Triggers are everywhere

This morning I was in a team meeting at work.  It was a normal meeting.  The third one I had attended to be exact.  3 presentations to listen to and an opportunity to learn more about my team and about my job, this was going to be an easy meeting.

The first two presentations were intriguing.  I found myself listening to what they were saying and thinking about how I could use it on my projects I am on.  The final presentation for the meeting hit me like a ton of bricks.  Why?  Two of my team members are working on a project that relates to what Jay did at his job he was at the time of his death.  Business continuity planning.  In a nutshell, planning for what to do should something bad happen.

Wikipedia’s definition is “A business continuity plan is a plan to continue operations if a place of business (e.g., an office, work site or data center) is affected by adverse physical conditions, such as a storm, fire or crime. Such a plan typically explains how the business would recover its operations or move operations to another location. For example, if a fire destroys an office building or data center, the people and business or data center operations would relocate to a recovery site.”

Knowing this it is no shock that Jay made sure we were “prepared for the worse case scenario”, that being that when either of us died the other was taken care of.  He spent the better part of his last 5 years planning for the worse case scenario as his full time job.  I remember him explaining things to me like that he wasn’t the only one that had the plans.  Every manager had a copy.  He had copies at work as well as at home.  It wasn’t just about buildings and data, it was also about people.  If you think about it, without people you don’t need buildings or data.  Or at least in the situation with a company, without people you don’t need buildings and have no one to take care and create the data.  At any rate he wasn’t the only one that knew the plan.  Everyone was aware of the plan.

Realizing they were talking about what Jay used to do was a trigger for me.  A day that seemed normal became full of triggers.  I didn’t cry.  Infact I laughed.  My team members showed a clip from the TV show “The office”, another Jay favorite, where one of the characters Dwight rigged the office so no one could get out yet door handles were hot…smoke was coming out of a garbage can and he even lit off some firecrackers that sounded like gun shots.  I wonder if Jay thought of that when he watched the episode.  At any rate I laughed.  It was like watching Plan A, B, C and D fail and then having to figure out what Plan E was.  I read on someone’s Facebook post the other day that if Plan A doesn’t work, you have 25 other letters, keep going.  That is so true.  And it isn’t even if a plan doesn’t “work” but if you all the sudden don’t like a plan, you can change it.

I digress.  I hope that Jay knows that his planning paid off.  That telling me and teaching me what he did when he was here has kept Aaron and me on a path towards a good life even though it would be better if he were here.  I hope he knows I followed the plan as best I could.  Ironically at the end of that “The Office” episode one of the characters Stanley has a heart attack.  The connection is one I remembered but wasn’t the focus of the presentation at the meeting.  I watched it tonight and when I figured out I remembered right it stopped me in my tracks.  For those unaware, Jay died of a heart attack.

The rest of the day was good until Aaron and I got home and I started to sort through the final boxes of Jay’s stuff to go to the basement.  I found a little cab car tinker that I had bought Jay when I was at a conference in San Francisco.  I couldn’t believe he kept it.  I couldn’t believe I remembered the significance.  It triggered a memory.  It triggered happiness.  And at the end of a long day it triggered tears.  I miss him.

It seemed to not stop as I went through more stuff.  I found a certificate that Jay received for being a “gallon donor” to the Blood bank in the metro.  I also found a “Frequent exerciser incentive program” trinket in his stuff.  A trigger of pride and happiness.  But then it was a trigger or anger.  How could someone that was so giving to people he did not even know and focused on getting healthy more than anyone I know be the person that is no longer here.  He SHOULD be here.

So here it is.  My advice.  No matter what the loss, whether of a person, an animal, a house, a relationship or whatever it is we grieve.  And we need to grieve fully.  And no matter how we try to prevent them from happening or getting to us, Triggers are everywhere.

Speeding isn’t worth it

So here is a moment of truth.  The other day when I was meeting my mom to get Aaron I was literally 2 minutes away from our meeting place and I look in my rear view mirror and see lights flashing.  I pull over.  A nice State Patrol officer walks up and explains why he pulled me over.  Yes my mother told me not to rush…not to speed to be exact but I did anyway.  I was anxious to get Aaron back.  I was in a hurry to be back at my house in time for the babysitter to be there for the night and I was ready to get more stuff done in the house.  I had a deadline to get to the meeting spot.  I had a deadline to get back home.

