You are not there

I was listening to Pandora, innocently.  And then the song “You’re not there” by Lukas Graham started to play.  And before I knew it, tears were falling from my eyes.

I looked into Lukas Graham after hearing this song for unbelievably the first time, or atleast hearing the lyrics for the first time and he lost his dad in September 2012.

I then decided to listen to the song on youtube, like a dozen more times.  While listening to the music, I would close my eyes.  The only thing I could see clearly is Aaron and then one of the last photos he has with his daddy Jay.

Recently, Aaron has been asking more about daddy Jay.  I have to take a deep breath and explain again that daddy Jay’s heart broke and the doctor’s could not fix it.  He has started to ask questions like “Did daddy Kelby know daddy Jay?”, “Do you miss daddy Jay?” and “So, daddy Jay is in heaven, right?”  The answers are “no”, “everyday” and “yes”.  The hard part is not knowing what the next question will be or when it will come.

I have been going through more of Jay’s stuff lately.  That stuff  early on I just threw into plastic tubs in hopes I would never go through them again.  Somehow magically, all the emotions would go away but the memories would stay.  Atleast that was my hope.

As I go through box after box, I realize some of the memories cannot be remembered without emotion.  I realize, I not only have to talk about Jay to Aaron like I have since May 9th, 2012 but I also have to share so much of his dad he does not know at all.  I am the one who knew him best.  I have to share his love for Monopoly and tell him I only played Monopoly with his dad once.  Yes, ONCE.  He loved Monopoly and was terrible to play with.  ABSOLUTELY terrible.  HA!  He was obsessed with geocaching.  It was a great way to get out of the house and explore.  He even made a point of geocaching on our honeymoon.  And I let it be part of the plans because I was promised the second half of the honeymoon was strictly pool and beach. 🙂 I get to tell Aaron he can blame his dad for his larger than normal feet.  And he can compare his feet with the one pair of his dad’s shoes I kept.  I am going through the stuff again because I have some time to do it and when Aaron goes through it some day, I want him to know what he has is what symbolizes his father best.

There are days I am thankful Aaron was so young when Jay passed.  I could focus more on my grief and not break more each day by Aaron’s grief as well.  And then there are days I wish he had more memories with his dad so I did not feel the heartbreak now when I tell Aaron more about his daddy Jay.  What I do know is the last 6 months of Jay’s life were his best.  I do not remember a time in the 10 years I knew Jay where his smile was as big as it was as when he held Aaron.  I can only hope Aaron can see and feel that about his daddy Jay.

Until the next question and the next answer I have to give, all Aaron knows is his daddy Jay is not here.


The Brain Train

Early in my career, a boss of mine described our brain as a train.  It is an analogy that has stuck with me even 15 years later.

Just for a second, think of a train.  It runs on coal.  When the coal runs out, the train stops.  There is only so much that fits on each bin on the train.  If there is too much on the train and it leans one way, it will can derail.  A single train can hold all different types of freight.

Now as you sit reading this, imagine a train going round and round in your head.  As it goes past your eyes, you see things on the train.  Oh hey…there is your grocery list…and a few cars down is that one thing you have no control over but cannot help but spend time worrying about.  Oh and look…there is that one thing you keep forgetting to do for work, your spouse or child and you beg the train to speed up so you don’t have to look at that too long and feel bad about forgetting it.

Without the “coal” needed to keep your brain running smoothly, you can derail and lose all of those important things you have on it.  Whatever your “coal” is, make sure you get enough of it, OK?  My “coal” is time for reflection.  During this time, I let the train go round the track once.  During this time, I put to paper those things I keep forgetting to do and then guess what I do…I TAKE CARE OF THEM.  I also take the time to look at those things I have no control over and those things that do not really matter.  I tag those items as  things that can get off at the next train stop.  If a certain car feels loop sided, I take the time to rearrange it a little bit better.

Our brains are a VERY important part of our makeup.   We make decisions DAILY on how we are going to live our lives.  It is where we keep everything we have learned.  If this is not operating efficiently, how can we expect it to keep learning and making decision that will direct us where we really want to be.

Be good to your brain train, you will not regret it.


Tonight I was going through my Google Drive.  I am about to max out on space and I know I need to start moving some of the pictures I have on there to an external drive.

It was fun at first because it was videos of Aaron from a couple years ago.  If you do not take video of your child, start.  I took some time to listen to a few of the videos and I am SO glad I have them.  To hear his laugh and how much that has not changed, warmed my heart.   Despite everything, his laugh is still the same.

