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Matt and I were together for 10 wonderful years - met in 1998, married in 2002, until his untimely death on November 15, 2008. We have two beautiful, healthy children - Jacob (born 5/04) and Sydney (born 5/07)... the most precious gifts he could have ever given me.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Today is Friday, November 28, 2015- ten days since the beginning of Snowvember and the day after Thanksgiving...

After Matt's death two weeks before Thanksgiving in 2008, I decided at the last minute that the kids and I would go to Arizona to spend Thanksgiving with his parents. Soon after that, I resolved we would spend every Thanksgiving with the Rows in Arizona, or wherever they congregated. We had done that a few times, but it hasn't always worked out that way since - either we were just getting settled after another move, or we just weren't up for travel for whatever reason. This year, I really just wasn't up to traveling - I need a nice, long hiatus from it, actually.

I guess I have this expectation that we should have some sort of regular tradition by now for all of our holidays - an established place for Christmas Eve, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, New Years, Fourth of July, etc.  Most people I know have a regular pattern of tradition establish for all that stuff, but most people I know also have at least two local families that they split their time between (you know, like husband and wife kinda stuff)... I realize that this being our most recent move in not quite two years, I should have a realistic expectation that there will be more time needed to establish a regular pattern for traditions, but I just like knowing what to expect, and what I can tell my kids they can count on. I don't like things being up in the air. Consistency is stability for kids. I suppose it's also not such a bad thing that we're not so established with traditions in case it ever happens that we decide to share our lives with someone else, but that just seems so far off to even be a reality at this point, and I'm not holding my breath.

I kind of resent the fact that I've found myself waiting until the last minute before holidays for an invitation from family or friends... I'm a planner, and I think it's realistic to have a solid plan in place at least three weeks before a big holiday (is that realistic??), so I've decided that if we don't get an invitation around that timeframe, I'm just going ahead and making plans for us. I ended up planning a big party at my house for Halloween and about thirty adults and kids came! It helped a lot that Halloween fell on a weekend for sure.

If I could, I'd prefer to have my home filled with people we love - whether we're related to them or not - to celebrate a holiday. We are blessed to have so many people in our lives, and it just makes sense that we're not isolated on those days. I can't handle isolation at this point in my life, and I don't want my kids to ever feel that way, either. My brother and sister both live a distance away from us, and if it wasn't for that, I know we would be together all of the time. Although we have a million cousins and other distant relatives (most living locally), I feel like we may as well be living in another country. My mother is only a few miles away but her health is not good and her home is very small. My dad lives a few hours away and has issues of his own. For us, it's my friends I can usually count on, but that's not necessarily a guarantee, either, since they have traditions of their own.

I'd like to think I've been able to establish some consistency that my kids can count on during all of our flux the last several years, and that is that I try to make sure we're surrounded by loved ones somehow. Heck - I had a houseful of our new friends/neighbors four months after moving to California (only thirteen months after Matt's death) for Christmas Eve! All of our holidays have been so different every year, but I suppose change is inevitable, anyway. I still miss Christmas Eves and Thanksgivings at my Grandma's from when I was a kid.

It means a lot to me to have our house filled on the holidays like my grandmother did when I was growing up, and that's what we were able to have yesterday... I hosted one of my best friends (Karin) and her family, parents, grandmother, as well as my mother at my home.

The turkey actually turned out delicious! I prepared a brine the day before and had it marinating in it until it went in the oven. Only thing is, I left the bag of giblets in there by accident... When I cleaned the turkey before putting it in the brine, the only thing I could find to pull out of it was the neck and I thought it was odd I didn't find anything else! I must have been looking in the wrong place (how many orifices does a turkey have, anyway??)! It was only my second turkey ever, so I guess that wasn't too bad.

I guess it's ok to not have the same place to go to, as long as my kids are with me and we're around people we love. We're fortunate to have that anywhere we go, and somehow we've been able to pull together something fun on important days.

The moral of the story? We love where we live (even despite the weather), and have a whole lot to be thankful for.

"Snowvember" (pic heavy!)

This is what they're calling the epic snow event that just happened here in Buffalo, NY, and we just happened to be smack right in the middle of it!

Before the snow started falling, the weather stations gave their normal "winter storm advisory" announcements (which means it might snow) that eventually turned into "winter storm warnings/lake effect snow warnings" (which means it will snow). But they didn't just call it that - there was a mention of some kind of "event" and also saying it's as a result of a "polar vortex."