The officer took my information back to his car, sat for a few minutes and came back ultimately with a ticket.  He could have given me a bigger ticket so I felt blessed that he only gave me what he did.  I signed his form and said “I am so sorry officer.  Thank you.  Have a good rest of your day.”  I was blessed with the ticket.  Sound a little weird huh?  A monetary reminder to slow down.  I’ve already had the life altering reminder so I’ll take the monetary one in this situation.

Slow down and enjoy the scenery.  Take time being kind to others.  Stop when you are told to stop.  When there is an accident, slow down and give the people room incase they need it.   When you come up on a construction zone be careful.  If you are stropped in traffic, be patient because soon you will be moving.

Kind of funny how getting a speeding ticket made me think about life huh?  The first thought that actually went through my mind was “I’ve been speeding the whole way…why did you have to wait until right before I am where I need to be?”  Ironically, that is EXACTLY what I thought 19 years ago when I got my last speeding ticket.  It made me laugh.

So my advice tonight is this…slow down…speeding isn’t worth it.

I fight

I have had many people tell me I am strong.  Others have said that I am brave.  The words inspiring and amazing are even said.  I am here to tell you I am none of those.  I am here to tell you that I fight.

Back up the train because before anyone gets any wrong ideas I don’t literally fight people.  I do box as part of my training with my wonderful trainer.  But that is where it stops.  I do know how to defend myself though as part of this training and that feels good.  I once told my trainer that I wasn’t good at boxing.  Her response was…oh girl…trust me…you do just fine…you have an amazing right hook.  So there is that.

I have been meaning to write a blog on this subject for awhile but every time I tried I found myself in a fight I couldn’t win…that is to write what many need to know.  I fight even now but I need to get it out so here it goes.

I fight every day.  I would say that the only time I am not fighting is when I sleep but even that isn’t true.  The dreams more like nightmares I have had recently prove that even in slumber, my mind is fighting.

The other day I sat at the bottom of my basement stairs.  I had accomplished a lot in the day and I looked at what I have accomplished renovating a part of the house that used to give me flat out anxiety attacks.  I have spent more time down there since the carpet was installed (which has been a little over a week) then I had for almost 2 years.  I felt accomplished…happy even.  And then I felt a fight coming.  I was exhausted after doing so much in the day that the battle was lost and tears started to fall.  I said “Damnit Jay…you should BE here.”  I hear him tell me that it looks amazing.  He is joking with me saying there is NO way you would have been OK with that big of a screen if I was still alive.  I dry my tears sitting there all by myself and laugh knowing that he is right but then catch myself thinking…but I built it, I made it your dream basement…please come back.  I catch all my thoughts taking me to a place I don’t like to go.  I fight.  I stand up looking at the beautiful basement.  I smile and then walk up the stairs and shut the door.  Battle won.

The fight that is less emotional but more focused is the ongoing one.  Every day…all day I fight to understand people.  If I ask people to understand me, I need to understand them.  If I am going to live life I need to understand the things in my life.  It is why I do many things in my life.  I sought out a personal trainer.  I knew I needed someone that could explain to me why I was doing an exercise and push me towards my goal.  I found a general contractor that I trusted.  I need someone I can have explain to me things in the house and tell me when other people need to get involved.  I found someone to take care of the lawn and snow removal.  Someday…instead of doing those things for me…he will teach me.  I fight to really listen to what people are telling me.  I listen for the things they don’t want to say.  God knows I do it ALL the time…that is not saying things I don’t want to say.  It gives me perspective.  It helps me.  I am constantly learning.  And I have had many times that people have called me or visited me to talk.  It shows me I am needed and that above anything is the most amazing feeling.

