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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.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Arms of the Angel

This song by Sarah McLaughlin has had meaning for Matt and I from way early on in our relationship. It was played on the radio often during that time, and so I've always had a strong association with Matt with this song - probably more than any other song. It wasn't until I heard this song at some point after he died that I realized the irony of that, and it crushes me every time I hear it. Crushes me, and brings me comfort at the same time in a strange way.

It's Christmas night and the kids and I had an awesome day at home, opening gifts, playing with all the new toys, and just enjoying the heck out of each other. Their Christmas spirit totally rubbed off on me and I felt joy all day, and so blessed that I have these amazing kids. Now that the stress of the holiday was off, I thoroughly enjoyed their company and was relaxed and happy all day. Even missing Matt so much somehow didn't dampen my spirit much today (a true Christmas miracle in my book!).

After talking to one of my closest mutual friends of Matt's yesterday, we discovered that we both had "visit" dreams of him either on the same night, or one day apart in December (see previous post). Coincidence? I don't think so. I believe that he comes to us occasionally for a visit and makes the rounds. I relish in those, and I know anyone who experiences the same thing does, too.

Tonight after such a magical Christmas Day, the kids are in bed, the house is quiet, and I'm folding laundry while listening to the last of the Christmas music on the radio before it switches back to regular programming. My mind is wandering between the calmness and beauty of today with the kids, the fun we had with my brother and his family yesterday when they celebrated Christmas Eve at our house with us (for the first time in many years), Christmases past with Matt, and everything in between. At midnight, the regular programming resumed, and the very first song played was Arms of the Angel by Sarah McLaughlin. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Merry Christmas, My Love.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Great dream...

I haven't had as many dreams of Matt as I would like, but last night I had a great one. He had chosen a house for us - not sure where - and had already moved most of our things into it. The first time I got to see it was the day I moved in. I still hadn't seen Matt up to this point, and I half expected to not see him there, but as I was looking through the house going from room to room, I saw him in one of the rooms. We went up to each other and hugged tightly, and with tears in his eyes, he told me he wanted to live with me forever. I told him I wanted to live with him forever, too. It was such a great moment. The excitement of it pushed me to half-awakeness, and then I realized I was dreaming and woke up.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do you think this will suffice?

TO: Pasadena Unified School District

FROM: Andrea R. Row

DATE: December 6, 2010

RE: Termination of Services for Sydney R. Row

I would be happy to provide the documents necessary for re-certification; however, in our specific circumstances, there are no new documents to present. Your office already has all the most recent information I can possibly provide, and nothing has changed since we made our initial application for services sixty days ago. I was under the impression that we only had to renew our eligibility once per year, and was not aware of your sixty day deadline to get a business operational. The business that I am in the process of starting up is not up and running as of yet, and as such, no income has been earned. Here are the reasons for the delay:

Since we moved across the country from Buffalo, NY to Pasadena, CA just a little over a year ago, my children and I have been sick more often than not – especially since the beginning of this school year. After it became apparent that my children would likely need their tonsils (and possibly adenoids) removed, I had to find an HMO vs. the PPO health insurance carrier we initially started with upon our move so we could afford the expense of the procedures. This has taken quite a bit of research and time to get in order. Now that we have obtained better health insurance coverage, it has taken some more time to get established with the right doctors, and after many sick visits, my children have finally been referred to an ears, nose and throat specialist. Sydney is scheduled to have her tonsils out next month, and my son will likely be next in the near future. I have also been sick for the past two and a half months, and after several rounds of antibiotics that have not seemed to help much, I am now on prednisone. Our immune systems have not only suffered from adjusting to all the unfamiliar germs on this coast, but from extreme exposure with the children in school, and living in a highly populated community versus the rural, sparsely-populated area where we used to live. In addition, my husband passed away two years ago on November 15, and I am still recovering from this shock and trying to hold everything together for myself and my two children who are also suffering his loss and hitting new stages of grief by the day due to their growing understanding and developmental milestones. The anniversary of his death coupled with the holidays immediately following are especially challenging to deal with. I am in the process of seeking a counselor to help deal with anxiety and depression issues related to this grief. This has had a huge effect on how productive I am in maintaining a household, in a new state, on my own, raising my two children as a single parent with no breaks, and trying to keep myself healthy and functioning properly so I can do all the above successfully.

I still need to apply for a license to do business in Pasadena, research the organizations and memberships that I need to join in order to make myself more qualified to hold the title of Independent College Consultant, along with all the other research involved in catching up with the ever-changing dynamics of applying to college since I stopped working in the field over a year ago; especially for students with dyslexia and other language based learning disabilities which are the clientele I will be assisting. There have also been many recent changes by The College Board and the individual colleges and universities as to their requirements of the documentation that is necessary in order to provide services and accommodations to students with disabilities. I have also been researching the psychologists in this area that can perform the necessary tests on the students so the required information is included in their psycho-educational testing reports. I also need to get up to date with the changes that colleges/universities have made with regard to their programs that offer services to students with disabilities.

There are a great number of details involved in starting up this company, including learning how to run my own business, as this is the first time I’ve done so. I have a quicken program that I still need to learn, accounts to open, and still have to market the business so I can get clients. I have had meetings with a few different people in similar fields who have been a help in not only getting the information I will need for an independent college consulting business, but also getting good advice about what is necessary from a business/accounting standpoint. Networking plays a huge role in the potential success, and this is also something that takes time.

In addition to all this, I have to spend the time writing to the Social Security Administration and to the Worker’s Compensation Board to explain to both of them how I’m allocating the funds that we are receiving as a result of my husband’s death, both of which are my sole source of income at this point. I have a mortgage, bills, carrying our own health insurance, etc. that this money is all going towards, as well as the start up expenses I’ve paid out so far to get my business started – books, memberships, filing, computer application programs, etc., and the ridiculous amount of co-pays and prescriptions I’ve had to pay out for the many, many doctors appointments for myself and my children, which all take time during the day to take care of, which as a result takes time out of my efforts to get my business up and running. My expenses far exceed my income at this point.

I also have another potential income-earning opportunity through a non-profit organization that has offered myself and many other widowed people with valuable peer-based grief support after the loss of their spouse. I am the assistant to the Founder and Executive Director of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, and this should be considered an internship, since it will eventually turn into a part-time paid position once the organization obtains the funds to support it. I intend to maintain this position even after my own business is in operation as well.

It is my expectation that my business will be fully operational by the beginning of the next school year. I am doing my very best to get everything done, and to get it done in such a way as to ensure its success. I am not one of the thousands of people that drain the system while putting forth no effort to improve their situation. Once I begin earning income from the work I’m doing, I will not only likely lose the services you provide, but will also lose a good portion of the income we are receiving from Social Security death benefits, and therefore will probably not end up any further ahead financially than I am right now.

Sydney is thriving in preschool, and is adored by her teachers and peers. She has learned so much already, and is being challenged in a learning environment the way she really needs to be - much more than what I can offer her at home. If she is not able to attend preschool , especially stopping right in the middle of the school year, it is going to not only completely prevent me from making any progress in getting my business operational, but will also disrupt the reliable routine that has been established for her and cause her a great deal of distress and confusion. She looks forward to school every day. She is a highly intelligent child that needs the structure, socialization and stimulating learning environment that preschool is offering her.

Please contact me if you should have any questions, and with your decision about continuing her services. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future. Thank you very much for your kind consideration in this matter.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This weekend...

