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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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Andrea, Unplugged.

I've got to step away from the computer for a while and focus on my kids, my house, myself, my responsibilities. Gonna work and play a lot, and looking forward to a new year. Happy New Year, everyone - see you in 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's all relative...

Well, what one person thinks is really bad, isn't necessarily so bad to someone else. I guess since I've mostly been a "good" girl most of my life, I perceive some of the things I'm doing as "bad." So, perhaps I won't go straight to hell after all. =)- I'm just going through some sort of rebellious stage. Ugh. The freakin' stages. The best way I have found to describe my journey so far is three steps forward, one leap back. I know I'll get there someday; I just need a break once in a while.

I did feel better after getting all that off my chest in my last post. Plus, the love I got since has helped immensely. It also helps so much to know that I'm not the only one having these tormenting, conflicting, crazy thoughts and emotions, so thank you so much to those who responded (I knew there had to be someone else out there!). I'm very sorry that so many of you are able to understand first-hand, and have to endure this, too. And to those who don't understand, I am truly happy that you don't. I don't wish this on anyone.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Really struggling today...

I've probably been running on adrenaline with getting everything ready in preparation for the holidays, hosting Christmas Eve, being "on" for Christmas Day, pushing the pain aside, and yesterday and today I can feel myself falling fast. I'm spinning my wheels, moving in slow motion, and accomplishing nothing.

Friday, December 25, 2009

December 24 & 25, 2009

Yesterday's party was a huge success! I made lots of different recipes, and everything actually turned out delicious. I should have taken a picture of the table after I put all the food out. I never would have thought I could have pulled that off so well! Tons of our neighbors showed up, and some even brought their parents who were visiting for the holidays. It made me feel so good that so many people came, ate the food I prepared, and enjoyed each others company.

I loved having my house so full that you could barely walk from one room to the other. I loved hearing all the chatter with Christmas music playing in the background, and the loud noises from all the kids playing together. It reminded me of being at my grandmother's house for Christmas Eve when I was little. It was wonderful to finally get to meet my new friend Katrina and her four beautiful children. It was a blast playing Santa, handing out gifts to the kids, and seeing how excited they got when they opened them.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ho Ho Ho

I've been up and down like a freaking yo yo, and even more so with the holidays.

A few weeks ago, I decided to host an open house/Christmas Eve party at my new place. Sort of like a Christmasy housewarming party. I've invited (by word of mouth) some of my neighbors who I've become friends with, and some of the families that Jacob goes to school with. I've also invited the woman I mentioned in a recent post whose husband died two years ago, leaving her and her four children. I'll be posting more about her soon...

My brother and his family will be in northern California at his in-laws, but I'm fairly certain a lot of people are going to show up, including at least a dozen kids.

By last week, I was cursing myself, wondering what the hell was I thinking hosting a big party on Christmas Eve when I can't keep my shit together on just a normal day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Resolutions...

It's hard to believe that Christmas of 2009 is only three days away. I have to say, for as rotten as this year has been, it really has flown. I've been pretty damn busy, and I'm sure that helped! I'm actually relieved that this year is almost over with. I'm going to try to look at 2010 as another fresh start.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not ready.

OK, since my "Jealousy" post, I've gotten some suspect comments on my blog from singles networks, etc. For the record, as lonely as I am, I'm just not ready to get involved with another man (or woman, for the record!), so please - no more links to singles or matchmaking sites, or anything else of the sort. Thanks, anyway.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Matthew Richard Row, WHY did you have to leave me?!?!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Grand Finale.

The closing for our home in upstate NY was originally scheduled for December 15, but was changed to December 28 since the buyers were going out of town. Today, I took all the real estate closing documents to a notary to get finalized and sent back to the attorney.

As I stood there signing my name in about 20 different places, it occurred to me that with each signature (literally signing my life away), I'm further away from the home that Matt and I built together and started our life in. The home in which we brought first Jacob to, and then Sydney. The home we made wonderful memories in and filled with love. Signing those documents ended up to be tougher than I thought it would be.

I flashed back so vividly to when Matt and I sat together at the large rectangular table in an office where we signed our names in about 50 different places to start our home together. I remember feeling the emotions from that moment - stomach-flipping excitement, stress about now holding a mortgage, but mostly happiness and feeling so grown up.

As I was signing today, it was the first time I felt a twinge of regret, thinking maybe I should have stayed there and held onto it for the kids since their daddy built it, but the feeling only lasted for a moment. I know I made the right decision for us at this time in our lives.

It's just so hard to let go. Our beautiful home. Our beautiful life.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jealousy

It can make people downright ugly. I've been ugly lately, and I don't like myself very much right now because of it.

Before Matt died, I felt like I had the world by the ass, and I was always grateful for it - loving marriage to a smart, fun, handsome man, two healthy children conceived easily, a boy and a girl no less, beautiful house, a great metabolism, fulfilling job, we could pay our bills on time, etc. Although I thought I paid my dues with the miscarriages and other various life crap that everyone has to deal with in some capacity, I had no idea what I was in store for.

I miss my husband. I miss my best friend, my partner, my lover, father of my children. I'm pissed that he died at the prime of my life. Isn't that selfish of me? Couldn't it have happened AFTER I got old, wrinkled and lost my sex drive? I was 25 when I met Matt. God only knows how long it will be until I meet another good (single) man. One that will not only meet my rediculously picky standards, but who will also accept me in my late thirties, be a good father figure to my two young children, and be able to deal with not only the quirks that I've always had, but the baggage I now carry of being a widow. It's a tall order. As I'm writing this post, I was thinking that a lot of what I'm thinking is very similar to what I've written in the past (here).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Presentation Today

Jacob performed with the kindergarten class for their annual holiday presentation at school. He had been practicing at home for the past couple of weeks, and it was the cutest thing to see. I love hearing his sweet little voice singing - I'm relishing in the innocence of it before he starts getting embarrassed by having someone hear him sing, or if he starts thinking it's "uncool." They choreographed movements to go along with the music, and he had all that down, too. They sang Jingle Bells, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Ten Little Angels, and one or two other numbers that I can't remember.

Uncle Bryan was able to go with Sydney and me to watch Jacob perform. What a sweet uncle to leave work so he could be there with us. Jacob was thrilled to see him there, too. Most of the parents in Jacob's class now know that his daddy died, so when I walked in there with my brother (whom they haven't met yet), I got a few looks - I could tell they were trying to figure out who he was. Watching the parents - the complete sets of moms and dads walking from the parking lot to the school, some hand in hand, triggered the familiar stab in my heart that Matt isn't walking beside me to see his little boy in such a big moment. It did help having my brother with me, though.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Remembering...

It was ten years ago today that you asked me to marry you. That was by far one of the best days of my life. All the best days of my life were with you.

I'll never forget when we were driving back from Niagara Falls after you proposed, turning to you and saying, "I can't believe that not only did I finally get to meet such a wonderful man and fall in love, but to have him feel the exact same way about me as I do about him is the best feeling in the world... and to have him not only want to date me, but want to spend the rest of his life with me, too!" It was the first time I cried tears of joy (I never understood 'crying tears of joy' until then).

I miss you so much, My Love.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

This was Matt's favorite holiday movie. We watched it faithfully every year, and every year it was just as funny as the year before.

When we got rid of our VHS player, I bought him the DVD for Christmas (last year) - well in advance of Christmas because the Christmas before that, they were sold out and I couldn't find one anywhere. He was one of the hardest people I knew to buy for, so to find something I know he would like that he didn't already buy for himself was a real thrill. Unfortunately, he never ended up getting it. I was looking forward to watching it this year, but now I can't find it. It's gotta be around here somewhere...

Anyway, I reminded myself of Chevy Chase today... you know that scene when he's working so hard putting up a million Christmas lights, and the big moment comes (drumroll, please), he plugs them in, and.........................................................................

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fate, traditions

We have been living in California now for almost four months, and while I miss the family and friends I left behind on the East coast very much, I have not felt regret with my decision. In fact, I keep getting little reinforcements here and there that I made the right (albeit admittedly rash) decision to move across the country.

There is no way I can go back to the life I enjoyed. It ceased existence on November 15, 2008. It could never be good for me there anymore without Matt to share it with. I can't run away from grief, but at least now I get a break from it here and there. There was an association everywhere I turned - in the house we built together, the places we went together, the people we hung out with regularly, the traditions we had for holidays.

Standing with the kids in front of his aunt and uncle's tree without Matt was pure torture last year as we posed for the traditional holiday picture that each individual family does on Christmas day. So was sitting at their dinner table with the whole gang and not have Matt sitting next to me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A little funny...

Right now, we are decorating the house for Christmas while listening to Christmas music... The kids are so full of Christmas spirit that it's hard to be depressed while they're lit up brighter than the tree and dancing around with huge smiles on their faces.

The song "Little Drummer Boy" came on and I told Jacob that this is one of my favorite Christmas songs. He said he really likes it, too. I told him the title of the song, and he asked,

"Who is the little drummer boy?"

I explained to him that it's a little boy who played the drum for baby Jesus. He replied,

"He played the drum at Chucky Cheeses?"

HAHAHA!!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Matt has three older brothers - one lives in Arizona, one in San Diego and another in New Mexico. Chris and Wendy who live in New Mexico hosted Thanksgiving this year, so this past Tuesday the kids and I drove to Arizona to meet up with Matt's parents, his brother Jeff and his new girlfriend LaRay (his new, wonderful, normal, down-to-earth girlfriend - hurray!!), and Jeff's boys Jeffrey and Michael. We spent the night in AZ and then we all took off for New Mexico on Wednesday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some recent Sydney quotes...

