The C word

posted 7’/31/2013

I could go just about anywhere with that title huh?  Let’s see…Cancer?…maybe…how about Computers?…it’s possible…or the one that may throw a few for a loop Cysts…interesting.  If you can believe it, I can connect all 3 of these in one story.  Let’s see if I’m brave enough to post this.

Let me start by saying computers now a days connect us with so much information it is insane.  On a site you can type in your symptoms you are having and it can suggest some possible issues that you may have.  Of course this does not and should not substitute for seeing a doctor although let’s be honest…some of us would rather see it on a computer screen then hear it from the doctors mouth.  Some may use what the computer screen says to not go into the doctor because it doesn’t think it is serious.  Again, not a good practice in my opnion.

Cancer.  The word NO one wants to hear and yet Jay and I heard it twice in one year.  First it was the second night staying in our new house…we had just gotten home from a party that a friend had and as I called my mom back since she had called when we were at the party and wanted me to call her back to talk…she told me she had cancer.  2 days after we got the news my mom’s treatment was successful and for the time being she was cancer free, Jay came home with a look I had never seen on his face.  His mom had just told him she had breast cancer.  I am thankful to report that both moms are in remission.

Cysts.  This one may be throwing a few people for a loop so let me explain.  Infact this is where all 3 C words come together.  While Jay and I were initially trying to get pregnant, things for me were not looking or feeling normal.  My OB had an ultrasound done in the office and what she found wasn’t a huge concern although it wasn’t totally OK either.  They found a few cysts of which one didn’t look like the others.  It looked like it was more solid then a normal cyst would be.  Luckily a month later the troublish cyst was gone and appeared to then be normal but for a month, the previous C word stuck in my head and to be honest made me quite nervous considering what family history seemed to present itself.  And of course I did what I just explained not to do.  I looked on the computer…I researched as much as I could.  I scared myself so much that my blood pressure spiked so high they sent me to my doctor to get it looked into.  I wore a 24 hour bp monitor to find out that there was nothing really going on. 

I write this blog to be honest about what life has thrown my way.  Many people may think I am disclosing too much.  I feel the contrary, you see if people don’t continue to be reminded that there is more out there that people are dealing with then you may ever know…maybe…just maybe people will begin to be better to one another.  To understand…not judge…to help…not hurt.  Yes we all have our own opinions on politics…religion and many other things (see how I picked the two most controversial topics? :-P) but deep down we need to seek understanding.  I don’t mean that we change our opinions but we should seek to understand. 

While we were trying to get pregnant there were very few people who knew what was really going on.  Some probably knew but were truly guessing since it wasn’t a topic Jay and I talked about to just anyone.  We had our outlets but sometimes that wasn’t enough.  I have been told I was a different person during this time.  It is no surprise to me and thinking back I can absolutely see what concerned people.  When our moms were going through their cancer there were few people that knew what we were going through.  The only ones that came close were those that had their mothers diagnosed with cancer.  Not people who had their dad…their aunt…uncle…even sister but their mother.  I’m not discounting these other people because they are all not good people in ones life to have cancer but to relate to Jay and I in those moments…those were not comparisons. 

So I leave you with one last “C word”…and that is Comfort.  Comfort those in your life and keep tabs on each other.  I have an amazing group of people that keep tabs on me and comfort me in ways they  may never fully understand just by reading a text I send or letting me help them when I can.  If we would comfort people in our life…maybe the first 3 C words wouldn’t be so scary.

My weekly GSA (grief service announcement)

posted 7/30/2013  

This is my GSA for the week.  For any account you have, make sure there is someone else other than you that can make changes.  If you have children and have people selected to be their guardian in your death, they are probably a good choice.  If possible make them an account manager on the account.   Obviously it should be someone you trust.  I just got off the phone with our internet provider because I don’t think our modem is working.  I am not an account manager on our account so before they can even TALK to me about our account I have to fax them a copy of Jay’s death certificate.  Almost 15 months after his death and I still have to send a death certificate.  Just one more thing to get done and then we continue to move forward.

Rough days

posted 7/29/2013

So yesterday was a rough day.  For no other reason then it was a rough day.