It feels SO fresh lately. The pain is indescribable. I feel like a worm on a hook again - writhing in agony, the hook piercing through my entire body, hitting every nerve. I miss you more than words can describe. I do a great job suppressing these emotions for a while, then they resurface and become beyond my control. Maybe it was seeing the family, maybe it's the holidays, maybe it's our growing kids and their ability to better articulate their grief. Maybe it's just all of the above, combined with a serious case of PMS. Whatever it is, it HURTS. Bad.

The kids and I had a great time with the family for Thanksgiving weekend. Got to Greg's Wednesday night, had Thanksgiving Thursday, Friday we celebrated Christmas, Saturday was New Years' Eve and Heather's Sweet 16, and came home this morning. Your mom is unbelievable. She put all of it together - made all the plans and prepared all the food. Wendell was pretty instrumental in it all, too.... Your mom made Jacob the most gorgeous American flag fleece blanket for Christmas that he totally flipped out over. You should have seen his face when he opened the box - as soon as he got the box open and saw enough of the blanket to recognize it, his face beamed, dropped it and ran to your mom to hug her. He's the most grateful and appreciative kid on the face of the Earth. Well, maybe not the ONLY one... Heather was pretty floored by her surprise party Saturday night, and appreciated every little part of it.

It was SO hard not having you there. For everyone. Each one of us felt your absence painfully. Your brothers lit one of Heather's candles on your behalf. Brandi and I really bonded for the first time I think ever. We all launched more balloons with notes written on them for you. This time, we attached a glow necklace to it (like one of those fluorescent plastic ones that are popular during New Years or the 4th of July...). We were imagining drivers on the freeway catching a glimpse of it (since that was the only part of it that was visible in the night sky) and thinking it was a UFO or something and causing an accident which triggered all of our sick senses of humor and resulted in fits of laughter. I envisioned that one episode of Six Feet Under we watched together where the lady got into an accident from seeing a blow up doll floating up into the sky (I think that's what it was -it's been several years since that episode, but I bought the whole series, so I'll eventually get my memory refreshed).

Lots more to tell from this weekend, but I'm willing to bet you were there with us watching it all, putting in your two cents unbeknown to us... At least I'd like to believe so.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Calm before the storm.

As I gained consciousness after the knock woke me up, I thought how quiet the house was. Then realized Matt wasn't laying next me, then the dread. More knocking. I know what that knock is. I know who is on the other side of that door and what they're going to tell me.

For a moment, I thought maybe if I didn't open the door, it wouldn't be real. Life can remain good if I just don't open the door. I took one look at the officer and knew it was over. My husband is gone. Father of our children. This can't be happening. Nothing will ever be the same.

This morning after getting out of bed, I relived that moment. I generally don't choose to relive this stuff - it just happens. Sometimes I can turn it off as soon as it enters my mind; sometimes it plays out against my will. There are times when I let myself relive some of those moments because it brings me closer to the time when Matt was still here. Somehow letting myself feel the pain makes me feel a little closer to him.

Two years later and I still can't believe he's gone. This kind of stuff only happens to other people. I just realized that Sydney has been without her daddy longer than she had him in her life- for six months now.

And now, here I sit, forced to review our life and the manner of his death in writing.

My date of birth. My address. Matt's date of birth. Our wedding date. Our children's names and dates of birth. His date of death. The location of his accident. The date and approximate time. The room where it happened. A detailed account of the multiple injuries he sustained including the physical and emotional anguish, anxiety, distress, fear of impending death... What he must have endured... These are the thoughts that torment me the most. No one will ever know how much he did or did not suffer, because he was alone the whole time. The fact that he was alone when he died sickens me (along with everything else about it).

I review it in my mind often enough without prodding - little flashes here and there that can come out of nowhere - but there's something about seeing it in print and signing my name to it... This weekend of all weekends, too, but I guess no time would have been good for this.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ramblings...

Some people are inspired to write when things are going well and clam up when they're going through tough times. I've discovered I'm not necessarily one of them. I tend to have the urge to write more when I'm in turmoil. It's not that I don't want to share when things are good... quite the opposite. I'd LOVE to share when things are going well - I know there are lots of people that would be thrilled to hear good news for a change; but I feel like if I write about it, it will somehow jinx that good thing. Or, that someone will be jealous of the good thing (I partially blame jealousy for some of the bad things that happen, so in my mind, if I put it out there and someone becomes jealous, it could sabotage the good thing - I know... crazy). Or (and I think this is the main reason), that there are others that might get the impression that just because there's something new and extraordinarily good happening in my life that I don't hurt anymore. WRONG. I will never be "over" Matt's death. I am, however, beginning to learn to live with it.

I'd like to think that I'm the kind of person that isn't particularly concerned with what people think of me since I know in my heart what's right and I don't feel it's necessary for me to explain, but yet that's possibly one more reason why I haven't written about this good thing. I'm inclined to feel the need to explain, even though I know it's not necessary (and I resent feeling the need to explain myself in any situation), although I do like to be understood. Geez - and I thought I was a pretty uncomplicated person for the most part!

So, despite any negative repercussions of saying it out loud, I'm going to anyway, because it IS something unexpected and great, and I'm going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts and revel in it, and maybe it'll give someone else some hope who is as pessimistic as I was. I met a wonderful man. Before Matt, I was convinced I'd never meet someone like him, then I did. Then when he died, I thought I'd had my time in the sun with love for ten incredible years, and that it would have to last me the rest of my life since it seemed highly unlikely that there could be someone else out there I could be as compatible with. And that if I was ever fortunate enough to meet someone, that I'd have to wait until I'm old and wrinkled before meeting him. But lo and behold, bam! Out of nowhere. I'm so grateful. There - I said it! Now let's hope it lasts a while...

Hence, what I call the yo-yo effect. The up and down of the emotional roller coaster. Especially this month.

It's November. I HATE November. I hate the WORD November. I hate what it means. Another milestone. Two years this month. Honestly, the milestones all feel pretty similar. Two years is just as bad as one year - I still feel the same sense of time warp. It can't possibly be two whole years already, even though there are times when it feels like a lifetime ago. Was Matt really in my life or did I dream him? There's that, but it's more like I can't believe I'm living my life without him. I never pictured my life without him once he was in it. I still don't want to believe this is our reality, but it is. The main difference between this year and last year, is that I've made a conscious decision to live and continue with life. Matt is and always will be a part of our lives, but I need to live like I have a future, and not live for the past (although it's quite tempting a lot of the time).

I just turned 37. Matt was 39 when he died, but to think I'm catching up to his age is scary. He was always supposed to be 4 and a half years older than me. Always. And now there's a good chance I'll end up older than him. It doesn't seem right.

Jacob and Sydney continue to grow and change and thrive. I'm constantly amazed by these kids, and so grateful that they're mine. And at times a bit unnerved by the fact that someone apparently thought it was a good idea to put me in sole charge of them.

I just had Jacob's parent/teacher conference this week, and although I knew it would be pretty positive, I was still pleasantly surprised by some of the things she said. His teacher did a reading test on each child in the class, and the score is out of 100. On average, the hope at this stage of 1st grade is that the kids each score somewhere between 15 and 25. Jacob scored 85. 85!! He gets 100's on his math tests. The only issue is his behavior - that after he's told not to do something, he still tries to get away with doing it and not getting caught, but I'd think that's pretty normal. Heck - nobody's perfect! Sydney's parent/teacher conference is coming up soon, and I'm guessing it'll be pretty positive as well. I can't believe how much she's already learned in preschool. She comes home singing new songs, reciting the alphabet, recognizing more and more letters and numbers, counting with more fluency, and can just about spell her name. She's 3 1/2, and considering that I've done a fraction with her at home (academically) that I did with Jacob, she's picking up on it pretty fast. Jacob is also playing a huge role in teaching her, too. Especially math... Here's a recent conversation:

Jacob: "Sydney, what's two plus two?"