Another fight that I wanted to share was on my first day at my new job.  It was a good day.  Things were new.  And then one word…a six letter word put me on a fight I haven’t had to fight in a very long time.  “Single”  At my new job, my status is not widow, it is single. A day of many changes consisting of my commute…parking…a new picture with a new badge…new responsibilities…new faces and one word took me down so fast I didn’t have time to think.  I am a single parent, yes.  But I am widow.  I don’t want to be defined as being a widow but am I really single?  So did I win the battle.  Let’s just say I am still fighting it.

So you see…I am stronger than I was on May 9th, 2012.  I am braver than I was on May 9th, 2012.  I am inspired by those around me that continue to push me towards greatness and living life to the fullest.  And lastly I am amazed that through it all I continue on…I fight.

Your grief is not my responsibility

I started a rant on Facebook and promised more thought in a blog so here it goes.

Blunt moment.  You’ve been warned.  We don’t make it out of this life alive.  No matter what you think you know about someone’s or your own life, the one fact that you know for sure is that you won’t make it out alive.  And if you live life to the fullest and live without regret, maybe just maybe you can leave this world leaving a handful of people sad that you are gone.

So my rant was about Robin William’s death and how things are coming out about his death…his health and sobriety before his death.  I understand what they are trying to do but I wish they knew it was none of our business.  Yes he was an actor.  A comedian.  A public figure.  That STILL does not give any one but his close family ANY right to the information that is being given.

Here is another thought.  It doesn’t matter what happened…what disease he may have had or how his life ended because the end result is the same.  He is gone.  He is not coming back.  Life is not a movie or a soap opera.  Well for some it is a soap opera but in regards to people coming back from the dead…yeah it isn’t going to happen.  So in all honesty we shouldn’t care.  I’m not saying that people should hide information.  I just feel like (side note…since this is my feeling…my perception it is my reality…doesn’t make it right…it makes it mine) that they are bringing this information to everyone’s attention to help people grieve.  To help people make sense of why he is no longer here.  The reality is…it doesn’t matter what the doctors say or what his wives or children knew or saw. The only person that knows the ultimate truth as to what happened and why is Robin Williams.  An unfortunately for those that feel they need to know…Robin Williams is not here to tell us.

One very important piece of information I was given within weeks after Jay died was that I was not responsible for helping others grieve.  Not even Aaron.  And if I was doing something, it better not be with the intention of helping others grieve, it could be to help me grieve but that was it.  The first person to have the information about Jay’s autopsy outside of me and our family doctor was someone you may not think.  It wasn’t his parents.  It was his co-worker that saw him fall and ultimately die.  I had a person come up to me 2 weeks after Jay died and say “Alyssa…I heard he was still alive when he left Wells Fargo.  What happened?”  I walked away from that person without explanation.  None of their business.  Talking about it to them was not going to help me grief.

We as a society think it is our business to know everything about everything.  Truth be told, it isn’t our business.  Your life is not my business.  Your grief is not my responsibility.

Music is good for the soul

Exercise is good for the body and music is good for the soul.  You will have to have some serious evidence otherwise to make me change my mind.

Once I started doing serious training with a personal trainer and moving more, I started to feel so much better.  Exercise tones the body and clears the mind.  But that isn’t what I am blogging about today.

Music.  Early on I would rack my brain trying to find the “signs” that Jay had to be sending me.  I would look for pennies…feathers…and there was nothing.  I was getting frustrated because I deserved some kind of sign.  Some way of him telling me things were OK.  That we would be OK.  And then one day I stopped looking and started listening.  Let me back up a little bit and tell you Jay LOVED music.  He would go to many concerts a year to watch people and bands perform.  He didn’t always enjoy all music like I do but nonetheless he loved music.  It calmed him.  It allowed him to focus.  So when I started to listen it made sense that music would be his sign to me.  I always loved music too but that part of me that enjoyed it so much died when Jay died.  And then slowly I began to love it again.  Music calmed me.  It cleared my head of the clutter from the day and then I could listen to all the elements of the song.  I could hear the drums..the guitars and most importantly the words.

