Thursday, May 31, 2012

Isn't it Ironic?

I was very much looking forward to writing today's post.  I knew what the topic was going to be for this last day of May and I have to admit that I have been thinking and reflecting on my thoughts as to what I was actually going to put down for a few days now.  However, that plan was interrupted...

Today, Brilliant arrived!  I knew that it would be arriving any day now and I was extremely excited for it's arrival.  So, when I saw the FedEx tag hanging on my door, I was both happy (that it was here) and sad (that I actually missed the delivery).  However, at just about the time I reached my front steps, a neighbor from about 4 houses down came over and told me that he had my delivery.  Now, this may sound like a nice gesture, however, Brilliant is both huge (55.5 in. x 42 in. and 40 pounds) and expensive.  I was a bit upset that it was left with this neighbor because it was supposed to be directly delivered to my home.  However, this neighbor and I walked the package down the street and up to my apartment.

I was sooo excited, but I didn't want to open it up until my son was asleep.  I didn't want to take any chances of having anything happen to this artwork.  So, I had to wait a few hours until it was bedtime.  I kid you not, as soon as his little peepers were shut, I ran to my package and opened it up as if it were Christmas!

It is really gorgeous.  I haven't gotten the full effect yet because I haven't taken it out of the box.  I haven't taken it out of the box because one of the corners is damaged!  It is framed in a recess mounting (no wooden frame around it) and the top right corner is cracked.  I contacted the sender right away and he was very upset as well and is going to work with me.  I also contacted FedEx and filed a claim.  I don't know when the damage occurred, but it may just work out that leaving it with my neighbor might give me a more solid case.  So, I spent this night contacting the sender and contacting FedEx and just being so disappointed.

The irony... I bought "Brilliant" because when I look at it, I see my life put back together again.  It makes me feel as if all of the pieces that once seemed to be scattered all found there way back home.  So isn't it ironic that a piece that I found to be so sentimental in representing my one life came to me broken?  I can literally see the broken pieces of the frame.  But, they are still in tact and the actual photograph, the core, has not been broken or damaged either.  Hmmmm.......

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One Life

This weekend while I was in my hometown visiting my parents, I stopped by to visit my best friend.  I have known her forever.  She has been there for me in so many ways, not just this past year, but over the past 20 years that I have known her.  I love her and respect her and always look forward to chatting with her.

We talked about many things, but one thing that she asked me is if I look at my life as "old" and "new."  She was surprised when I quickly responded that I do view my life that way.  I refer to my memories and reflections of the past as my "old life" and everything else as my "new life" quite frequently on this blog.  Today, I had a different thought.

I was in my old neighborhood today.  I went to the doctor and then I walked around afterwards.  I had forgotten how nice that neighborhood was and I really enjoyed walking through it.  Obviously, it brought back memories, not only of my husband, but of our dogs too because I had walked them soo much around this neighborhood in the three years that we lived there.

I had some extra time before I had to be back (my babysitter was with my son today) and so I decided to go to the nearby park, get some ice cream, and sit on a bench.  As I sat on the bench I thought back to the conversation that I had with my friend about splitting my life between old and new.

Not too long ago, in my post Brilliant I wrote about how to me, this piece of art makes me feel as if I have put all of the pieces of my life back together again.  ALL the pieces.  When I wrote that, I truly meant that and believed that.  So, as I sat on that bench today, I thought about all of the pieces of my life.  My life.  I am just one and I have just one life to live and it is mine, all of it.  There is no old or new.  All of my past experiences have played apart of who I am today and who I will be tomorrow.  So in many ways, my past is still very much alive in me.

My life has changed in so many ways.  But there is one constant factor, me.  I will no longer refer to my life as "old" or "new."  I have worked so hard to pick up all of the pieces (the good, the bad, and the ugly) to help me find myself and to move on.  I couldn't have done it without all of the pieces.  My new life needs the wisdom and knowledge (that can only be gained through experiences) of my old life.  I am becoming more comfortable baring my scars because they are a part of me.  I am becoming more comfortable being proud that they did not break me.  I am a stronger, smarter, and more confident woman now and I will no longer distinguish and label pieces of my life.  They all belong to the same one life, mine.  

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Amazing

This weekend, I drove out to see my parents since I had an extra day off of school for Memorial Day.  This drive is, at best, an 8 hour drive.  My son is so good throughout all 8, 9, 10+ hours that we have endured on these trips that we have taken quite regularly in this past year.  However, his time is spent watching DVDs, looking at books, playing with toys, eating, or napping.  We have started to have more discussions... I mean we talk a bit more about animal sounds and colors and shapes and we look for "diggers" along the roadsides, lol.  My point is that during these drives, I have a lot of time to think!

On Saturday morning, when we left, my thoughts were taken by memories of my dog.  It is impossible to not think about my husband since he was so intertwined in the memories and times spent with our dog(s).  It is nice to think back on fond memories.  It is also painful too.  My mind started to wonder and I teetered very close to the question that I have honestly not gone to throughout everything that has happened to me in this past year... "Why me?"  I almost went there.  Almost.

What stopped me?  I have to honestly say, my faith.  I say that not aligning myself with any particular religion, although I would say that I am a Christian.  (I grew up Catholic, but I cannot really call myself a Catholic.)  I believe that my husband (and dog) are both at peace now.  I believe that I have not been left here alone, but rather have been taken care of in these most difficult of times.  I believe that despite how my marriage ended up, that I did in fact marry the man I was supposed to marry.  I had so many happy memories to prove that.  I also have an amazing son to prove that as well.  I am a blessed person.  

Amazing... this is what I also thought about on my drive.  I have mentioned several times that I am looking for amazing and that I am optimistic in that something amazing is waiting for me (and my son).  What I realized is that amazing was staring at me, right in the back of my head.  Literally.  My amazing son.

