as always.

to my daughter,

immunity is a powerful concept and a hard won reality.  we chase it in all arenas it seems.  it is seen time and time again throughout history and stories, which you will learn.  the fountain of life, vaccines, some immunity is fiction and some is reality.

let me be clear, there will be some who say you can win immunity for your heart, this is a lie. your heart can never be immune, for you will always love.  for years, i thought i had won that immunity.  the cost was high, but i thought, finally i've put in my time with suffering and have won.  i have earned the right to love without fear of abandonment or hurt.  i have won immunity.  this, this was a mirage.  immunity cannot be gained.

and so the pendulum will swing, you will discover that immunity is a lie and so you will say, i will shield, i will block, i will armor.  this too baby, is a lie.  there is no defense that does not first injure you.  there is no armor that will let love flow without the risk of injury.  i don't know why it is so, i only know it to be truth.

and at times you might hurt so much that breath escapes your lungs.  you might love so much that your stomach cramps and tears sting your pillow and you wish for escape.  although i hope you never know pain, i do hope you know great love and great pain usually accompanies great love.  i pray that you will be strong enough to pay the toll to know great love.  because i can stand here and say, it is worth it.  in those moments, grab hold, grab hold of those around you with the strength to stand and let them hold you while you hurt.  let your heart be cradled by soft hands and gentle spirits.

and this is the most important part my love.  when your heart starts to heal you will start to look for safety or armor again.  you know they are lies, but your mind says "seek them."  go back to your lessons child, know that as long as you love - you can be hurt.  LOVE anyway.  seek it in all forms but do not be careless.  know that the cost to love is tremendously high.  be jealous with your energy, be jealous with your love.  guard it, but do not put it away forever.  no matter what losses you face, as long as there is breath in your lungs, there is hope and there is love.

and know, know that no matter what comes your way, you are fiercely loved by your family.  our energy never dies.  and your mom and your dad and your brother and sister are over the moon about you.  your love and joy have been hard won baby girl.  hard won, indeed.  you have earned the right to know deep deep love.

and so forever mine is yours,
your mom

how i've surived and how you can too.

it's funny, there are hundreds of women that are thrust into this role every day, the widow role.  maybe becoming a single mom, maybe just marked by the death of a spouse.  and somehow i have found myself already eight months out from it.  i look back and think "how did i survive?" even though, in all honesty, i have a very clear idea of how it was done.  i've been wanting to write this for a while (because i know you haven't heard from me much recently and are just WAITING for more posts - ha!)
because although i have done this with the grace of jackie kennedy i know there are so many women out there who are just waiting for my sage advice on this subject matter.

so in no particular order, here are my top steps for surviving as a widow written entirely from my perspective and bias

(1) focus on the immediate moment.  immediate moments can be your saving grace.  my life is pretty much still really freaking hard, but i pull myself back.  right now i am sitting in starbucks, listening to music, i've got my kids christmas presents wrapped (PTL) and you know what, it's kosher.

(2) do what you can to get yourself proper sleep.  some days i was able to just meditate and have a cup of tea and calmly lull myself to sleep, some days i slammed four beers or a bottle of wine and passed out.  it just depends on how i am doing.  not all of my habits are healthy right now, and some of them will continually be evaluated down the line, but right now, just cut yourself some slack.

(3) remember there is no right way to grieve and no right way to be a widow.  this one is hard, because your mind can be your own worst enemy.  i have found myself at times feeling relief, happiness, and excruciating pain.  don't be hard on yourself for your feelings or stuff them away telling yourself they are wrong.  death is a complicated thing, something we do not entirely understand.  when i lean into my feelings and allow them to be expressed fully within myself, it is then i discover the freedom to release them.

(4) be kind to yourself.  in all matters.  if you don't want to talk to people, don't talk to them, if you want a cupcake for dinner, do it.  i pay for convenience in all forms now, precut vegetables, juice boxes, frozen meals, more takeout.  it's just reality for now.  i do whatever i can to make my job easier, because in all reality, my job is still really freaking hard and i am still really wounded.

(5) when you are ready, challenge yourself.  i recently took my kids on a disney cruise by myself.  it was something i just had to do.  i had to prove to myself i could still give them happy memories.  i had to prove to myself i could still travel.  i had to prove to myself i could do something really hard still.  and i had to prove to myself that who i was before everything was still there.  i am an all in type of person, sure an overnight trip to the beach would have been easier but that's not me.  i take every challenge to the highest level possible, and that girl was still there.