This past Saturday night I had an opportunity to go to an Iowa State Fair concert that had the following bands performing: Plain White Ts, Daughtry and the Goo Goo Dolls.  I sat there with my cousin listening to the music and I think I zoned in on the music for most if not all the concert.  I was listening to the words.  My mind was clear and I felt like I was having a conversation .  3 different bands song lyrics around love, life and how women had done them wrong does not make a conversation right?  I disagree.  I look at the pictures of me during the concert and after the concert.   Say what you will about signs and about music but my belief is that if you are willing to really listen…music is good for the soul.

RIP Robin Williams.

Today the world lost a wonderful actor. Robin Williams.  The first thing I said to myself when I saw it on Facebook was “No…not Robin.”  It was then that I started to go through all of the movies he was in and remembered laughing many times.  I smiled reliving his way he made me feel and laugh.

I then thought of his wife…now a widow.  At the time I didn’t realize that he had been married 3 times but when I found that information I hoped they were all surrounded by the support they will need in the days to come. Then his children.  At the time I did not know how many he had but I figured he had at least one.  They are now without their father.  My hope is they have the strength around them to go through what they will in the days to come.  And in the years to come, I hope they have great memories to hold on to with their dad.

As the night has gone on the news has spread like a wild fire.  So many are saddened by this loss.  What I find inspiring is that 99% of the people that are saddened by his death never met him in person.  We watched him in the movies or on TV but never met him in person.  How can people be so saddened?  The answer is easy.  They are saddened because they will miss the way he made them feel.  They remember the way they laughed or cried while watching him act.  They have happy memories such as first dates, anniversaries or just a relaxing night in front of the TV connected to him doing what he loved to do.  Connected to his life.  People will for days talk about what their favorite Robin Williams movie was.  They will recall scenes from those movies and smile.

As I googled Robin Williams I was able to read more about this life.  His life was not perfect.  But he lived it.  And most importantly, he made people smile.  He made us laugh.  All of the things that happened in his life and what are people talking about after his death?…the way he made them feel.

I can still 2 years later hear it in people’s words and see it in their eyes about Jay.  Life wasn’t perfect, but many were left with not the imperfection but the way he made them feel.  And 99% of the time, people smile having met or knowing Jay.

It is a challenge we should all accept.  To leave a legacy not by what we do or what happens in our life, but how we make people feel.  It is my mission in my life, to leave legacy of helping others and making them smile.  To leave those that didn’t meet me wishing they had and those who did meet me or know me glad that they did.

When the time comes, this is the way to leave.  Walk off the stage we call life having not taken a last bow but leaving the crowd giving you a standing ovation.

You will be missed.  RIP Robin Williams.

Number 52

This weekend I had the awesome opportunity to be in the pits for the Iowa Speedway race in Newton, Iowa.  A friend and I were guests of the #52 Donate Life car driven by Joey Gase.  Having been in the pits for 2 races now I just don’t know how I will be able to watch a race from the stands.

This time was much calmer than the first time because we knew what to expect.  We knew where to get our credentials…we knew we needed ear plugs so we got them right away and we also figured out at the end of the last race that you can stay away from the kybos because the garage has real bathrooms.  Another important difference in the races is that this one was a night race.  This meant I would not be a lobster at the end of the race from a sunburn.  🙂  This was the third race that Jay’s picture went around the track on Joey’s car.  The May race at Iowa Speedway and two weekends ago at Indianapolis and then this past weekend at Iowa Speedway again.  I will continue to put his picture on the car.  Why?  I ask why not?  It helps an amazing driver continue to advocate for something bigger than anyone or anything and that is helping others.  Not just by enhancing their lives but in many cases SAVING their lives.  And the best part is that Joey puts the donors on the car for an even more important reason.  To show the world that donors are gone but NEVER forgotten.

That being said it doesn’t necessarily make it easy for me to put his picture on the car.  On Saturday night when I got home I was exhausted.  Yes it was a long day going there and having a good time but it takes a certain amount of energy out of me to do what I do there.  I work through the toughness of my journey but I also heal.  It will be something I have to work through the rest of my life and as long as I see it like that, the exhaustion doesn’t take over in a bad way.  Instead I walk away exhausted but somewhat put back together and that makes it OK.