I kind of rolled my eyes as I listened to the reports, thinking that these guys have to call it something other than a "lake effect snow warning" (which means it's supposed to snow a lot) - now they need to come up with a more dramatic name to get people's attention. I wasn't buying it. I thought sarcastically, "Oooh - It's going to snow! Pu-leeze - Buffalo's turned into a bunch of wimps - they make a big deal out of a little snow these days."

I had no idea, and I don't think anyone else really thought we would get OVER SEVEN FEET of snow - a whole winter's worth of snow in four days. I didn't take them too seriously, so the only provisions I got to prepare for this was a case of Corona and some bananas. Good thing I'm a food hoarder by nature! Food and paper products, actually...

The night it began, we had some crazy "thunder snow" where there's actually lightning and thunder while it's snowing. When Matt was alive and would experience thunder snow, he would look at me all wide-eyed and say, "That's a sign of severe weather!" It was hilarious when he'd do that because he normally didn't get too serious about much, but I could almost see his face as those words sounded in my head. 

DAY 1 - I woke up at about 2:30 the morning of Tuesday, November 18th, looked out the window and thought, "Holy crap!! They weren't lying!!" There was already about a foot and a half by then, and it had only just begun. It was coming down very heavy... I knew the kids would have a snow day, so I just turned my alarm off (even though I didn't end up going back to sleep). By the time we all got up that morning, it had already nearly covered my four foot fence! By 8:00 am, the fence completely disappeared.

Going...

Going...

Gone.


My local friends on Facebook were cracking me up because their main concern at this point was if we had enough beer stocked in our fridges to hold us over while we're stuck! Fortunately, I had just gotten that case of Corona (and I had a bunch of other canned beer left over from a previous party), so I wasn't too worried. =P

However, by three that afternoon, I was getting nervous and feeling a bit claustrophobic... Snow had completely engulfed everything outside and was piling up over the windows of the house and up against the doors - especially the back sliding glass door. I remembered seeing a video (taken on May 11, 2013) a while back that took place at Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota.

"The footage is of snow getting pushed ashore in the spring - it's called an ice shove or shoreline ice pile up. It's a surge of ice from an ocean or large lake onto the shore. They are caused by ocean currents, strong winds, or temperature changes. It damaged homes within fifteen minutes..." (Thanks to Sharon Honning who gave that very clear description of the video.) It went up onto the shore and when it was stopped by homes, it went up and in, breaking down doors and going through windows.



With that image in my mind, I decided I had better start digging out the doors (especially the back door) before it got pushed in from the weight of the snow.





The next day, my neighbor had that very thing happen (see "DAY 2").

The Erie County Executive had announced that they called the National Guard to come and help everyone.

The kids got out to play a little at least... (looking out from the front door to the driveway)


By about 6:30 that evening, I remembered about not running the dryer unless the vent was clear, but it didn't occur to me about the vent for the fireplace on the side of the house, so I had to go out there to dig it out. Getting to the side of the house was a trick in itself, since the snow was pretty fluffy and already up to my chest... When I came back in, I realized the heat stopped working, and as I was thinking how grateful I am for our new gas fireplace, I realized that stopped working, too! Even the pilot was out. I called the guy who installed it and was fortunate to be able to reach him - he talked me through the process of getting it lit again, and it still wasn't working. I really didn't think it could have been the vent being clogged again since I was just out there to shovel it clear, but it turns out that's why the flame kept going out. After I dug it out again, I came back in and then finally got it going. I had to set my alarm for every hour and a half to two hours to go back outside to dig it out. The second wave of the lake effect band had begun, and by 11pm that night, we already had over 70". We were officially in a State of Emergency.

Just as I thought I had things relatively in control (even with the shoveling every two hours), I heard rushing water in the basement, like through a pipe... I asked Jacob if he had the water running upstairs and he said no. I said, "If I didn't know better, I'd say the front spicket was on!" I don't know that would have been possible seeing as how it was a ghost town at this point with everyone holed up in their homes and seven feet of snow piled up outside, but I had to investigate. I went out there and dug into that untouched pile of snow on the front of the house (I had removed the hose and made sure it was turned off a couple of weeks ago), and sure enough, the thing was running full force!! How in the world that thing got turned on, I will never know - I can only assume the pressure of the snow pushed the knob and made it turn, but even that doesn't seem to make too much sense. No matter, I was just glad I found the problem and it was very easy to solve - I was picturing the knob broken right off.

DAY 2 - My neighbor Mark who lives five houses away from me had his back sliding glass door completely pushed in by the snow (this picture went viral on the internet and made the news).