I have accepted that I cannot change what has happened in our lives.  I have had to accept that this is in fact, now our lives.  Having said that, I have to admit that I have an amazing relationship with my son.  There is a bond that surfaced between us because of what has happened to us.  Even though he is so young and doesn't understand, he still knows that things are different.  He knows that it's just me, that it's just the two of us.  We are an absolute team and it's amazing!

I can't say that being a single mom has been overly difficult.  (This goes without saying the great loss we both endure with the absence of my husband.)  On a typical day, I wake up before my son and take a shower.  By the time I am done, he has either crawled out of bed or I have to go in and wake him.  Most of the time, he wakes up in a good mood and even if he's not in a good mood, he is still so easy to get out of whatever mood he is in.  I change him and then off to the kitchen for breakfast.  My son does not watch too much t.v. but he does in the morning.  I do use it as a babysitter because I do have to get ready for work.  Sometimes he does play on his own, but Elmo, Dora, and Mickey have been great helps too.  Then off to work/school we go.  We always hold hands down the stairs and out to the car.  On most days, he carries my lunch bag for me.  We talk about the weather, the sun in our eyes as we walk out of our house, or the garbage truck that is on our street.  On our drive to school, we pass by a construction company, so we always see cement trucks and on a good day, we will see diggers.  He  screams and cheers every time that we do!  Nowadays, he is also teasing me with his pacifier, which he keeps in his pocket everyday to use only for naps.  He knows I don't like that thing and that he shouldn't have it, really at all, so he like to pop it in and out and laugh.  And so I can't help but to laugh too.  When we get to school, we either walk hand in hand or I will carry him into school.  I give him a quick peck on the forehead and leave.  He's good.  He let's me go without crying.  He just does his flirty thing so that his teacher will come over and greet him with a hug, lol.  After work, sometimes I run errands like go the doctor, start laundry, go grocery shopping, or running, it depends.  Somedays I pick him up right away.  Either way, we go home, make dinner and eat, play (playground, ride bike/scooter, play sports, build castles, play dough, jump on the bed (oh yes he does and I do too), or our latest is making funny faces at one another and this can last a good twenty minutes, between all the giggles) and then it's bath time and bed time at about 7:30.  I do sit in his room with him until he falls asleep.  It's just something that I started doing last year and I found it to be a comfort for both of us.  However, if it's a night he cannot sleep, he gets 45 minutes and I'm gone, lol.  But, once he's asleep, it's my time to do dishes, mop, clean, pay bills, work, paint, blog, etc., etc., etc... same thing everyone else does.  On weekends I try to do one big thing with him like go the zoo, aquarium, Manhattan, play date, or Sesame Street (now that it's spring/summer).  The other day is mostly doing maintenance things that I can't do during the week and squeezing in time for the park or playground or both.  

My days are not atypical.  I just truly enjoy them.  Despite not going to sleep before 11:00 (ever these days), I have lots of energy.  There are days during the week that I go the gym, sometimes go out for dinner, and even had a real date (lol... hopefully I will be ready to get back out there again, again soon).  But I think its all in the attitude.  I don't ever feel like I have to do something and that makes such a big difference.  I do it because I want to.  So I don't complain about all the things I have to do because I know I don't have to do anything.  I also don't complain because this is my life.  There were choices that were made for me, but I have made my own choices to (like to stay in NYC and raise my son without any family support nearby).  I don't want to complain about such things because this is my life and I am truly grateful for it!  My son definitely has his days and his moments, but generally speaking, he is a really good kid.  He makes my job so much easier.  He makes me laugh consistently on a daily basis and he has a smile that melts my heart through and through.  

The hardest part, as I have said many, many times, is not being able to share all of the wonderful moments.  But I am fortunate enough to have those precious moments with my son and even more fortunate to recognize and appreciate the small things that add up to a whole lotta happiness.  My son is my amazing! 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Man's Best Friend

I was planning on taking a deep breath in this new post for tonight and begin my journey into year two with a new energy and a smile.  However, today my dog had to be put down.  This was the dog that had been living with my in-laws for the past year, the one that had cancer.  I did not find out until after it happened, so I wasn't there.  It really hasn't sank in quite yet, but I have been looking at pictures tonight which have stirred up memories.  

I had mentioned several times that I used to have two dogs.  (The other lives with my parents now.)  Argyle, the one that just passed, was "the golden child."  Our other dog was sweet and lovable, but a handful too.  Argyle was one of those rare dogs, one that doesn't come along that often.  He was a border collie and with that came both the intelligence and intensity of a border collie.  He was very smart and his facial expressions were almost human like.  He also was very agile!  He loved, loved to run and we could never tire him out.  His energy was boundless.  He was also a big border collie.  We always laughed about that and nicknamed him "Gooney Bird." 

Argyle also loved kids, although he wasn't so thrilled when he got one of his own, lol.  I should say that he loved other people's kids.  My son was only a baby when he last lived with us.  Argyle liked older kids, the ones that could throw a ball or frisbee to him or kick a soccer ball to him.  When we lived in Virginia, we lived in the midst of kid central.  I kid you not, the neighborhood kids loved Argyle so much, they used to come and knock on our door and ask if Argyle could come out and play.  We would let him out and everyone had a blast!  

My husband and I got Argyle in 2001.  We didn't have our son until 2009.  In many ways, for so many years, our dogs were our kids.  They were with us throughout all of our moves.  They were with us when we spent many holidays alone when we lived in Virginia.  We took them when we went camping and when we went on vacations to the beach house in the Outer Banks.  We were... a family.  For so long, it was just the four of us.  It is hard to believe that that family of four that I knew for so many years of my life... I have lost half of that family.  