I knew there were pictures that would make me sad, or cause me to reflect more then I want right now.

I found pictures of my baby shower.  I looked at the picture of my mom and me and the first thought that came to my mind may surprise you.  It wasn’t…”Wow…that is me pregnant” or “My mom and I look so nice.”  No the first thing that crossed my mind was “Boy have I changed since then.”  I am no longer pregnant but that  is not what I meant.

The woman in that picture and the one typing today are two completely different people.  The things that scared me on that day, no longer scare me.  The woman in the picture would never have spoken to a group of people about such a personal tragedy in her life.  That woman in the picture would tell you she didn’t understand why organ donation was important or that she didn’t understand the fuss and urgency of getting life insurance.  She would also tell  you she was lucky to find love once in life because there is no way you can find it twice.  She would tell you there is no way she would survive losing her husband with a baby at the age of 6 months.  The woman in the picture would tell you that her life in that moment was perfect.

I have many more to go through before Google stops screaming at me but for tonight I am done and for tonight I reflect on that picture.

Things about me #2

I recently purchased a book called “642 things to write about me” by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.  It isn’t a book that you read…it is a book you answer questions.  This has already proven to be giving me PLENTY of content for this blog.  Here is to hoping it gets me through my writers block.

I won’t be going in any particular order but here is the first question I am going to answer from the book.

“Describe an accident you’ve been in.  Were you at fault?  Who was?  What excuses were made?  What were the lasting consequences?”

This was an easy question for me.  You see in March of 2013 I was in an accident.  Tt wasn’t my fault.  I honestly I have no idea why it happened (I have only guesses) other then I was turning left at a busy corner in the metro.  When I got through the corner I was slowing to a stop at a new stop light that had just been installed.  I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a car coming right at me and not slowing down.  I turned my steering wheel left and as the vehicle hit me it sent me across the one lane of traffic then through a small hill grass median and then 3 other lanes of traffic on the other side of the 4 lane divided road.  I had just picked Aaron up from daycare.  He was rear facing so he had little injury to him but with how hard we were hit, he was a very scared little boy.  This happened at 4:30PM in the afternoon.  This time of day on this particular intersection usually has lots of traffic.  On this particular day, there was no oncoming traffic coming when I went across the road.  Had there been, the outcome would have been much worse I imagine.

I remember getting out of my vehicle one I came to a stop facing the wrong way on the road.  The driver that hit me as well as the driver from the car that was in front of me were walking down to see if I was OK.  I grabbed Aaron from his carseat knowing Jay would have told me to keep him in there until the paramedics got there.   In that moment, all I wanted was to hold my baby and in calming him, hopefully calm all the emotion I felt in that moment.   We walked to the back of my vehicle and I said “It doesn’t look like there is much damage to my vehicle.”  The driver of the car that was in front of me said “Your spare wheel is still up there” and pointed to their vehicles up the hill.  In the end, I think he was thankful it dislodged my spare tire because the driver who hit me didn’t hit her breaks until after I “left the lane” so my tire slowed the impact to his vehicle.

I remember calling a friend of mine in panic since they were on their way to our house for dinner and saying “We won’t be there for awhile, we got into an accident.”  When they got to the store on the corner and were looking for us, she called me and said, “I don’t see you…where are you?”  My response still makes me laugh, “I am on the other side of the road facing the other way.”   Their response was even funnier when I think of it now.  “Well…what are you doing over there silly?   That is the wrong way.”

The last consequence I guess would be first that I am always super careful at that intersection and second that I believe in the angels that watch over us.  There is usually lots of traffic in what would have been oncoming traffic for us that day.  I had just thought about when to turn Aaron to be front facing and because I was procrastinating it, it saved him so much pain…maybe even his life.  Now, my chiropractor is no longer allowed to tell me my back is the best he has seen it, because he said this 2 weeks or so before the accident and it just makes me laugh thinking he jinxed me.  Although that statement made my whiplash heal faster, so there is that.  🙂

In a way, I believe this accident was a way to wake me up to a few things going on in my life.   It was a lesson in many ways and the lesson was heard, understood and acknowledged…if not in that exact moment, within the next year.

Things about me – #1

I recently purchased a book called “642 things to write about me” by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.  It isn’t a book that you read…it is a book you answer questions.  This has already proven to be giving me PLENTY of content for this blog.  Here is to hoping it gets me through my writers block.  

I won’t be going in any particular order but here is the first question I am going to answer from the book. 