"How about this one?" she says while getting dressed - she is extremely particular about what she wears. She now has to be the one to pick out her clothes when we go shopping to avoid a bad morning.

"I'm not ready yet, Jacob!" she says as Jacob is ready to head out the door...

"It's pretty cute!" Again, clothes related. See a pattern? She's a girl, alright!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Time.

I have these high/low moments - constantly - alternating between being happy to be living here in my beautiful new home, in this wonderful neighborhood with my incredible kids and this kick-ass weather with so many fun things to do, etc... to wishing I could go back to my life when Matt was in it. I miss him so much. Last night I was laying in bed, and imagined for a few minutes that he was laying next to me, that I could hear the sound of the CPAP machine he used, that I had just imagined all this nightmarish stuff and things were back the way they should be. We were back in NY, kids sleeping in their rooms in our old house, Matt next to me where I could touch his feet with mine. It felt so good for just a few moments to be back in my old life again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Today.

November 15. I hate this date. It should be omitted from calendars from now on.

I'm going to try to focus on all the love that is coming my way from family and friends and wrap myself up in it.

I'm going to pray for Matt's mom, dad, brothers, children, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, friends, coworkers.

It's not about me. It's about what this world lost a year ago today. But this world is a better place for having had Matt in it for 39 years.

Today, Matt's brother Greg is racing in the Baja 1000. This race is in honor of Matt.

I miss you more each day, My Love.......................

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tonight

A year ago tonight... I talked to Matt on the phone for the last time, and he told me I shouldn't wait up for him since he would be home later than usual. It was around 8 when I talked to him the first time that night, but I was tucking the kids into bed and told him I'd call him back when I was done. I had him say goodnight to the kids on the phone, which was a rare occasion. I called him back around 9, and he explained that he was covering someone else's shift and that he would be home late (it's in a post from last year)...

It was a year ago tonight. On a Friday night, early Saturday morning. I'm so glad my friends are here with me tonight. To wake up tomorrow morning, a year later.... I don't know. A part of me doesn't want to wake up at all, but at the same time, I still do. I do want to go on, but reluctantly, without my love.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Retail Therapy.

After I dropped Jacob off at school on Tuesday, Sydney and I brought the van in to be serviced. The dealership, fortunately, is within walking distance to an awesome shopping area (I LOVE where I live!!!), so Sydney and I took full advantage. Let's see... we dropped the van off around 8:30am, and it was ready by 1:00pm... Four and a half hours of shopping bliss.

Since the stores weren't open yet first thing that morning, we hit Starbucks first. Then we took our time and made our way around all the stores. It had been such a long time since I had been shopping like that (the fun kind) and it felt soooo good. What was even better is Sydney loves it just as much as I do. My kinda girl.

She took a nice nap, too, which started in the shoe store. I was able to take my time and really peruse. As I was waiting in line for the cashier, I was thinking about how Matt would be getting a kick out of seeing me hold two pairs of shoes with a look on my face that contains a mix of elation and guilt. I always feel guilty buying stuff for myself - especially if they aren't necessities.

As I contemplated my purchase while waiting in line, I looked over at the wall on the other side of the store, and in big, bold letters were the words, "Life Is Short - Buy The Shoes." I took it as a sign............ No guilt today. =)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I am thankful for:

My healthy, sweet, smart, loving, beautiful children;

Finding my true love, having ten incredible years with him and bearing his children;

The memories we made, the experiences we shared, and the wisdom I've gained;

Friends and family who love me;

My beautiful new (old) home in this wonderful neighborhood;

Great neighbors and gorgeous weather;

Good health and (God willing) living to raise my children;

Being able to afford to pay my bills and stay home with my kids (for now, anyway) during the most precious times in their little lives;

Strangers/friends who take the time to keep up with what's happening in our lives and wish the best for us;

That I'm not a teenager growing up in these times;

Our freedom.

(and the end of PMS for this month.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"You think too much."

Matt used to tell me that, and he's right.

Lately, I've been thinking about how in that one moment of him being taken away from us how it's altered the lives he touched forever. How his children's personalities, paths, interests, futures will be different than if he was still here and influencing them. I know one way they'll be changed for sure is there will be a huge void. They will grow up in California instead of New York (like Matt did until he was 14). Their mommy isn't as happy-go-lucky as she once was.

I think about how Jacob's walk sounds just like his daddy's... Step, click. Step, click. Just like Matt's. It's like hearing Matt walking around, but since Jacob's legs are a bit shorter right now, it's a faster paced 'step, click.'

I imagine hearing Matt's voice, the sounds of him getting up before everyone else and going about his morning routine... the rustling of the Shredded Wheat bag, and his "one man band" noises (as I used to call them).

The kids and I looked at pictures tonight and reminisced. It was sadder than usual for me - Jacob's memories are fading. I had no one to share the memories in the pictures with me to fill in the gaps. Matt always filled in the gaps. Hell - he was the one that was good at telling the stories, and I was the one to fill in a few gaps here and there.

Matt knew me better than anyone. No one will know me as well as he did, or love me the way that he did.

Sometimes I think that he got the easy way out, being the one that died...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How can it be possible??

In only a matter of days now, it will be one whole year since the love of my life was killed. It still doesn't seem possible that it even happened, let alone that it's already been a whole year.

I still have flashbacks of that day, like it just happened. It's got to be similar to what a war vet goes through when they have flashbacks of combat. I'm brought right back to the moment when I woke up at 4am, thinking I should call Matt. Then waking up again right before the knock on the door. The feeling of dread at hearing that knock, and knowing immediately when I saw the police officer what he was going to tell me. Sydney in her crib, Jacob at my side. I have a hard time breathing, eating or functioning at all when I flash back to that day, and it's been happening more frequently the past few weeks. I've lost a few pounds again. I still feel like I'm living a nightmare and need to just finally wake up, except I can't. Neither can his parents, brothers, children, and everyone else who loved him. I know his coworkers must feel the same way- like war vets. I can't imagine them having to go into that room, or even the test bay without at least thinking about Matt, or reliving the nightmare of finding him there - lifeless. The sound of the sirens and frenzy of the paramedics, police, etc... They must be traumatized, too.

I remember thinking way in the beginning that I didn't want to dwell on the time milestones of Matt's death, and I've been really trying to keep that in mind. But no matter how I try to convince myself, the past few weeks have been extraordinarily emotional. One minute I think I'm doing just fine, and the next I'm sobbing with hardly any warning. No matter how I try to rationalize the whole thing, it just makes no sense and it never will. The whole grief process. It just SUCKS.

As my fellow sister widow Jackie said, the hardest part is watching your kids grieve. As their mommy, I want to fix their boo boos, and protect them from any kind of pain. But this is one thing I can't ever fix for them. For Jacob, it's been challenging. He wants everyone to know his daddy died. I convinced him that we shouldn't send cards to all his friends telling them that Matt died because they already know. He's been acting out more than usual the past week, probably in response to my emotional state. Sydney only knows what she hears, and she repeats things that Jacob says, like, "I wish my daddy was still alive." Except when I'm crying, then she says over and over again in a panicky tone, "We'll help you! We'll help you!" A two year old - or even my five year old - should NOT be expected to feel responsible for helping their mother in that capacity! Breaks my heart. Even though she might not be actively grieving since she can't remember (which is heartbreaking in itself), it makes it hurt for me that much more with the thought that these incredible kids have to grow up without their awesome dad. Boy did they get the shaft - he was the fun one.

A couple of my friends are flying in this coming weekend to be with me. I'm so thankful. The weeks/days leading up to this have been hell. Literally. I talked to another friend today... She said that this year has been a shitty year for everyone we know - it really has. She said that she is going to consider November 16 as the beginning of the new year instead of January 1st. I kind of like that idea.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Few more updates...

I sold our house in NY. If all goes well, the closing will be on December 15. An engaged couple is buying it, and it sounds like they really appreciate everything about the house. Matt and I were engaged when we built it. It's bittersweet - while I'm relieved that someone will be living there soon, taking care of it, enjoying all the work and love that Matt and I put into it, the thought of someone else living there is hard to get used to. Not one bit how I envisioned things would be.

Had a dishwasher installed into my new old (1928) house... The one that was in there was shot, and I got tired of doing dishes by hand. Call me spoiled, but I pretty much have always had the luxury of a dishwasher. My kitchen has been a lot neater since I got it put in - no clean/dirty dishes constantly piled on the counter and in the sink. The man who installed it had his work cut out for him - he had to break out the plaster wall behind it and some of the wood slats to get it to fit properly. Then he discovered the wiring issue, and long story short, fixed that, too. He was here for hours. During that time, we got talking... His first wife, who was eight months pregnant with their first baby, was killed in a car accident. He lost both his wife and baby when he was 20 years old.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Random current events - getting caught up...

Some recent quotes:

"Mommy, every time I eat this it reminds me of home sweet home." - Jacob, while eating his grilled, marinated salmon.

"I love you brown and pink hearts." - Jacob (His current favorite colors are brown and pink.)

"Is that a lot of pancake for one little boy?" - Jacob, while eating the giant pancake I made him for breakfast on Saturday (he ate the whole thing).