I entitled this post "Man's Best Friend" because it is very fitting to Argyle.  While he was "our" dog, he really was my husband's.  They had this weird "E.T." connection.  Argyle was very in tuned with my husband's feelings.  He could tell if something was off, if he was anxious, angry, or sad.  Honestly, my husband hid his feelings so well, I used to turn to Argyle and try to see if I could read my husband's feelings through him.  I've heard that dog's can have that sense, but it really was amazing to actually witness it.  

A couple of years ago, we did find a lump near his left elbow.  We took him to the vet and were told it was a fatty deposit, like he had in a few other places.  However, last winter, we did notice that it was growing.  We didn't take him in for a check up because last winter was also the time that things started to fall apart in our marriage and in our lives.  The plan was for Argyle to move into the new apartment with my husband.  When that never happened, Argyle ended up staying at my in-laws and I just didn't have the heart to ask for him back.  

When Argyle left me in April of last year, his lump was about the size of a walnut, maybe a bit bigger.  In the course of only a few months, in grew to the size of a softball.  During the course of the past year, I didn't get to see much of him, but every time I did, I could see the change in size of what we had learned was a cancerous tumor.  It was inoperable.  I found out today that his tumor ruptured and that was the cause for having to put him down.  

I remember when the movie Marley and Me came out.  I watched it and I cried through the whole movie because I knew how it was going to end.  I couldn't imagine at that time losing either of my dogs because it seemed so devastating.  But, here I am... almost exactly a year to the day that my husband passed away.  

It is somewhat ironic that Argyle's health deteriorated just as my husband's did during the same time last year.  This past year, Argyle's health continued to deteriorate at a rapid speed.  In some ways, I feel as if they belonged together.  They are not alone and they are both running around at the speed of light tumor free, cancer free, depression free.  I hope they were able to find one another.  :')

He had some ups!
This is actually one of my favorites... this is him!
He looks humiliated doesn't he?  He was in his teenage years.

He loved this chair.  He loved watching people sitting in this chair.

RIP Argyle, you were an amazing companion!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Visit

One year ago from this day was my husband's funeral.  I do not want to walk down the road of reliving details from that day.  However, one thing that I did do on this day was that I gave the eulogy.  Preparing for it was extremely difficult.  What do you say when it is your final words?  How do you honor a life in only a few minutes?  How do you stand up in front of a group a people, no matter if they are family and friends, and speak about your husband at his funeral?

It was something that I felt I absolutely both needed and wanted to do.  And I did it.  I got choked up a few times, but recomposed myself and made it through.  I believe it was my desire to say these words for and to my husband more than any other reason that made it possible for me to get through it.  At the time, I was just grateful that I made it through it.  Looking back on it now, I am so happy that I was able to share my thoughts through my words with all of the people that had loved and cared about my husband.  Especially in the manner in which he died, I believe there were so many unsettled feelings and questions.  I had wanted to honor him and his memory by speaking words that were honest and genuine.

That night I received a visit.  Over the course of the past year, I believe that I had a few visits.  I have had many dreams, but these "visits" which also occurred to me during my sleep feel very, very different.  I have not had one in quite a long time, but on the night of the funeral, I believe to the very core of my being, that I had a visit.

I was at the bottom of a hill with my son and my husband's best friend from high school.  I am not sure what my son was doing, but he had the full attention of me and this friend.  We were all at peace and were able to enjoy the moment that we were in.  Then I saw him.  Up on the hill stood my husband.  He was wearing jeans and a light blue sweater.  I knew this outfit very well!  He stood at the top and kept his distance, not coming down any closer to us.  When his friend saw him, in his typical way, he waved and waved like a big dork, and was all smiles.  I looked up at him and could feel my smile shoot out from within, I beamed.  When my husband saw us and our reactions, he gave us a little head nod.  It seemed as if he took one last good look at us and as he turned to walk back up the hill I could see him wipe a tear from his eye.

That was my visit.  What this meant to me was that my husband wanted to check in and see if our son and I were okay, that we were taken care of.  This friend, who does not live close enough to us to have a daily presence in our lives,  I believe is someone that my husband truly believed in as a genuine, kind, good man.  I think he just represented all the people who were there, are there, and will continue to be there in our lives to support and love my son and myself.  This visit was so simple, no words were said, yet is said so much.  It was perfect and I am thankful for my husband for giving that to me.

One Year

On the one year anniversary of my husband's death, I spent the entire day alone with my son.  My son and I spent the day at the park.  I did not want to start any traditions for this day with my son.  I wanted to make it as simple as possible.  I wanted it to be a day that appreciated the simplest pleasures in life, and it was.

I don't know if it was the release of emotions for the past two weeks, pouring out my heart on this blog over the past few days, or a spiritual presence, but I felt as if I a blanket of peace had been laid upon me that day.  I still felt the hurt and sadness, but I also felt a certain quiet that seemed to slow things down and it took the edge off a bit.

My son was an absolute sweetheart on Thursday.  He is still so young and doesn't understand, but it was as if he somehow knew the significance of this day.  He had hugs for me all day long, hugs that were just random and hugs that I didn't even have to ask for.  In some ways it was bittersweet because he was so happy that day.  He had smiles all day long and laughed and laughed.  It was hard to not to become effected by this mood of his and he completely lifted my spirits.

I say I was alone on this day, but there was an out pour of love and warm thoughts that were sent our way on Thursday.  Whether it was a phone call, a text message, or a bouquet of fruits, I knew that my son and I were in other's thoughts and prayers and that we really were not alone.  <3

Although I did not start a tradition on this day with my son.  I did start one of my own.  I bought a very nice leather bound journal.  I decided that each year, I would write to my husband as if I were talking to him.  I felt that this might be a positive release for me and I also felt that years from now, when my son is older this might be a piece that will be meaningful to him.  It may answer some questions that he may have, it may help him to understand, it may bring him peace, or even a smile brought upon by a memory.  I am not sure, but this is something that I do want to do each year.