Picture a photo from your childhood, one you know well.  Narrate the scene around the taking of that photo, to the best of your memory. 

When I read this, the FIRST photo I remembered is one from my childhood.  I am young, maybe 8 years old.  (that is a guess) 

The photo was taken in my childhood home we had off the highway, in the living room to be exact.  My hair short and curly and I think I am in my pajamas.  I am in the picture with my dad.  In the picture his is swinging me around holding my stretched out hands.  I can see our smiles.  I can remember we were dancing to music.  When I think of this picture, my heart soars.  I love that this is the photo I remembered.  

Ironically the next picture that came to mind was one from the night before my first wedding.  The setting is in the front living room of the home my parents now live.  The woodwork is white.  My mom is still in her rehearsal black dress and I am already in blue jeans and a red colored shirt.  We are trying to dance with the biggest smiles on our face.  My parents small Yorkie/Lhasa Apso mix dog is in the picture as well.  This was before digital photography was a big thing and I believe we used the flash because his eyes look like he is crazy.  This little dog is long gone to the other side of heaven and as I think of this photo, I can remember how wonderful he was.  He was so protective of us and when he wasn’t protecting someone, the most amazing lap dog. 

This one question from this book makes a lightbulb go off in my brain.  You see, my dad always had music in our lives.  We were in band and choir as kids.  When asked what kind of music is my favorite, I always have a long answer.  You see, I think I like it all for what it is.  If I need to yell and scream about something, give me heavy metal and rap.  If I need to dance off energy or need a pick me up, give me a song with a good beat that makes my feet tap and my arms sway from side to side, as awkwardly as possible of course. If I am feeling loved or in need of love, give me a ballad or a good country song.  And if I am sad and need to just get the tears out, give me a country song with lyrics that you hear clear as day and make the tears flow to clear my mind.  And if all else fails…crank up the 80s music station.  There is not much to hate about the 80s music…especially since it takes me right back to that first picture I wrote about with my amazing dad. 

Jay loved music, mostly heavy metal which wasn’t always easy to listen too, but he in general loved music.  Thinking of pictures, one of the last of us is from my cousins wedding and what does that photo look like you ask?  I am pregnant with Aaron and we are dancing on the dance floor feeling incredibly blessed. 

When Jay died, I didn’t want to listen to music.  It made me sad.  All of it.  My love for music had died with him.  It was when a few people entered my life that my love for music was reignited.  Going to concerts and watching artists perform made my heart soar.  Going to Zumba and Hip Hop dance classes gave me energy I hadn’t had in YEARS.  Watching professional dancers create amazing routines gave me energy to move.  And then a crazy thing started to happen.  As I would drive to work or pick up/drop Aaron off at daycare I would hear the lyrics of the songs in ways unknown to me before.  As I prayed to God and talked to Jay, I would hear an answer in the song playing.  Sometimes an abrupt stop in the current song, flipping to a different style of music that gave me an answer. I would close my eyes and I could see Jay smirking at me.  I could feel peace in my heart. 

In 2012, my Christmas gift to myself was a ring.  I had recently taken off Jay and my wedding bands.  The ring looks like sheet music you would read to play an instrument or piano.  There are little diamonds on it that look like musical notes.  It is the ring I wear when I need to remember there is always music in our lives.  Sometimes it isn’t the music we want to listen too, but it is always there and no matter what, it is beautiful. 

Yep all, of that from one question about a photo.  


So the other day while on vacation in Arizona, I went golfing with my father, brother and husband.  

I have found my love for the game of golf again.  I was never going to be a pro golfer by any means, but I did enjoy golfing in high school and found it a great source of exercise.  When I went to college, moved for a career and married golf wasn’t a thought in my mind.  

Kelby brought golf back into my life and since then we have enjoyed a course here close to home but have also made the effort to golf in the cities we travel too.  While golfing with these three men in my life (who are definitely better golfer than me), I started to see an analogy of golf to this journey we call life.  

When I first started golfing again, I was blessed because my dad had an old set of clubs he let me use, so I did.  I had to adjust my swing (what I remembered of it) but they got me on the course without me renting or buying new just incase I didn’t like it now as I did before.  I later bought a new set that fit my height and my swing. 

As I sat in the cart in the beautiful Arizona weather, I thought about life and golf.  You see, the three guys all had their own set of clubs.  They were unique to them.  Kelby being left handed made his unusable to my dad or brother.  My dad golfs the most out of all of us, so he has had much more practice then any of us.  We all have a different swing.