"Don't you tell your momma no!" - Jacob (to Sydney after she told me "no" in a very adamant tone.)

"Daddy all gone." - Sydney (just a random comment - couldn't connect it to anything happening at the moment.)

"Bubbles!" - Sydney (after she tooted - we call the tubby toots "hiney bubbles" but she wasn't in the tub when she said that.)

Dinner conversation with Jacob from the other night:

Jacob: "Mommy, are you thinking about the Polar Express right now?"

Me - "Ha ha! No!" (He's on a BIG Polar Express kick again after a nice, long hiatus from it.)

Jacob asked, "What are you thinking about right now?"

I said, "Mr. Matt's wife, Liz - Maddy's mommy." (I had just finished reading this post.)

Jacob - "She died."

Me - "Yes, she did. What are you thinking about right now?"

Jacob: "The Polar Express songs..."

Later that same evening:

Jacob: "What's your favorite color?"

Me: "Pink."

Jacob: "I love you one hundred pink hearts."

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I had a dream the other night that Matt had just been hired as a professor to teach a mechanical engineering course at a college in California. I went with him to see the huge classroom that was assigned to him - it had balcony seating above, as well as auditorium-like seating below. He was a little quiet, rubbing the tuft of hair on his chin, trying not to let on to his nervousness at his new responsibilities. Afterwards, a bunch of the guys and some of the girls all went out for a beer to celebrate. We walked down a spooky old street with unfamiliar trees to the bar. I didn't recognize any of the people, but they were all friends with Matt through his new job.

If only...

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My brother and I went to the U2 concert at the Rose Bowl on Sunday, October 25. It was sort of a last minute decision to go, but I found cheap seats and I thought why not - it's practically in my back yard! We had such a great time. We took a shuttle to the venue, and the driver actually got lost. What should have taken about five minutes took almost twenty, and when he stopped to ask a crossing guard for directions, Bryan and I decided to bail (before I hurled from bus-sickness). So did the rest of the bus. Black Eyed Peas opened, and did an awesome job. U2, of course, was phenomenal. I had always wanted to go to one of their concerts - they are my favorite band, after all. It was somehow incredibly emotional for me, though - lots of factors involved I think... Between finally getting to see my favorite band play live, Matt not being there to share the experience with, hearing songs that I listen to when I'm driving... I think that's the biggest one. Driving is when my mind tends to wander the most towards thoughts and memories of Matt, and it was the one place (well, at least when I was working) where I could cry, scream, and let it all out with no one to witness. One song, in particular, has been my theme song since I decided to move, and they played it that night. Of course, I bawled.

I was talking to the lady seated next to me, and it came up in conversation that Bryan was my brother, and she asked where my husband was. I told her.

I must have cried more than I even realized that night, because when I woke up the next morning, my eyes were so puffy that I couldn't get my contacts in. It's been a while since I cried that much (and cheered) in one night. A much-needed release, I'm sure. All the wine I drank probably contributed to that, too.

Bryan and I skipped the return shuttle and walked from the Rose Bowl to my house. How cool is it to be within walking distance to the Rose Bowl???

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I have been in a serious funk lately (I think I mentioned that before) and I know one of the things that has been weighing on me was not having the pictures, the rest of the curtains and the shades hung. I finally got the majority of it done in a day and a half, and I feel a lot better - boy does my house look cute!! I know, pictures... they're coming. I also attempted to anchor the bookshelf to the wall as a preventative earthquake measure, and ended up making swiss cheese out of the wall with the drill. It's tough to find studs behind lath and plaster walls! I left that for later - thought it was probably best to walk away from it for the time being...
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I had my friend, her husband and their little girl (who Jacob said he's going to marry someday) over for an impromptu dinner just the other night (we have been having a lot of those - it's been fun!). The winds were picking up and got extremely gusty as the evening went on. We were talking during dinner about having enough flashlights, matches, candles, etc. in the event of a power outage. After discussing my lack of preparedness, Bill went out to pick up a lighter, some flashlights and extra water, and no sooner did he leave when the power went out! Fortunately, I did end up finding some matches and lit the candles I had around the house. It looked so beautiful in there. Power went back on about an hour or so after that.
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The next day after the power outage, I was getting the kids ready for bed. They were both being so incredibly challenging, and I was at my breaking point. What didn't help was the fact that there is a very thin line lately between seeming to have my shit together and having a breakdown. It doesn't take much to throw me lately. I generally try to keep myself somewhat together in front of the kids - I want them to know stability and feel secure with me, but that it's OK to cry once in a while, because everyone cries. Well, I ended up having a major breakdown in front of the kids - I just couldn't hold it in anymore. What happens with me is before a breakdown, I get angry, and I usually can't even put my finger on exactly why. But my nerves get frayed, and I get angry until I finally break down and cry, and then I feel better. I wish I could skip the anger crap and just get to the crying and feeling better. So, there I am, on the floor in the bathroom, and Sydney - all 2.5 years of her, comes up to me and rubs my back and mumbled some sweet words to me. I look up to see her big brother who is looking at me with the same look on his face that Matt would get when he didn't know how to handle me. My poor kids.

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Halloween sucked and was great, all at the same time. All I could think about was Halloween last year when Matt, the kids and I went trick or treating with two of my best friends and their kids. We drove to the town they live in, met at Connie's house, had a little pizza and wing party and went trick or treating from there. Matt walked Jacob (who was dressed up as a bell - a subject for another post) up to each house, while he either had Sydney on his shoulders or I was pushing her in the stroller. It was going to be such a great tradition - especially when Sydney was old enough to participate and enjoy the experience.

This year, one of my neighbors three doors down invited the kids and I to their house for a Halloween party, and there were probably 15 kids there, all close in age. Jacob and Sydney were in their glory. Jacob wore his ghost costume for a total of five minutes, but Sydney looked adorable as Tinkerbell (I know, I know, pictures... eventually). Matt's friend Rick would have been so proud - Jacob was rocking out on a toy drum set in the garage, and Sydney was his sidekick on the keyboard. I had a flash forward picture in my head of them in about 16 years, in a band... After the party, we all went trick or treating in our lovely neighborhood. Sydney, my big girl, went up to each house, and said "Trick or Treat," "Thank you," and "Happy Halloween." Jacob was running ahead of us with the gang of boys singing the Trick or Treat song.... A nice new tradition, but still leaves me longing for the old one (minus the lousy weather).

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The kids and I had a fun playdate with Melodie and Reece today. We both took away a feeling of peace, comfort and camaraderie. Plus, she's fun to hang out with, and Reece is a sweetheart. We'll definitely be getting together more often. I have to say, one of the perks to moving out here are the great new young widowed friends who live nearby - Michele (who came out to visit me soon after I moved and is responsible for getting all us widowed folk together), Matt L. (who has been a great friend and hooked me up with some good music and more good friends), Melodie, and I think Erynn also lives close - I have to look into that. Did I miss anyone near LA?? After that, we drove to my brother's and hung out with them for a while and had Pacos (the BEST Mexican food in Cali!) for dinner. It was a good day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Today is the first day of the rest of my life."

It was a year ago today when I wrote those words. Little did I know that in less than a month from then, our lives would be so altered.

A year ago yesterday, I initiated myself into the blogging world with this. What a blessing that was. I never would have known of the widowhood community that has helped me survive the past year. The community that has offered so much support, though I feel like I've neglected them being so consumed with my own grief. I promise I'll give back.

I was laying in bed last night, listening to Jacob cough, trying to figure out why I'm so stuck and wondering how to move forward. Attempting to think objectively, I realize that first of all, I know that everyone does this grieving thing at their own pace. It can be two steps forward, one step back, or one step forward and three steps back. Everyone is different and every situation is different. I'm one of those people that doesn't have enough patience with myself. Rationally, I know it's gonna take time, but I'm tired of hurting, tired of grieving. Tired of all these negative emotions. I'm just plain tired.

I realize I'm probably stuck because I haven't reached the point of "acceptance." I'm still pissed for Matt because he was at the best time in his life when his life ended. He finally finished school, just got his dream job, was finally fulfilling his goals which also included enjoying his wife and two young children. He was young, healthy, and so deserved everything he worked so hard for, and he was only able to enjoy the fruits of his labor for such a short time. It's so unfair.

I'm brokenhearted for my children, because they won't get to know their amazing, involved, loving, strong, fun, patient father the way they should have. He had knowledge and skills he needed to pass on to them.

I'm sad for myself that I didn't have him longer. We were so in love. I was so fulfilled with him in my life. I loved knowing that my children would have the one thing I didn't have growing up - a mommy and daddy team. A good, healthy example of what it's like to grow up with married parents who enjoy being in each other's company, and who like parenting the kids they're raising and appreciate the life they're living. A husband who did more than his share of the work around the home. I had it pretty easy.

So often I try to put myself in his shoes... what was he thinking during his last moments? What have been his thoughts and feelings since? Is he angry, sad, disappointed, at peace? Knowing Matt, he was probably pretty pissed at first, and sad, but he's so level headed and even tempered that I know he made peace with his fate. If I could ask him how he could be OK with this, he'd probably say he didn't have a choice, so it's either be at peace with it, or in a constant state of anger and denial. Who wants to live eternity with that? With death comes wisdom. (I don't know where I came up with that - it just popped in my head and I had to write it down.)

