On the road again

I am no stranger to having to get in the car and drive long distances.  When I went to college I was 4 1/2 hours away from my parents house.  Limited liquid intake prior to getting into the vehicle, salty and sweet snacks in the car along with a small container of some caffeine and cruise control, these are all essential.  Traveling with a 2 year old modifies this slightly but most of the same rules apply.  An added bonus if travel is within nap time but it is not required thanks to the iPad.

On Wednesday, Aaron and I started our journey back “up north” to visit Grandpa and Grandma.  Still only a 4 hour drive (I know many who have traveled much longer distances) but the day before a holiday…a risky move.  It gets dark early and my parents are fans of me driving in more light than dark (as am I) so we took off around 2:30.  We still drove in the dark for a bit but not as much as we could have had we waited longer.  So on this journey, no matter how much preparation one does I still ran into the typical drivers you see while driving.

Right out of Des Moines was OK.  We got out before the rush which was nice but then I ran into my first “traffic cop”.  A  surprising fact of my 8 hours of driving the past day was that I only saw 3 cops and they were all assisting people broken down.  When I say traffic cop I mean the people that think it is wise to jet in front of people who have cruise on and are doing perfectly OK just going with traffic as to slow them down.  These people are jerks.  And the one I ran into was a super jerk that decided to very dramatically put their arms in the air as I unintentionally came up on them fast because they decided to be stupid.  Then after I was able to pass them I could see them laughing in my rear view mirror.  These people are tolerable in normal day traveling but on a HOLIDAY weekend…they just need to crawl in a hole and stay there.  They are useless.

Then for the rest of the trip it really wasn’t bad at all.  The typical working with a 2 year old giving him snacks, water and driving (noted this isn’t safe driving per say but as a single mom I have learned strategies to make it workable) but as for running into driving jerks…well that didn’t happen until I got into Sioux County.  I have family that lives in Sioux County and they are great people.  The next statement is not directed at them…it is directed at the Highway that I have to drive on through the county to get to my parents house.  I swear that in my many years of driving this can be the most dangerous part of Iowa to drive through.  Wednesday night proved it as the person in front of me was one the following 1) drunk 2) never driven in the dark 3) young.  The worse possible combination would to be all 3 but I don’t that was the case.  I honestly think they were scared I was coming up on them too fast (I had cruise set) and I think they thought EVERY light reflector on EVERY pole in the ditches was a deer.  What is the saying?…”Don’t veer…HIT the deer.”  It is something like that.  They were breaking ALL of the time for no apparent reason.  An important note that as a tired mom driving with a 2 year old for 4 hours my tolerance for this was low BUT it is also important to remember that every time you hit your breaks you stop cruise from being set.  This was ANNOYING.  I had already called my parents and said the minute I pulled in they were to come out to the car and grab Aaron…I would come in but I needed a few minutes to myself to come down off of driving so adding this to the mix I wasn’t sure I was going to make it the next 30 or so miles to my parents of sane mind.

After I got into Lyon county on this drive things got better.  Another fact of this drive is I never hit a deer or saw a deer.  So when I finally pulled into my parents driveway I was better and was able to have a nice night with them and Aaron.

The only thing to report about my drive today was that I ran into a Ford Truck driver…a woman…who was clearly feeling inferior to me in the Highlander.  I had cruise set…an important detail so when I  all the sudden would come up on her (this happened atleast 4 times) I knew she wasn’t running cruise.  And so I would go into the left lane, she would see me and take off.  I finally got sick of it around on the Omaha bypass and hammered it around her and took off so I didn’t have to deal with her anymore.

To summarize…Am I a perfect flawless driver?  No.  Am I better than most?  I think so.  I use cruise…it is an amazing feature that has been around for awhile now.  Please use it.  The dark is only scary as a child going to sleep because there are clearly monsters under our beds as young children that only come out in the dark.  If you cannot drive in the dark…do not drive in the dark.  Thank you.  Do I speed?  Ummm…Yeah.  This is my problem not yours as I use cruise and am responsible when I come up on slower traffic.  If I am going to get pulled over please let the appropriate authorities do it if they catch me.  I am OK paying the fine.  I don’t need you to carelessly cause an accident.  Concentrate on your driving please.  Have I ever hit a deer?  Yes.  Actually I will profess until my last day on earth that it hit me since I saw it and was going 10 MPH but my vehicle came in contact with a deer on my 16th birthday.  It sucks but guess what…I was OK because I didn’t veer and I SAW him come at me.  Just hit the damn deer.  It’ll be OK…promise.  And finally…I am in my car to go from point A to point B.  Do not play games thinking I am trying to intimidate you.  Again…NOT my goal.