I feel as though my writing today is not very eloquent and focused.  These past few days have exhausted me mentally and today is the first day in a few that I actually feel like I have some energy.  So this is where I will end for tonight.

Year one.  The fastest and slowest year of my life.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Another Kind of Cancer

On May 17, 2011, my husband lost his long battle with depression.  Like a cancer, my husband's illness consumed him.  It's progression was like any other illness except that it was his mind that was effected. Although his body was perfectly healthy, in just a few short months, his illness changed him physically.  He lost weight.  He aged.  He was not himself.  He acted in ways and spoke in ways that were not like him.  The illness completely took over and in the last couple of months, I believe that all we saw were pieces of the real him that came in and out.  My beautiful husband...

This was the day that I had feared for the past thirteen years.  This was the day that caused me to think and speak and act in ways so that I would never have to live it.  This was the day that I had entrusted to pure faith and hoped that it would never arrive.  This was the day that a father, a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend was lost.  This was the day that my husband took his own life.

For the past year, I have kept this story very close to me.  It is a story in which I do believe the whole story needs to be told.  When people have asked me how my husband died, I have answered by telling them that he had been sick, which is absolutely true.  However, it is more complicated than that.  My fear in telling people that my husband died by suicide is that he will be defined by this one act.  As unfathomable and as powerful and as heartbreaking as this one act was, there was a man who had lived a life of 35 years before this final act.  That is why I feel that I need to tell more.  I feel the need to share his life... He had a wonderful life, a life full of experiences that added to his uniqueness and character.  He was a good man, he was a generous person, he was kind and caring, he was dedicated and loyal, he was smart and witty.  He had also been a wonderful and loving husband and father.  He was such a wonderful father.  He lit up my son just as much as my son lit up his world.  To watch them together was my bliss.  They were my family, my everything.

I am not bitter.  I am not angry.  I am deeply saddened.  More than anything, I am aware of how blessed I have been.  This is all because I could look at him and see him for the true man that he was without the sickness, and that man was remarkable.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Our Cloud

Our love was great and it was strong, but our marriage was not perfect.  We didn't argue about things like money.  I didn't nag him about picking up or helping around the house (I didn't have to).  I didn't get upset that he spent too much time watching tv, or being on the Internet, or anything else for that matter (he didn't).  Those things seem so trivial to me.  Our cloud was much darker than that.  My husband suffered from depression.

I found out very early on in the relationship that he suffered from depression.  He did not keep that hidden from me.  I was a psychology major and engorged myself with learning about depression as much as I possibly could.  At the time that I met him, he was not on any medication.  He had his ups and downs, but he was very high functioning.  He got up every morning and went to either class or work.  We were very active and he had energy for me and for himself.  I supported his decision to not be medicated because he seemed able to handle his lows when they came and his depression did not seem to disrupt his life in day to day activities.  When his lows came, he did share with me his feelings of despair and worthlessness.  From my readings and knowledge, I started journals with him.  I thought that if the good times were documented then they would serve a strong purpose in reading them during the difficult times  to remind him of his worth and of the happiness he had experienced and could feel.  I also recognized things that helped such as walks and exercise.  Spending time at the gym or with the dogs was helpful.  I would just be there with a smile, a hug, and a cup of tea to show him my love.

At the time, I was aware of how his depression affected his behaviors.  More particularly, in his behaviors toward me.  He only shared the tip of the iceberg with me and so I was left with understanding very little about what was really going on inside of him.  However, he wanted me and assumed that I should know what to do for him to help him through his dark times.  Other than what I shared above, I didn't know what to do besides suggest that he go see a professional who would know what to do.  That only triggered frustration and disappointment from him towards me.  However, the dark days in the beginning came and went.  And all of the days in between, which was the majority of our reality, were wonderful.  So, I began to rationalize his behaviors and excused them.  I did this for no other reason than that I truly loved him and that I truly believed in his love for me.  I didn't realize that my actions were only enabling his.

Looking back now,  I can see how that with time, what was once something that I was fully aware of slowly turned into a routine, a habit that lost its conscious thought.  When his depression came, we got caught up in the cycle of our actions and became trapped within.  He was becoming more frustrated, disappointed, and angry.  I retreated and lost my voice.  All of my attempts to help didn't seem to make a difference.  I didn't know what else to do.  I also didn't know and I don't think he was completely aware of the progression that his illness had taken.  It was a slow progression, but I feel as if it hit a certain point where it really started to take a toll on my husband's mentality.  His own cycles of depression were coming more frequently.  They started to take on a life of their own and they started to take away more and more of our happiness.  Our cloud was getting bigger and darker.

I call my husband's sickness "our cloud" because it was.  It loomed over my head too and it did effect my mentality as well.  I remember feeling tired all the time.  I lacked energy.  I felt like I was just going through the motions.  My husband was so in tuned with my thoughts and feelings.  He picked up on this even before I did.  I believe he felt as if he were the cause of this change in me and that caused him to bottle up even more.  He shared so little of what he called his demons and the more he kept in, the more they were beating him up inside.

Love is a wonderful thing.  Truly.  It can also get in the way.  I think that our love did just that.  We loved each other so much that we didn't want to hurt the other.  Instead of talking and sharing our thoughts, we kept them in.  Over time, our communication broke down.  Even with the best of intentions that basic core in a relationship could not withstand.  Other parts began to break down too.  It was as if this world of ours that once was a wonderful and happy marriage was spinning around and around breaking apart as we stood in the middle of this cycle that we could not break free of.

In the fall of 2010, other people began to see the changes.  These changes were mainly in him and in us.  I didn't start to see these changes until December.  That was the month I felt that I finally woke up.  I had been living in a world of both ignorance and denial.  We tried to talk.  We tried to put an action into place to save our marriage.  We wanted to be with only one another.  We wanted to find "us" again.  We wanted to be happy.