I suppose if he can come to terms with it, I should try to, too. I don't want to live what life I have left in a constant state of sadness and despair, wishing I could turn the clock back. I know full well that is not in my power, and it's fruitless to even think about that. A waste of energy and emotions, though there are moments when I just can't help myself. There are times when I can barely function, and then there are times when I think I can totally do this. By some miracle, I've gotten this far; I can make it the rest of the way.

I actually think that one of the things possibly holding me back is guilt. Is it OK for me to get to the point where I can accept what has been dealt to us, and maybe even be happy again? (That's a rhetorical question...) Logically, I know it is OK - I would want that for anyone else going through this shit. But it's different when it comes to wanting that for yourself. At least for me, it's almost like I can't let myself past this hump yet because maybe I should feel like shit longer than this after losing the love of my life.

One of the things Matt and I had talked about was who would die first. After some discussion (and me crying at the mere thought of it), he came to the conclusion that I should die first because I couldn't handle it if he died first and left me behind. I was totally in agreement with that decision! The thing I wasn't in agreement with was when he told me that if I died first, he would marry again. My response was, "WHAT? Hmph!" It's strange the things that we discussed for being a young, healthy couple, but I'm sure glad we did.

So, today is the first day of the rest of my life. 36 should be interesting...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October 16 & 17

I had a much needed night out with some friends last night. I was able to find a babysitter at the last minute, and enjoy a few hours with some other grown ups and just relax, visit, and laugh. Just what the doctor ordered! The timing was good - I've been in a funk.

Today, my brother and nephew came over and they took Jacob with them on a hike into the mountains while Sydney took her nap.

There are times when I feel Matt's presence so strongly. I don't mean that necessarily like his spirit is hanging around here, but that there are moments when I know exactly what he would do or say in a certain situation. For example, tonight when my brother was having dinner with us, he was telling me about his hike in the mountains with the boys, and how there were a bunch of other young boys there with two of their moms. The moment he mentioned the moms, I instantly thought of Matt's voice asking,

"Were they hot?"

Ha ha! And I'm fairly certain that he was glad he wasn't around to have dinner with us tonight because I know he wouldn't have liked what was on the menu...

I love it when those vivid thoughts pop into my head. It really makes it feel like Matt is still with me, close by, still putting in his two cents. It's so comforting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

At Last.

This song by Etta James was our wedding song. It was so fitting for us because we met each other in our mid/late twenties, when we both were beginning to lose hope that we'd ever find the "one." We were both so grateful when we finally did, and were grateful the whole time we were together. What a short ride.

The only time I'd hear this song is when I listened to the CD (which I did often), and I only tortured myself with the song once or twice shortly after Matt died.

There's a station here in Cali that plays it quite often - I must have heard it at least three times already in the month and a half I've been here. Hearing this song used to invoke a sentimental, warm, fuzzy feeling in me. Now, somehow at the very same time, it makes me feel empty, lost, angry, sad, hopeless. How it's possible to feel all that at the same time, I don't know. How it's possible to not crash while driving and bawling, I don't know that, either.

Time does not heal. Maybe it does for some things, but when it comes to grieving the death your spouse, that's a big crock of shit. I am still in disbelief that Matt is gone and that I'll never get to see him, hug him, kiss him, talk to him ever again, and it's almost a year now. Can you believe that? Almost an entire year ago already. One month from today. At least I know I can survive, smile, laugh and even have moments when I feel happy, but that pain? It will always be there, no matter what good ever happens in my life.

You would think that in that amount of time, the pain would lessen. It almost seems like with this one year mark approaching that it's making it seem even more fresh. Every night, I vividly dream that I'm missing Matt, grieving his loss all night. I wake up exhausted, only to grieve him all day, too. Time for one of those emotionally numbing breaks and hoping it comes soon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Updates

So far, my sister's surgery has yielded the desired results! She's actually in less pain post op then she was before her surgery. She can now stand while brushing her teeth and showering (instead of needing to sit to take the pressure off her back), and can even walk! Her back had gotten so bad that she needed to be in a wheel chair if she went to the grocery store or mall. She could get through a short trip if she leaned on the cart, but now she's able to actually walk. YAY!!

Matt, Maddy and Rachel arrived safely in India.

Hmmm... Maybe He is listening.

My in-laws just left this morning from a five day visit. In that short amount of time, we picked out paints for every room in the house (except the bathroom and laundry room) and got every room (except those two) painted! What a huge improvement. It not only is more in my taste, but it's cleaner, and now I can finally hang pictures! Those are the only things left in boxes at this point. I'd venture to guess that by the end of October, I should be mostly settled into my new home. It was great to get to share my new place with Ginny and Roy, and for them to have their hand in improvements for my hew home. The way they cranked out that quality work in such a short amount of time was proof where Matt got his skills and drive... At least if he couldn't have his hand in our new place, we had the next best thing with his parents.

It's really feeling more like home, too. Maybe it's because of all the rain we're getting right now... ;)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kept Jacob home from school today... He felt good enough to go to school yesterday, but by the time I picked him up, he had been crying for the last couple of minutes and wouldn't tell his teacher what was wrong. He told me, "I'm sick, Mommy!" Poor kid was running a low-grade fever and just felt like crap.

Today was the first monthly awards ceremony for the school year, and Jacob was going to get an award. I asked his teacher yesterday what happens if I keep him home Friday - will he still get his award? He suggested I bring Jacob in at the time of the awards ceremony and take him back home after, so that's what we did. My big boy stood proud and tall on the stage of the auditorium holding the award he received for adjusting fabulously to kindergarten.

It's day two after my sister's surgery, and she is in some serious pain. The doctor said everything went really well, and that it's a good thing she had the surgery because her back was even worse than what they had anticipated. I just feel terrible that I'm not there for her, when she was there for me during some of the darkest days of my life.

The kids and I had a nice day together. We took it easy with Jacob not feeling so well, but we painted, rested, ate, played some, did puzzles, read books, went grocery shopping after the awards ceremony. It's so pleasant when you can just hang out outside whenever you want because the weather is warm, sunny and dry. Best of all (for the time being at least), being a stay-at-home-mom for the first time affords me the luxury of being a more relaxed mom with time to actually enjoy my kids and not be perpetually rushing to the next order of business. We're eating better, too, because I have the time to put a little thought into meal planning, and the time to prepare them. Two things threaten to pull the plug on this luxury, though... not selling my house in NY soon, and COBRA lapsing and needing to get some health insurance coverage for myself. The kids are covered under Anthem Blue, but they denied me coverage since I have some pre-existing conditions (even though I still consider myself young and healthy). I'll end up having to get a job to cover the extra cost of the health insurance, which will end up costing me more because Sydney will have to go to daycare which costs an arm and a leg, and Jacob in an after-school program, and probably more meds to help me cope with the added stress which will add to my already pre-existing condition. Stress kills, you know. But, I digress...

Bathtime, book, prayers. Took turns laying with each of the kids for a few minutes in their beds. After a long silence, this was Jacob's and my conversation:

Jacob: "You know, Mom, some moms and dads have the same job place."

(The way he was leading up, I thought for sure he was gonna drop another "you know, other kids get new dads" bomb on me again...)

Me: "You're right, they do. In fact, your daddy and I used to work at the same place for a long time, until he got his new job."

Jacob: "Yeah. And you know what?"

Me: "What?"

Jacob: "He died at his new work."

Me: "I know, honey."

Jacob: "Now you don't have anyone to help."

Me: "What do you mean?"

Jacob: "You don't have anyone to help, but I help you."

Me: "Yes you do! You help me a lot, and your sister is a big help, too. Your daddy would be so proud to see what great helpers you guys are."

Jacob: "I love Uncle Bryan. He's funny."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Are you out there, God?

My sister is having major back surgery later this morning. She's got spinal stenosis, bulging discs, and other issues that will hopefully be mostly, if not all resolved as a result of the surgery so she can stand upright and walk without agony.

It occurred to me when I woke up in the middle of the night tonight and found myself asking God to get her through the surgery, and to get her through it with successful results, that it's been some time since I asked God for anything. I used to say prayers with my kids at night and end it with, "and thank you God for this day and for keeping us healthy and happy." After Matt died, I revised it to, "and thank you God for another day" because he didn't keep us healthy and happy.

I used to ask him for all kinds of things. "Please God, take Jacob's fever away. Please God don't let us crash. Please God, don't let it rain for the party tomorrow..." You get the idea. I should have been thankful for feeling like I needed to bother God with some of those mundane requests. Hindsight blah blah blah... Is that the reason I've stopped making the requests, or is it that my faith has been shaken enough that I don't think it would make a difference anymore? I honestly don't know the answer to that question. Maybe a little bit of both.

I guess I have been angry at God this whole time and didn't consciously admit to it. Why ask him for anything? Do I really think that after everything that's gone down the past ten months that he'd actually listen to our prayers to have my sister come out of her surgery successfully, and to continue to keep what's left of my little family safe, healthy and happy? Hmmm... perhaps I should have included the word "safe" in my prayers all along.

I hate to bash God after everything he has done for us, like giving me ten years with Matt in the first place and giving us two beautiful kids, helping me to survive after the most crushing blow I could have ever experienced, and to keep my kids healthy and mostly happy since, and have everything work out so that we could get a fresh start in sunny California. I must have him to thank for putting so many wonderful people in my life that if it wasn't for all the incredible support I've gotten from my family and friends, my new network of peers who unfortunately can relate, and complete strangers who keep us in their thoughts and prayers all the time, I maybe wouldn't be making it. It seems sacrilegious and scares me because I don't want to sound like I'm challenging him that he'll end up giving me some other devastating blow to have to get through just to prove a point. That must be the "Fear of God" that I've had instilled in me since my childhood being raised Catholic. Not enough, though, to have me go back and revise this post to capitalize all the H's in "he" and "him."