And on Sunday I get to travel half way to pick my little man up.  Another busy traveling day for those celebrating Thanksgiving.  Am I crazy?  Yes…BUT I will be on the road again.

Kees Camp

Part of my recent transformation is because of Kees Camp. A little over 2 months ago I set up a meeting to meet with Jennifer Kees and it was truly the “beginning” of the new me and quite possibly one of the best decisions I have made in a very long time.

She is the lead trainer and founder of Kees Camp.  A Pole fitness studio in West Des Moines, Iowa.  I knew only that a few of my friends had Facebook “liked” her studio and that after looking at her regular site and seeing she had dance classes, pole fitness class but also personal training I knew I needed to atleast meet her.  I met her and before I left had purchased a personal training package as well as a class package.

Since that first meeting I have had many sessions with her and each makes me a stronger person.  Physically obviously but mentally as well.  She did not know me as Jay’s wife….Jay’s widow.  She knows me as Alyssa Taber.  Aaron’s mom and someone who was dealt a crappy situation.  I don’t just consider her my personal trainer, she is a friend.  A friend that expects that if I get to the studio early will walk in…change and get right on the treadmill.  A friend that tells me “just 2 more” then for some reason starts counting down from 4.  A friend that has helped 8 inches to disappear from my body and bring back this sassy part of my personality that I have been missing for a very long time.

At first people would tell me that I needed to get into a workout routine.  Get active because that would help me and keep me from getting depressed.  At first I didn’t want to move like that.  I wanted to stay put.  I cannot tell you what pushed me to make that appointment but recently I have decided to throw a certain amount of caution to the wind and let life show me in its own way what I need to do.  Do I still have sad days?  Yes.  Do I acknowledge and move through them?  Yes.  Do I feel mentally and physically stronger then I was a few months ago?  Absolutely.  I was brought to Kees Camp for a reason and so far all I can see is positive results and I love it.

Whirlwind Weekend

In my mind the weekend started on Thursday night when we got our first little snow storm.  I do not like driving in winter weather.  I can do it but I don’t like it.  My feelings toward it got worse the winter after I bought my Toyota Camry.  I can’t tell you what year it was but Jay was still alive and we didn’t have Aaron so maybe 2009.  It was starting to snow really bad and so I got in the car and was heading home from work.  Being a little hesitant of the weather I went out of the work parking lot at the bottom of the hill that goes past my work.  I then spent the next 30 minutes trying to drive up the hill.  The snow had come down fast and the city hadn’t had time to really plow the street yet.  I finally got up to the entrance into the parking lot at the top of the hill and went back into the parking lot. (Keep in mind MANY cars went around me and some I saw were laughing at me)  After some crying and screaming I decided that I would try the other way home and was able to get home OK.  A few different struggles but atleast the car moved and got me home.  I got home and to say I looked flustered is an understatement.  What did Jay say to me?   ”You just aren’t a good driver sweetie especially in this weather.”  *sigh*  .  I looked at him so frustrated but knew I would prove something because on Saturday that weekend we had an oil change scheduled in Ames and they would tell me what I needed to hear.  And they did.  They came back after looking the car over and I had NO tread on the tires.  And by no tread I mean NO tread.  What was Jay’s comment?  ”Well with how much you spun your tires I am sure it wore them down.”  The mechanic piped in and said that the tires were original to what the factory put on and they were sport tires so they were probably really close to this prior to early in the week.  *Insert “I TOLD YOU SO” moment*  After Jay died I vowed to always have good tires and always have an SUV of some sort.  I can be a cautious driver…that I can do but I will always have a vehicle that can handle the weather as well. 