Two months later I suggested that we separate.  I did not want to separate as a prelude to a divorce.  I wanted to separate because I felt that was the only way to stop the ugly cycle that we were stuck in.  It was unconventional.  It was inconvenient.  It was financially burdensome.  But that didn't matter.  What mattered was that we both get healthy.  We needed to get healthy for us as individuals, for us as a couple, for us as parents to a beautiful little boy.  I felt that our love was strong enough to endure this so that we could fix everything else.  We needed to rebuild our foundation and we even began couple's therapy to help us with that process.

My husband didn't believe.  He couldn't believe in me or in us because he didn't believe in himself.  He began to unravel. He was seeing a doctor of his own at this point and was now on medication.  He was still strong enough to continue to function at a high level and to put on a facade to hide what was really going on inside from most people, including me at times.  But at that time, I was confused.  I felt like I was living in a surreal world.  I couldn't comprehend what was really going on.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Our Story

This month of May, which holds the day that changed so many of the lives of people that I know, is a month that I felt was the time to share in more detail the story of us.  What I have shared in the past five months is the story of me.  It holds my thoughts, my perspectives, my discoveries, my pain, my fears, and my hopes.  However, as I reread all of my postings starting from December, I realized that in those words, I have already begun to share the story of us.  It is my hope that what I have shared with you so far was a story of my life that was filled with a great amount of happiness and love.

I believe that love is part of the reason why it has taken me a year, a year of questioning, a year of grieving, and a year of healing to be able to complete the story of us.  My love for my husband was always present just as it is now.  I feel that in this past year, my experiences have brought out from within me a woman who is strong, confident, and one who can speak her mind and express herself in a way that is honest, genuine, and dignified.  I needed to feel comfortable and confident in my abilities to share my story for two reasons, my love for my husband and for the love of my son.

My husband will live on forever with me, with our son, and with the many people who were touched by having him in their lives.  However, the sad truth is that his story is over.  There will be no more experiences, no more laughs, no more memories made by him or with him.  So in the next two days, I have decided to remove the armor and to share with you how our story ended.  I have decided this because of my confidence to do so in a manner that will bring to light the reality of what is now only my life.  There is more to my story to be written and I feel that if it is to be written in a way that will bring me peace and happiness, I do need to let this go.  Sharing only the beginning, only the end, or only the bits and pieces of the in between does not do justice.  I need to share the whole story so that I can move on in a healthy way.  There is one more step in my healing process that I need to reach.  I am not ready for it yet, but after the conclusion of our story, I will be that much closer.


This piece is in fact called Brilliant and it was taken by a photographer that I am not very familiar with and I have not yet mentioned here on this blog.  His name is William Carr.  However, this piece, Brilliant, is mine.  That's right, I purchased this piece today.

I have been contemplating for a couple of months now whether or not to actually purchase a piece of fine art photography.  I love it and it makes me happy.  It's more than just that though.  It is something that I have found solace in.  It's comforting, it's peaceful, it has eased my mind and has thus been a part of my healing.

I had been searching Peter Lik's collection, searching for that one piece that spoke to me.  I find so many of the the images to be absolutely breathtaking and beautiful that it was hard for me to make a decision.  Then just the other day, it came to me...

A tree.  I wanted a tree.  Before my husband passed away, I had been talking to him about getting a tattoo of a tree.  We had talked about our love for trees, their beauty, and how trees symbolize life.  It seemed perfect.  I never did get that tattoo and I am not sure now if I ever will.   However, trees also came up again with his mother after his death when she shared with me how my husband described trees to her during a conversation.  He viewed them as a comfort.  Their branches hanging full of leaves like arms that seemed to stretch out wanting to hug and to comfort.

I did in fact find a piece by Peter Lik called "Inner Peace."  When I saw the picture and read the name, it hit me.  That was the one.  Not only is it gorgeous, it is symbolic in so many ways.  So, this morning I went to the Peter Lik gallery to see this piece in person.  It is magnificent. While I was there, I decided to look at other pieces as well.  While all beautiful, I didn't fall in love with any of them.  However, what I did find was that I loved certain elements in each of the ones that I viewed.  I loved the refreshing emerald green grasses and leaves.  I loved the warmth of the red fall leaves.  I loved the sun glimmering through the leaves and the rays that made its way through.  I loved the focus on one tree.  What I realized was that "Inner Peace" didn't have all of those elements either, but "Brilliant" did.  I was very nervous to commit, but once I did, I didn't have a sliver of regret.

This piece is not about owning a fine piece of art.  It's not about being materialistic.  It's not about having a conversation starter when people come over.  The professionalism and quality of this work are appreciated in that it truly makes this piece come to life when it's viewed in person.  But it's so much more than that.  It's about coming home everyday to something that will make me happy and smile.  It's about simple beauty.  It's about finding a link that can connect my old life with my new.  When I look at this piece I am reminded of memories of my husband.  However, I also see what I envisioned when I started this blog and entitled it "Glimmering Through Aspen."  I see a future.  I see hope and I see optimism.  I feel that this piece puts so many of the pieces of my life that seemed to have been scattered back together again.  And it's beautiful.  Simply beautiful.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Our Love

We were two very different people.  We had very different interests.  However, our values and beliefs were similar and that was an important common ground.  It took effort, but we made it work.  There was an enormous amount of love and a spark that made each of us light up for the other.  I knew that  he wasn't perfect, but I thought that he was absolutely amazing.  He was extremely intelligent, witty, kind, generous, hard working, and nurturing.  Those feelings stood strong for so many years of our lives together.  We looked at other people's relationships (both positive and negative) and tried to learn from them. We didn't want our relationship to get lost in the ho-hum of everyday life.  We didn't want to become stagnant.  We wanted amazing and we knew it was possible because we had felt what it was like to be amazed by one another.  We wanted to make each other happy and we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Dynamic Duo

I used to think of us as a dynamic duo.  We were not lavish nor were we thrill seekers, but I always felt like we were having an adventure.  In the beginning of our relationship, we did travel quite a bit.  We didn't go off to far off lands, most of the travel was closer to home, but we were very active.  We made day trips to Boston just to walk around the city and to Toronto just for a Yankee game.  He lived in South Carolina for a few months and I flew down to visit.  We began kayaking together and would travel to the Finger Lakes and the Adirondack's to kayak, to camp, or just to enjoy the peacefulness of being outdoors.  We mostly did all of this traveling and these activities alone (with the exception of our dogs) simply because we just enjoyed one an other's company.