These “rough” days are fewer and further between each other now which is nice  but it doesn’t make them any easier.

Sweet IM conversations…a songs lyrics…a sweet email from a friend…more song lyrics…missing Aaron. I spent most of the day crying.

There was nothing bad about my day. It proves my point that until you know the journey a person is walking.. don’t judge.

I wasn’t hurt physically… I wasn’t feeling depressed… I was just sad and having a rough day.

Thank you to everyone who helped me get through it.

What’s yours is mine?

It this still ours…his…or can it be mine?  This is a struggle for me and something I think about a lot.  Let me show a before and after chart to explain.

Before his death After his death
Our house This has switched from my house to our house noting that “our” now has a different definition
Jay’s friends This initially stayed as Jay’s friend(s)…slowly they are becoming my/our friend(s).
Jay’s office During the renovation this became Alyssa’s/my office
My in-laws Jay’s parents
Our little man Our little man (this will NEVER change)

Let me explain a little bit more on 3 of the ones that changed.

 “Jay’s friends”

Many of these people I had met before in some capacity.  In most cases I would see them when they were at the house getting ready to go to an Iowa State event, at work events or at the fire department.  I felt it was important for Jay to keep his friends in the capacity he wanted.  I didn’t push him nor do I push people as a rule…it’s not my personality. 

At his visitation to say the number of people that walked through the door was overwhelming is a huge understatement.  It spoke volumes to the impact he had on people.  Many of these people have not skipped a beat and have become very good friends to me.  When I reference them to other people especially early on they were known as one of “Jay’s friends”.  Slowly but surely they are becoming “my friend”.  That said…I have A LOT of friends.   

“Jay’s Office”

This was a place of solitude and yet sadness right away.  I kept the door shut for the first 6 months after his death to keep the smell in the room.  Considering Jay had spent Monday and Tuesday before his death working from home, it really smelled like him and that was comforting.  As the kitchen renovation started which included new carpet on the 2nd floor it became clear quickly that I would need to clean/organize my office and ultimately move my stuff into Jay’s office.  I still reference this room as Jay’s office at times but slowly but surely as I use it more and more it has become my office.

 “My in-laws”

This is a tough reality but technically Jay’s parents are no longer my in-laws.  Aaron will always know them as his grandparents but to me they are now solely “Jay’s parents.”  That comes across kinda harsh but it is the reality.  When my status changed from married to widow this relationship changed. 

 None of the changes have been easy because ultimately the reason for the change is Jay’s death and that is sad but we move forward…one relationship…room and difficult situation at a time.

 

A blog of honesty

In one of the griefshare emails I received the other day it stated that one needs to grieve honestly.  It mentioned that in grief people may make certain situations or people worse or better than they were.  In honor of that email…here is a blog of honesty.  15 things you may or may not know…

Our marriage was not perfect.  But we loved each other unconditionally and I will love him, defend him and honor him unconditionally until the day I die.

I talk to Jay all the time.  He thinks I talked to him a lot and asked alot of questions in his life.  HA!  He ain’t seen nothin yet.

When I am having a rough day…I tend to shop…a lot.

There are still people I cannot look in the eye since Jay’s death. 

I have kept a light or TV on in the house every night since he died. 

I have a new wardrobe since he died. 

I did not (and will not) drive the Camry (the vehicle I drove to the hospital on May 9th) after I drove it to the hospital and I sold it as soon as I found someone to buy it.

I have kept many pieces of mail sent to Jay for Aaron to have when he grows up. 

I carry guilt with me every day for not being there in his final minutes.

Many of Jay’s friends that I didn’t know very well or hadn’t talked to in years are now some of my closest friends. 

I believe Aaron can see or hear Jay and Jay uses him to tell me things.

Jay would not have wanted a funeral service but I had one anyway.

I joke and/or laugh to keep from being sad or crying.

Between 300-400 people attended Jay’s visitation.

When I spoke at the funeral, my hands and lower arms were tingling so much they felt almost numb. I wrote my speech the morning of the funeral.

So there you have it…a random blog but a blog of honesty nonetheless.  Have a great week!

a relaxing weekend

posted 7/28/2013

I had a wonderful weekend.

