His decision

the comment that made our jaw drop

This weekend we stayed at a hotel one night and were able to hang out with some of our friends that are more like family.  

On Sunday morning,  Kelby, Aaron and I were discussing how much fun it was to have them visit us the night before.  In conversation we were explaining why we called them the [their last name] family.  Kelby said to Aaron, “you know like your last name is Taber” and without any kind of prompt or hesitation Aaron rebuttals back with “We are the Steuhm family, daddy.”  Aaron obviously has Jay’s last name.  I hyphenated for my own reasons noted in a previous blog.  But if jaws could actually drop, our jaws would have been on the floor.  

Aaron is 7 but the one thing I vowed when I began this part of our journey that he would have input into how things progressed.  He was the first to call Kelby “daddy.”  

Today his decision was that we are the Steuhm Family.  I am good with his decision.  

My place

The journey in finding my place…in this world

The song by Michael W. Smith plays on repeat.

I listen to each word.  The rasp in his voice.  The crescendo reaching a volume where I can no longer hear the thoughts in my head.  Truthfully my favorite part is the piano in the beginning.  Simple.  Just like life.

I listened to this song on repeat after Jay died.  I was so confused.  What is my place.  I thought I knew.  Graduate high school.  Get college degree.  Find good job.  Find love.  Marry love.  Explore life.  Have children.  Experience life.  Grow old.

I look at my birthday in 3 months and it is a milestone birthday.  I question myself again, wondering if I have found “my place” in this world.

I reflect back to high school.  It wasn’t always easy.  The same can be said about college.  But finding a good job and finding love I did those quite well.  Struggle came back when trying to have children but after finally after 3 years successfully creating and delivering a child I thought I had my place.

I was wrong.  And then I began what I call the fight of my life.  Exhausted and unsure what plan B (or whatever letter I was at that point) was, I wanted to just give up.  “The wind is moving but I am standing still.”  If there is a single lyric to describe a moment in my life, that was it.  I can take this song line by line and tell you a part of my feelings and thoughts in the last 6 1/2 years that describe it all.

The morale of the story is we need not be comfortable where we are.  Comfort breeds expectation.  Expectations will not always be met.  Then comes disappointment and confusion of our place…in this world.  Continuing to find our place is where we will in turn find it.  That is my experience, my perspective.  I continue to search for my place.

Are we related?

The story behind my last name

The other day I had someone come up to me and ask if we were related somehow.

My last name is hyphenated.  Taber-Steuhm.  People often make the assumption that Taber is my maiden name.  It is not.  It is my first husband’s last name.

This person had made that assumption and was shocked to hear me talk to open about the fact that “Taber” was not my maiden name, instead my first husband’s who had passed away at the age of 33.

I will probably never know for sure if infant this person is related to my late husband or not but I gave him enough information to dig and find out. HA!

When people first saw me hyphenate my last name there were alot of questions.

Question: Why hyphenate Alyssa?…that seems like alot of work.

Answer: Same amount of work it is to change your name any other time.

Question: What does Kelby think of it, keeping Jay’s last name with his?

Answer: When I made the decision, which was made alot sooner than many would think, it wasn’t to hurt Kelby or to honor Jay.  I believe Kelby knows this.

Question: Why did you hyphenate your name Alyssa?

Answer: The answer is quite simple.  Aaron.  I never want Aaron to question where his place is in my life.  I never want Kelby to question my love for him either.  But I kept “Taber” for Aaron.

After making this decision I was sitting with my boss at the time and my decision was solidified in our discussion.  She had lost her father at an early age and her mom remarried and took her second husband’s last name.  She would tell me that this decision often made people question who she belonged too.  Her words not mine.

In that moment I knew despite the headache it may cause me, my decision was right for us as a family.  Also…if you say it fast and run the words together…it totally sounds German.  And that is kinda cool.


The other day someone asked me about Aaron and Kelby’s relationship.  It was out of the blue but it was an interesting question.

I was asked how I will handle when Aaron realizes Kelby is technically his step dad and now his biological dad.  The question was more of how will I handle when Aaron goes through the phase of “You are not my real dad” in reference to parenting and those things we have to tell our children for their safety, etc.