What does that mean?  In life, we all have a different set of “clubs.”  Some people are strong off the tee box, others have an amazing short game.  (for those non golfers this is chipping onto the green and putting)  Some slice or hook it in the rough.  Sometimes, we forget to watch where our golf ball goes and have to drop a new golf ball close to where we think we lost it.  Some people navigate towards the sand traps.  We want to go into the trap, grab the golf ball and throw it out so we don’t have to hit it out of the sand.  Sometimes it takes more than one swing to get it out and sand goes everywhere.  And then there are others who think it is good hygiene for our golf balls to go into the water features. For those who didn’t catch the sarcasm in that last statement, trust me it is there.   I may or may not have an issue with sand and water when golfing. 

What this proves is although we may all have a putter, but from where our ball is on the green, we may approach our swing differently.  Depending on our strengths we may all be in the same place on the course, but we use a different numbered club, swing differently and have a different outcome.  

This is life as I saw it while sitting in a golf cart in Mesa, Arizona.  

Who not what

I have found myself reflecting on our wedding reception the past few weeks being around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. 

Every time I go through pictures I cannot help but smile.  When I remember walking in and seeing everyone who was there, my heart is happy.

After the first dances I remember walking around visiting with people and thinking, “wow, look at all of these people.”  Family, friends and co-workers…everywhere!

The love and support in the room was overwhelming at times.  There was family who have known me all my life and are the foundation of who I am.  There were friends who have known me for more than half of my life.  And then those who I’ve met more recently.  I remembering going from table to table feeling blessed  to be surrounded by so many amazing people.

Here is what I have learned.  I do not know everything.  I do not WANT to know everything.   I have survived this life because of the people in my life because together, we know a whole lot. 

The Thanksgiving holiday this year was a little heavy hearted having lost Kelby’s mom a couple weeks prior.  It made this concept of WHO we have not WHAT we have shine with importance.  I was reminded in a very real way that who we have in our lives gives us what we have in this life.  A happy heart, positive outlook, healthy lifestyle and open mind.  That is WHAT I have in my life because of WHO I have in my life, and I am eternally grateful. 

Thank you

The other day, I realized I have not blogged in a really long time.  I haven’t known what to say or what to share.  Then it hit me, I could write my thank you to the EMT and FireFighters who were there and helped on May 9th, 2012.  Below is my letter to them.


To whom it may concern,

I want to thank those paramedics, EMTs and Fire Fighters who were called on May 9th,2012 to help my husband, Jay Taber.

Jay was once a fire fighter and EMT in our community and so he taught me in his service how difficult the job can be.  While he was going through training, I knew my blood pressure and resting heart rate almost every day.  🙂 He knew he could and would at some time have a person’s life in his hands and he wanted to make sure he was his best.  Going  through his classes to be a fire fighter is the reason I got the artificial Christmas tree I always wanted.  It took ONE video. LOL  He came home that night and said we needed to go shopping, that his house would not go down in flames like in the video. 🙂  He would come home after a call and look mentally and physically exhausted.  There were times I could tell things had gone well, and other times where the outcome was not ideal.  Depending on the outcome, I would navigate around his feelings and let him know no matter what the outcome, I was so proud of him for wanting to help others.

I cannot imagine how difficult it was to get back in your vehicle and go back to work to continue your day after getting Jay to the hospital.  I commend you and salute you in how you do your job.  And again, I thank you.

I want you all to know what has been explained to me about Jay on that day.  Jay was gone before anyone had a chance to help him.  There was nothing that could have been done to save him, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you tried to do.  I know he was in the best possible hands in the situation he found himself in.

Our son is now almost 5 years old.  He was 6 months old when Jay died.  He has his daddy’s blue eyes and loves to help and be around people as much as Jay did.  I know Jay had every opportunity to stay with us because of your quick actions and skills, but life happened.

I cannot say it enough but I will say it again, thank you.  We appreciate you  and all that you did to help our family.


Alyssa and Aaron Taber

why organ donation

This past week I spoke about organ donation 4 times.  There was a time in the last 4 years where talking this many times in a week would have exhausted me.  Instead, this week I was energized.  Why?  Easy…1.

Let me explain.

The facts we can tell you for certain is ONE person can SAVE up to 8 lives with lives saving organs.  ONE person can ENHANCE the lives of more than 300 people with bone, tissue and corneas.

When I spoke to the kids this past week I gave them these facts.  And then I promised to share with them how those numbers are wrong.

Here is what I know.  Those who are on the transplant have families.  Those who choose to donate have families.  No matter the size of these families, they are also impacted by organ donation.  And I have proof. Hell, I AM proof.

