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.  

Golfing

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.

Sincerely,

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.

Alone

I cannot believe what TV show just inspired a blog.  You may not believe me at first either, but stay with me and I promise (or atleast hope) it will make sense.

So the TV show…”Bones.” Yep.  An episode of “Bones” inspired a blog.  A TV show that focuses solely on solving murder mysteries of people through particulates, facial reconstruction and you guessed it…bones.

Kelby and I have been binge watching the seasons.  If you knew me you would know I don’t do this, binge watch shows.  The only other show I have every really done this with is “Big Bang Theory.”  And that was only because when the first floor in our house was being renovated, Aaron and I were living on my second floor. I thought my satellite went out so we watched two seasons of it over and over.  Turns out my satellite was fine.  I am slightly embarrassed at what the real issue was…maybe for another blog.   At one point, I had all the outtakes for both seasons memorized.

I digress.

So normally when Kelby and I watch these episodes at the end of our day, I fall asleep during the final episode we watch.  It is like clock work.  It is a joke in our house.  When I say “Let’s just watch ONE more” Kelby laughs, and sure enough I pass out half way through.  But tonight was different.  And it hit me like a ton of bricks at the end why I needed to watch this episode.  And for the record, not only did I NOT fall asleep, but Kelby did.  🙂

Here is a little more background as to why it impacted me so much.

This past week has been jam packed with lots of stuff.  At work I was in training/planning for 3 1/2 days straight.  A dear friend asked me how to help a friend of hers who this past Sunday lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly. On Wednesday, I had a fitting for my wedding dress.   I am reading online about another dear friend of mine who is working through the angelversary of her late husband.  And then Prince dies.  My own wedding preparations and the fast approaching 4 year anniversary of Jay’s angelversary aside, my mind has been MUSH.

Now that all said, I do not want anyone to think I do not want to help them, because I do.  I am not complaining about work.  I am not going to seclude myself from social media/people’s lives.  I am not going to ignore the fact that an music icon left this world too soon and had an immense impact on people.  The grief, not just of life but of relationships, health and security, have surrounded me in one way or another and I have this compelling need to understand and help anyone who wants to work through it.

OK, that all said, what in the heck did I get from an episode of Bones that has me drinking coffee at 12:45 in the morning NEEDING to blog?

This particular episode was pretty gross actually.  But at the end of the episode, it is Christmas and the mother of the person who was murdered is alone and burying her son.  Dr. Temperance Brennan, who tends to be more socially awkward, is driving with Agent Booth (aka hot FBI agent).  They talk about this mom and how she is going to be alone on Christmas, burying her son.  Agent Booth then asks Dr. Brennan if she wants to go to the funeral so the mom is not alone and she says yes, she doesn’t want the mom to be alone.  He agrees and as the scene unfolds, not only did these two decide to join the mom but all the other characters from the lab are there.  She is not alone.

The scene shows a casket and a person grieving.  This with everything else on my mind has me in tears, quietly of course so the boys do not wake up.  As I watched (VERY WELL acted out by the way) this mother who was initially alone and then was surrounded by people who did not want her to be alone during this difficult time, it hit me.

I have this overwhelming need to help people not just through grief of a loved one, but of all other things we lose and ultimately grieve in this life because I do not want people to be alone.

It sure makes what happened at my wedding dress fitting make a little more sense.  I am standing in my wedding dress and as I start to discuss a change needed with the seamstress, I explain that I am getting remarried and that my first husband passed suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 33.  After I opened my mouth, I looked at myself in the mirror…in this beautiful wedding dress and had a “WTF ALYSSA?” moment.  Who talks about their dead husband when trying on their wedding dress?  As I got ready to apologize to the seamstress I looked at her and she was clearly distraught.  I thought to myself “Good job Alyssa…look what you have done.”  She then spoke and explained that she had lost her husband of just 2 years to cancer last November and that day I was there with her would have been her 2 year wedding anniversary.  She explained that she was having a hard time holding it together but as we talked and I explained what had happened (because she asked) and she talked about her husband and her journey, her demeanor changed in a good way.  I think in some way, I may have let her know she wasn’t alone.  I listened to her and as I stood in my beautiful dress, all I wanted to do was listen to her and let her know…she was not alone.

So many of the moments in this past week have brought back memories of 4 years ago.  I remember not only the sadness that came with his passing and the anniversaries, milestones and holidays he has missed but I find myself angry.  Angry at my ignorance I had, thinking I had everything I wanted and needed and that nothing could or would take it away.  I remember that feeling of being alone.  I was never really alone, as people were constantly checking in and keeping me busy.  I am eternally grateful to them but in reality, in my mind I feel so very alone.  I have spent many hours in self reflection trying to understand why I react a certain way to people’s words, actions and life.  I listen to people’s words and pay attention to their actions in hopes of understanding them better and ultimately giving me valuable information in moving forward in this life.