After our first year of marriage, we moved down to Virginia.  We moved for a job and knew no one.  We were hundreds of miles away from our families and friends.  There we were, just the two of us on another one of our adventures.  We lived in Virginia for a total of four years.  However, during our time spent there, we never really established close friendships.  We did have friends.  But they bordered more on the line of acquaintances.  We went out with them, talked with them at work, but they weren't heartfelt, emotionally tied friends.  So, we relied on one another a great deal.  Being so far away from our families made it difficult for us and for them to travel during the holidays.  We spent quite a few Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Easters alone.  Just the two of us.  We began our own little traditions and in many ways those quiet, intimate holidays were nice.  They were special.

I had mentioned in a previous posting that Virginia never felt like the right place to be, but we did try to enjoy it as much as we could.  We lived near Norfolk and Virginia Beach and appreciated the military influence that the naval base and air force base brought to the area.  We loved Williamsburg.  We loved taking our dogs to the beach and swimming with them in the ocean!  We also experienced the highs and lows of buying and later on selling a house.  We loved our house.  It was from 1929 and it had so much character.  We had this glorious bathroom that was actually bigger than our bedroom.  There was a claw foot tub that my husband refinished for me.  We put alot of money and sweat into that house.  But it was ours and we were proud of it.  That house felt like home, it was just located in the wrong place.

Our last stop ended up being here, in New York City.  Brooklyn to be exact.  Why NYC?  We didn't know where else to go.  We didn't plan on staying here long term, but figured that it would be a lively and fun place to live for a bit until we decided where we really wanted to settle down.  New York turned out to be quite an adjustment.  We moved from a big, single family home to a small apartment and a storage unit which held half of our possessions.  We told ourselves we could do it though and in the back of our heads were thinking that this was just for short term, so why not enjoy it?

When I look back at our lives together, I don't think back and regret things that we didn't do together.  I have not once said to myself, "I wish we had..."  Sure, I would have liked to have seen more of the world with him, but we were active and busy and enjoyed that.  We moved alot.  We lived in some very interesting and fascinating places.  We bought a home and made it our own.  We also sold that home and grew from that experience.  Even in our younger years, we were able to see each other graduate from college.  He helped me through graduate school as well.  In our 13 years together he lost all of his grandparents and I, my uncle. We also experienced our own great loss when I had a miscarriage.  We later experienced together the most beautiful and miraculous of gifts in the birth of our son.  I feel that in our 13 years together, we lived.  We lived a lifetime of experiences and created a lifetime of memories.  I am thankful for that.  However, saying that doesn't make it any easier that our lifetime was only 13 years.  He was only 35 and I, 32.  We had so many more years to look forward to and to build on.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Weather has always been a trigger of memories for me.  Whether its the way the breeze brushes your cheeks, the earthy smell of spring, or a misty Sunday morning... it has always brought back memories.  Today was one of those days.  It was a gloomy, rainy day.  It has actually been pretty gloomy and rainy all week, but today it decided to remind me of my trip to Scotland.  A happy memory, a very happy memory.

Our trip to Scotland was my engagement present to Him.  Yup, that's right.  I got a ring, he got a plane ticket.  The year was 2001.  The month was June.  I was a recent college graduate who was also recently engaged.  We had decided to embrace our age, the European culture, and the moment and we backpacked it!  We even stayed in hostels.  That is something that I would never do again (not because it was a bad experience, I just feel too old for that now) and that's what made it so awesome.

We flew into London, which I loved, but only stayed a few days because our real destination was Scotland.  We visited Edinburgh, Inverness, and Sterling and we traveled through Great Britain by train.  I fell in love.  The land was gorgeous, breathtaking actually.  The coast, the rolling green land, it was fantastic.  I loved the castles and the architecture.  I loved the language and seeing men walking around town in kilts.  I loved it all because I was happy.  I was happy because I could see how happy He was.  He was part Scottish and he had always wanted to visit Scotland.  I was so happy to be the one to experience this complete bliss of his with him.

While we were there, He picked up a kilt with his family's plaid that he had pre-ordered before our arrival.   He wore that kilt on our wedding day as did all our groomsmen.  He was always so proud and happy to put on that kilt.  Now, that kilt is one of the precious mementos that I have to pass on to our son.  I also look forward to the day when I can bring my son to Scotland.  I want to share with him what his father and I shared together.  I want him to have this experience so that he can feel a certain closeness with his father.  To take a deep breath of air from this foreign land, to look around, and to see what his father once saw.  


I am so happy that we shared a son.  My husband had so many special keepsakes that are more easily passed down from father to son.  Besides the kilt, there are watches, rings, ties, books, a gorgeous model ship, and even a family bible dated back to the mid 1800's.  While I wish I didn't have to share with my son who his father was in this way, I am truly grateful for the photos, letters, stories, and mementos that I do have so that my son will grow up knowing who is father was.  He was unique and he possessed so many wonderful qualities.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Swept Away

I met my husband when I was just about a month shy of turning nineteen.  I was a freshman in college and he was a senior.  We went to a very small college, a place where it was hard to get lost in the crowd.  I had first noticed him because he always smiled at me.  It was the smile and his hair, it was long, that made me notice him.  I remember one day going down to get my mail and he was coming up.  We didn't talk, just smiled.  But for the next week, I went to get my mail at that exact time, hoping to run into him again.  (I didn't.)