Sydney: "I don't know!"

Jacob: "Listen - Two plus two equals four... What's two plus two, Sydney?"

Sydney: "Ummm, FOUR!"

Speaking of conversations, this morning I overheard a conversation between Sydney and Jacob, and I was so impressed with her understanding of certain concepts, and her ability to articulate them. A little background... Jacob came into my room in the middle of the night last night complaining that his head and stomach hurt. After trying to convince him that going back to bed and going to sleep would help him feel better in the morning, he thought it was a better idea to sleep in my bed. It happens pretty rarely, so I let him (I'm usually falling asleep in his bed tucking him in...).

This morning, this was the conversation I heard while I was in the bathroom, and Jacob was still in my room.

Sydney: "Jacob, why are you in Mommy's room?"

Jacob: "I slept with Mommy in her bed last night."

Sydney: "Why?"

Jacob didn't answer.

Sydney: "Why aren't you telling me? Is it a secret?"

Jacob: "No..."

Sydney: "Then why aren't you telling me?"

Jacob likes explaining himself just as much as I do apparently...

That's all I heard, but to me, it just didn't sound like that was coming from a 3 and a half year old!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thankful...

Constantly reaping the rewards of parenting these incredible kids, and so thankful that I have the ability to appreciate and recognize it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Things my kids say...

Sydney: "It was an accidink" instead of "accident."

Jacob: Instead of "tomorrow night" he says, "Tomorrow's night" ; instead of "last night," it's "yesterday's night, and instead of "tonight," it's "today's night." It's so 18th Century romantic.

Jacob woke up this morning and told me he dreamed about Daddy and all the things they did together in town. I always get excited when Jacob tells me he dreams about Matt, but it was especially exciting this morning because I felt him around us yesterday. It kind of confirmed for me that when I feel him near us, he really IS near us. I LOVE that.

Yesterday during dinner, the kids were talking about whether or not Matt would have liked the lamb chops... I said he might have, and then Sydney said, "If my daddy was alive and ate one, he might like it, but he's dead." She's said something else recently along the same lines, and that indicates to me that she's starting to grasp the concept of why he's absent from our lives. Before, she was always asking me where he is, and where everyone else's daddies are. It could be a temporary understanding, but from what I've read, that's pretty advanced for a three year old.

Yesterday, I had to explain to their teachers that their father passed away. Sydney's preschool has a "family unit" coming up, and Miss Jessica needed to be aware of her situation. I have to bring in a family picture for her class. Do I bring one in where she's less than 18 months old, which is when the last family picture was taken of all four of us? Or a picture of just her, Jacob and I?

I told Jacob's teacher for similar reasons, and also so she doesn't think he's lying when he blurts out that his daddy is dead.

In one month from today, it's gonna be two years already. This sucks.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lessons from a donkey...

I just read this from my friend Cliff's blog... I found it inspiring.

Lesson from a Donkey


One day a farmer's donkey fell down into an old, dry well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.

Finally, totally frustrated, he decided the animal was old, the well to deep and as it needed to be covered up anyway it just wasn't worth it to continue to try to retrieve the donkey.

So after explaining his plight to his neighbors the farmer asked them to come over and help him take care of the unique situation.

Sympathetic to his dilemma they all grabbed their shovel and began to pitch dirt into the deep well.

At first the donkey, when he realized what was happening, brayed horribly. It was quite upsetting to listen to...then to everyone's amazement he quieted down.

A few hours later, for this was a very deep well, the farmer finally looked into its depths. What he saw astonished him!

Wth each shovel of dirt that was pitched over the well's wall it fell on the donkey's back.

The donkey realized that this was his way out and instead of braying he concentrated on shaking the dirt off of his back and stepping onto the raised surface underneath his hooves.

When the farmer told his neighbors what the donkey was doing their spirits lifted and they shoveled dirt into the well as fast as they could. Each time this was done the donkey would shake the dirt off and step up.

Within a few hours the happy donkey was high enough within the well that he stepped out of the well onto level ground, walking away from what had seemed an impossible challenge without any practical resolution.

~~Author Unknown

Monday, October 4, 2010

Unwritten.

There's so much to say, yet I can't (or maybe just choose not to) put it into words. Normally they flow out of my fingertips so easily, and I usually find I NEED to write in order to be able to sleep at night since it's getting the words, phrases, ideas and images out of my head and into type that seems to clear my mind.

Lately, I've been in limbo - somewhere between heaven and hell - and I keep flipping back and forth between the two, moment to moment. It's the best way to describe "where" I am right now, even though I'm pretty sure I don't believe in heaven and hell as a physical location anymore. I tend to believe it's more like a "state of being." Hmmm... that could be something to write about, huh?

Right now, I just don't have the urge or desire to write about what's going on. Some things are best left unsaid. I'm learning and living.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fresh start.

It's taken me some time to recover from that trip to Buffalo. I've finally stopped twitching the past couple of weeks or so which is a good sign... It took me some time to write about it - first, because I just simply lost my writing momentum being away from my computer for so long, and second, because I knew it was going to stir up a lot of the emotions I repressed while there. Sure enough, it did. The good thing about that, is it helped me to face them and also made me realize that I truly consider Pasadena "home" now.

After Matt died, I was completely displaced. I didn't feel at home even in my home anymore. Home was with him, which is something I didn't even quite understand the concept of when he was alive. It didn't matter too much where I decided to live after he died because at that point, I didn't belong anywhere. Now I feel like I do, and that's such a good feeling.

Things have really started looking up since our return from Buffalo (after the twitchy part was over). It almost feels like a new beginning. For one, the kids have started school. Yes, BOTH of them! Jacob started first grade, and Sydney is in her first year of preschool. She's in a full day program right at the same school Jacob is in! I can go grocery shopping in peace, clean my house with no interruption, and have finally begun to get things in order so I can start working again on getting my business in operation. I feel like a new woman!

Jacob is doing very well in school, and is also involved with the after-school program which he enjoys immensely. I always get so many compliments from the people in that program about what a good boy he is - he's a great helper that doesn't even need to be asked to help, a good listener, and a pleasure to have in the program. No sweeter words for a mommy to hear! 

Sydney absolutely LOVES preschool. She was so ready... Her first day, and she never even looked back at me as I walked away from her. Don't get me wrong - I'm thrilled that she's so well adjusted, but I couldn't believe she never looked back at me once! As a natural little nurturer, she's been a great support to her peers who have had a tougher time adjusting to being away from their parents. She is adored by her teachers, too, and I get the same sort of compliments with her as I do with Jacob. I am so blessed!

I had a meeting with a really neat lady a few days ago that was so inspiring. My next door neighbor who works with her son actually put me in touch with her. She owns her own business that not only trains teachers to instruct students with dyslexia, but also tutors students. She actually worked at The Gow School for several consecutive summers with their Teacher Training Institute, and knows most of the people I know from there - what a small world! When I first went into her office, I noticed the Gow tissue box cover on her shelf, and I instantly felt at home! She gave me some great advice and suggestions, and confirmed for me that I'm on the right track with things, which was very reassuring.

At last, I feel like I'm finally beginning to get a foothold on this new life I've been forced into.