I didn’t have trouble driving on Thursday although I found it ironic and funny that I was speaking at Drive with Cops in Urbandale that night with the nights weather.  I did what they teach you and left a little earlier than normal to get to my destination safely.  The organization is truly amazing because earlier that week they had the plows stop by and let the kids get in the plow with the cars they drive around it strategically so the kids could see how plows cannot see them.  Then they would sit in the other cars and see the other perspective.  I spoke and headed home.  I LOVE speaking but it is exhausting.  My passion for it grows every time I speak. 

Friday Aaron and I picked up our friend to go to a gift mart event that a friend of mine helps put together.  We went last year with this friend and it is nice because Aaron likes her so we can take turns when he got squirrely and we both got to shop.  It was a great way to end the week.  Saturday was very early on determined to be a PJ all day kind of day.  I had lunch delivered and we hung out playing and snuggling.  These aren’t always good days because my mind tends to slow down and can concentrate on things that are not easy to get through.  As I texted a few friends I could feel myself going down a slippery slope of self-pity.  Luckily for me I have some of the most amazing people in my life and one of my girlfriends said we were doing something that night.  Going for cocktails, going shopping or watching a movie.  I got to pick.  Those who know me well know which one I ultimately said “yes please!”  I met her a few hours later to go shopping with Aaron.  It was a great time and we had a late dinner.  I found the next day that maybe the food the previous day wasn’t a good choice. 

Sunday I spent the day sick.  Again, I feel like a broken record but I have the most amazing people/friends in my life.  I asked a friend for Sierra Mist to calm my stomach and instead I got 3 Sierra Mists and the day without Aaron to recover from what I thought was just a random sickness that later was determined to be food poisoning.  This friend is someone who knew Jay well as well as her sister and I am SO thankful for them on a day to day basis but they were amazing to take Aaron for the day.    I will say by the time they dropped him back off I was really missing Aaron.  I was also feeling IMMENSELY better so that helped.  Damn food poisoning. 

That all said I thought last night as I went to sleep that this week would be a down week…that I would feel exhausted before it even started.  Not only from a crazy-ish weekend but because it was a dreaded holiday weekend again.  Instead to my surprise I woke up with a smile on my face.  I got a BIG hug & kiss from my lil man along with a “Hi Mommy!”  I mean how could I go wrong starting the week like that?  I bought a cute dress on Saturday night and some new sassy shoes.  To top it off (literally actually) I found a cute hat that actually fits my head.  I woke up early enough this morning to do my hair and makeup cute like.  So this week started off great.  I feel good.  As the second Thanksgiving without Jay approaches, parts of it will be a whirlwind and I will get through it like I always do but I also know that after I will feel and look fabulous so here is to a whirlwind week!

speaking

If you would have asked me a couple years ago if I would be a public speaker I would have laughed and said very directly…”No.” 

Yet when asked by the pastor the day before the funeral who I wanted to speak at the funeral I looked the pastor directly in the eyes and said…”I’ve thought about it and I would like to speak.”  I didn’t look to my right and see my family’s reaction or to my left to see Jay’s family’s reaction.  Had I done that I may have had a second thought to how I answered that question but I didn’t.  I wanted to speak.  Early on I would tell people I owed it to him to speak.  People would say I didn’t owe him anything.  This is true but I have later come to realize when I said “him” I didn’t mean Jay as many thought.  I meant I owed it to Aaron.  If I was able to stand up and speak at his dad’s funeral I could do anything.  That was my mindset.  I stood up in front of a packed room of family and friends, unfolded my small piece of paper and spoke about the wonderful man we were there to honor.  I remember finishing my speech, folding my paper back up and walking back to my chair.  My dad really didn’t want me to speak.  He was rightfully concerned that I would lose it and be embarrassed and cause so much more heart ache.  After I practiced once to my mom the morning of the funeral she told me later she went up to my dad and said, “Stop telling her not to do it because she is going to do it…and she is going to pull it off.”  I love my parents.  When I sat back down in my chair after speaking my dad looked at me and said “I am so sorry for not trusting you could do it.  I am so proud of you.” And then a moment that will forever be in my mind is what my brother said to me…”Alyssa…someday you will have to tell me how the hell you just pulled that off.” 

