chuckled and did it. He remembered our last conversation about this.   

 I am Munchkin's mom.   It is just us.  I have a line.   I have pulled out splinters, applied bactine and peroxide to scrapes, I have even pulled out ticks and stingers.   I will do what I have to do, but given the choice, I will let the doctor hurt him for a second and I will hug him and let him squeeze my hand.   

So today I had the rare occasion to take a pass and I did.   

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sometimes the tears still sting

I heard a song tonight that I haven't heard in a long time.   It belongs in another chapter of my life,   At first I didn't recognize the actual song, I did however recognize the memory.   I was transported back to my living room back in Texas.   Robert and I used to dance and sing for no reason and for no occasion other than we were in love.  We had fun.  We were silly, we were goofy and we were in love.  We were so in love, there really aren't words to quantify the emotions. 

"Tell you a story, happened long time ago..." 
"Little bitty pretty one, I've been watching you grow!"


For a split second I closed my eyes and I could feel him.  Feel his cheek on mine, his hand on the small of my back and his other hand entwined in mine.  I could feel his breath on my neck as we sang together.   I could feel the vibration of the music and see the puppies dancing around our feet.   For a brief instant the memory was so vivid it was almost tangible.  I could smell him, hear his laugh.  I could feel him.  Then I opened my eyes and it was gone.   In a split second I snapped back to reality.   The world is now without Robert. 

So here I sit tonight remembering, listening to some of our songs.   The songs that were so integral to our marriage, to our life.   Songs that will forever be associated with US.

I sit here alone and the tears are barely held back.  Just barely.  They are hot stinging tears...every so often, one slips silently down my cheek and when Robert isn't here to wipe it away, it hits again and again that he is gone.  He is not here to hold me, to put his hand at the base of my neck and use his thumb to wipe my tears.  He isn't here to tell me he loves me.     I miss the comfort of his love and protection.   I miss the fun  we used to have.   

All I have is my memories, so I will sit with those awhile and know that tomorrow is a new day, and perhaps tomorrow's memory will bring a smile instead of a tear.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Not Ready for School

I have a secret...I am really NOT ready for school to start. 

Not ready to send Munchkin on to first grade, not ready for homework.
Not ready to be making lunches everyday.
Not ready to meet a new teacher-for either of us!
Not ready to share my Munchkin again.

This summer has been pretty awesome.  Tons of time with family and at the pool and beach, but also tons of time just together.  Reading, exploring, playing.  We have had squirt gun fights, water balloon fights, endless games of tag. 

We have laughed A LOT!  He has gotten to enjoy a ton of camps and then come home and excitedly shared his day with me.  It has been magical. 

I am not ready for it to end at ALL!  I enjoy having him home with me and I enjoy our time. 

But in all honesty, what I am really not ready for is to explain us again.  Countless times.  I am not ready for a whole new set of people to have to ask where Robert is, then give me that pity look when I say he is dead.  I honestly don't know why the pity look bothers me. It is far better for a stranger to show emotion than to be indifferent.  I am not ready for a new teacher to ask Munchkin to draw a picture of his family and then call me up when it looks "weird".   Yes it is normal for us to have all his aunts and uncles, Nana and Papa in the picture....and yes the floating head in the clouds that he labels Daddy---well he has done that since he was 2.   His understanding of Heaven is that it is in the clouds-so there Daddy is drawn.  And I am not ready for the seasoned teacher to tell me that she has only ever had a handful of kids who have lost a parent to death.  Ever.  In her whole career. 

I am NOT READY for these conversations.  

But at the end of the day, I am the grown-up.  The only one in our house and since I sincerely want Munchkin to enjoy school, I will suck it up.  I will look to all of the new things he gets to do this year and I will get excited with him.  We will go shopping for school supplies and we will gather up all of the other things around the house.  We will do this with a smile on my face because I know the best thing I can do for him is show him excitement about school. 

I will pray every day for him as I send him off and I will trust God that things will be exactly as they are supposed to be because that is what I do. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Scott Simon's Journey Shared

This week something happened.  A man was sitting in ICU keeping his mother company as she died.  This happens every day around the world, but what was different this time was that the person was Scott Simon and since he is a journalist, he tweeted his story and people listened. (see his tweets here:  When I say people listened, I mean they LISTENED.  1.2 million twitter followers listened to him.  

Today, in the media, we have a discussion about death.  People are talking about how death and dying is something that is now out of the public eye and pretty much ignored.  It's true.  People don't talk about it.  Death happens.  The fact that we are talking is fantastic and quite frankly about time.   Two generations ago, people died at home.  They died in their communities and their communities took care of them.  The churches and schools, they KNEW when someone died and they reached out in comfort afterwards.  Today, our tolerance for the messy parts of life is as short as the news cycle.    My thoughts were exactly that it is about time we start talking about this and then we need to talk about what happens AFTER someone dies. 

For every person that dies, there are, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, siblings, extended family and friends that are left behind.   When that person takes their last breath, the world for those of us left here changes FOREVER.  For some who did not know the person well, life moves on pretty quickly, and they stop talking about the person and they may even forget them.  They wonder why the wife or mother of their friend is still crying weeks or months or years later.  