Monday, September 20, 2010

East Coast Trip, Part II

Let's see... where did I leave off...

Oh yes - back in Buffalo. The kids and I stayed in the little apartment above Matt's aunt and uncle's farmhouse where his Grandma Munn used to live - on the dairy farm in our old neighborhood. So peaceful and wholesome. Grandma Munn was such an awesome lady. I'm so thankful I got to know her, and I'm somewhat comforted that she's up there with Matt. She passed away four days after we were married. We were fortunate to get some nice pictures taken with her on our wedding day, at her home.

It was perfect for the kids and I, and we were so comfortable there. I also liked it because it was comforting to be staying where she lived - it brought me just a little closer to her and Matt. The kids had such a blast hanging out with their cousins who live a few doors down, going to the barn to check out the cows and the new baby calf, climbing the hay bales, eating fresh picked sweet corn, playing with the kittens that were being nursed by their aunt kitty (long story), and the space for Jacob to ride his borrowed bike on grassy hills, stone paths and mud puddles. With the kids being just one year older since the last time we were here, it made it so much easier for me and more fun for them. 

The whole time I anticipated this trip, the question loomed in my mind.... Do I visit the home we built together? If I do, should I dare go in? Will I be a blubbering mess? Will I be sorry that I did because I might hate whatever changes they made?

The first time I drove by the house, I was on my way to Rick and Mary's farm. I had to drive by since it was on the way, and before I got there, I asked myself, "Do I turn into the driveway, or just keep going? Pull in, or keep going???" Before I answered the question, I found myself pulling into the driveway. No one was home. The kids and I just sat in the car for a few minutes while I looked at the outside of the house. I looked at the siding. The siding Matt put in, piece by piece. I looked at the spot where Matt had to replace the one strip because a ball or something - now that I think about it, it could have been a bike tire (Matt's or Jacob's) crashing into it and cracking the siding. Anyway, I looked at that spot, knowing the crack that was there not long before. I looked at the overhangs. The porch railings. Looked at the spot in the front where Matt used to plant impatiens and tulips, now covered with stone. I looked at the hill where Jacob and his cousins used to ride their bikes. The garage doors that used to be open all the time with Matt working in the garage - usually building something or fixing something. The shed that three generations of Row boys worked on together. The house is missing the life we brought to it. The life that would still be missing even if the kids and I stayed. I was frozen in thought for a while, and then finally pulled away. I brought the paperwork for the tractor. I had been holding on to that with the intentions of mailing it to the new owners from day one, but not getting around to it, I decided to just bring it out with me. That way, I could use that as an excuse for why I stopped by to see the house while in town. If I saw anyone home while I was visiting, I would have the paperwork in the car already so I could pop in. A very handy opening to an awkward situation.

One of the things I just remembered was when Matt put in the lantern halfway up the driveway, he anchored it with a cement base. I have an extremely vivid memory (which doesn't happen often) of him finishing up the cementing and putting the pole in. The kids and I put our hand prints into the soft cement. I told Matt we were done and that he should do his next. He wouldn't. I looked down at our hand prints, and it just seemed so wrong to have the three of ours there, but not his. I left a space for him to put his hands in. I asked him why not, and either he didn't answer or I don't remember the answer, but no matter how much I tried to get him to put his hands in there, he wouldn't. It was really upsetting to me. Little did I know how fucking symbolic that would be.

The kids and I so thoroughly enjoyed spending time with friends and family we've missed so much. It was tough (and exhausting) to try to make sure we weren't leaving anyone out, but I know there were many we didn't get to see or spend enough time with. We had a chance to visit The Gow School where we worked for years to see everyone there. They were always like our second family. They have a memorial garden in Matt's honor that is just beautiful. My intentions were to visit Gow at least twice while we were in town, but that didn't end up happening, and my one visit there was totally rushed so I could make an appointment with my life insurance agent (finally getting that in place).  Life insurance people - no matter how young you are, if you have a family, GET SOME. I know plenty of young widows and their children who are struggling to make ends meet because of their spouse not having life insurance. That should be the least of their worries when also trying to survive and function after losing their loved one. Trust me.

It was a struggle to get up out of the bed in the morning while there. I didn't expect that. Knowing we were in Buffalo another day without Matt - it was as hard as I imagined it would be. It felt so wrong to be there without him (I was still in shock at the time I moved, so I don't think that concept had a chance to really sink in). Yet, I could feel him with us at times, and there were times it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

I made it a point to visit some of the places Jacob has the most memories. We went to one of the places in town where Matt and Jacob would ride their bikes together. There is a little trail with a "jump" behind the pizza place we used to order our pizza from that held a lot of memories for Jacob. Sydney, Jacob and I went there and walked along that trail, walked on the little hill that's the "jump," and went up a bit further to the railroad tracks that Jacob loves so much. They, too, hold memories for him with his daddy. We went to the Red Caboose ice cream place that's near there and also to the park we used to go to all the time. We went to another ice cream place in town that we used to go to with Matt. They have great hot fudge...

I have to say, I gorged myself on pizza, wings, hot dogs, home cooking and soft serve ice cream - just like I intended. My stomach was KILLING me for pretty much the entire trip, but it was SO worth the pain.

One day, we were on our way to meet our friends to go to a picnic, and I saw that the garage doors were open to my house. The kids and I pulled in, and the owner was on the John Deere tractor I brought the papers for. He was mowing the lawn, like Matt used to always do. I waved him up to the house and when he killed the motor, I introduced myself. He was surprised, and seemed happy to meet me. He invited me in and without much hesitation, I said sure. The kids and I went into the house and also met his fiance (I don't know if they've gotten married since I sold the house to them, but they were engaged when they bought the house, like Matt and I were when we built it). They are a very sweet couple who adore their new home, and appreciate where it came from. They appreciate the quality of workmanship that Matt put into it. I gave them some history on the house, and Jacob told them about the raspberry bushes they didn't know existed up the hill. They said they didn't have to do anything to the house after moving in, but paint some of the rooms their desired colors. I was pleased with the colors they chose - I think they compliment the house really well, and the furniture they have in it looks beautiful. I felt good going into the house and seeing what it looks like now, and that it's being loved and appreciated. Jacob felt comfortable there and made himself at home, lounging on their chair in the living room, and Sydney mooched some grapes from them, too. I didn't bawl like I thought I would, either. I told them the next time I come to town, I'll bring the photo albums of when we built the house - we have pictures from before Matt was the one-man bulldozer and cleared the land, to the finished product. And the paint war in between... We had so much fun building that house, and it was probably a true test to whether or not we could last the duration.

I did a really great job of repressing my emotions for the majority of the time I spent in Buffalo, except for one or two brief moments. Like when I was at the Run for Row, and one of Matt's former co-workers came up to me after the race. He sat down to talk to me - I never met him before. He said he worked at Cameron while Matt worked there, but now he doesn't work for them anymore, but many in his family still do. He was in charge of the first machine Matt was testing the night he was killed. That one was getting tested until midnight. As he was talking to me, I tried so hard to really hear him and listen to his words, but my thoughts kept interrupting. As he was telling me how much he admired Matt's work ethic, blah blah blah, I was thinking, "couldn't you have done something like tell him he should go home? Cover the shift for him that he was covering for Rob? Have something come up with your machine so he wouldn't have to test the next one that killed him?" I don't know what the expression was on my face, but he ended the conversation by saying how nice it was to meet me, and he got choked up as he said goodbye. After he walked away, I lost it. I'm always happy to get to talk to the people Matt was with last before he died and to hear little bits and pieces of his last moments, but at the same time, it's so hard. And it brings me right back to wanting to be Superman and fly around the Earth at warped speed to turn back the time to somehow change the course of events.