It is those comments that had me knowing I did Jay proud and did a good job.  And honestly after that I had no true aspirations to continue speaking about the journey we were on.  That was until my financial planner, who was also the person that helped Jay and I with our life insurance, and I were talking one day about stuff and he asked me, “Alyssa…would you ever be interested in talking to a group of people about the importance of life insurance?”  Without any hesitation I looked at him and said “sure!”  On September 11th of last year I did my first public speaking event to a little over 100 life insurance agents talking about Jay…Aaron and me…the events of May 9th and that I was so thankful that Jay thought to take care of his us so early in his life and purchase life insurance.   I received a standing ovation and that was an amazing feeling.  After that I spoke in front of an employee meeting for the Iowa Donor Network and after that I was invited to speak in front of a group doing a project for Amanda the Panda (a wonderful grief center I attended for group counseling). 

So why am I bringing this up today?  Last night I had the opportunity (and will again tonight) to speak to a group of kids who are learning how to drive through the Drive with Cops organization in Urbandale.  At these events I talk about organ donation and explain how much can be done just by saying Yes when they are asked the question about being an organ donor when they get their driver’s license. 

Since those initial events I take any opportunity presented to me to speak about Organ donation, Life Insurance and in general the journey we are on.  My ultimate goal is to help people understand and to be understood.  It isn’t always easy to get up and speak and after last night I was exhausted but I do it.  I truly enjoy it.  I continue to heal through doing it.  I have to go back to a day that will forever in my mind but the single day that changed our lives forever.  I look back at the person that existed on May 9th,2012 and the person I saw in the mirror this morning and they are different people.  I understand that and it is a good thing.

A letter to my 20 year old self…

Dear Alyssa,

You think life has been a trip so far right?  Girl, hold on because it has only begun.  You are going meet so many different people in your life and you need to embrace them all.  Life is going to throw you some interesting experiences.  Embrace them all as well.

In the next 14 years here are 10 things you need to know:
1)  Don’t judge anyone.  It’s not your job.

2)  Always go with your gut.  It’s always right, even when you don’t want it to be.

3)  DANCE in the sunshine and rain…don’t lose that ability.

4)  Live without regrets. 

5)  Drink more water.

6)  Don’t ever settle.

7)  Challenge yourself daily.

8)  Love unconditionally

9)  Live free of fear

10) You ARE enough

You will experience love and loss.  Love will be amazing.  Loss will be painful.  Learn from all of it.

Life is incredibly short, live every day like it is your last.  Be kind always and live and love everything.  You won’t regret it.

The forbidden fruit

How is that for a blog title?  I’m not going to talk about Adam and Eve folks but I am going to talk about a forbidden fruit.  Atleast in Jay’s world…it was the Apple.

Those who didn’t know Jay are wondering where in the heck I am going with this.  Those who knew him in any way knew how much he disliked Apple…the company.  The only thing he would purchase Apple was the iPod.  And he liked the iPod but that was IT.

To emphasize the point for those who are not aware get this.  The internet started acting up at the house a few months ago.  I noticed it when I decided to purchase an iPad for myself and it wouldn’t connect to the internet at all.  The wifi also stopped working on my android phone and my work laptop would loose connection sporadically so there were a few issues going on but the puzzling part was when it wouldn’t connect at all.  After talking to the Centurylink guy it all became clear.  Now he couldn’t get into the modem/router because as a DBA and IT person in general Jay had things very secure but what I found out from Centurylink was interesting and made sense.  Jay had probably set up our modem/router to not allow Apple products to connect to the internet.  Now those that are connecting the dots and seeing a problem in regards to my phone I have an explanation.  A recent upgrade of the android system made it Apple-ish which is why I was unable to connect to our wifi through my phone.  All because Jay hated Apple.  HA!  It was also becoming an old modem so ultimately getting it replaced was the right thing to do.  I mean who can go without internet nowadays.  That is just silly.  😉

So I had decided I wanted an iPad so I got one and that is what brought this problem to light.  Then I really started to like Apple and thought Aaron could have his own so he could have the educational apps etc.  Then I was loving it so much that I bought myself a MacBook.