(6) find something that grounds you and do it.  my personal recommendation is some time of exercise because the benefits are just HUGE.  for me it's running, but anything works.  pottery, music, poetry, find it and HANG ONTO it.  when you are down and depressed, do your thing.  there were moments i was like forest, i just had to put on my shoes and run until i felt connected to the earth.  one day it took four miles before i even felt like i was on this planet.  

(7) your timelines is your timeline.  you wanna go on a date, do it.  you wanna flirt and talk to guys and make sure you aren't totally repulsive to the opposite sex, do it.  those parts of you didn't die just because your husband did.  you aren't ready and you wanna hole up with ice cream in your pajamas- that's cool too.  you do you girlfriend.

(8) find those people that let you do you and HANG ONTO THEM FOR DEAR LIFE

know that you can come out of the other side of this.  we all got scars girl, we all got them.  but keep pushing, you can do it.

much love.

if you're looking for a way (a way to restart) you don't want the keys to my heart.

there is only so much distracting one can do, i suppose.  it has become a valve, which for the most part, i can shut off, i actually have trouble turning it on.  99% of the time i can look at pictures, videos, of us, they almost don't mean anything.  the meaning has been sucked from them, a color photograph faded in the sunshine.  but when they do mean something, when i feel it, i feel it to my bone marrow.  i feel it in every cell, the pain the hurt the hell.  it is then i have trouble breathing, it is then my chest hurts with a physical pain i have never experienced before.

what i had (RIPPED away).  and there is this fine line i walk right?  i crave what i had while not ever being able to get burned like that again.  i have read some advice would be a loose way to say it of women who have loved again after tragedy and the consensus is, no right way to do it, just know it takes someone special, especially then kids are involved.

i have had to rework (and continue) to rework my entire being.  my life rotated around my family.  now i am cast out into space again, the earth without the sun, orbiting, orbiting, but what?  a vacuum?  I am getting sucked in.

what am i orbiting?
what will i orbit?
who are you?
why do i let you in?

jim.jim.jim.jim.  i miss you.  as always, wish you were here.  remember when i took that pregnancy test last year, the night before my birthday?  i didn't even tell you.  i just went upstairs and tested.  she was such a surprise.  such a beautiful, beautiful surprise.  i came down the steps crying and said "i'm pregnant!" you said "shut up!" followed immediately by "i KNEW it" we called it the best birthday present we could have been given.

i remember the night before i gave birth... we were so excited.  our last child, our last pregnancy, the first in our house... we didn't know the sex and were so excited to find out for sure although i had pulled out every tub of baby girl clothes.  as always, i had to go sleep with addy part of the night, nerves getting the best of me, as always, you passed out no problem.  i couldn't even eat more than a JoJo because she had squeezed all of my stomach.  i had no room.  my heartburn had been terrible for weeks.  i just laid around in the recliner, watching you eat pizza, jealous as hell.

and then, that morning, she was born.  and it was so perfect, all of it was perfect.  except of course the three tries they took with my spinal block.  i came so close to be asking to be put under.  but then all of a sudden, they got it, and i was laid down and you came in.
they cut
she was lifted
we heard her
and i knew
you knew
we had our girl
ellery ann

the doctor remarked "she has some opinions already, this one"
i wish i knew what they were, i wish she was here to tell me them.  i wish you were here to hold me.  i wish i didn't go to sleep alone every night.  right after you died i had to sleep with one of these huge bears that someone sent the kids.  i did that for weeks, my physical body unaccustomed to sleeping alone and thrown into shock.  the first couple weeks alone, it took me hours to settle myself down to sleep.  i had this routine, tea, melatonin, crying, phone call, more crying, writing, sleep.

the dogs sleep with me now, i know that would make you happy.  most nights i bring cookie up too.  she sleeps near my head, mostly.  it seems quiet with the two of them, i know they used to move around a lot but not anymore.  it's all quiet here.  this morning both kids piled into bed with me and i had this glimpse of what we had.  the kids laughing and squirming and kicking.

remember those mornings?  me nursing while lane and addy rolled around and we put on a tv show?
remember when lane was born and we ate thousands of red vines and watched property brothers?  that was the first time i told you we could have at tv in the bedroom, lol.
you are a good dad, we miss you.  i miss you.  i miss you in a way that is indefinable.  i miss you in a way that will always escape me.  it is the moment between breaths.  it is the in between, that is what I miss.  before in my in between i always had security, now it is is emptiness.

my breaths escape me love, wish you were here.
you're getting halfway up the mountain and you just keep jumping off cliffs.  they don't exist but you put them there.  then you wonder why it feels so rocky when you land.  you are refusing to climb higher, instead you keep burying.

girl watchchu doing to yourself.
own worst enemy
bringing it down
down on yourself

stop reaching, hand slapped down.  you can't have it, you aren't worth it, stop stop stop.  just jump.  just stop.  the noise is loud, it's too loud, the lights are bright, they're too bright, it's haunting.  a loop you can't stop, you can't ever stop it.