When you choose to be an organ donor, you do not only help the recipient, you help their family.  I know first hand because of the thank yous I received from Jay’s cornea recipients.  The recipients spoke of being so thankful for Jay’s gifts because now they could read to their grandchildren.  They were able to hike, knit and see their family again.  I challenge anyone to tell me that Jay’s donation of his cornea did not impact not only those recipients but also their families. Just from the two cornea transplants from Jay, it probably impacted no less than 25 people. Jay being a bone, tissue and cornea donor falls under the 300 or more people impacted.  Let’s do some math quick.  12 people per recipient.  300 *12 = 3,600

And by being a donor, you will no doubt have an impact on your own family.  How do I know this?  I am living PROOF.  Jay’s determination to be an organ donor has saved me not only from grief, but from myself.  From day 1 when that medical examiner found his drivers license and asked me if she could have the Iowa Donor Network contact me to those 2 days last week speaking about organ donation and sharing our story, his choice has saved me.  His choice helped me see our situation differently.  His death gave life.  This is amazing.  I have met so many incredible people because of his choice and I continue to share with others what he made sure I knew.  Organ donation saves lives.

More math quick.  3,600 (from the math above) * 2 (to include the donor family) = 7,200 people.  Knowing 12 people per family is grossly underestimated you can see where I say 300 isn’t even close to the number of people impacted by organ donation of ONE donor.

I finished each speech this last week letting those kids know that not only will you find a “Y” on my drivers license but I am also in the online registry.  I also told them they could bet their bottom dollar I posted on FB each time I was speaking.  And they could be assured they were not the only ones who knew where I stood in my decision.  My family and friends were also very aware of what I expect my family to do when the time comes.

So why organ donation…because one person can make an amazing impact on so many people…that is why.

I get to love you

I haven’t blogged in almost 3 months.  It has been a very busy 3 months and that means I have a lot to blog but I will be honest and share my struggle of why it has taken so long.  Well first I was going through angelversaries and on top of that planning a wedding and a reception.  But those things aside, I could not decide on a title for the blog.

When I blog, I first need a title.  It is just part of my process.  It is probably the one single thing holding me back from writing my book.  Because I do not have the title in my mind.  Realistically I know if I were to publish a book, an editor may want to change it, so I eventually need to get over it. 🙂

So now I have a title, let’s get blogging.

On May 28,2016, I did something amazing.  I got married.  We went to Naples, Florida.  It was a beautiful weekend for a destination wedding.  A few weeks later we had our reception back in Iowa surrounded by many friends and family.

I want to focus this blog on the song Kelby and I danced to for our first dance.  It happens to be the song my dad, Aaron and I walked “down the aisle” to in Naples as well.  The title of the song is the title of this blog.  “I get to love you.”

I first heard the song from the show “Dancing with the Stars.”  It was a BEAUTIFUL dance and although I watched the dance, I couldn’t help but listen to the lyrics.

Kelby and I had been trying to decide on a first song for some time.  Every song we picked was specific to one gender being in love with the other.  There aren’t many songs where a man loves woman and woman loves man.  But “I get to love you” speaks so loudly without saying much at all.  The first lyrics of the song are:

one look at you,
my whole life falls in line.
i prayed for you
before i called you mine.

Ruelle, the artist who sings the song, could sing these 4 lines and I would be perfectly content.  I heard these words and each one grabbed my attention more and more until it hit me.  This was the perfect song.

The reality is this.

I don’t have to love him.  He does not have to love me.

I don’t want to love him.  He does not want to love me.

We get to love each other.

When I woke up the day after Jay died, I prayed for one thing.  A peaceful heart.  Through lots of hard work I kept getting closer.  Deep down, I knew there was an important part missing.  The moment Kelby walked into the restaurant for our first date, I felt at peace.  I laughed in a way I had not done in a VERY long time.  I smiled the whole time.  It is almost as if Aaron already knew him before they met.  Our life literally fell into place.  I prayed for peace in my life, and my prayer was answer.  He walked into our lives and we are forever grateful.

As I started to walk down the aisle with my dad on side and Aaron on the other, I heard the lyrics.  I looked up and saw Kelby at the alter.  I smile as I type this because in that moment I remember saying to myself, I am so incredibly bless that I get to love you.  As we danced our “first dance”, he held me close and a peaceful heart solidified into a peaceful life.  I am so grateful my prayer was answered.  I am so incredibly blessed, because I get to love him.