It started with my parents getting into town early evening on Friday.  I had a plan to go out with a friend of mine that night and looked forward to going dancing and not worrying about Aaron.  I don’t worry about him when I have a babysitter over, it is just nice to know if I wanted to stay out later my folks don’t mind because they can just go to sleep and I can be out as long as I like.  🙂  And I did.  I haven’t been out past midnight since my birthday in March.  The night ended with us talking to 3 “lawyers” that turned out to really be law students at Drake.  One of them had two glasses of clear liquid.  One may think they were water…they were not.  They joked that he was “hydrated”…he was hydrated alright.  LOL!  Oh to be young again.  It was comical.

On Saturday…I slept in.  As a mom you rarely get to sleep in and as a single mom it is VERY rare.  If you do it usually means your baby isn’t feeling well  and you are sleeping in because you spent the whole night awake which brings on a whole different set of issues.  But I digress…I slept in.  It was wonderful. Bliss even.  We all did stuff around the house and then we went out to Bass Pro to go look around.  It was so much fun.  Aaron did great shopping as did I.  🙂  I had plans for Saturday night as well…start off at a winery and then supper for a bachlorette party for a good friend of mine.  And after that go to a local place to see a band and see a new friend of mine as she honored her late husband in a celebration of his life and presented a young person with a scholarship.  Becoming a widow is something I wish on no one.  It brings you opportunities you never thought in your life you would have or would be able to do.  I am so proud of my friend, she is amazing and has such strength.

On Sunday…I slept in a little bit.  Mom and dad were out the door early as they have a long drive back.  I awake to a clean house…no laundry to do and the happiest little boy in the whole world.  It is such an amazing feeling to see your baby so happy.  He had so much fun with Grandma and Papa.  My parents are wonderful grandparents…it suits them well.  Aaron and I hung out a bit and then ran our errands for the weekend.  Beauty Brands…Bed Bath & Beyond…Hy-Vee and Target.  Surprisingly Target was not the highest amount of purchase.  Aaron and I were invited to our friends Bridal shower at 2 so we got ready for that and were on the road.  I have to apologize to my friend as I spent most of the time keeping an eye on Aaron as he ran the halls of the church we were in.  Before being a mom I would think that was rude.  Now I know differently…this exhausts children and that is a GOOD thing.  🙂  As I have said a few other times I try my hardest not to judge people.  You never know the journey they are on and not judging means they cannot judge you.  Simple rule and it works.  We got home after the shower and did chores.  Aaron helps and I let him.  We took out the garbage and the recycle…he played while I put the yard waste in the bags and to the curb.  He loves being outside just like his daddy.  I’m quite the opposite but for Aaron I am working on changing that.  I want to be the best mom for him and give him everything he needs and deserves.  After a few more chores we were ready for bed…Aaron was SO ready for bed.  He didn’t take a nap today and anyone with a 21 month old knows…baby needs his nap.

So as the weekend ends it seems like a simple weekend.  Nothing lavish but it was the best weekend in a long time.  No extreme highs…no extreme lows.  I met some new friends…and hung with some not so new friends.  I couldn’t say “old”…it just didn’t seem right.  Hopefully my “not so new” friends agree. 😉  I got to relax and celebrate someone going into the amazing journey of marriage.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle that…seeing someone be so happy to be entering into the most amazing journey of her life to this point.  I say that because I believe motherhood for me is now the most amazing journey with my marriage coming in a very close second.  I was surprised to feel the happiness I did.  It was good…I feel good.  Others deserve happiness…to live and to move forward.  As I have wonderful weekends like this weekend and I feel this change happening within me I know deep down I deserve happiness as well and I will move forward and live for three reasons…1) I deserve it…2) Aaron deserves it and most importantly 3) it is what Jay would want.

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

posted 7/22/2013

Sorry for you Harry Potter fans, I’m not going to blog about Harry Potter and Vol….wait…I mean “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”.  Instead I am going to debunk a myth that some people have about widows hearing their loved ones names.

Contrary to what many may think I like to hear people talk about Jay.  I like to hear the memories you have.  It is part of the healing process in my opinion to hear people talk about Jay and to talk about Jay.  