I work really hard to love and find compassion for every person, despite beliefs, actions or words.  The contrary serves no good purpose.

In the words of Prince himself…

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” – Prince

And if I could add another short sentence to this powerful quote it would be the following…

“And to make sure no one goes through it…alone.”

I am aware

Lately I have found myself “aware” of a few things and it warrants a blog.

I am aware in 3 weeks, it will have been 4 years.  I have been seeing pictures popping in the Timehop app on my phone.  They are a very real reminder of how far I have come in 4 years.  I remember the ignorance of feeling and knowing I had everything I had ever wanted in life and how weeks later it would all fall apart.  I have vivid flashbacks to the weeks prior to the one year anniversary and how completely broken I felt and how the second anniversary I felt an even sharper pain in my heart.  I am aware I show as a woman of strength, but in reality these next 3 weeks are my weakest, so please be kind.

I am aware I am getting married to Kelby in the same month I lost Jay.  A coincidence but in hindsight there is significance.  Instead of May being a month of memories that broke me, now they will be filled with memories that built me back up.  Unknowingly, I am switching my outlook to the month of May.  We will always grieve the loss of Jay, but now we can also celebrate a new chapter in this amazing life.

I am aware in the last few months I have been super emotional for no real reason.  When my emotions lack reason, it is easy to question whether I am ready or not.  I can assure you I am ready.  I had a widow friend tell me early on to expect unexplained emotions.  They are normal.  They are unexpected.  They cannot be controlled.  Grief and this journey have taught me one very valuable lesson, and that despite everything holding me back, I want to move forward.  I am ready.

I am aware my son says he has two dads.  He is not wrong.  In the last few months he started calling Kelby his daddy.  Aaron has always been a happy boy, but in the last few months there has been a calm and happiness that is more then I have ever seen in him.  Despite what life handed him early in life, he is happy and he has a daddy on this earth just like so many others around him.  He will always have 2 daddies.

A little bit of a debbie downer of a blog but I just wanted people to know, I am aware.

Orchestra

An orchestra, a large instrumental ensemble used in classical music.

At my training these past few days I was able to listen to a Philharmonic.

What did I learn?

I learned that an orchestra needs all different instruments.

I learned there is only ONE conductor.

I learned each instrument group needs to be strong knowing their part, BUT also needs to understand of the other instruments part in the music.

I learned that when an orchestra plays together and does all the things above, they can make AMAZING music.

The orchestra is your life.

The instruments are your friends, family and other important things.

YOU are the only conductor.

So…find YOUR song.

Play to your OWN beat.

Find all the RIGHT instruments.

And finally make the music you want to sway and dance too.  Make the music that makes you cry and lifts you up.  Make the music of your life the most beautiful thing you have ever heard, and you will never leave disappointed.

JMT

This may be a very emotional blog.  Why?   JMT.

So, what is JMT?  JMT stands for John Maxwell Team.

I am a certified John Maxwell Life Coach, Speaker and Trainer.  I received my certification in August of 2015.  John Maxwell needs no introduction but if you want to know more about him, google him.  Or better yet, go out and purchase his book “The 21 irrefutable Laws of Leadership.”

Why did I join JMT?  I know there are many who want to know this answer, so here you go. The simple answer is, I wanted to grow.  No, not taller.  I am 5 foot 7 inches and I am fine with that.  No, not wider….just no.  I wanted to grow inside my heart, mind and my soul.

My career has always been in computers.  Computers are logical.  You write computer software code and most times they will do what you want them too.  I say most because I am a software quality assurance analyst, which means I try to find the places the code breaks.  When computer software breaks, you can fix it.  You can re-write the code to do what you want it to do.

May 9th, 2012.  My heart broke.  My confidence in myself broke.  My faith in life and God…broke. None of those things are logical.  I have slowly put my heart, confidence and faith back together.  I have been extraordinarily blessed with those who have helped me along the way.  I joined JMT so I could grow but also learn how to help others put those things we cannot visually see back together.

In August 2015, I do not think I wrote a blog about the conference.  Today I start a series of a few blogs to bring you along the journey that is John Maxwell.

I am in the middle of the 2nd official day, I was here a day early for a special day, and here are a few nuggets of what I have learned.

1) Status quo is just that.  It is the EXISTING state of affairs.

2) It is SO much better to do things together.  Two people can do so much more than one.

3) I need to watch Evan Almighty again.

4) If you have to let a dream die, do not let it kill you.

5) Orchestra music can not only bring me to tears, but it can teach me a very VALUABLE lesson about life.

Stay tuned as I take you along my JMT Journey.