Since the moment I made my decision to move to California five months after his death, I haven't looked back or doubted my decision. Things just seemed to fall into place to make it possible, and it felt right. Before I left for Buffalo for this visit, I wondered if it would plant the seed of doubt. If I would get there and feel like, "What the hell did I do??? Why would I leave our home? Our life here?" I had one very brief moment of that, but more defining moments that confirmed for me that I made the right decision. I think our next trip back will be a lot easier.

What I didn't expect was when I returned home to California, the sense of closure I felt at "returning to the scene of the crime." Closure, in the way that as wonderful as it was to go back and visit, my home is here now. Maybe there will be a time years from now that I'll decide to move back - I've changed my mind before (for instance, when Matt first died, I vowed I would NEVER leave our home). Or maybe I'll decide to live somewhere completely different. But for now, I love Pasadena, and I think it loves me.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

East Coast Trip - Part I

So, a week after the kids and I got back from the Arizona/San Diego/Arizona trip, we flew to Buffalo for our first visit back since our move to California a year ago. We've been home for a few days, and while I've been using the excuse of unpacking, getting caught up with stuff around the house, etc. for why I haven't sat down to write about it, I recently realized the real reason. I've been doing a great job of pushing back the emotions it stirred up.Well, I *was* doing a great job, then I wasn't for a while, but I'm good now.

It was as hard as I thought it would be, and it was better than I thought it would be, all at the same time.

The kids and I arrived on Thursday evening, and spent Friday and Saturday hanging out with friends and family. Sunday morning was the 5K, and I was completely stressed out about it. It was just about as difficult for me as the fist Run for Row for some reason. It was great to see everyone, but I just wish I could have had more time with everybody; especially since I had to leave early to go to the airport to catch my flight to New York City for the Mike Huckabee Show. I really wish I could have provided a link to the show we did, but it's still not available. As soon as it is (if ever), I'll post it. From what I heard from some people who were able to view it in the few select cities it was televised in, it turned out great. From my perspective being in the studio audience, Michele, Kim and Dana did a fabulous job describing what a huge benefit it is to attend Camp Widow, and how awesome the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation is. It was great being there to cheer on my widda peeps. They had a camera on me the entire time, though, which was strange. Michele and I had some very similar experiences with our losses, so when she was describing certain things in detail, I couldn't hold back the tears. I was pissed because they did such a great job on my make up, and I was ruining it by crying.

The girls and I had a good time sharing stories about the car ride from the airport to the hotel... we each had foreign drivers, and of course, the subject came up about why we were there. Dana and I got an earful from our drivers about their perspective on our situations... things like, she'd better find a man before she hits 40 since her life will be over by then, and, if my husband hadn't died, I'd never have had the opportunity to go to NYC. Wow. Considering the vastly different culture we are familiar with, we let it go. (I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut, so I did explain to my driver as kindly as I could that I would MUCH prefer that my husband still be alive than to ever see NYC in my lifetime.)

We did have a great time in NYC during our very short visit... Sunday night, Dana and I toured Times Square since our hotel was on the corner of it (so awesome), and the rain held off long enough for us to get that in. Then we all met at Michele's brother's bar in Manhattan for a delicious dinner and an awesome drink named after his new baby girl. It rained buckets, but it was still a great time! The next morning, it rained even harder. Dana and I, since we were staying at the same hotel, met in the lobby that morning. We ventured to Starbucks with our hotel-issued umbrellas to get some coffee, and then to a street vendor for an authentic NYC bagel I've heard so much about (they're all that and more, too... mmmmm). As we headed back to the hotel with bags, coffees and umbrellas in hand, we were walking against the rain so we were getting even more drenched. Just as we were nearing the door to the hotel, some kid ran passed me and bumped the arm I was holding my coffee in and it splashed onto my shirt (we were dressed for the taping of the Huckabee Show, but fortunately I had decided shortly before that I was going to change my shirt anyway). Not three seconds after that, Dana was opening the door to the hotel, tipped her umbrella back to go in the doorway, and all the water on her umbrella dumped down my shirt. It actually was hilarious and I couldn't stop laughing! It was seriously like a comedy (as long as I was in TV mode)...

Just after the taping, we got to meet The Cake Boss (who I never heard of until then) who is a totally down to earth guy who can just so happen bake and decorate a cake like a GENIUS. He lost his dad when he was 17, and he was sharing his and his mom's experience with us. I've really got to start watching more television... It's embarrassing that I have no idea who any of these people are that others talk about, but I guess it's good news for any celebrities I might bump into (especially living in LA). I wouldn't know them from anyone else, so they wouldn't have to worry about me gawking or asking for autographs!

Right after the taping was done for the show, I was driven back to the airport to catch my flight back to Buffalo.

Seeing as how it's taken me forever to write this much, I'm going to end here for now. Little bites... More to come soon.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Forgive me...

We just got back last night from our two week long trip and I'm trying to get caught up on things around the house. I have so very much to write about, but I promised myself I would get on a better schedule to get to bed at reasonable hours and eat regular meals. I will write a whole lot very soon - especially so I can remember our experiences from this trip!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Next...

I just about had time enough to unpack from the last trip and pack for this one (still packing, actually) and we leave the house at 5am tomorrow morning for our flight to Buffalo. First time back since we moved a year ago this month. It seems like an entire lifetime ago.

This is a loaded trip in so many ways. I'm trying to have a positive attitude and think about the many wonderful reasons why it's gonna be great and focus on that. I'm wearing Matt's wedding band on a necklace around my neck again because I need him with me more than ever right now. I never took it off from the time he died until somewhat recently when I've finally been able to bring myself to accessorize with other necklaces that have been gathering dust. Then putting it back on after taking a brief hiatus from it made me feel like I'm wearing my grief on display. Now I wear it just when I really need to, and I really need to right now.

I know the hardest thing about going back is feeling like he should be with us in our hometown, in the places we used to go, hanging out with our friends and family, in the home that's no longer ours. I have a lot to look forward to, though. Seeing our family and friends after a whole year, pizza, wings, Sahlen's hot dogs, fresh picked sweet corn from Matt's aunt and uncle's farm, blueberry picking (the kind where you end up with literally BUCKETS of sweet, plump blueberries), and the awesome home-cooking from family I've missed so much.

Jacob is so excited to be going back, and his enthusiasm is rubbing off on his little sister. He's also looking forward to not just seeing everyone, but running in the 5K for his daddy, and going to the places we used to go with Matt.

There's another little side trip within this trip that I can't even believe is happening - check it out here... I'm so excited and honored to be able to help spread the word (on national TV in front of a live studio audience- holy crap!!) about something that has made such a huge, positive impact on my life after Matt died. And as an added bonus, I get to check out Manhattan for the first time with some widda buds! It's embarrassing to admit that although I've lived my entire life in Upstate New York (except for the past year), I've never been to New York City. Except my brother just informed me this afternoon that I was there once before, but I was only two at the time. I don't think that counts, though...

I'm going to have a LOT to update by the time I get a chance to write my next post! I just have to remind myself that if I could get to this point a year and nine months after Matt's death, I can get through this next challenge, and survive; especially with the oodles of love from my family and friends - old and new.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Soul Growth.

I've titled this post a hundred different things while writing it in my head: "Lessons," "Confronting Demons," "Stirring the Pot," "Soul Searching," "Growing Pains..."

