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!