For those closest to them, it is a CATASTROPHIC and SEISMIC shift in their lives.  Many of us live that every day.   In saying this, I do not mean that life is bad (although sometimes it is) I am saying that life is different.  That we go through everyday changed by love and loss.  Our grief permeates our lives and becomes a part of who we are.  We are the women who watched our husbands die.  We are the only parents.  We are the ones left behind. 

There are plenty of people out there that use twitter, Facebook and other communities to connect to others in their grief.  The fact that national media is entertaining a discussion on grief and grieving is due to the fact that Mr. Simon reached out and connected.  He is one of us. We connect after everyone has gone home, and after the rest of the world moves on. 

It has been five years since the car accident.   I still love Robert-I suspect that I always will.  I still miss him.  But my life is good.   I do good, I am good.   In that good, there is grief.  The cold grip that chokes me every so often and reminds me of what I lost and what happened.  It reminds me at the most inopportune times that bad things DO HAPPEN to GOOD people. 

I sincerely hope that we as a nation and as a world can start to talk about not only death and dying, but the aftermath.  The strength that people discover in themselves.  Maybe in talking, we will bring conversation back to people and connect again in person and learn that in fact, even though we go through tragedy, we do in fact go on to have a good life.  In the middle, the messy depths of grief, we need to know that feeling is temporary and perhaps Mr. Simon will continue to talk and to share. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Grumpy Lady...

Walking through the mall and Munchkin needs to go potty.  Here is the thing...he is big enough to be independent, however not big enough to go into the mens room by himself.  Not even close.

Last week, a woman actually had the GALL to tell me that my six year old was too old to be using a women's restroom.  Let's me clear.  He was washing his hands.  He had to go...he was not running around peeking under stalls or doing anything that should garner any looks or comments.   He is a little boy who can BARLEY reach the faucet and generally can't reach the paper towels. 

I was flabbergasted.  I stood there for just a moment silent and then I said "I am so sorry that you feel that way.  Have a good day!"  I smiled at her.   She looked shocked and then shot me another dirty look. 

For a split second I was feeling bad.   I felt like I was the one in the wrong.  Then I went and posted the encounter on Facebook and within minutes I was inundated by people commenting that she was way out of line! Whew.  I was relieved.

See as this was happening, I choose to "kill her with kindness" because I didn't want Munchkin to feel like he was in the wrong or out of line in any way.  I did not want to let this strange lady have ANY ounce of control over our day or our life.  When Nate asked me why she was so grouchy, I replied that sometimes people can just be mean when they are having a bad day.  He looked at me funny and told me that it wasn't nice of her to be mean and maybe she should make a better choice.  

Yes my dear, she did need to make a better choice, because our choice is just fine for us!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Diving and Decisions

Munchkin has NEVER and I mean NEVER had a fear of water.  This means that when he was 15 months old and I was widowed just a few months and took him to the beach with my mom and dad...instead of sitting still and putting sand EVERYWHERE like every other baby on the face of the earth...he would run full tilt to the water, which meant that I spent all my time running on the beach that summer.  I taught him how to float and how to kick and how to get his face out of the water. 

That winter, I put him in swim lessons.   By the end, he was able to actually swim.   He was not even 2.  My goal was for him to know how to move in water...I really didn't care what his stroke looked like, just that he knew what to do.

Fast forward to this summer.   He decided that he wants to invent his OWN swimming.  Which would be fine if it was actually swimming and keeping his head above water.  His "invented" swimming looks much more like an octopus drowning than anything else.  More than once I have had to reach down and pull him up because he has scared the pants off of me.   He replies that he can DO.IT.MYSELF!  AHH...the independence. 

So, even though in the past he has been a strong swimmer.  Even though he has gone off of diving boards for the two previous summers.  I put my foot down.  I told him until he showed me he could swim across the lap pool without touching the bottom that he couldn't go off the diving board.   I really could care less about his "form" what I want to see is that he has the skill to keep himself moving and afloat. 

It is mid July.   We have been having this battle of the wills since Memorial Day.   Every time we go to the pool.  I mean EVERY TIME.

Him: Mom, can I go off the diving board.
Me: Have you decided to try swimming across dolphin cove?
Him: Nope.  I don't want to.
Me: ok, that is your choice, but no diving board until you decide to do it.
Him: That's not fair
Me: I didn't say it was fair, I said it was the rule

Last weekend we went to the pool with my brother and his kids.  They just finished swim lessons and my nephew actually listened to the instructor.  He is a pretty good swimmer and can get from point A to point B without much trouble.   The boys decided to have a race.   His cousin kicked his butt because, you know he was actually swimming instead of flailing his arms and legs and sinking. 

Munchkin was FURIOUS.  He is not accustomed to losing at things.   His attitude did earn him a time out and it was another opportunity to talk about being a gracious loser. Yeah, he isn't very good at that.  I explained to him that if he used his real swimming when he was racing it would probably work better and that maybe his invented swimming was better for the splash pool.  Yep that didn't go over well either.  See he wants things to be his way.  He wants them to work exactly the way he envisions them in his head.  I didn't mention it again, and we enjoyed the rest of the time at the pool. 

Fast forward to last night.   He asked if he could show me his swimming across the pool.  He put his mind to it and swam the entire length of the lap pool in one try.  STINKER! That then earned him a solid hour of going off the diving boards and swimming to the other side.  We agreed that only "real swimming" was allowed in the dive pool. 

Sometimes all we need to be successful is to DECIDE to do what needs to be done.   Hopefully this is a lesson that he will remember!