Our next encounter happened on a Friday night.  I didn't go out that night.  I was in my room wearing bright orange sweats with "Syracuse" down the leg and a green sweatshirt.  To say I was a hot mess would be an understatement.  I was watching "Saturday Night Fever" and ordered a pizza.  I toted my hot ass down to the lobby to pick up that pizza and who was there, the long haired guy with a smile.  And he did just that when he saw me.  He let me get my pizza first, and I was so embarrassed by the way I looked, I apparently didn't say "thank you" or anything else for that matter because he always made fun of me about that afterward.  I just grabbed my pizza and ran back upstairs.

We actually met (and spoke!) when my suite mate got a new roommate who was friends with my husband.  He helped her move in and there we both were.  I do not remember what words were spoken.  But I remember two things, what I was wearing and that he took me away.

Keep in mind that the year was 1997.  I was wearing olive green corduroys and a white button down oxford that was tied in the front, just to show off a tease of my belly.  Oh, and Keds.  How could I forget the Keds? Lol.

He took me away that night.  The words that I do remember came from him telling me about a trip abroad that he took that summer, only months ago.  He had gone on an archaeological dig in Europe.  For some reason he had some pictures with him and as he spoke about this foreign land that I didn't particularly have interest in ever visiting, I listened attentively and let him sweep me off of my feet.  He was so amazingly smart and interesting.  He was different than all of the other guys that I had met in college and that I had known in high school.  He was who I was looking for and the reason why I never dated before.

I didn't know it at that moment, but looking back, it was love at first sight.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

The 4 Agreements

In my quest to find myself, I had to let go and be completely honest with myself about who I am and what I value most to emulate in my everyday life.  In January, when I began The Happiness Project, I listed some words of wisdom and of encouragement as to what I believed was important.  This list came from who I was to a degree, but more than that, the type of person that I wanted to strive to be.

Not too long ago, I came across "The Four Agreements" by don Miguel Ruiz who wrote his book based on "ancient Toltec wisdom".    These four agreements are meant to help one to live with more integrity, self awareness, and peace.  You may understand why this caught my attention.  I do not plan on making these four agreements my motto to live by.  However, I do see value in them and can see how attempting to live by them could potentially make one's life happier.

So without further ado,

The Four Agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

I do not plan on giving updates on how I am doing with each of these agreements.  However, I may mention them from time to time.  Right now, I would like to write about the first agreement and its importance to me in this moment.  
One of my own "commandments" is share your thoughts with tact and dignity.  This has been something that I have tried very hard to do in these past few months.  I have always been an very private person.  I have always been a very shy person as well.  I have seen first hand how important it is to share your thoughts whether they be personal, work related, happy, or sad.  Everyone's thoughts hold value.  How one presents themselves shows their worth.  So, I have stepped out of my box and have begun to share both my inner deep thoughts and more trivial ones as well.  However, no matter the thought, I have truly tried to share them in a classy way, with tact and dignity.  
It is my hope to continue to do just that.  It is also my hope that I present myself in that manner on this blog.  It is important to me to be impeccable with my words during the next couple of weeks as I reflect back and relive the life and the loss with my husband.  I hope that what I do share will be said with such grace so that it will only honor his memory.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tree of Life

Autumnal Maple
Zeb Andrews
I began this blog as a therapeutic measure to help keep me in a good place as I set out on this journey into my new life with so much confusion, heartache, loneliness, and sadness from having to experience the tragic loss of my husband.  When I first began, I had two journals.  One that held the utter pain and confusion for the path my life had taken.  And this, Glimmering Through Aspen, the place that didn't forget all of the hurt, but a place that could see the light as well.  This blog held the hope and optimism that was within me, but allowed me to release it so that it could come to life.

They say that time heals all wounds.  I do believe that time has been a good friend in the process of healing.  I do not believe that these wounds will ever go away completely.  There is a hole, an absence, that no amount of future happiness will ever be able to fill.  This is not a bleak outlook.  It is a realistic outlook and one that I do not mind accepting because that hole, was created by a man that I truly loved.  He was my husband and the father of our child who is the the absolute light of my everyday.

Whether it has been time or the breath of life in my words, but I am in a good place.  Part of my healing process is finding myself.  One thing that I have become quite aware of is in fact myself.  Self-awareness has been significant in my healing because I have been able to recognize patterns and thoughts and where they might lead.  I am also aware of my resources and where to go, what to do, and whom to seek out when I feel myself going down a path that I don't want to go.  I do not repress my thoughts or feelings.  I let them come.  I have grown to the point where I can feel them fully, deal with it, and let it go.  I have not gotten stuck in a long time. I also seek out this blog more so than my journal, and I have done so for quite some time now.

The day is approaching.  The day that marks that it has been one year since my husband passed away.  The anticipation of this day is weighing heavily.  I feel that I have come to the point on this blog where I do not want to seek out my journal for the thoughts, feelings, and memories that will be pouring in over the next 11 days.  I am not sure what will come and where they will take me, but I am hoping that I can use this forum to look back on my life with a brave, yet genuine smile.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Simple Beauty

I have not been shy with sharing my new love affair with landscape photography.  I don't know how to describe it, to me it just breathes fresh air into my face.  Fresh, clean, sweet, and cold.  The kind of air that gets into you and dances with your soul. Getting lost in the simple beauty of nature has made me feel a kind of happiness that is just as simple and genuine as the vision itself.

Thank you Las Vegas for connecting me with a therapeutic art that I never would have sought out on my own.  In a past post, I shared Peter Lik and some of my favorite pieces of his photography collection.  Today, I want to share with you Jeff Mitchum.  His gallery was actually the first that I visited in Las Vegas, so I really fell in love with him first.  He is not unfamiliar to this blog as I have used one of his pieces, Third Day, as an opening for my post, "Baggage."  But today, you will get more.