It is an interesting question and after some thought, here is my answer.

I did not tell Aaron Kelby was his daddy.  Aaron decided Kelby was his dad.

It was our 2nd Christmas together.  We had celebrated our Christmas with my side of the family in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado.  After skiing over Christmas, all still on one piece, Aaron, Kelby and I were at the Denver airport waiting to check in for our flight back home.  I will never forget it.  We were sitting having a hot beverage and out of the blue Aaron looks at Kelby, points his finger at him, giggles and says “Daddy!”  As long as Denver doesn’t do major renovations I could take you to the exact place in the airport where this happened because it is THAT ingrained in my memory.

Kelby was talking about something and missed it the first time.  So I nudge Kelby…probably a little hard if I am honest and said “Did. You. Here. That?”  Kelby looked at me like “what?  What did I miss?”  I then asked Aaron to repeat what he had just said.  And he repeated, not really understanding why I wanted him to repeat it but at this stage in his life he was all about repeating things…ALL the time.  He has been calling him daddy every day since.

When asked this question the other day, how I would handle it if/when Aaron decides to question Kelby as his dad my response is this, “I brought Kelby into our lives Aaron, but YOU are the one who decided he was your daddy.  YOU first called him daddy.  And with that you will respect him just as you respect me.”

It could be more complicated, or it can be that simple.  Simple is good.

Grownups come back

Looking through my “draft posts” for this blog I found another one that I started but stopped and did not finish.  Here is what I found.

OK, here goes nothing.  I am blogging about an episode of Daniel Tigers Neighborhood.  Yep, here it goes.

For those unaware, Daniel Tigers Neighborhood is a “remake” of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Aaron loves the show and for 99.9% of the time I love it as well.

I stopped mid paragraph and closed out the post and moved on with my day.  Why?

Let me tell you why.

Because I was about to explain a Daniel Tiger show where they talk about “Grownups always come back.”  In the episode it is talking about being left at school or daycare and how your parents will always come back to get you so not to be afraid.  I love the idea.  I am sure it has helped a lot of parents and children in the scary moments of separation.

But I remember watching that show initially and Aaron was enthralled.  He was right there loving the music, the characters the WHOLE bit.  And I sat there knowing that it wasn’t necessarily true.  I write that and I think to myself, Alyssa do NOT bash Daniel Tigers Neighborhood.  Please know that is not my intention but my perspective was that this fact was not always true and it broke my heart.

Early on after I saw this, I would drop Aaron off at daycare I would head to work and while in the car  driving to work I got my BEST thinking done.  I also got out a lot of anger I did not want people to see or hear.  I remember one morning after watching this show, Aaron in good hands at daycare, I screamed the whole way to work that it wasn’t always true.  It was true for most but not all.  Not my son.  And that made me angry.  So angry.

In hindsight and with a TON more perspective I sit here and can say it calmly.  Not accusing anyone of not seeing our side on this topic but hoping to help people understand how it impacted me.

This is not the only show that impacted me this way.

My blog is not meant to change people’s minds on anything.  I have said from the beginning my hope is to understand and be understood.  That is my wish.

Defy Gravity

So, as I sat here trying to figure out what to write about a song played on my iTunes.  It was “Defying Gravity.”  I have the version from the show Glee on my laptop.  As I sat and listened to it, I laughed and said to myself “You ask, you shall receive.”

This song was my anthem early in my grief journey.  If I was feeling down about something, I would try to listen to this song.  Listening to it literally lifted my spirit.  It was in that moment that I would look for one thing, not 10 things but just one thing to help lift me up in that moment.

You see, I was trying to defy the gravity of my grief.  Defy the gravity of the emotion that was taking me down.  The song reminded me that I could do it.  I had done it before, this day was not any different.  It was my positive trigger that reminded me to get back up.

What is your positive trigger to get you back up and moving?

How do you defy the gravity of “life”?

The fear of routine

NOTE: Another blog that was written in or before May 2018, now finally getting published.  Ironically at the time in our lives where routine is crucial to not losing our minds.  School is back in session…and ready or not…we are back into a routine.

Having a routine for the most part a good thing to have.   Going to bed at about the same time each night and waking up around the same each morning  allows the right amount of sleep you need as well as provides good time to get ready for the day and come down after a long day.