Well, enough pondering the major questions of life. I should get back to bed and get some sleep... In the meantime, I just might take my chances and ask God again to keep my sister safe, healthy, and happy with the results of her surgery, and to keep Matt, Maddy and Rachel safe with their upcoming journey to the other side of the world. Who knows... maybe he is listening.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Random thoughts...

This is the quietest place I think I've ever lived, even for a suburb. It's the first time in years that I don't live right near a fire whistle, in the middle of a flight pattern, or on a busy road. Love it! Plus, I won't be hearing the sounds of plows this winter. =)

Sydney calls Jacob "Jacobi," and she says to me, "I love you Mommy Dear." What a little sweetheart! She has been so incredibly well-behaved during the hundreds of errands we run while Jacob is at school, too.

Jacob is such a wonderful big brother to his little sister... He is patient and sweet with her. For instance, he indulges her desire to help and will even undo something he's already done just so she can have a turn at it.

Haven't found a hairstylist yet, or a babysitter to watch the kids while I go anyway, so I ended up taking matters into my own hands. I lopped off the dry, split ends myself, and man - what an improvement. Usually just cut the kids' hair, not my own.

The kids and I really enjoy the spur-of-the-moment walks around the block with Jacob on his bike and Sydney on her tricycle.

I'm making some good friends out here. Enjoying living near my brother and his family. Loving this beautiful neighborhood, weather, house, peacefulness of it all. It makes me feel like I am functioning well in between those bad moments.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I miss him.

I miss my husband. I miss him with every part of my being. I hate being a single parent when I had such a wonderful father for my kids, and the best partner for life. He was the whole package, and then some. I hate living my new life without Matt. I miss my old life. My old life that included him. Nothing will ever be the same. I can never be as happy and fulfilled as I once was. My heart hurts so much that it's hard to breathe sometimes. I hate that my children don't have their daddy. I hate that I go to bed without him anymore, and don't get to wake up to his sleepy face. I want to talk to him so badly. I'm so thankful his company didn't completely cancel his phone service so I can at least call and hear his voice say his name. I'm having a hard time being thankful for the wonderful things I still have in my life right now.

I'm having a moment, a moment that will pass, but in the meantime, I'm holding on to it and wallowing in it. Just for the moment.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New stages...

Jacob dropped a bomb on me Friday.

"I want to die."

My first inclination was to say, "Don't say that!!!" but I don't want to shut him down. At all. I'm so thankful that he can, and is willing, to express his thoughts and feelings to me - especially something like this.

So after a brief moment of thought, I replied,

"What?? Why would you say something like that?"

He said, "I want to die so I can be with my daddy."

Wow. I had no idea that a five year old could come up with something like this.


I said, "I know just how you feel, sweetie. I felt exactly the same way. We're all going to die someday eventually, but we don't want to have it happen anytime soon. Daddy would not want us to die - he wants us to live and be happy and have fun. He went to college for a really long time because he wanted to be a good example for you and Sydney so you guys will go to college someday. We have a lot of living to do yet. I'm really glad that you can tell me what you're thinking, Love."

I have no idea what a five year old could be capable of. He doesn't seem depressed or consumed by thoughts of death, but you can be sure I will be calling a counselor tomorrow.

If I was to analyze Jacob through his artwork, I'd say he's a relatively happy kid. His drawings usually consist of smiling faces and hearts. The other day he brought home a few pages of artwork, but one in particular worried me. It was red and black angry scribbles and felt dark and different than what Jacob usually produces. I asked him what this was a picture of, and he said, "I don't know - I didn't do that one." Ha! What a relief!

I'm constantly amazed by his memory... during his bath yesterday, he poured the water over his head to rinse his hair, letting the water go over his face. He has never been comfortable with getting water in his face, but he told me he got used to that because that's how his daddy did it. No wonder he's been challenging himself more with that lately.

We talk about Matt all the time. I work him into our everyday activities and conversation... For instance, I'll say something like, "Daddy would/wouldn't have like this" or "do you remember when you and Daddy did that?" or any other way I can work him into our daily lives. I don't want Jacob to forget, I want Sydney to learn as much as she can about her wonderful daddy, and I want to remember everything, too.

If anyone out there knew Matt and is reading my blog, I would really love it if you would leave comments with your memories of Matt when you think of them - significant or not. That would be such a great gift to me and his kids.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Here we are...

It seems like when the pain of missing Matt is at its peak, he comes to me in a dream... as if he knows I need him badly. Last night, I dreamt we were dancing together, like at a wedding. We had a great time!

Sometimes it's so fresh, like it just happened yesterday, and the wounds are re-opened and raw. But it was ten months ago yesterday. A lifetime ago. An hour ago.

I had realistic expectations about the move - I knew it wouldn't "fix" anything, but I did expect it would help a little. It really has. The sunshine, warmth, the newness of everything, the ease of maintaining the new place... I can breathe a sigh of relief for a lot of reasons. The main one being that I survived getting to this point, and I mean literally. I was sure I would drop dead either because I'd have a stroke or my heart would just simply give out. Stress does horrible things to a body (and mind).

Jacob has started Kindergarten and loves it. Sydney gets more of my attention now since I'm not working. There are a million and one details that I'm still taking care of, but at least I can do it without trying to also keep a full-time job on top of it all.

My home is a sweet little Spanish style bungalow in a beautiful little neighborhood with lots of palm trees around. We have an incredible view of the San Gabriels from our house. The neighbors are awesome- I've met at least five couples my age with kids the same ages as mine, and they all hang out in their front yards on weekend mornings, drinking coffee while the kids play together. They've taken us in like we've been living there all along.

The closest park is within walking distance, and there are sidewalks the whole way there! This is very exciting for me because I used to have to pack up our minivan and drive to the park where we could go for walks and play. Oh - and the mail is delivered right to the house, as opposed to having to pick it up at the post office! Did I mention that instead of mowing for two and a half hours, I can pretty much cut the patches of grass that need cut with scissors, and there will be no snow plowing or shoveling here!

I was excited about the ice cream truck that went down our street the first time it happened, but I'm going to have to hint to the driver that dinnertime is probably not the best time to come around. Ice cream trucks are everywhere around here - at the park, on the street, everywhere... and hopefully in time the kids will get used to seeing them around and stop asking me for ice cream every. single. time. they see one.

Jacob is going through a tough stage right now... I'm sure it's all the changes, missing Matt, starting kindergarten, etc. that are taking a toll, but he's been very difficult to deal with at times. One of the things I learned from the widows conference - probably the hardest pill to swallow so far - is that with each stage of development and with different experiences, children's grief will take on new forms and challenges as they grow up. We're hitting one of those times right now. Jacob is asking more questions, too. Today, it was, "How did my daddy die?" I've explained it to him before, but I think he's fishing for more details. Details I'm not ready to give him yet.

If you would have asked me a year ago where I thought I'd be right now, I never would have imagined I'd be here. Here. That's a loaded word about now.

But the sun is shining, and the air is warm and dry. For now, that's all we need.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Changed my name...

Well, just my blog name from Always Remember... too many associations with 9/11 that don't relate to me. Other than that, everything else is still the same. Except that I'm living on the other side of the country now, and everything else in my life has changed... I'll be posting an update very soon now that I'm starting to get unburied from all the boxes from the move. It was a good move, by the way, and we are happy to be in Southern California!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The next couple of weeks...

Tomorrow morning, Jacob goes to his Kindergarten doctor appointment where he will get four or five shots (my poor little love), and the necessary form filled out for registration.

In two days, we will be having a moving sale. Or, maybe we should have entitled it a "moving/estate" sale. Matt's parents are in town and are taking the lead on this, thank goodness. It's completely daunting to me, as it is for them. Going through Matt's things - our things, and determining what will get sold, what his brothers might want to keep, what I might want to keep, either for myself or for our children someday.

In seven days, Matt's brothers and their families, my dad and step-mom will be arriving in the Buffalo area.

In eight days, we're having a big family party.

In nine days, my brother, sister and their families, plus about 20 of my friends will be arriving into town.

In ten days, it will be the first annual 5K in my husband's honor to help fund the trust fund that Cameron's employees have set up for our children. Kristin of Cameron has been busting her butt to put on this event, as have many Cameron employees at the Buffalo location who have been greatly affected by Matt's loss.

In twelve days, all of our belongings are going to get packed up by the moving company that Cameron hired for us (what a blessing that I won't have the work and expense of this). My vehicle is also going to get picked up to be shipped out on this date. Most of our family and friends will be on their way home.

In thirteen days, our household goods will be loaded onto the moving truck and on its way.

In fifteen days, my mother-in-law and father-in-law will be taking the kids and me to the airport in what was my husband's truck. Jacob, Sydney and I will be on our way to our new home and new life in California, and Matt's parents will be on a cross country adventure to eventually bring his truck to its new home with Matt's brother Jeff in Arizona.

I'm completely and insanely overwhelmed by all of this. Our impending move, getting ready for the sale, preparing this house for showings (praying it sells), trying to mentally prepare myself to see it empty, leaving our friends and family, everything I've ever known, not to mention all the other million little details in between.