I was not prepared for the myriad of emotions that Camp Widow stirred up. It really caught me by surprise. Stuff I had buried that I didn't even realize was still there. I was still pretty numb at last year's conference, and I'm sure that was a factor. I was in a totally different place this time last year than I am now. It appears that I am not nearly the only one, either - several of my other widowed friends who attended last weekend's events are experiencing the same sort of emotions.

I hit a low point a couple days ago. Those low points make you feel like you'll never see the light of day again, but low and behold, eventually it passes. I'm happy to report that as time passes, these low points are less frequent, and I seem to come out of them a bit quicker than before. I hope that's a trend that continues... I also consider myself extremely blessed to have such a wonderful support system, and I know for a fact that I can contribute bouncing back faster to them as well.

I talked to several friends yesterday, and I learned something pretty significant from each of them. Some lessons, some reminders... 

Lesson number one: Shut up and listen. Really listen.

Lesson number two: Apparently the thing that holds you back from moving forward in life is yourself. This is a bitter pill to swallow, but what an invaluable epiphany.

Lesson number three: Anger is blinding and deafening, and it can make you sick. It can keep you from seeing things that are right in front of your face, and from hearing things that are being said to you loud and clear.

Lesson number four: Pain is progress. It may seem like a hindrance, but it is a sign of growth and understanding. Embrace it, then let it go.

Lesson number five: Stop focusing inward - step outside of yourself and open your eyes and ears to those around you. 

Lesson number six: Sleep is priceless. Gotta do this more...

Lesson number seven, and probably most important: Instead of focusing so much on what I've lost, I need to be focused on what I have right in front of me. My amazing children, and the many other wonderful people that are in my life.

I saw this on Facebook yesterday, and it really hit home:  "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." - Anais Nin
I think a lot of the things I'm accusing others of are the very things I'm guilty of. Another bitter pill, but a really necessary one. Not sure if that's the meaning of that quote, but that's what I took from it, anyway.

These horrible circumstances that we're all faced with have a purpose. No one escapes this life without experiencing tragedy of some sort. The biggest question we all ask is "why" and perhaps the answer is "to help us grow." Soul growth - so we are better prepared to live the rest of this life, and the life that comes after this one.

I'm so glad I've realized these lessons and that I gave myself the chance to think about them and process them- especially in light of the next trip I have coming up. In a week, the kids and I are going back to Buffalo for the first time since we moved, and the thought of going back has been stressing me out. I'm going to keep these lessons in mind, and remind myself to be a little lighter and kinder, and a little bit stronger to face this next hurdle.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Camp Widow 2010

Getting to Camp Widow this year wasn't quite as adventurous as last year's cross country trek to the conference, but it sure was another whirlwind weekend!

I'm within driving distance now that I'm living in California, but since Matt's parents live in Arizona, I drove Jacob and Sydney to their house on Monday. Visited for a couple of days, then that last night before I left the kids with their grandparents, Jacob's very first loose tooth (that was hanging on literally by a thread) fell out! Awesome timing - I was so worried I would miss that moment. He actually pulled it out himself - he had pushed it over with his tongue, and instead of it bouncing back up like before, it just stayed over and kind of twisted (you should have seen his face while all this was going on). He grabbed it with his fingers, and plucked it out of his mouth. Just that easy! Even though we were miles away from our home, the tooth fairy still came, too!

The next morning on Thursday, I had a very peaceful drive to San Diego. Thank you, Ginny and Roy!!! It's so nice to be able to leave the kids with them, and be confident that they're in good hands and having a great time. They even took care of our bunny, too! During one of my phone calls to the kids while I was away, Jacob proudly declared that the bunny is "still alive"- ha ha! Sydney had such a great time with Grandma and Grandpa that she threw a FIT when we arrived at our house and saw that we weren't at their house...

This weekend was just as wonderful as I anticipated. I was reunited with widowed people I met last year (we call ourselves "alumni"), and made even more new friends. I also had a chance to make hopefully a little bit of difference with some people newer to widowhood. Did a little volunteer work for the event, and had a whole lot of fun! Michele Neff Hernandez and her posse did an AMAZING job of putting all this together. Although I'm her assistant now, I just literally got that title and had very little to do with the incredible amount of work and preparation involved for this event. I seriously don't know when that woman sleeps.

It was SO great to meet new faces, be face to face with those I only have known through Facebook or through blogs, as well as be reunited with friends I have known for at least a year. Even did a little "bouncer" work, discouraging a couple of thugs from crashing our banquet to prey on the 200 gorgeous young widows in attendance (and the 10 handsome men - who knows what their intentions were!). Did a little more of that later at the bar some of us went to as well. I have always been very protective of my friends and family, and hate to admit that I rather enjoyed the opportunity to stretch those muscles. =)- Not only did I have a great time dancing to the music of the awesome band that played at the banquet, but there was another awesome band at the bar, too, and we ended up closing the place down just like last year. My good friend Mel gives a great account of some more entertaining details including pictures from that night, and my sista from another motha (who I finally got to meet!!) has some, too. You can read several other posts regarding Camp Widow on Widow's Voice as well. There is also a great article in USA Today about this weekend. Check back, because I'll eventually list all the blog posts I can find that mention Camp Widow 2010!

I was only nine months out last year at the conference. I was there to draw on the strength of others who had a little more widowed time under their belts, and just feel at home with the camaraderie of those who understand. I felt safe and embraced. This time at a year and nine months out, I had the same agenda, with the added benefits of being able to do the same for those who have been widowed after me, which was just as therapeutic for me as well as anyone I (hopefully) helped. As fun and rewarding as this weekend has been, it was also very draining. Of course, I'm sure seven hours on the road in each direction didn't help, and neither did getting pulled over for speeding on the way back to my in-laws house to get the kids.

Cop: "Why were you going so fast?"

Let me preface by saying, I always think I have a creative excuse for getting out of a ticket like, "I have to go to the bathroom really bad" or something stupid like that, but tend to just blurt out the truth when under pressure:

Me: "I'm trying to get home to my kids."
Cop: "Is this your current address on your license?"
Me: "Yes, sir - my kids are staying with my in-laws in Arizona while I attended a widow conference in San Diego, and I'm on my way to pick them up."

He asked me for proof of insurance, but unfortunately, I left it in my other purse at home. I put it in there with the intention of then putting it into the glove compartment, but that didn't happen. Oops. He went back to his car to write my ticket.

When he came back, I was crying. 

Cop: "Why are you crying?"
Me: "It's been a very intense weekend."

I seriously don't think I cried all weekend at Camp. Don't ask me how I managed to pull that one off, but I made up for it on the way back to Arizona. By some miracle, he ended up only citing me for proof of insurance, and not speeding. Phew!!!

Got to Arizona on Monday, and left for home on Tuesday. I'm exhausted, but recharged from an inspiring weekend with my widda peeps. I miss them all already.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reclaiming some sanity...

My wonderful brother took the kids one day for me while I got caught up on some stuff... I got SO much accomplished! I've been feeling frazzled, stressed out, sad, you name it. On the edge. I made it through Matt's birthday, our wedding anniversary on the 27th and everything in between by the skin of my teeth and just needed a breather. 