The other day while sitting and sorting through my life.  Making myself aware of what I was doing with my life, I realized that Aaron and I don’t have a repeatable routine.  At first this didn’t really bother me, being flexible and not rigid is a good thing I thought.  And what I found is I am 50% right and 50% wrong with that thought.

My reason for not following a repeatable routine is where I have trouble now that I think about it.  You see, I had a routine the morning of May 9th, 2012.  At noon that day, everything changed.  Somewhere in getting the phone call and leaving the ER later that day with a completely broken heart and life I decided I no longer needed a routine.  I mean, why have a routine that could be changed so drastically.  My fear of having a routine and it changing without my consent was my reason not to have one.  If I don’t have a routine, no one and nothing can  mess it up.

I didn’t see it as a coping mechanism at the time but as I reflect now I can see it clearly.  I don’t see my decision as a mistake.  But what I do know is that it is time for a routine.  A routine that takes care of everyone in our little family.  I can adapt to change and it isn’t really easy to admit something so silly that was clearly a way of me coping with massive change but here it is.

It is time…

Disclaimer: I wrote this blog in May of 2018.  It is now August of 2018.  I didn’t hit publish.  If you are reading this now…I hit publish.

It is time…to stop fighting it.  I stopped blogging.  I stopped writing it.  To be clear it wasn’t easy to stop writing and in many other formats I still continued but here, I stopped.  A new chapter started in my life and in Aaron’s.  I guess I thought to some degree no one would want to read what I had to write.  And then tonight, through a tough time my amazing husband said to me…”stop fighting it.”  Now he was referencing me not feeling 100% and my feeling and need to be a super woman of sorts and not listen to my body when it says “stop already.”  Part of that was true but what I realized is although I am terrible at giving myself and my body the time it needs to rest, him telling me stop fighting brought on tears I haven’t had in a pretty long time.  I stopped fighting it and I cried.  Ugly cried.  He thought I was fighting giving myself a break…but instead I was actually GIVING myself a break.  The boys left the house and I continued to sit on the floor in full ugly cry mode.  The more I cried, the better my stomach felt.  The more I cried, the faster the headache I had went away.

So the benefit of having so many notebooks I have bought over the years is that when I am not within reach of my phone or a computer you can ultimately find a notebook and pen and begin to write.  Through my tears, I started to write.  The more I wrote the better I felt.  Stomach almost back to normal…headache almost gone the writing continued.  And damn it felt good.   Like REAL good.

Early on after Jay died I cried every day.  Most days it was just once a day but more times then I would like to admit it was more like 2 or 3 times a day.  I look back now and I use the analogy of a sinking ship taking on water.  It will sink if the water overflows so it is key to get the water out.  Such are tears in our bodies.  If we keep them in for too long, we sink.  Nobody wants to be on a sinking ship let alone BE a sinking ship.

So…it is time to write again.  It is time…to figure it all out and hopefully in the process help others.

It. Is. Time.

