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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, 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.