I debated on getting a pedicure or some other pampering treat for myself for the day my brother had the kids, but decided for my sanity, and for my kids' sakes, it would be best for me to attend to things that have been looming over my head. For example, registering for the 5K in my husband's honor. Booking the hotel room for that weekend. Confirming that the car rental really is going to include a car seat. Paying bills. Doing a little Soaring Spirits work. Laundry. Cleaning. Accomplishing all that felt as good (or better) than pampering, and saved myself a few bucks, too! While I did all that, Jacob and Sydney were having a great time with Uncle Bryan, as they usually do. Thank you, Bryan!
 
Also, thank you to the oodles of thoughtful friends and family who gave me so much love and support on what would have been our eighth wedding anniversary. I did my best to focus on being thankful for having Matt in my life in the first place, and even getting to marry the love of my life and have his children, but it's a real challenge to not have the feelings of being completely ripped off trump any positive thoughts. 

For as unlucky as I am to have lost my favorite man in the whole world, I'm very fortunate in nearly every other aspect of my life - including having so many wonderful people who care about us so much.

Right now,  I'm focused on getting ready for the kids and I to travel to Arizona to visit with more of Matt's family. Then I'll be leaving them with his parents while I drive down to San Diego for Camp Widow. I'm SO looking forward to a fun weekend with my widowed peeps, and of lessened responsibilities - although I'm somehow already missing my kids just anticipating being away from them for so long!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Good dream for Jacob!

Last night was the first night Jacob cried about Matt's death. It's been over a year and a half. I know it's healthy - it's part of growing and grieving. It made me sad that my poor sweet little love has to go through this, and angry that the one person who can back me up is the very person that we're missing. I am a little relieved that he's able to express his grief in another way. And, in a way that *I* can understand.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Uberfunk.

Today wasn't as bad as yesterday - I was happily distracted most of the day with great friends I've made through Jacob's school, all of our kids, and a gorgeous beach in Santa Monica. Fun, down-to-earth ladies, the kids all played so well together, and just the sound of the waves is relaxing. Jacob was in his glory playing at the edge of the water, running to and from the waves hitting the shore, and Sydney in hers playing in the sand (she can do this for hours and be totally content)... We even got to see a little family of dolphins enjoying the beautiful day, too! God I love living in California.

However, upon returning home, I slipped right back into my uberfunk (I've never even heard that word - is it a word? I just made that up).

Among all the other crap I listed in my last post, THIS post from Widow's Voice, written by my good friend Jackie, describes the other thing that's been weighing crushingly heavy on my heart, and she does it with amazing detail like she crawled inside my heart and my brain. Her timing is amazing, too...

I met a guy recently that I was truly physically attracted to for the first time since Matt, and felt something I haven't felt in a looong time. Something I've been trying to bury, something I'd actually rather not feel because it invites complication and confusion into my life. In allowing myself feel something (which I suppose I'm thankful that I can after all), it also opened me up to not just good feelings, but to not so good ones, like disappointment. Other things I'd rather not feel. Again, I am decidedly not ready. And it makes me sad. And I probably burned a bridge because of it, or maybe I was being smart about it after all - hard to tell when I'm feeling somewhat disconnected from sanity. Either way, my life will continue to be a bit simpler for the time being.

I hate being in this position that I never thought I'd have to deal with ever again. It took me 25 years for me to find Matt, and 29 years for him to find me. God only knows how much longer it'll take (IF it happens) to find someone equally as wonderful, and who can appreciate me for me, who I can trust with me AND my kids (another whole added element to an already challenging feat). I really, really resent being put in this position. Wasn't I thankful and appreciative enough that I was so blessed to have married a man like Matt who fit the bill in every way? I hate this, and I hate this for my friends who are going through the same shit.

Jackie, we're gonna have a lot of laughs at Camp in a couple of weeks sharing our experiences! (I know by then we'll be able to laugh about it - especially over a few drinks!)

Today.

Today SUCKED. For so many reasons.

Not only have I been bombarded lately with the reality (more than ever before) that Matt's gone and not coming back, but my inability to be lighthearted and present with my kids lately is seriously adversely affecting my behavior, and as a result, theirs.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finding a balance...

I can tell I must be moving in some direction, hitting another sort of stage... in transition again. But heck - that's what life is all about, right? Just a bunch of transitions.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Matt's birthday...

Last weekend was a birthday filled weekend for the Rows... it was Matt's oldest brother Greg's birthday, then Greg's son Josh who turned 21 (already - hard to believe!!!) and then Matt's on the 11th. They were originally going to have a big celebration in Vegas for Josh, but the plans changed and the celebration was to happen in San Diego. I'm SO relieved they did that because it then made it possible for the kids and I to participate. Living on this coast now, I absolutely LOVE being able to get in a vehicle and drive to see them!!

Friday night was our traditional dinner at La Palapas (awesome Mexican food), and then Saturday was Josh's big bash. The kids were being brutally ornery, so Matt's parents decided to take them back to Greg's house and leave me at the party so I could relax and have a good time. God bless them. I almost didn't stay and was going to bring the kids home myself, but my mother-in-law told me (very sternly) that if I was to leave, she'd be very upset with me, and that I was to stay and have a good time, dammit! I'm really glad I decided to listen to her, for lots of reasons...

The next day, we launched a bunch of helium balloons up to Matt. We all wrote notes on the balloons, and the kids and I filled out a card for daddy.

A little backstory on this... For Jacob's birthday this year, I brought cupcakes to school for him and his kindergarten class. I also brought the bunch of balloons I got for him since they really give the birthday feel, and Jacob really wanted them there. There were a bunch of latex helium balloons, and one mylar balloon. The kids ate the cupcakes outside during recess, and then played on the playground. Some of the kids had taken the balloons and were tossing them around. Eventually, the mylar balloon got loose and took off into the sky.

Jacob was swinging on the swing set in the playground, smiling away and having a blast, watching his classmates joyfully celebrate his birthday.  When I saw the mylar balloon take off, I thought "oh boy- here we go." I looked over at Jacob who didn't notice it right away, but as soon as he did, the smile fell away from his face. I ran over to him to do some damage control...

ME: "Hey, Jacob!! Check it out! Your balloon is going up to to Heaven to let Daddy know we're celebrating your birthday with your class down here!"

JACOB: His face instantly lit up again: "COOL!!! Awww, too bad we didn't attach a note to it for him!"

ME: "That's an awesome idea, my little love!!! What we'll do for Daddy's birthday is send a balloon up to him, but we'll make sure it has a note attached to it then."

He was thrilled, I was happy and relieved, and all was well. Phew!

We followed through with our plan. In combination with Matt's family, we all sent up balloons to honor Matt for his birthday, and let him know we were celebrating the day he was born, 41 years ago that day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Conversation between Jacob and Sydney just now:

SYDNEY: "Jacob, I hear my daddy."

JACOB: "In your heart?"

SYDNEY: "Yeah!"

(me from the next room - "What did he say??")

SYDNEY: "He said, I love you, Sydney- and he said he loves you, too, Jacob."


WOW..... =)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Returning to the scene of the crime...

Everyone keeps asking me, "when are you going back to Buffalo?" I keep saying, "August" since August 22nd is when the 5K is taking place in Matt's honor, but I still haven't made reservations for the kids and I. Normally when anticipating a trip, I can't wait to book the flight and make arrangements, but for some reason, I've been procrastinating this one something awful. Next month. It's just around the corner, and I have yet to make any concrete plans.

Again, acting as my own shrink, I've taken it upon myself to analyze the situation, and I haven't had to delve too deeply to come up with the answer...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lump in my throat.

As good as I feel about what direction I'm taking now, I still have so many tough moments that come out of nowhere. Today, for instance, I've been fighting back tears all day.