In fact, they ended up doing several news interviews as a result! Our houses are all pretty much set up the same on this street, and face the same direction. Anyone who didn't shovel their back door would have very likely had the same result. At this point, there are no such things as roads, driveways, sidewalks...
Our street...

Looking across the street from my front door...


Yet somehow, I easily convinced two of my great friends and neighbors who only live a few doors down (one on the left side of me, and the other on the right) to come over for a party that I ended up naming "Blizzard Bash 2014" - I had about five adults and seven kids over, and prepared a huge batch of oven fried chicken, seasoned potato wedges and steamed broccoli for everyone, and plenty of beer. It was so much fun!! I much preferred hosting this party than to have had to walk a few houses away to get here! Especially since I had to keep clearing the fireplace vent to make sure it didn't get covered again...








During the party, we realized the little gazebo in my back yard gave way from the snow... I just kept reminding myself that it wasn't the house, and that's what homeowner's insurance is for.




DAY 3 - I thought for SURE we would lose power because the drifts of snow on the overhang of the roof were so big and heavy, that they were visibly pushing on the power lines that are attached to the back of the house, to the right of the upstairs bathroom window. I called the power company and they came to inspect (I was surprised they did!) and said that it looked really bad but there was nothing they could do. I felt better just knowing they were aware of the problem. Turns out, pretty much everyone on our street had the same concern.



Seeing a high lift going down the street was like seeing a knight in shining armor!



By now, snow totals reached nearly 80" and Buffalo pride is high. We're not called the City of Good Neighbors for nothing...

I got a call from my mother who said she became very sick, and I was really worried because I couldn't have done anything to help her. Even though she only lives only about five miles away, she was outside of that band of snow and only ended up with less than a foot, so if she needed help, someone could have gotten to her at least.

At this point, I packed suitcase just in case we had to bail... Having had the heat fail, I figured if the power went out, too, we were outta here and would just go to a neighbor's.

DAY 4 - (November 21) The sun was shining brightly and gave me some renewed energy. Somehow we still have power, still have heat from the fireplace, and my mother is feeling better. I gave shoveling the driveway another shot, but it was literally over my head so I gave up. There were some people using bobcats on my street, so I chased one down and hired him. He made a path in my driveway so I could at least get the van out of the garage if I needed to, and I was even able to get someone to come over to get my heat back up and running! That night, the kids and I headed to one of our awesome neighbors' house for a visit. It was nice to have a change of scenery for a bit! Things were definitely looking up today.




DAY 5 - So many scary stories of casualties and close calls... I'm SO thankful we were home when this all happened, and that our roof held up. My next door neighbor is a volunteer fire fighter and found one of the men who became buried alive in his vehicle... Devastating. The two men buried alive in their cars both had called AAA for help, and help didn't come. Guess who is the head of Human Resources for AAA of Western New York? The same poor lady that was head of HR for Cameron's Buffalo plant when Matt was killed. I feel bad that this poor lady has to deal with more fatalities associated with her job... I know I gave her a hell of a time (that was her first experience dealing with a fatality)- I'm sure this is no picnic for her this time around, either.

The temperature was warming up drastically, and rain is in the forecast, so there are imminent threats of flooding. I decided to rearrange the basement just in case - getting things up and out of the way, preparing for the worst. I've only been living here less than two years, so I had no idea how this house would handle this sort of thing.

 View of the back of my house...

Boarded up my window in case those icicles aiming for it from the roof above decided to fall through it.

We spent a whole lot of time in this room (where the fireplace is).

 Huge pile of snow and ice fell off the roof, and somehow didn't take the power lines with it! 

DAY 6 - Found out schools are closed until December 1st, major thaw and flooding. Sleeping at night has been impossible this entire week, and then tonight the shower curtain rod somehow fell in the middle of the night scaring the shit out of me and I thought the ceiling caved in. Scared Sydney, too - poor girl... High lifts and dump trucks removing snow on our street tonight, and high winds and warm temps pushed a giant hunk of snow and ice off the roof, making the whole house shake. I'm tired.

View from my bedroom window...

DAY 7 -  Life is beginning to resume normality - grocery store for Thanksgiving Day provisions, dehumidifier for the basement, and a new shower curtain rod. We have even more to be thankful for - the house held up with all these challenges (except for the gutters, landscaping, front porch overhang, and gazebo in the back), but that's minimal compared to what could have happened.



Check out this spectacular sunset from that evening - looking out from my front door...


After all the drama from that week and being on an adrenaline high prepared for the worst, I crashed. I was worthless for about two days, and then pulled myself back together in time to get everything back in order and prepare for hosting Thanksgiving. That post will be up soon!