So the moral of the story is…Jay may not like it but I ate the forbidden fruit. 🙂

Let it go and be FREE

I typed the subject for the blog and I’ve re-read it a few times and it is really quite powerful. 

Let it go. 

Let the stress of having no control over what happens in life because guess what?  This may shock a few people but you have NO control.  You do have control over your actions and reactions to things but in reality you have no control over everything else.  A big thing for me was that you can’t control what other people think about you.  You think you do but you don’t.  And to be honest, you may think they are thinking about you but sorry to tell you but they probably aren’t.  They are probably thinking about their deadlines at work…the fight they had with their mom or trying to figure out what is for dinner and whether they will get everyone in bed on time that night. 

Early on I held onto the thought that I did something wrong to loose Jay as early as I did and as quickly as I did.  I slowly let go of pieces of that thought and the more I did the lighter I felt.  I also held close to me my old normal.  I held the morning of May 9th, 2012 really close.  Recently I let go of it completely and that is when a true transformation occurred in me.  Because when I let it go I was…

FREE.

We hold on to sooo much in our lives.  And I will be honest I still do at times.  To say you never will again is just silly and unrealistic.  I let go of things a lot faster though because it feels good.  You see when I finally let go of my old normal, I was free of guilt, fear, paralyzing sadness and constantly questioning myself and what I was doing.  Being free of the things holding me down feels amazing and that is a feeling I want to hold onto with both hands…white knuckled.  But again…I have my moments of sadness…frustration and sadness.  It is human to have these feelings.  I let them go and I’m free again. 

So as I reread this blog a bit I think people may take a few things the wrong way so I want to clarify a few things.  I think of my family and friends all the time.  I worry and stress about Aaron, work and life.  I don’t let the problems facing my family and friends get me and hold me down.  Like them, I have no control on what goes on in their lives.  I am a mother and worry and stress about Aaron constantly but I also know I have no control.  If he falls, he falls.  If he gets sick, he gets sick.  I have no control.  I do my best for him in his life and that is and always will be enough.  It has to be.  I am always here for my family and friends and I wish nothing but love and happiness for all of them and will help in any way I can, it is who I am.  I do my best for them and that is and always will be enough.  It has to be. 

I have much more to say but now is not the time so I leave you with a simple concept.  It took me almost a year and half to do and it wasn’t easy, nothing worth having ever is.  But if you can do one thing today for yourself…Let it go (whatever it is) and be free.

Go ME!

OK first let me first state that this is a FUNNY blog.  Some of you are going to say “Oh ALYSSA!!”…most of you will be shaking your heads with an image that will make you laugh and know that I will NEVER let this happen again…EVER.

My day started off pretty darn good.  I dropped Aaron off at daycare and it was a great drop off.  A smiling lil boy is always a good way to put a smile on my face.  I had a dentist appointment early in the morning after dropping him off.  Jay always told me that I could never keep my initial appointment I set up.  He gave me so much grief about it.  I would always reschedule and up until today I usually do but today, I made it to my initially set up appointment.  I was proud of myself for keeping the appointment and for enjoying my appointment talking to my hygienist and dentist.  Everyone in the office is awesome and has been amazing to me through this journey.  I got to work, got a few things done a couple meetings then I was off to my lunch hour workout.  I LOVE working out at lunch but especially my personal trainer.  She is amazing.  I had a meeting to call into at 1:00 so I called in and took off back to work.  I kept my workout clothes on knowing I could change when I got to work.  I threw shorts in my bag this morning to workout in.  This is an important detail so remember this.