Sometimes a trigger is this

Let me set the scene:
I am taking a relaxing bath. Epsom salt and essential oils and warm water are always good for my soul.  The boys are downstairs doing their thing so I can relax.
Are you relaxed?  Because I was.  Until…
About 20 minutes in (a pretty long bath…don’t judge me lol) I hear Aaron yell. He specifically asking for me. I first start to get angry because I am relaxing and we all know this so why is he not asking his dad. Then he has this tone about him yells my name again and says “Something is wrong mommy! Come down!”
Side note: if you ever want to get me out of bed, shower, bath or any other place that is relaxing to me…do what he just did…it works.
I jump out of the bath, towel around my body I run down the stairs because in my mind there is panic. He is yelling for me…he isn’t asking for dad and he says something is wrong.
In my mind, I INSTANTLY went to a place where Kelby has been hurt…I thought maybe he had collapsed…where is my phone….what is the phone number again to call…this isn’t happening…WTH happened!?! It had to be something BAD.
I get down to the first floor and I look at him like “What! What is wrong!?!?!”
Aaron: Mommy…the washer is flashing 44…there is something wrong!!!!
I fix the clothes washer and my energy changes. I am no longer relaxed, in fact I can see everything I SHOULD be doing instead of relaxing in the tub. Like EVERYTHING. Laundry…dishes…picking up toys.
My fear turns to anxiety and then straight to anger. No detour taking the long way around or even a gingerly stroll to anger…I drove there…FAST. As I come down from the anger I see my husband wondering what the hell just happened and a little boy who is glad the washer isn’t flashing 44 anymore and wants to watch his tv.
We find the remote, turn off the tv and I sit Aaron down. I explain that unless someone is hurt, the house is on fire or someone is trying to take him to not yell that like. I explain that I thought daddy or he was hurt and that scared me beyond words.  We come to an understanding and then I sit there. In my towel and it hits me.
Tears start to roll out of my eyes. And I hear myself say in my head, “I cannot lose them.” Damn.
I didn’t realize until after but Kelby was standing by listening to my whole conversation and afterwards I was actually glad.
Why? Because my behavior in that moment was embarrassing. And to explain out loud what I felt twice probably wouldn’t have happened. And so I walked up to him.  He put his arms around me and I cried.  
Triggers are not easy.  They stink actually.  They sometimes come out of nowhere.
And then sometimes there are triggers like this that are hard, break me and then they make me a better version of myself.

We should learn everyday

Today I started to think about how people work to change others viewpoint on any particular topic.   The more I thought about it, the more scared I got.

Way back when,you know like a short 14 or so years ago before the age of social media, when someone disagreed with the way you saw something you did one of three things.

1) You had it out.  Face to face let the other person know your view point.  If neither talked about it to anyone else and no one else was around, no one knew you argued.

2) You decided to let it go and maybe vented to another person about it for a day or two and either held it against the person never seeing them again or you let it go.  Again…unless someone was there to witness it, other than the person you vented too, no one was wiser.

3) It was clear there would never be a middle ground and you let it go.

Now days it is so much different and with that in mind, I fear what my little boy and his generation are being left with as tools of persuasion and education to others viewpoint.

I am always amazed at people who come up to me and say “did you SEE what *insert name here* posted on Facebook the other day? ” or “did you SEE the picture they posted on snapchat or ‘the gram’?”  In these situations it is usually about a particular topic that is being heavily debated or is highly controversial.

These are the conversations our children will inevitably begin to have with their friends.  And the next scene of this situation is what really scares me.

You see once someone has made their view point made, people either jump on the bandwagon or try to pull people off.  And when they try to get people’s attention who are on the bandwagon it isn’t just a simple gesture of “come with me, please” or “I have a different idea, would you like to hear it?”  No, now days we post furiously about how ridiculous the other viewpoint is.  How could anyone be SO STUPID.   We not only trash the other idea, we trash the person  in the process.  And in watching someone jump on the bandwagon or an idea different than yours, imagine being yelled at and having things thrown at you as to encourage you to get off the bandwagon.   It would make anyone hold on tighter.

People post things that go “viral” with millions of views calling people out and making a point to belittle them to feel only an inch tall.  All this with some thought, even if it is a long shot, to get the other side to change their mind.

I don’t know about you, but when someone is belittling me, I tend to shut down.  Not because I don’t like the person or want to hear them, I just do.  I think many people do.  But then we start up again and we start to fight for ourselves.  Unsure as to why we have to but we do.  This is how the world is now days.

It is rare to sit and be asked questions about how you feel so the other person can atleast hear your side and why you feel the way you do but then to think of asking questions yourself to learn about the other side for you…it just does not happen.

The other day, while talking to a co-worker, I mentioned how we learned something new the other day about a system we work with.  And I said “You learn something new every day, right?”  And her response was perfect.  She said, “If you are lucky.”

I sat at my desk and thought to myself she is right.  We are lucky if we get to learn something new every day.  It is sad to think that many do not.  Not because they can’t but because they refuse too.

When I looked at Aaron today, I wanted to apologize to him.  The world we are leaving him with baffles me.  It isn’t about providing more valuable information to your viewpoint, it is slamming the other side.  And as the society continues this way, I know one little boy who will do different.  He will ask questions to understand.  Provide data to back up his viewpoint and then in the end THANK the person who heard him and taught him something new for the day.