I knew it would all be hard. I guess I just wasn't prepared for exactly how hard it really is. Leaving this life behind. Our life. Getting it through my head that Matt is now a part of my past. Not my present or future anymore. I look at pictures now of him with the kids, and they look so much younger than they do now. They've changed so much in the past nine months. I guess I have, too. I'm someone who I never thought I'd have to be. Who I never wanted to be.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The floodgates have opened...

So, this numb/emotionless stage I've been in is officially over. It was a good run, I have to say. It allowed me to get a lot accomplished, and get through some days that would have otherwise been excruciating. It has taken its toll, too, though. I'm sick again, and my eyes are so puffy from crying that I can't get my contacts in.

I am officially the proud owner of a beautiful little Spanish style bungalow in suburban heaven, California. The closing was today - didn't even have to be there. Pretty cool, huh? Thank goodness for modern technology! The kids and I will fly out and take up residence on August 28.

As I prepare my current home to leave it, I'm having more flashbacks. Back when we were dating, before we even had a glimmer of a thought of building a home, I would walk around this property which was located just beyond and below his parent's property. I usually walked it by myself - it was so serene. It was my escape, like a little piece of heaven. When Matt told me he wanted to build a home on that property, it was a dream come true for me. A home - our home - on this little piece of heaven, with the man of my dreams. How much better could it get?!! It did, amazingly enough.

We built this home together - blood, sweat and tears. Matt would come home from his full time job and start right on our house, and wouldn't stop until well into the dark. At one point, I ended up taking him to the hospital for chest pains. I told him I would rather have the house take longer to build, than to not have him to live in it with me.

Matt acted as the general contractor, and I had complete faith in him. I always looked up to my brother like he knew all and could do all, but after getting to know and falling in love with Matt, he became my hero. He seemed to know just about everything and could do anything. He used to tease me about how much I looked up to my brother and say (imitating my voice), "Oh, Bryan is perrrrrfect!" I don't know if Matt knew this - and I so hope he did - but I thought that he was perfect - imperfections and all. I used to (more in my head than outloud) call Matt my "lobster" (any fans of the show Friends would know what I'm talking about). He was not a fan, so I only told him only once that he was my lobster, but thought it all the time. FYI- lobsters are apparently one of the only other species out there that mate for life.

If a couple can survive building a house together, they can pretty much endure any trials of a relationship together. That's the kind of couple we were. It seemed like whenever we hit a "bump in the road," we got through it and somehow our relationship was actually strengthened. We considered ourselves an exceptional couple. There was no other man out there for me, or woman for him. We would sometimes look at other couples and wonder why marriage seemed so difficult for some people. It came easy to us, most of the time. We had our challenges of course, but faced them head-on. The love we had for each other always seemed to persevere.

It is so unfair that he is gone. Of all people, I will never understand why he had to die. Our children deserved to be raised with both mommy and daddy, and see the affection we had for each other, and be a living example to them of how much a mommy and daddy can love each other, have each other's backs, have disagreements and come to a compromise, work through relationship issues and parenting issues... all of it. Good and bad. Sydney deserves to have Matt walk her down the isle someday. Jacob deserves to have Matt teach him about... guy things. Matt knew how to build anything and fix anything. Jacob has the same kind of mind that Matt had, and he would have learned so much. I was relying on Matt to help our kids with math in school. Matt could do these complex mathematical figures in his head that most people need a calculator for.

Well, talk about going off on a tangent... I was talking about the house.

I remember looking through the walls when they were just wood studs. The smell of fresh cut wood. Matt cutting and measuring wood with the circular saw (or whatever that thing is called) in what is now our living room. Having the guys from work help hang dry wall. Him learning how to walk in those stilts so he could tape and mud the drywall seams in the garage. Having a paint war while we were priming the walls near the kitchen. Talking him into putting color on the walls, as opposed to having everything "bone" white. Hanging pictures. All the things he built for our house. For us. The things he intended to build that he didn't get a chance to. This house was not just our house. It was more like another child that we planned for, conceived, loved, took care of, appreciated. I feel like I'm abandoning one of our children by leaving it. I probably wouldn't feel like I'm abandoning it so much if someone had already bought it and I know I'm not leaving it empty.

I've been flying by the seat of my pants with all of these plans, just hoping they all work out. So far, they have, which indicates to me that I've made the right decision to move to California. If it wasn't the right decision, I'd have been faced with obstacles all over the place. The only obstacle is to sell this house, and to know that there is someone here to care for it, love it, and appreciate it. I'm still hopeful this happens, but ideally, I pray it happens before we leave it for good in just a little over two weeks.

The end of an era. That's what it felt like when Matt died, and that's what it feels like leaving this home. Our home. Matt and I built this home for us. It just doesn't feel like "our" home without him, though.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Faking it.

For the past eight and a half months, I have felt like none of this really happened. It couldn't have. I'm just playing out some sick, twisted movie plot and going through the motions. Doing and saying what I think are the right things to do and say. Matt didn't really die; this is some horrible hoax, and I'm just playing the part of a widow and single mom. He's going to walk through that door any moment, like nothing ever happened.

Denial, anyone?

Especially the past few days with our wedding anniversary... Everyone probably thinks I'm handling things so well, but in reality, I just simply haven't dealt with it. I've been pushing it aside, and not letting myself feel. After all, I've been so busy with all the paper work, phone calls, arrangments, etc. associated with the purchase of my new home and move across the country, that I haven't even had time to process what's happening in my heart. Thank God. I'm using that to it's full benefit. It's probably not healthy, but that's exactly what I'm doing.

I've also been in complete denial about my uncle. I have not dealt with his death - at all. I haven't sent out a card, email, phone call, nothing yet. I haven't processed it in my head. It doesn't seem real, either. Another man who was so full of life and spunk.

I must have some defense mechanism that's working in overdrive right now trying to keep me sane, preserving my energy for my kids and this house transaction. My friends and family on this coast are totally broken up about the kids and I moving so far away, and as much as I'm going to miss them terribly, all I can think of is, "I can't wait to get the hell out of here!" It's not that it's bad here - not at all. I'm surrounded by so many wonderful people, and my life here was great. But I have to get out.

I feel a little guilty about all this, and about my lack of acknowledgment of my uncle's death, and about my lack of tears about leaving everyone here. But only a little guilty... I'm pushing the guilt feelings aside, too. I'm a cold-hearted bitch.

This self-preservation technique that I've been implementing for the past week or so is bound to bite me in the ass soon.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Seven years ago today...

Right about this time, I was getting my hair styled into a fancy up-do, attached to a long, white veil. A little while later, I was to step into the gown that would carry me through the day with my feet never touching the ground. It was one of the happiest days of my life. Matt and I were finally making it official! He was going to be my husband, and I was going to be his wife. We were going to start our new life together - married, and that would give us the "license" to have children together someday - soon!

Our family and friends were all in town to celebrate with us. Matt was typically a casual dresser, but that day, he was all decked out in a tuxedo, and my goodness... I didn't think it was possible for him to be any more handsome. And Oh My God - I get to spend the rest of my life with this big, strong, hunky, loveable man!

It was a scorching hot summer day, but as the girls and I sat in the air-conditioned limo on the way to the church, Pink's "Get the Party Started" came on. I thought that was such an appropriate, fun song for that moment!

I will never forget standing in the front of the church, facing Matt, as he was about to become my husband. It felt like we were the only two people in the place. We stared into each other's faces, and that's all we could see. We were in awe that we were finally standing here, in wedding attire, promising to love each other forever no matter what, surrounded by everyone that loves us. Starting our new life. Seven years ago today.

We never could have imagined that each day after that, we would love each other even more.

I never would have imagined that our life together would come to an end so soon. So abruptly. So violently.

This morning, Jacob asked me how babies got in my belly. I told him that it's a combination of things, but mainly, it was Daddy's love, Mommy's love, and God's love that all came together to make him and his sister. That answer was sufficient for him. For now...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Whirlwind weekend!

I've had plans to go to the Soaring Spirits Conference in San Diego for four months before the actual event, but what I didn't plan on at that time was buying a house in LA at the same time as the conference was going on!

I got through the first leg of the trip on Friday - Buffalo to Atlanta, but my connecting flight to San Diego was already boarding by the time I landed, and it was all the way on the other side of the airport. I made it to the gate just in time. However, they changed the gate where the connection was to be made, and it turned out it was on the opposite end of the airport - the same area in which I arrived. AHH! Missed my flight.

I got a stand-by ticket for the next flight out which wasn't scheduled to leave for another two hours (6:40 pm). Found the gate where I needed to be and noticed there was a bar/restaurant right across the way. What luck! I stood in line what seemed like forever for a drink, and so were several other people. Finally, we told the waiter that if we could get seated sooner by sitting together, we're willing to do that. It worked!

The four of us - Bridget, Les and Rich, made the best of our free time at the airport and shared stories, beer, and I even talked them into doing a shot (or two...) of Jager with me! We had an awesome time and exchanged contact information. Good people. Can't think of a better way to spend a layover. I had so much fun that I nearly missed the next flight!

I went up to the gate saying a prayer under my (liquor-smelling) breath that they had room for me on the plane. The woman said nope- sorry. WHAT?? I asked if she was kidding, and she said no. I said, "I'm on my way to a conference on widowhood, and it's only a day and a half long!! This is a nightmare!" I seriously thought I was going to cry, since the next flight out wasn't until 8:00 am the next morning.