What I haven’t told you yet is that for the last 2 days my gas light has been on in the Highlander.  At first when it went off I thought…”I’ve got atleast a drive to daycare and work and I will fill up after work.”  Yeah that didn’t happen.  This morning I thought I will get Aaron to daycare and then stop by quick and fill up.  Yeah that didn’t happen either.  Then as I was driving to work from the dentist and thought I really need to stop and fill up.  Didn’t happen.  So as I was driving from working out to work I think I will stop at the Casey’s right up the street.  I can still listen to my meeting, fill up my tank of gas and then get back to work.  Perfect right?  Yeah…I get in front of the school that is about 2-3 street blocks from the Casey’s and I feel the car SHUT DOWN.  The first thought I had was…I can coast..yeah that’ll work.  Well you kinda need a hill to do that and people who know where I am talking about…there is no hill.  Damn.  The second thought that went through my mind was…well atleast I’m close to a gas station and maybe my friend’s husband who is a county deputy can help me.  Then the frightening third thought crossed my mind…I AM IN SHORTS.

I text my friend to see if her husband is in the area to help.  He isn’t and that is OK because at that point I had started walking…in this cold weather…in my workout shorts…still listening to my work meeting.  Had Aaron been with me we would be having a completely different story here but he wasn’t.  (THANK GOODNESS)  I tell my co-workers what is going on and hang up the phone as I know I am about to embark on a new experience in getting just a gallon of gas and walking back trying to figure out how to do this whole thing.  Could I have cried and been mad at myself  for letting this happen…absolutely.  Could I have called every guy I know and asked them to assist me in this idiotic situation I was in or better yet any of my girlfriends that were available since telling guys about this was going to result in a lecture of not having your gas tank lower than 1/4 tank in this winterish weather we have going on….sure.  Instead as I walked the 2-3 blocks to the Casey’s gas station I was laughing hysterically.  A couple months ago (although in different weather so not as bad per say) I would have been so mad, cried and screamed about what I let happen.  Instead as I write this I am STILL laughing.

So I end by saying that Jay always told me that you have plenty of gas left once the light goes on.  The car companies are just over cautious.  You can never REALLY run out of gas.  I was always freaking out when the light went on but I had found that he was right…that is until today.  I proved him wrong…go me!  HA!

A change

Many people have looked and talked to me in the last month have in a general statement told me that I have “changed.”

I know in my mind and heart I have changed.  I can even tell you that physically, my body feels different.  I mean that in the way that I don’t feel like I am carrying a weight around.  30 pounds from time to time (Aaron) but not a weight.  My personal trainer will even tell you there is a hop in my step now and that feels good.

I have heard it and feel it but I couldn’t see it per say.  That is until I got Aaron’s 2 year old pictures back today.  When the pictures were taken was when I was starting to feel different…I was in the midst of another change   In the first picture I opened I could see it.  The smile isn’t fake.  It isn’t posed.  I am genuinely happy.  Was the day of pictures stressful…yes.  Was Aaron cooperating like I always envision he will…no.  Was the day perfect?…not at all.  BUT if you look at my smile you wouldn’t think that.

The smile on my face shows a change.

The Right Way

It never ceases to amaze me what you hear people say when you really listen to them.  It is part of my mission to understand people better and to really listen and learn from them.  I get better and better at it each day as I knowingly put distractions away and allow myself to really hear what people are saying.  It is amazing to hear people share their experiences.  We can’t all have the same experiences so we have to learn from each others experiences.

It is amazing, yet not surprising, that when you put distractions away the other person does as well.  It goes well with the thought of if you want to change a person’s reaction to you, change what you do.  You cannot change others but you can change yourself.

All of that aside, the conversations I have been having lately have been enlightening…even life changing.  The outcome of your life…the way you EXPECT it to all turn out has been a hot topic lately.  The other day a friend of mine said, let go of the outcome.  They had said it before but until the other day it didn’t stick the way it did now.  Let go of what you think your life should be.  Let it become what it will be.   It is amazing how public opinion or opinion of family and friends becomes so important to us.  We let others control what they think our life should be.  We do what we think others feel will make us happy…help us through certain situations that arise.  I would love to be able to say that we can blame these people for trying to control our lives but in reality it is more our fault in allowing them to have that control.

Through this journey I have always tried to do things the “right way.”  Whatever that really means, right?  At first I think I was trying to do right by Jay’s standards…then it was by the worlds and Jay’s standards.  Now I am doing right MY way by learning from others.  Through it all I don’t think I ever compromised doing things the way I have but now the name of the game is my way…the right way.