The one moment that stood out to me is one that I cannot explain my feelings but just the moment.  At the end of the race we went out to Joey and the car.  We all congratulated him and being a little less in pain (from my sunburn in May) and taking in the moment I actually was able to get a picture with Joey.  That moment in itself was very cool but that isn’t the moment that stood out.  It was when Joey looked at me and said…”Should we get a picture with Jay?”  He meant his picture obviously.  And so we got a picture together with the picture on his car.  It was in this moment I am certain that this cause is amazing.  That this driver really gets it.  I support an amazing person in his journey.  I support car number 52.


I have had many projects done in my house in the last 2 years.  As I looked at what I have done and what is finishing up, it is no surprise that I can relate it in some way to our journey.

Within months of Jay dying, I had to redo all of my siding.  Something was causing water to get into the house in a bad way.  Jay and I were in the middle of getting a guy out to look at it realistically to see what we needed to do.   It wasn’t until they took all the old off that we found the house was not wrapped underneath as you would expect.  It was frustrating as hell to see that.  Jay and I figured something wasn’t right but to have the truth now just stung.  The structure of the house was fine as we had many times feared was not the case.  He wasn’t here to see what the real problem was.  I have an amazing contractor and so now wrapped with Tyvec and new siding put outside that, the house has a new paint color and is protected the way it was supposed to be.

I later had a crazy idea to redo my kitchen.  I had two designs done and one would require taking out a wall.  I still remember my contractor’s facial expression when I picked the one that took out the wall.   Why?….because the wall was a load bearing wall.  Anyone that has taken out a wall like this knows it has to be a very well thought out process.  You cannot just take down the wall and move on.  We had an engineer here that had to show my contractor where to put support in the basement and then my contractor had to put a beam where the wall was before as well as the sides to continue to support the house.

Recently I decided that my basement needed to change.  There have been difficult decisions to make since this was Jay’s basement but it has been exercise in “letting go” and “moving forward” as I am now here to make those decisions.

As I look at our journey here is how I relate my home construction.

The Tuesday after Jay died (less than a week) I was into a counselor.  For a good 5 months we took off the siding so to speak…looked at the damage that existed and worked to repair as much as we could and put new siding up.  It was a great start to the healing process but by no means was it the end.  The truth stung.  I for all intents and purposes was still standing but I was broken.  Those first 5 months gave me perspective that was needed to continue on through the journey set in front of me.

The kitchen.  This was Jay’s area.  He LOVED to cook.  And he was good at it so I let him. 🙂  When you lose something you are forced to create a new normal.  You don’t fix the old normal.  Trust me I tried in regard to grief.  As frustrating as it was to figure this out, you cannot fix the old normal.  So with the kitchen, if I wanted it to be my kitchen I had to do some serious changes.  In my life, if I wanted it to be my life again I had to make some serious changes.   The wall always bugged Jay and me and it was always that question of if we ever redid the kitchen if we could or would be able to take it out.   I have taken out many different things in my life since May 2012.  When I have done certain things that I didn’t know I could or that I ever would I have found support elsewhere.  It has shown up unexpectedly but exactly when I have needed it.

As with my house in protecting it from the outside, I did that with my life.  So much of those first 5 months was about protecting me from the outside.  Then as I started on things in side the house I really started to dig deep and fix the inside of me.  My thoughts…my heart…they all had work that needed to be done.  I had to take things down knowing I had the support I would need.  I had to rearrange things and give them a different look.  These changes have all served me very well.

As I started the basement I had many ask me…”Are you sure?”  To these questions I said “Absolutely!”  Inside there were many times I thought…”Hell I don’t know!  But if I don’t just do it, how will I know?  This will either be epic or a huge lesson…either way I’m jumping feet first and making it happen.”  Truthfully this was another Jay part of the house.  If I was truly going to live and love my house, something had to be done.  If I was going to truly live and love my life, something had to be done.  Going down to the basement gave me extreme anxiety.  So  many things I face daily as well as on special occasions present an anxiety that cannot be described.  I continue to work through daily on those things.  I have promised many that this is the last big project of the house but I am sure there will be projects here and there that present some construction or work.  And in a sense I am a work in progress or maybe it can be stated that I am always under construction.