I wanna stop these nightmares
I just wanna touch your face
All you see is all my feats 
All I see is all my flaws
All I hear is all my demons
Even through your applause
All you see is all my flights
Well all I see is all my falls
All you see is all my rights
All I see is all my wrongs

shhh.  don't admit your faith is weak.
CUT the scene, that's a wrap.


i watched a video that my iPhone made, a video of 2016.  and it had just all of these beautiful and painful moments just wrapped into this four minute video.

the depth of my pain this year has been, at times, unbearable to the point where i wished for death.

but i saw so much smiling in those videos.  so many sweet moments and so many memories that happened when i was in a fog that felt all encompassing.

this year i felt the church's love in a way i have never before felt
this year i was able to take my kids on a disney cruise because of my co-workers at carters and the fundraiser they did for me
this year i was able to move because people came and packed and loaded me and helped with the cost of moving
this year my kids had a play set built for them while they were in another state
this year we imposed on people over and over again with our loud, yelling and crying little family of three
this year my daughter made beautiful friendships because people weren't afraid to reach out
this year i have accomplished more of my own dreams than i did ever before
this year i have hurt people intentionally and unintentionally and i am still loved to my core by so many
this year someone paid for the last month of tuition of addy's dance
this year people have thought of me and my family across cities and states, holding us in their prayers and hearts
this year i had people who were brave enough to say goodbye to me because they knew it was what i needed
this year i had people celebrate even when i didn't feel like it
this year i had money stuck in my mailbox and meals dropped off on my porch and  cell phone numbers given to me
this year i had a job given to me no strings attached

this year i had people fight and fight and fight for me.  fight for me when my heart was too heavy to lift.  fight for me when i needed it most.

pain, pain is so hard.  but in my pain i have experienced a deeper and more authentic beauty than i have ever seen before in my life.  the human condition is flawed and broken.  it is difficult, at times, to lift our heads above the muck.

but it is there.  and so from the bottom of my heart, i want to say thank you.  thank you to each and every single person.  thank you to the people that loved, thank you to the people that cut me off in traffic and reminded me that i'm still a normal person and not separate from society, thank you thank you thank you.

2016.... it's been real.

in the in between.

it seems to me that the biggest struggle is wanting what i don't have.  alayne and i have always had opposite dating lives, ha.  when i was engaged and married she was out doing alayne, living her life, she bought her own place, she's made huge career advancements.  and at times it felt like i was just stuck you know.  my life didn't feel like it was advancing because my life wasn't really, our lives were advancing.

my personal advancements were slow and few.  they happened, of course.  i was discussing with my counselor how, of course, when i compare the personal growth i've had in the past eight months to the personal growth i had in five years of marriage, it can be skewed.  i've had nothing but time, nothing to do but grow.  in the last year of my marriage i was pregnant, started working again and took care of three additional people beyond myself and my own pregnancy.

anywayyyys.  this is a very roundabout post about how i struggle in the in between.  especially.  i mean, being honest, what i like best is being married.  i'm good at it, i'm comfortable in it, i fought so hard for that middle ground in my marriage, to keep growing together to stay happy.  and now it's not an option for me and in all reality, it probably won't be an option for a while.  you only have so much energy right?  and i have dreams and plans and just plain reality that need to be figured out in a very practical and realistic way before anything else happens.  and i can sit here and just think man, i have years and years and years before i get what i want.  which in all honesty, is where i've been the past couple days/week/whatever.  and it feels lonely, it feels scary, it feels uncomfortable.

or i can switch it around and say this is what i'm going to get instead.  this is what's going to come my way, having enough energy for my kids, healing myself emotionally, trying to go back to school, finding a career path that i enjoy, meeting new people, investing in new friendships, maybe buying my own place, getting a new car.

some things are trite right?  some aren't important but there are a lot of things on there that are.  jim loved me so so incredibly well, and i was so lucky to have that love in my life, to have him in my life, especially at a young age.  he taught me incredible things about myself and i have learned even more in the absence.