It can be awkward when I do mention Jay around certain people because I get a look or the feeling that people do not know what to say or if it is OK to say things back.  This is my way of giving permission to all of you.  Talk about him.  Tell me stories.  Tell Aaron how much he reminds you of his dad.  Eventually tell Aaron all the “adult type” stories you have with Jay. 😉  Key word there is EVENTUALLY. 😉

When Aaron is older I will have to tell him the story of May 9th.  Honestly I feel talking about Jay now where Aaron doesn’t know anything different will make that conversation easier later.  And further if people in our life continue to talk about him as well…it will make this even easier for me and for Aaron.

I know this sounds weird.  You would think the memories would make me sad.  To say his name would be awkward and cause sadness.  I’m not going to say that some of the happy memories I have of Jay don’t sometimes make me sad that he is not here but then I remember the memory itself and it makes me smile…happy even.  

So in my life and in my house…the only person  that fits the “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” will continue to be Vol…well you know.  And stopping the typing of the name adds the point but also I’m not in the mood to Google it and get the correct spelling. 😉

signs

posted 7/22/2013

I have found that Jay has a unique way of letting me know that he is OK with a certain decision that needs to be made. Now if I wasn’t allowing myself to see it, I could just say it was “bad luck” or that everything around me is not working but as I wake up this Monday morning I find my refreshed mind thinks they are him letting me know things.

About a month ago I decided that I was going to finally trade in Jay’s vehicle.  It started having “trouble” and the battery would not stay charged.  I had to learn how to jump it with jumper cables in order to get it to the person’s house that was going to detail it before I took it in to the dealer.  This issue had been going on for a few months yet once the vehicle was detailed and we got it in my garage the vehicle was fine.  And by fine I mean I never jumped it again.  It worked fine.   Once I made the decision to move on and trade it in, it worked perfect.  Coincidence…maybe.

Now I am faced with the decision with the internet at the house.  The fix is to reset the modem or as a friend has mentioned he thinks I need a new modem all together.  If I reset or get a new one I loose Jay’s finger prints on the internet and that is a tough thing for me because the techie stuff at the house was his thing.  But recently the internet connection has been spotty at best and it is really starting to irritate me. If Jay was still here and this was doing this there would be no question about getting it fixed because no one in their right mind should go without good internet service.  So maybe the minute I decide to contact the powers that be and get this internet thing taken care of the internet will start working better or maybe the modem is beyond repair and it will continue to not work and I will be fixing yet another broken thing in the house.  Either way, it is yet another emotional decision I have to make and although it seems simple to many (because it is) it isn’t really easy for me.  I miss my in house technical support but lucky for me, Jay left me with some pretty good people that are helping me along the way.  Now I just have to make the decision to let go.

Shoes…

posted 7/21/2013

Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.

–    American proverb

I did not realize how true this proverb was until I got that phone call on May 9th, 2012.  And ever since I do my best not to judge…I choose to try to understand…to help and not hurt…that is my mission in life.

As I read this proverb I have to laugh.  Why you ask?  Well some out there now that recently I have acquired a “shoe” problem.  The problem being that I like to purchase them…many of them.  One friend told me every girl needs a pair of red heels.  I now own a pair of red heels and they are fabulous.  I have also been known to when I find a pair of shoes I like and they come in multiple colors..well..you get the idea.   And while we are at it…Jessica Simpson has wonderful shoes…I hate to love them as much as I do.  And Crocs…they aren’t those ugly things anymore…they are stylish…and comfy….but I digress.

And I also chuckle because another girlfriend of mine has told me often…”girl…the only shoe problem you have is that we are not the same shoe size!”

But to the seriousness of the blog, it is true.  Until you have walked a mile in ones shoes, don’t judge.  It is hard…very hard because in this society we all think we have the answers.  We all think we know everything and if we don’t we can just Google it…read about it and we will know what we need to know…maybe even consider ourselves experts.  And it is also hard because deep down I believe everyone wants to help each other.