Progress

Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation has a huge part to play in my progress, for many reasons. Through them, I have connected with so many others going through this same learning process.  I call it a learning process, because everyone will experience this, but no one knows exactly when or in what form. The only guarantee in life is death.With each year (heck - with each month) brings a new stage, awareness, emotion, understanding, and more questions. No matter how long ago or recent the loss happened. The pain doesn't seem to go away (from what I know so far in my year and a half into this whole thing), but in time you learn to live with it and somehow function at the same time.

When I attended the first conference last year (now called Camp Widow), I took a risk - spending the money, going by myself, not knowing what to expect, and traveling across the country to get there. I actually learned about it through my friend Matt Logelin's blog. I took his word for it that I should go, and I'm grateful to him that I did. I received way more than I anticipated and hoped for. Friends who understand. People who get it. I learned so much at the workshops, too, with the presenters sharing their wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge is power and there is power in numbers. Truly. (OK - I'll stop with the cliches now!)

I intend to go every year, because with every year, the stages evolve. Things change, new opportunities to learn arise. Plus, I need a weekend away as a grown-up once in a while, and what better way to spend it than with a bunch of people who "get" me? Because of that, it's such a relaxing, fun, let-your-hair-down time. And widows really know how to party!

Now that I'm working for Soaring Spirits, I'm learning even more about the organization and what they offer, and appreciating it all even more. Michele Neff Hernandez, who founded this organization, has such a generous, loving, positive spirit, and we're so fortunate that she is sharing all this with us through her organization (and that she's using her superpowers for good instead of evil!).

I only just started my new position as her assistant, but with the assumption of my duties, I already feel a change inside me - like a light went on. I feel like I have a renewed sense of purpose and am headed in a much more positive direction. Thank you, Michele!!! And like I told her, this will help keep me out of trouble. Hopefully.

Take a look at the SSLF site and see what Camp Widow has to offer, and I hope to see you there!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Learning to Fly.

I am a bird with two broken wings. 
With love and encouragement from those around me, 
they lift me up. 
They nurse my injuries tenderly and lovingly. 
I choose to listen to the positive voices around me and inside me.
They guide me.  
Though my wings were shattered, I flew the coop. 
In my new nest, my wings continue to heal 
with the love of those around me before, 
plus those around me now. 
Those that I choose to let into my life.
I've had to learn to compensate for my injuries and adapt. 
This has made me stronger. 
I've learned other ways to get where I need to be.
Slowly my wings feel stronger and more steady. 

There are still many times I fall, but I persevere. 
Because it's worth it, even when it doesn't seem to be. 
Worth the heartache, adversity, uncertainty.
Maybe someday my wings will heal, but not without scars. 
The scar tissue will strengthen them further,
and make them more beautiful.
Maybe someday I can even soar like I did 
before my wings got broken, 
but I'll soar in a new direction.
And if my wings should break again, I will persevere, 
repeating the steps above, perhaps skipping a few. 
All this from love, through love, for love, with love.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Updates

So a few weeks ago, Sydney asked me for something and I said no. She replied with a very dramatic, "I hate you!" and stormed off.

Now, this girl just turned three years old, and her brother is six and he never pulled that crap on me! I put her in time out, and when she was done serving her time, I asked her, "Do you know why you were in time out?"

She said yes, so I had her explain it to me...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Written by Jacob:

 dear daddy i love you love jacob row and sydney and mommy i love you olovos.........

(note: olovos = all of us)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Almost a dream come true.

About a month ago I found out that Cameron canceled Matt's phone, right about the same time they attempted to take our Workers' Compensation payments from the kids and I. Actually, Matt's mom found out the hard way by calling it and instead of hearing his voice on the other end, she got a message that the service had been discontinued.

We were so thankful that they kept his phone in tact so we could hear his voice. I even posted about it a while back.

I tried calling it initially to hear for myself but hadn't tried since, until the other day. I thought I'd try one more time just for the heck of it in case they fixed it, and I got a generic voice mail message, but no Matt's voice. I actually thought maybe they attempted to get the voice mail back to the way it was.

Later that day, my phone rang. I looked at it, and it said it was coming from Matt. MY Matt.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sydney's birth.

This post comes pretty late considering Sydney's birthday was May 23, but in typical style, the second child gets the shaft (not nearly as many pictures of her as Jacob, either - poor thing). It's just a good thing I only gave birth twice...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why.

Feeling isolated tonight. I've made wonderful friends here, and my brother is near, but even if I was back "home," I would still feel isolated because night time is the worst. Kids are sleeping, and even the bunny doesn't want to be bothered. Everyone told me, "call no matter what time of night." I just can't do that, no matter how bad it is. Call and say what??

"Hi, I'm so sorry to bother you at this hour, but I'm lonely. I miss Matt. I don't know what else to say."

Then I'd feel worse waking someone up, or disturbing their peaceful "family" time.

At least I'm getting something done. Finally getting caught up with laundry (freaking laundry gets insane if I don't do it for a couple of days, and there's only three of us!), and listening to music. Normally I'd be pretty satisfied with that, but I've had a couple glasses of wine. It gets me thinking more than I want. Actually, more than that, it makes me FEEL more than I want. You'd think it would do the opposite. Sometimes it does...

I'm lonely. But not for just a warm body. I'm lonely for the one man who really, truly got me. He knew me better than I knew myself sometimes. He accepted me for all my quirks, and appreciated some things about me I didn't even know until he pointed them out. He loved me unconditionally, even though I could be a major bitch sometimes. I miss the comfort he brought me just being here. The feeling of wholeness. Belonging. I miss his voice. I miss his face. I used to stare at his face all the time, memorizing every single line, freckle, scar, hair, everything. Thank GOD I did that. I miss every, single thing about him. I wrack my brain trying to figure out WTF happened. WHY?  I don't understand. I don't understand why I had to have my life ripped out from underneath me. I don't understand why this had to happen to my kids. It makes not one little bit of sense.

I really try to think of the bigger picture, like maybe there's some higher purpose in all of this. I'm doing my best to fulfill whatever the fuck that is, but honestly, I still don't really get it. Maybe someday I will, but it's been a year and a half, and as much as I'm trying, there are times when nothing makes sense to me, and I think, WHY???????

Friday, May 28, 2010

Some Sydney Quotes

Waving her imaginary magic wand, she says:
Csh - You're a princess!
Csh - I'm a princess!
Csh - Jacob's the daddy!

Sydney put her hands on my face and said, "Cute little mama." HA!

"Sometimes it's scary in my room, but it's not."
She's afraid of dinosaurs and penguins. For a while, she was having bad dreams about penguins, and that has to be the only explanation of why anyone would be afraid of a cute, waddly penguin. She wanted to watch Happy Feet recently, so maybe she's getting over her fear...

"Mommy, I have a question for you. What was God born from?"
I was completely stumped by this - my answer was, "I don't know." What a question from a kid not even three years old yet!!!

Randomly - usually when we're driving:
When I grow up, I dance with my daddy.
When I grow up and get taller than you, I marry my daddy. That's who I marry.
When I big Sydney, I get married and dance with my daddy. 

I honestly don't have a clue where the heck she gets this stuff, but it absolutely breaks my heart.

You da best mommy in da world. Jacob da best bruda in da world.

She is SO animated when she talks, too - using hand gestures all the time and so much inflection in her voice.

She sometimes takes her hand and gently strokes my cheek while she looks lovingly into my eyes.

Sydney's third birthday was May 23, and I had a party for both her and Jacob on May 22. Lots more to write about!