YES.NOW.SLOW.  repeat.


to be known is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world.

to be heard, seen, understood, to make an impact, to connect, to reach.  life is lived in those moments, the moments where we are known.

if you find that in your marriage, then you are lucky indeed.  we sum up events with single words: birth, death, widow, divorce, marriage.  a single word, as if that accurately describes the shifting sand of the days and months of those events.  as if a single word gives insight into what it feels like when you see your baby's face for the first time, the moment when you walk down the aisle to him.

the moment where you stand there in a viewing room in twinsburg, ohio and say goodbye to your lover.

i walked in with them, addy grasping my hand tightly, lane on my hip, wearing my dress from elly's service.  a week and a half after i did the same walk up to my daughter.  that moment he died, that moment we ceased to be, it almost swallowed me whole.

i walked up to him losing a part of myself in every step.  i walked up to him sobbing.  i walked up to him and i knew it would be different, it would be cold, it would be unlike anything i had ever experienced with him in our lifetime together.

i was known with him.  the gravity of what i lost, the absolute depth of pure, unending love i had for that man, to stand on this side and know that no shadow of it will ever satisfy.  it is a lonely place.  an uncomfortable place.  a place where i have to put my arms around myself and tell the little girl inside that it's ok.  a place where i have to continually self-reflect because i do not have the luxury of someone understanding me for me.  it is a hard, hard place.


we had a good weekend, the kids and i.  you would be so proud of tank, he is - first of all- gigantic.  and he is a stinker.  today, he was drinking water and addy asked him for some and he did this little shake while he got an idea, he stopped drinking, walked away from her and poured the water on the carpet rather than share with his sister.  he is the first to go to her when she is crying, never caring it's for the sixth time in that hour.  i spent the night away from them and when i got home this morning he lit up, smothering me with cuddles and kisses.  i've been so nervous about being a boy mom, i think i've been holding back, feeling largely inadequate since you left.  i don't know... i realized it though and am working on it.  already i can feel him again in my soul, his spirit once again with mine.

addy missed you a lot today.  she had this unique look on her face when she was going to bed and i asked her what she was thinking about, it was about you and elly of course.  she had a lot of trouble getting to sleep.  but we got there.  she's tough, she'll make it, but her scars run deep.  she is still healing.  you would be so proud of her too though, i'll tell you what.  she is brilliant and cunning to her core.  she is so kind though, always telling me "i believe in you mommy!" she's been one of my biggest cheerleaders since i lost you.

i miss that too.  you cheering me on, never doubting for a second what i was capable of.  i guess that's part of what got us into this mess, right?  you knew me better than i knew me.  and so now i am left, charged with the task of getting to know myself, my energy no longer divided.  my soul hurts babe, i miss you so badly.  i miss our house together, i miss you always slinging your jacket on the kitchen chair instead of hanging it up, i miss you coming home on your lunch to see us, i miss you texting me, i miss your grumpy ass in the morning, i miss the way you would kiss me, i miss buying you pizza rolls and mountain dew, i miss thinking about what christmas presents to get you, i miss watching tv shows together, i miss the way we fit, i miss you.

god i miss you.
as always,
wish you were here. here with me.
mentally i've been placing myself at about six months out from everything.  in my head i think, "six months ago you were jim's wife, six months ago you had your family" but the truth is we've somehow crept up to eight months.  it doesn't feel oddly significant in any way like six months did, it's just that somehow i feel stuck at that half year mark.

i am a living dichotomy right now.  my emotions are level but my actions can swing.  "it's ok!" "it's not ok" round and round back and forth.  it is a constant pulling myself back, reigning myself in.  it's not something i've ever been good at.

and just there, i've done it again.  constantly undermining myself and my actions.  i give so many things a broad sweep, but when it comes to myself, the same doesn't hold true.  the broad brush i paint others in becomes a fountain pen with no room for error.

i want to look at myself and say "it's ok"
i want to look at my kids and say "it's ok"
i want to look at my world and say "it's ok"

and i'm working on it right.  i strive for balance but it is rarely achieved.  the acquisition of sweetness is rarely tasted without the precursor of bitter.  i am constantly pulling myself back, reset, reset, reset.

when i was married, every once in a while we would just have this awesome weekend.  where everyone just got along and the vibe was flowing and it felt timeless.  looking back those were successful not because no one had a meltdown (although they were overall avoided) it's because i had that person to help me reset.  when i started to tense or melt, someone was there to pull me back.

a while ago i looked at my kids and realized, as lovely and precious at they are, they don't really help me reset.
losing my partner didn't make my job twice as hard, it made it a million times harder.  to forge up the strength in every moment "reset, reset" to not breakdown with them, to realize that acting out is normal under the best of circumstances.