Somehow, a seat became available instantly. What a coincidence! She must have felt sorry for me.

On the long, four-hour flight to San Diego, I made another friend, Phil. A 20 year old college student/Navy recruit with great taste in music. We shared his ipod headphones and sang Mariah Carey duets with Luther Vandross and Boyz II Men, and we sounded great! The ick factor from sharing headphones didn't occur to me until later when I told someone about my mini concert on the plane... Oops. For the record, he looked very clean-cut, so I'm not too worried.

Got a little rest before we finally landed in San Diego. As much fun as it was, it was a long ass flight. Thank goodness for the three hour gain - there was still some night left. Took a cab to the beautiful hotel on the Marina, checked in and went up to my room to drop off my bags. I can't remember the last time I stayed at a hotel, so I had a heck of a time getting the room key to work. After about 15 minutes fighting with the stupid thing and breaking a sweat, it finally let me in.

By that time, I could barely wait another moment to meet up with some widows and widower for a drink! I went on a wild goose chase looking for them around the streets of downtown San Diego, only to find out they returned back to the hotel. UGH.

On the way back to the hotel, I heard a man yelling behind me. Turned around, and he's yelling at me. Some crazy dude that was probably about to mug me was within an inch of the back of my head, so I double backed and blended in with a group of people who waved me over to them. They saw the whole thing transpire, and asked if I'd be OK.

Of course I'll be OK!! I survived the death of my husband for 8 months now, I can do anything! Plus, I've got some weird complex that I've had my whole life that makes me think I'm way bigger than I am. I can kick anyone's ass. I confidently (and briskly) walked back to the hotel and finally met up with my group.

By then, adrenaline is pumping, and I'm thoroughly ready for a drink. My friend Matt introduced me to the other widows at the table, and then came to Rachel. He introduced her to me as the only woman at the table who hasn't had a husband die. My reply was, "That can be arranged! Is she married?"

That was the first impression I made to this group... And they STILL like me!

The conference was amazing. Michele Neff Hernandez and her crew did a truly admirable job putting it all together.

I met some awesome women - Jackie, Rachel, Melodie, Candice, Erynn, Kim, Janine and many more not named. Some of which will likely be lifelong friends. They give better descriptions of the weekend on their blogs than I can, but in short, I learned a lot, cried a little, and laughed a whole bunch!! These people know how to party! I fully intend to participate again next year.

By the way, this conference is open not to just widows, but widowers and family/friends of people who have lost a spouse and would like to learn more about how to support the ones they love, including the children (no matter how young) who have lost a parent.

Good thing Matt L. picks up strays, because I was able to hitch a ride with him and Rachel to Los Angeles to see the house I bought sight-unseen a few days before this trip. Turns out, I LOVE IT. I signed the rest of the documents to make it official. My realtor is awesome.

Stayed with my wonderful brother and his family on Sunday night, got some sleep for the first time in two days, and finally made it back to my little family late Monday night. Thanks to my sweet sister who took good care of my kiddos while I was away!

Edited to add: I almost forgot to mention the lady I met while in Buffalo waiting for the flight out... her name was Elayne, and somehow we got talking about Matt's death. She told me that her first husband died when she was in her early 20's when her daughter was two years old. She wanted to tell me her story because she was traveling that day with her husband of 40+ years and is leading a happy life... Her daughter lives in the same area that I bought my house!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Finally, some good news!!!

It's been one hell of a week.

My babysitter has been away on a family vacation/road trip, and I've been off of work.

The company I work for hired someone to take my position, so I had to go into work to do a little training with her, but had to bring the kids with me. Needless to say, not a whole lot has gotten accomplished.

I've had to run into work various other times as well to send out faxes, print documents, etc. because my printer at home isn't working, and I don't have fax capabilities. Dragging the kids back and forth with me each time.

My uncle declined quickly and passed away. He lives in North Carolina. My sister, who was here to help me out and then stay with my kids while I go to San Diego for the Soaring Spirits Conference, went to North Carolina (I sound unforgiveably selfish here, I know). My sister won't be back until Friday night, so as it is, I have to dump them off on some friends who willingly offered to help me out - thank goodness.

Uncle Frankie's funeral is tomorrow (Thursday), and I can't go. I so want to be there to support my family, but I don't want to drag the kids to NC for a funeral and then come home only to dump them off so I can fly to San Diego on Friday for a conference on widowhood that I've had planned for four months and am really looking forward to. I'm going to plan a separate trip to North Carolina at some point when things calm down.

I have a sinus infection and feel like shit. So not only do I have to drag the kids to the office today to send off more documents, but I also have to drag them to a germy doctor's office with me.

The paperwork, however, is good (finally - here comes the good news!!!) - it's all because of the one little light in all this mess. I saw a listing this Friday for a home in the same beautiful area in California as the home I found before. The offer I put on that first house would likely take months to be accepted because it's a short sale (long explanation). My awesome realtor was able to get in there Friday night to look at it for me. Since we had looked at 23 houses together last month, I'm pretty confident that he knows what I'm looking for and what my taste is. He said it's even nicer than the other home. I made an offer on this house on Saturday, and on Sunday night it was ACCEPTED!!! This home is a nice, normal, clean sale, and my offer was accepted. Oh my goodness... it's really happening now!! I'm excited and scared... scared because I need to sell my house in NY now. Like, NOW.

I need to get all this paperwork in order, signed, sent off, etc. The closing is in 30 days!!!!!!

The inspection is today at 4pm. I changed my flight so that I fly into San Diego and leave out of LAX so I can see the house Sunday afternoon after the conference.

My poor kids are being neglected by me, though, and as a result, are acting up more than usual. Between being on the phone, paperwork, writing this entry, etc., it's making every little thing even more challenging. This is not how I like to parent. Especially when it's not often I get to be home with them this much.

But finally - a plan, and a good solid beginning to a fresh start!

Off to go pick up some antibiotics now....

July 11, 2009, Part II

My wonderful Uncle Frankie left this world around 11pm EST. He must have wanted to be with Matt on his birthday. The world has lost yet another beautiful soul.

My Uncle Frank was so awesome - down to earth, funny, sweet and generous. He retired several years ago as a Brigadier General in the U.S. Army, and was highly respected by everyone that knew him.

Now he's reunited with Aunt Shirley, his wife who passed only three years before him. We'll miss you, Uncle Frank.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 11, 2009

Happy 40th Birthday, My Love!

Since we can't go on a destination celebration, I bought you a flat screen TV instead. The kids and I are going to pick it up today! We thought it would be easier to take that with us to California than the huge, heavy, older TV we have (that I can't get a remote to work with it to safe my life).

I also have another surprise in the works, too.... Hopefully I'll have a good update for you later today on that.

Friday, July 10, 2009

7/10/09

Most times, I just still can't comprehend that he's really gone... like right now. I feel like he should be sitting at the picnic table with us, eating corn on the cob.

His bike clothes should be hanging on the railing of the deck, drying out after a long ride on a nice day, along with wet towels from swimming in the pool. He should be making the kids squeal with laughter and frustration with his teasing and playing. He should be telling me he has to mow the lawn before dark since it's a nice day because it'll probably rain again soon.

He should be making a wish and blowing out the candles on his ice cream cake tomorrow after the kids and I sing Happy Birthday to him.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6, 2009

Last night was rough. I tucked Jacob into bed, laid with him and we watched each other's faces until his eyes closed and he fell asleep. Then I started crying, and just couldn't stop. I can usually turn it off at some point, but the whole time I cleaned the kitchen, took a shower and got ready for bed, all I did was cry. It felt kind of good in a way - like a much-needed release, since I'm not always able to do that, but it got annoying after a while. A good friend called me up just before I got into bed - just at the right time, and talked me out of it. I was able to fall asleep able to breathe through my nose.

Then, I had the most wonderful dream. I saw Matt - so clearly. He was leaning up against something, resting on his elbows, talking to a man that was standing to his right. I was to his left... I looked over and saw him, and couldn't believe my eyes. There he was - in the flesh, looking as handsome as ever. He looked to his left and saw me, and gave me a sweet smirk (I call it the Tom Selleck look). I walked up to him and ran my hand slowly along his back, feeling the happiest I've felt in almost eight months. He stood up, and as we got closer to each other's faces, I tried not to get too excited so that I wouldn't wake myself up like I'd done before. Slowly, our faces got very close, and I whispered to him, "I miss you." Then we kissed. As our lips touched, I tried to take it all in - the feel of his lips on mine, our arms around each other, his smell. He smelled different, but who cares... I finally got to see, touch, feel, smell, taste my love after all this time. In my head, I repeated, "I love you I love you I love you" over and over, hoping he could feel all of my love in our kiss.

I woke up very happy this morning. I think Matt knew that I really needed him. I can only hope that I can have more of these dreams, because if I can't have him with me in life, at least I can have him in my dreams. I'll take it.

Jacob and I got up at the same time this morning - 9am!!! It felt great to sleep in... He and I went into Sydney's room, and the two of us crawled into bed with her. It was a great moment - all three of us lined up in her little twin bed, under the flowery covers, as I basked in the memory of a dream that will carry me through another day.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A week from today...

Not only is today my first 4th of July without Matt, but in one week, it will be Matt's 40th birthday. I know that day is going to be especially hard for his parents and brothers.