Happy Thanksgiving

Look at what my sweet girl gave to me yesterday... I don't know how she comes up with this stuff!!

So thankful for our abundant blessings, and wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving filled with peace and love. XOXO



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Death Sucks.

This one is really jacked up. Not only does this day fall on the same day of the week as it did when it happened (thus producing some vivid flashbacks and triggering major PTSD), but because it is now six years, this means I've been widowed as long as I was married.

Fuck you, Death.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Oh boy...

I've been trying to expose my kids to all the great movies I loved while I was growing up; so far, some of the ones we've watched Karate Kid, Back to the Future (all three), Goonies, E.T., and Adventures in Babysitting.

Tonight the kids and I were watching Hook (with Robin Williams and Julia Roberts). We got to the part where Hook stabs Rufio with his sword, and Rufio's last words to Peter Pan were, "I wish I had a dad like you."

Sydney chimes in, "I wish I had a dad."

Ugh. Here we go...


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November.

For the first time since Matt died, I don't feel the urge to run by moving. For the first time since Matt died, I don't feel the need to put a band aid on by getting involved with a man. I've come a long way over the last six years. In fact, I've gotten further along in the nearly two years I've been living in our current home.

I've realized something for a long time - I've been a serial dater. Even being fully aware that this is what I have been doing, I wasn't deterred. There were many reasons for this - although I never in a million years would have thought I would ever want to be with another man other than my wonderful husband, I found myself going from relationship to relationship. I passed judgment on women like me in the past, so I guess this is another learning experience I may have needed to make me more understanding of others... Part of the reason for this was for the temporary thrill- the euphoric feeling you get when you start something new and different; when sparks fly, it's like a high. Avoidance of dealing with grief has been another big part of it... And part of it was also because I didn't want to be alone and let myself feel the painful pangs of loneliness. Before Matt came along, I was alone most of the time, and I didn't think I would ever have to be alone again now that he was in my life. I got spoiled.

A string of some pretty bad relationships, and then finally one of the worst ones being the last, have finally cured me. I'm actually grateful that the last one (which ended a few months ago) was SO lousy, that it makes me cringe when I think of getting involved with another man. I know I won't always feel this way. I know there are lots of good men out there and I shouldn't let a few bad apples spoil it for me. And it wasn't all bad apples; one of the things I learned was that I was seeing something in these guys that I WANTED to see - not necessarily something that was actually there... But I'm finally where I've been wanting to be for this whole time - not feeling the NEED to be involved with someone. I don't feel a sense of urgency to fill the void, or because I'm at the outer edge of my prime and feel like I need to make the best use of my youth before it slips through my fingers. Nope. I'm using all that good stuff for my kids and me - the way I should have from the very beginning.

I feel a lot of guilt that I "needed" more than my children to fill any void or create more distractions for myself, but what's done is done. Everyone deals with this stuff differently, and I guess that's how I had to deal, so I shouldn't apologize. It all got me through to this point. If I was looking at this objectively as if it was happening to someone else, I'm sure I would be a lot easier on them about it than I have been on myself. Isn't that how everyone is, though? I feel like every bad experience I have has taught me a very valuable lesson; although I'd like to take a nice, loooong hiatus from education.

If by some miracle, some really spectacular, deserving man comes into my life, and I'm open to the possibility of a relationship at that point in time, and the moon and the stars are all lined up to make it all a possibility, I will entertain the idea of letting love back into my life.

In the meantime, I am truly at peace with my life as it is at this very moment, and it's an amazing feeling. My children, my wonderful network of friends, and my family fulfill me. I have everything I need and want. At this point, anything beyond this would be considered a bonus. 

But ay, there's the rub....

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Sweetest Thing

The play structure in our back yard includes this cool play house - almost like a fort. It's set about four feet off the ground, has stairs leading up to it, two little windows, and two little entrances. It's pretty darn cool.

Sydney asked a couple of times to spend the night in it this summer, and it just never seemed to work out. The other night, she asked again... I told her that it definitely can't happen on a school night, and that I would think about it if we had good weather this weekend. 

Then after some thought, I decided to just come out with it: "You know what, honey? I'm just really not comfortable with you sleeping in there by yourself.

Fully expecting to hear a bunch of whining and opposition, she surprised me and quietly let me continue.

"When I tuck my children in at night, I lock all the doors to the house. I like knowing that my children are tucked away safely in our home, all secure under the same roof with me. If you're in the play house, you're not only under a different roof, but those doors can't lock. In fact, one of them doesn't even close all the way. I just don't feel comfortable with that unless I'm in there with you, and we both can't fit. So I'm really sorry, but I'm just not okay with you sleeping in there." 