i hope the most, out of anything, i hope i am not denying them the love they are so desperately in need of.

and then i have moments where addy lays right next to me and says "i'll lay right here momma, so you aren't scared"
and i have those moments where lane is getting ready to drift off and he points to his pillow "here" or "momma" and i lay back down when i had been getting ready to leave.

the moments are coming, the connections are coming, we continue to build.


the shadows are swirling a bit.  my mind has been consumed by them, lethargy and indifference rearing their ugly heads the past 24 hours.  it rained all day today, at least the sky seemed to say, it's ok, i get it.

i remember you pure and warm
in the belly of a midnight sun
you were playing on those dark clouds
but they didn't come 

you, you, you.  do you get why i had to trade our life in for my own?  i know all these widows who are like "well i would just think to myself what would so and so do and then i would take that into account" and i'm over here just thinking "mmm.... that doesn't sound like what i do"

you, you, you.  i remember it was shortly after it happened, jumper came on the radio and i almost lost control of the car.  all of my connecting points with you have gone out.  the only surviving remains of me are ones that were untouched by you.

being without you has numbed me to the joy of still being here.  being without you has broken me down.  being without you has marked me.  being without you here, the sharp realization of you, of us fading, fading, fading.  i miss getting cut on your edges.

and if it don't hurt you, then girl, it aint love.

sometimes i take stock of my life and think holy fuck, i'm not even thirty.  i mean leaving your credit card open at a bar is still somewhat acceptable at this stage and i'm over here on the other side of so many lessons.

i know so many people have experiences of loved ones who have passed being with them, glimpses of them in innocent moments.  i wish i did.  i wish i caught glimpses of my daughter and my mom and my husband.  in all honesty, i don't.  i have to fight to even feel connected to elly.  i don't know if anything i'm doing is honoring them, all i can do is fight to be myself.  she is so so different than who i thought, than who i was, than who i've glimpsed.

our children aren't really ours.  there is this continual letting go.  i had addy on the cruise ship last week and i was trying to talk her into wearing something and she goes "mom, can't i just wear what i feel comfortable in?" i was looking at her tonight and thinking about that statement.  she's not a mannequin, she's not a doll, she is this person living and breathing next to me.  i gotta let her be addy, she's not mine.

elly, you aren't mine either.  i'm not sure you ever were.  not a minute goes by that i don't wish you were though.  it seems cruel that something that is such an intimate part of me does not truly belong to me.  it is my largest sacrifice.

for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death. 
Oliver Sacks

we don't truly belong to anyone but ourselves.


to the girl i was six years ago,

oh sweetheart.  you poor, naive, little girl.  i know, i know you knew enough that when you stood up there you were cognizant of the fact that you really had no idea what you were getting into with marriage.  i know that you were mostly excited, but a little bit scared if you could actually fulfill that role of someone's wife.  i know that you had no idea what it would be like that first winter, that first year, living with him.

i know you felt incredible love and a strong sense of unity, which was to be continually eclipsed throughout the next five and a half years.  i know that you felt sure you were looking into the face of your eternal rock.

i wish i could give you advice, i wish i could give you some words of wisdom to help you navigate.  navigate the rocky first year while you struggled with depression and adjusting to marriage to someone who in all honesty, you didn't know that well.  words of wisdom for when adelynn entered the picture and you felt you had all but lost yourself.  words of wisdom for the ups and downs and the in betweens, the times of incredible joy and happiness and the times where it felt stagnant.  sadly though, i have none, even standing on the other side of six years.

i have no words for words are not what you need.  just embrace.  and to the girl i am now, the girl on the other side of six years, remember, remember what the past six years have taught you.

know that times of no noticeable growth are not necessarily what they seem
know that you only have a certain amount of energy available, remember to continue to choose wisely about what consumes it
know that there is always the opportunity for your life to change, sometimes in beautiful and glorious way, sometimes in ways of incredible pain and darkness

above all, know that nothing stays the same.  everything - every day is changing, your children, your mind, your world.
and remember girl, above all, when you feel unrooted, go to the earth, get your feet on that soil, take a deep breath, you are a part of this earth, you are connected

bria, six years later

and to you,

i honestly don't have much to say.  the day, in relation to us, seems void, because of course, there is no us anymore.
wishers just keep on wishing but it never gets to fruition 
and so i have no words of hope, no words of wishing, no words of love.

but i will say thank you, thank you for the time you gave, thank you for the energy you poured into us, thank you for our kids, thank you for teaching me what it felt like to be loved in totality, thank you for sharing your mind and your heart and your soul with me for those five years.