In this journey I have met many widows of which some of us have similar situations.  I guess thankfully none of us have the exact same situation.  So although we understand each other a little bit better than others, we don’t understand the whole situation and with that comes no judgement.

The differences range from type of death (cancer/long term illness…heart attack…car accident) to number and age of children (1 to 1 or more…babies to teenagers) to the heart break of whether we were with them in their finals minutes or not.  They seem like simple differences but they are far from simple.  Each brings its own set of challenges, anger and sadness.  It is important to understand those differences and know that not every widow is just a person without their spouse.

The same can be said about a person’s divorce I suppose…death or even job loss.  Someone may get divorced and be perfectly OK with it.  Maybe the other person was hurtful emotionally or physically and they are happy to be done.  Others can be heart broken because they wanted it to work but it didn’t.  Different people’s deaths bring different types of losses.  And even a  job…some may hope for the day they get fired while others may truly love what they do and feel hurt that someone didn’t appreciate them for their contributions.

Through every difficult situation most people put on fronts.  They wear a mask to protect you from seeing what is really going on.

I bring up this subject because recently I have felt from every part of my life that people are saying “this is easy”…”you’ll be OK”…”Just do this”…”Don’t do THAT…” and it is frustrating.  I’ve gone from being mad when this happens to being frustrated and letting it go.  The following is a true statement…”You cannot change others actions…you can only change your reaction”.  Let me step in and say I appreciate everyone in my life…their input and their advice and this is not directed at any specific person because my perception is my reality and I know this.

So I say the following…”Nothing about my life is easy”…”many days I’m not OK”…I probably won’t do “this” but if I had to guess I will probably do THAT and all I ask is that you accept it and understand.  This journey presents so many different and unique situations/decisions for me.  More times then not they are not fun or easy decisions and they are most definitely ones I wish I could make with Jay instead of in place of Jay.

So I end with asking all of you not to judge until you have walked a mile in anyone’s shoes no matter how fabulous their shoes are because more then likely although we would absolutely let you borrow our shoes we would never want you to have to walk a mile in them.

Chores

posted 7/21/2013

I have and will continue to tell whoever asks or doesn’t ask that I have the most amazing people in my life.  Whether they knew me first, knew Jay and I as a couple or only knew Jay.  Because of these people I have accomplished and figured out so many things I never thought I could do when Jay was alive let alone with him gone.  I think many widows will tell you the same thing.  As a married couple you just always think the other person will be there so you don’t have to learn things or know things.  You share the chores.  You take on certain parts of your life together because you trust each other and because you can.

The weekend of Jay’s death my sister in law Leslie went for a walk with me to get out of the house for a bit.  On that walk I remember telling her one of the things that was scaring me at the moment.  It is going to sound so silly to most but it was that I didn’t know how to work the thermostat in the house.  It was a complicated digital one that I never had to deal with…Jay always did and now he wasn’t here to teach me or just do it for us.  And in his defense I am sure he tried to teach me how the darn thing worked but I obviously didn’t pay good enough attention…probably because of the famous last words that “He will be able to take care of it so I don’t have to”.  Since then I have had to replace the Air Conditioner and furnace as well as the thermostat since the one we had wasn’t compatible with the new units and rest assured I know how to work it now.

I thought of blogging this because of something else I had to do the other day.  Any woman with long hair can tell you that no matter what you do, when you brush your hair it is bound to cause problems in drains and be everywhere in the house.  My sink in the master bathroom was starting to drain slow the other day.  I tried to ignore it because I knew what I would have to do and I really did not want to.  I could always convince Jay to do it for me. 🙂  He was awesome like that.  I started using the sink that was primarily Jay’s sink in the bathroom just so I didn’t have to deal with it.  The other day I decided enough was enough.  I couldn’t just leave it in the condition it was…I had to fix it…so I did.  It was disgusting and the whole time I was cleaning it out I could almost hear Jay laughing.  And then I found myself apologizing to him for the many times he did this for me.  And then I found myself laughing.

I will be the first to tell you that I was spoiled to have Jay in my life as my husband…my best friend and the father of our child.  He was my better half and he made me a better person in life and in death.  And although he has now left me with all the chores I know he is with me as I continue to learn and I am forever grateful.