I have not traveled as much as I would like to.  I have always had a thing for Europe.  I love the land and the architecture.  I've been to England and Scotland and absolutely loved it.  The castles were phenomenal and the view of the rolling green land in Scotland atop the Salisbury Crags, absolutely breathtaking.  When I think of big trips, Europe, is what always comes to mind first.

What I always failed to realize is how beautiful the United States is.  We do not have the ancient architecture as other countries, but the land has so much to offer.  It is so diverse and boasts such natural beauty.  When I was looking at the books in the galleries, each photograph had an inscription with a little story and location.  I was amazed that the majority of the photos that took my breath away were right here!   

Jeff Mitchum

Google Images, lol
This photo is called "Bridge to Romance."  It is really called Maltnomah Falls and it's located just outside of Portland, Oregon. 

I am going to visit these falls.

In September, I have a four day weekend.  I am in the middle of planning a trip to Gig Harbor, which is just south of Seattle.  It is a small town on the water full of art and surrounded by beauty.  It's supposedly one of the best small towns to visit in the United States.  So, my plan is to stay in Gig Harbor and to drive down for the day to visit these falls.  I am hoping that this trip will not be a solo one.  But, if it works out that my only option is to go alone, I know that is something that I can do and would feel comfortable in doing. I just want to have this experience and there are so many more that I want, so why wait?

Well as promised, here are some more photos by Jeff Mitchum.  I hope you enjoy them and can find the simple beauty in them as well. 


Radiant Wonder

The Man
Three Brothers

P.S.  I have a bead to remind me to always look for and appreciate the simple beauty. :)
It's called Silver Mountain and it did remind me of a refreshing mountain view, much like in "The Man" (above).  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


This week my son has reached a new milestone.  I have seen it come slowly, but it is definitely here and it is the cutest thing!  Make-believe!  He is a boy through and through (except his love affair for the color pink!) and trucks and cars are his favorite thing right now.  He now adds sound effects and talks while he is playing, not just with his cars and trucks, but with anything and everything.  I love it!

I have mentioned many times that it is the happy moments, the sweet little things that I miss sharing with someone the most.  This would be a time when my husband or I would catch our son doing this and quietly whisper and call the other to come watch.  We would look at each other, smile with love and affection for our child, and then laugh at him!

I appreciate my son more than words can possibly say.  I love being a mother more than I could have ever possibly imagined.  It is these precious moments that I hope to share with someone someday because they truly are what life is all about.  It's the little things.  The simple beauty in the small...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Treasure House

I did it again.  It's a new month and I have veered away from my Happiness Project Focus for April.  It was a good one, parenthood.  Well, I shouldn't say that I veered away from it because I didn't completely, I just didn't write more about it as I had planned.

One of the ideas for helping to create a happier home was to "be a treasure house of happy memories."  This includes creating happy moments and traditions.  As some of my more recent posts may have indicated, I am starting to feel more settled here in New York and I am starting to wonder if perhaps this is  "home."  One thing that has lead me to this thought is the acceptance of my current apartment as my home.  I have tried to make it feel more comfy, more me.  I have bought some new decor and like planned, I have spent the last two nights painting.  A little paint can go a long way and I already feel like my apartment is more welcoming, bright, and cheery.  These little changes may not be happy memories, however, the atmosphere that they help to create is part of a treasured house.   I want my son, my family, and my friends to all feel a positive aurora when they step into my home.

This apartment also holds happy and precious memories as well with my husband.  I have many photos of my son and his father in this very apartment.  I know that when it is time for me to leave this place, it will tug at my heartstrings because it does hold our last memories together as a family.  But, what my son and I have are precious photos and videos.  I do not take them out that often.  However, there are plenty of pictures scattered around the apartment for my son to see and two special family photos above his crib.  My son knows his father.

Another idea that Gretchen gives for this topic is to create and uphold family traditions.  I have paid especially close attention to traditions this past year as I have tried to find ways to keep the spirit of my husband alive for our son.  Here are some of our (my son and I) traditions...
     -Father's Day:  Plant Flowers
     -Daddy's Birthday:  Ice Cream Cake
     -Wedding Anniversary:  Send cards of love and appreciation to those people who mean so much
     -Thanksgiving:  Macy's Parade, Turkey and Pies prepared with my husband's recipe
     -Christmas:  Continue the tradition we started on our son's first Christmas with the gift of a special book and inscription inside
     -My Son's Half Birthday:  Make half-moon cookies with his father's recipe
     -Easter:  Tulips, Easter Egg Hunt, Spend day at the park

As I am writing these, I feel like there is so much more that I do on a daily/weekly basis, like mentioning something to my son about his father, etc.  Those tradition above do not include any old family traditions, I just geared them towards my husband's memory.

Those traditions lead us up to this time of the year.  The one year mark is almost here.  I think the heaviness of the anticipation of it is what's going to make it possible to get through it.  I have already started to release some of the emotions.  However, I do not know what to do on this day.  I know that I will not go to work on that day.  I also know that I won't be able to visit the cemetery because my husband is buried in his hometown.  It is too far of a drive with my son for one day back and forth.  I am not sure if I should do something special with my son and make it a tradition or if I should just make it a simple day.  A simple day to enjoy the simple joys of life and to reflect on our lives together.

Just the thought of it now brings tears to my eyes.  This is going to be a tough 16 days to get through.  But we will find a way to get through them as we have for each day of this past year.  Whatever it is that we do on this upcoming day or any day afterwards, tradition or no tradition, I will continue to work diligently to make sure that my son's childhood and beyond are filled with treasured memories of his father, with me, with other family and friends, and full of as many different and positive experiences as I can provide for him.