She looked at me and said, "That is THE SWEETEST THING I have ever heard you say, Mommy!" (She speaks very animatedly, so she said it just how it looks - haha!)

This girl is something else - she never ceases to amaze me with the things that come out of her wise and articulate little mouth every single day. She's seven years old! 

Fortunately she not only accepts my decision, but even agrees with me. I felt the need to record this; especially since I know there will be many times that I'm going to want some proof that she did agree with me about something!  =P

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Defining "widowhood"

Those who have been reading my blog for any amount of time know that I have been involved with a group called Soaring Spirits which is a top-noch organization for widowed people. They bring people together who have suffered the life-altering loss of the person they intended to spend their rest of their life with. "Diverse, inclusive, and secular" are some of the words they use to describe themselves. Positive, happy, full of love, and non-judgmental are just a few more words to describe them... I've been involved with Soaring Spirits right from the very beginning - merely months out of widowhood - and they have helped me and so many others immeasurably. I've also had the opportunity to give a little back to them in different ways over the years. I've made lifelong friends through them as well.

In addition to Soaring Spirits, I have become a member of a few other Facebook groups that also deal with the issue of widowhood - one is specifically for the younger set, one is for people with young children. I had also recently joined a local group from a different website (the only local group I could find) that was relatively new that I was so excited to find. I suggested to the organizer that he create a Facebook page since Facebook offers a much easier platform for the members to communicate than the original site they were on. I was worried members' messages would be easily missed - especially in a time of need. Messages would spontaneously delete halfway through typing them which made it frustrating and discouraging to communicate at all. He was very receptive to that idea and needed help setting it up, and I was happy to assist. I had only been a member for a couple of weeks at that point, and not very active because I was having such a hard time with the original site. 

While creating the Facebook page, I was also asked to assist with membership approval. At that point, I began to learn that inclusion into the group was likely limited to only those who were in a "traditional" marriage. My heart sank. As gently as I could, I suggested that unless the group is titled something more specific and that intent is made known upfront, I felt they should include anyone that has lost the person they expected to spend the rest of their life with - married or not. That kind of loss (aside from losing a child) is possibly the worst pain anyone can experience. If I am going to be involved in membership approval, I could not, in good conscience, turn anyone away grieving that loss. Unfortunately, that suggestion was received with ambivalent reluctance, and no clear decision was made, which made me believe he wasn't open minded to that idea. 

At that point, another member of the group also wanted to talk to me, quoting from the Bible for probably a solid ten minutes to give evidence of their now more obvious intention of excluding certain potential members. I ended up giving her a little speech that went something like this:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More Father/Daughter dance stuff...

Funny all that took place yesterday considering it ended up helping me when dealing with a situation that came up tucking Sydney into bed last night...

Remember how I posted about Sydney's first Father/Daughter dance and how I agonized for about six months leading up to it? Well, last night I was tucking Sydney into bed and out of the blue, she said to me, "I wish Daddy could have taken me to the Father/Daughter dance. I wish someone could take me. I really want to go."

Of course, I'm caught only slightly off guard since I might be finally getting used to this. At least it doesn't take me as long to catch my breath and think of a response. 

She's on the verge of tears... My first response is, "I know, sweetheart- I'm so sorry. I wish that for you, too," being careful to not minimize her sadness, or try to "fix" it right away. But then I remembered something... 

I'm part of a widow's group (actually a couple different ones) on Facebook, and a lady had posted a couple of days ago about the Father/Daughter dance at her daughter's school and asked for some advice about how to handle it. Her final decision was to just go with her. That thought had crossed my mind very fleetingly last year, but I dismissed it thinking I would be the only mom there in a sea full of dads and I shouldn't go. Knowing that she went made me think of that as a possible option for Sydney. 

Keeping that Facebook post in mind, and the other conclusion I came to of giving Sydney the decision as to how we handle it this year, I asked her, "How would you feel about ME taking you? I mean, I have to be Mom and Dad anyway, so why not go with you to the Father/Daughter dance?!" 

Her face lit up and she said yes!!! She even said, "Now I don't have to cry!" My sweet baby girl. I'm so excited that I get to go with her! I'm sure a nice pants suit would be appropriate, right? I'm going to email her teacher tomorrow.

Judie...

I wrote a post titled "Something" a little while back about my friend Judie. One of the things I'm also helping her with is her blog... She gave me the honor of writing her latest blog post - I think you'll like it.