I plan to get an ice cream cake (his favorite), and the kids and I are going to sing Happy Birthday to him. I don't want to break that tradition. Matt's mom said they plan to do the same on the other coast. It will still be his day - on both sides of the country.

All three of his brothers celebrated their 40th birthdays in a big way - a trip with the whole family (brothers, wives, older kids) to Vegas. I'm pretty sure it was Vegas all three times... I was either pregnant or nursing a newborn each time, so I couldn't participate, but I fully intended to plan and participate in this birthday celebration. I wasn't sure exactly what we were going to plan for him - I wasn't convinced Vegas was where he really wanted to go. I was thinking more like a trip to Mexico - maybe San Felipe like we had done in the past.

Before Matt and I were married, we met his whole family in San Diego and drove down to San Felipe. We camped in tents on the beach in November. It started off cold, but each day got warmer and we ended up extending our stay. It was so beautiful that no one wanted to leave. Even though I ended up with bronchitis, I didn't want to leave, either. I felt a little bad keeping everyone awake with my coughing all night long, and I felt like shit, but it was still fun! When the tide was out, we walked far out into the ocean and collected lots of beautiful sand dollars (that I ended up leaving at Greg's in San Diego). I even took part in riding one of his brothers' quads over the doons, and got pretty daring at it.

Tent camping wasn't in the plans this time around, so a condo was a consideration. His mom was going to help me plan, but we never got the chance.

I was going to take the kids to see some fireworks last night, but it was raining, of course. I'm so sick of rain! Someone said to me a while back when I was deciding about moving to California, "Everything is easier to deal with when the sun is shining."

I can't wait to get my ass out there.

Especially since I'll have another hurdle to get through this month... Our 7th wedding anniversary.

I'm just not in the mood for fireworks tonight.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July 2, 2009

Today I began cleaning out my office. My last day of work isn't until July 31, but since Jennifer is going on a road trip for the next couple of weeks, I'll be working from home. I figured as long as I was bringing a bunch of work home with me today, I'd bring some of my personal belongings home, too. As I was going through my desk, I came across a couple of notes that Matt wrote to me.

The first said, "Curly Quattro, I love you. M"

Now, as you probably guessed, there's a little back story on that one... A couple of years ago, I got a perm. I don't really know what I was thinking... I just wanted a little extra body in my hair, and thought that would do the trick. Well, it did. Apparently the hairdresser and I had some miscommunication because I ended up with a poodle perm. I won't make that mistake again anytime soon...

As it was, anytime I told Matt I was going to get my hair cut, he would reply with, "OK. Jacob and I are leaving town."

I used to overreact to bad hair cuts (I have since gotten some perspective on that - it's only hair, right?) and would make Matt pretty miserable with the aftermath. So, as you can imagine, a bad perm threw me a little. Thing is, Matt always preferred my hair curly, so he actually loved it! He said it bumped up my rank from #7 -he he... Apparently I made it to number four because he started calling me Curly Quattro.

We were still working at the same place when he came into my office while I wasn't there, wrote that note and left it on my desk for me to find. I never threw out any sweet notes like that, or any of the cards that he gave me. Thank God. He had such a beautiful way of expressing himself to me in cards. I treasure them.

The second note I found was just a brief little thank you for printing out one of his final papers for school. "Thanks, My Love."

The notes caused my mind to drift back to better days when all was right with the world - or at least in my world. I loved working at the same place that he did... I never got tired of seeing him around the campus. In fact, I rather admired him in his Carhartt work pants, and when I'd see him walking to the dining hall where we were all headed for lunch, my stomach would still do a little flip. I loved catching his eye while we were in there, and exchange a little unspoken message... I loved it that we had it so good.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sydney

Let me preface by saying that Sydney has only just turned two last month, so I haven't pushed potty training on her. I'm letting her lead on this. She's already gone pee pee on the potty several times, when she tells me she wants to go.

Last night before her bath, Sydney said "potty," so I put her on the potty and after about two minutes, lo and behold - POOP!

It's funny the things you get so excited about when you become a parent. I have to say, though - Jacob was/is just as excited as me. He's making sure to tell everyone we run into and talk to on the phone.

Sydney is talking a lot more, too - she can string several words together, like:

"I'll be right back" (with her pointer finger pointed up; sounds more like I'll be boop beck)
"No I didn't."
"I don't like."
"I love you" (sounds more like I ya you)
"Jacob, where are you?" (Jacob sounds more like Baycub)

Her vocabulary is quite extensive.

She's already recognizing some letters, too - the letters "O" and "S" so far. Maybe more, but I haven't taken the time lately to go through the magnetic letters with her. She can also count to five.

Sydney went through a stage recently where she would scream bloody murder when I'd leave her room after tucking her in for the night. After having a long talk with her one night before bed, she decided she would be a good girl and not scream before night night time anymore. =)

Occassionally I'll lay down with either Jacob or Sydney when tucking them in (usually it ends up being the last one tucked in). One time when I was laying with Sydney, I had my back to her while I started to dose off, and I felt her little hand stroking my hair so gently. What a love.

She has taken quite an interest in Jacob's two wheeler recently (which he has outgrown), and he is as anxious for her to start riding as I'm sure her daddy would have been. Jacob asked if we could get her a bike with training wheels, so we're going to go to the store on Friday and see if her little legs can reach the pedals on a two-wheeler with training wheels. I have no doubt that her big brother will take her under his wing with this endeavor...

Friday, June 26, 2009

I want to tell him...

Anytime something significant happens, my first inclination is to tell Matt. Even the mundane things I want to tell him.

Matt - guess what?! Michael Jackson died. You probably knew before we did, though... Strange how people around here seem to be dropping like flies now that you're gone. It's scary. I want to tell my Uncle Frankie to say hi to you and give you a hug for me when he gets to Heaven. A part of me is a little jealous that all these people get to see you now. I don't get to see you anymore, until someday when I die. For Jacob and Sydney's sake, I hope it's not for a very long time; otherwise, it really wouldn't matter to me. I would be so pissed if I didn't get to see you after I die, though... Matt, you would have gotten such a kick out of the kids this morning. They greeted each other with sleepy eyes, so happy to see each other, and were locked in a long embrace, full of smiles. You would be so proud of these kids. I told Jacob the other day (as I do often) that I am the luckiest mommy in the world. He said that I'm not, because my daddy died. I explained to him that you were his daddy, not my daddy - that you're my husband. I explained to him that because he and Sydney are my children, that still makes me the luckiest mommy in the world. I'm an unlucky wife for losing my husband, but was the luckiest wife for almost seven years until then. Matt, the kids and I are moving to California. I'm hoping to move by the end of August so Jacob can start school in time. I want you to come with us. I want you to be with us wherever we are. I wish there was some way I could see you again, or at least just talk to you. I wish I could pick up the phone and dial you and hear your voice on the other end. I wish that more than anything right now. The longing gets worse instead of easier to deal with. Maybe by putting this out there in cyberspace, the message will get to you somehow. I love you, Matt. I love you so much.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Preschool Graduation

The preschool graduation ceremony took place last week Wednesday for both preschool classes - the Sunshine Room (Jacob's class) and the Fireflies. Aunt Michelle, Aunt Jennifer, Sydney and I were all there to cheer him on. However, there was one very important person missing that day, and it broke my heart. Jacob seemed to be unscathed by Matt's absence, thank goodness, but I know he still felt it.

Jacob wasn't the only child there who was missing a daddy... I met a woman in my little town last Tuesday who also lost her husband just this past January. She has a five year old little girl. Turns out, her little five year old girl and my little five year old boy are in the SAME preschool class. What a small world... Privacy laws dictate that the teachers of the school couldn't disclose who was who to us, but we each knew there was another child in the class who lost their daddy the past year...

It was a tough day for her and I, and I'm so glad that we had met the day before the graduation so we had each other that day to lean on. We were both missing our husbands, and wishing they were there with us to watch this momentous event in their child's life.

I'm not exactly sure what order the kids were being called down from the bleachers, but Jacob ended up being the very last kid to have his name called. He was so patient the whole time, sitting up there waiting while everyone else's names were announced. The kid has a longer attention span than I do - I was starting to get fidgety and distracted by the time they got to him! A teacher helped a very excited little Jacob down from the bleachers, and I saw him turn to her and say, "I love my mommy!" She came up to me later and told me about it, just in case I didn't see that. It touched her as much as it touched me. My sweet little love...

After the ceremony, there was a very sweet slide show that had pictures of the children from the beginning of the year until now. Jacob had such a baby face at the beginning of the year... it's amazing how much all the kids have grown in just nine months. Looking at those early pictures, I was thinking to myself, that was when he had a daddy. When life was good.

After the slide show, we all went back into the classrooms to see the projects that the kids have been working on throughout the year. One of them was a collage of family pictures with captions. It's titled, "My Family." I had forgotten all about the request at the beginning of the school year to bring in some family pictures. The next pang of pain came from the Father's Day project that Jacob did for Daddy.

We all ran through the rain to get back to the van. I gushed over Jacob about how proud of him I am and how well he did, and told him that I'm sure his daddy is very proud of him, too.

By the time we got home, I was emotionally spent. I held it together really well the whole time at the school, got the kids home and tucked in, and then I fell apart. It really makes me mad that everything good that happens in our lives will be bittersweet from now on.