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.

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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.

37

In honor of my 37 years of life.

Today I give you the 37 things I have learned in my life in no particular order.

1)  Perspective is everything.

2) The golden rule is just that…golden.

3) Detours are great adventures.

4) Sometimes it is necessary to “hug it out.”

5) Laughter can make everything OK.

6) Grief is hard.

7) It feels good to help people.

8) It is OK to let go.

9) If it look like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck…it is probably a duck.

10) Watching people do what they love is intoxicating.

11) I don’t like pop.

12) It is OK to be happy.

13) Sports mode in a car = speeding ticket.

14) When people show you who they are, believe them.

15) Life is never easy, but it is always worth it.

16) I will never find a perfect temperature for the house.

17) My family is awesome.

18) Life is short.

19) I read people’s energy really well.

20) Children are amazing.

21) I have amazing friends.

22) Jealousy does no good for anyone.

23) Something that is broken, can be put back together.

24) I like to take lots of pictures.  Like…ALOT.

25) I will most likely retire in Florida.

26) Dance music makes me happy

27) Clutter is not good for the soul.

28) Tears heal

29) It is an honor to be called to help people

30) I can forgive.  I cannot forget.

31) Stepping on a metal Thomas the Train hurts.

32) I will never stop learning

33) It’s not what you know, it is who.

34) Do not burn a bridge you wish to cross again.

35) To-do lists are essential to get things done.

36) I can and will do anything I put my mind too.

37) Life is amazing.

There…37 things I have learned in my life thus far.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  Those people in my life have made me who I am today.  I walk forward into year 37 one year older and one year wiser.

Love to all.

No title

I am starting a blog without a title.  For those who know me, this can be good or bad.

It’s been awhile since I have blogged.  The holidays, work and planning a wedding have been keeping me super busy.  But, there is a blog inside me I need to get out, so here it goes.

Our Christmas holiday was amazing.  My whole family made the trip to Colorado to celebrate the holiday and ski.  For as long as I can remember, it has always been my dad’s dream to celebrate Christmas and ski in the mountains.  When I was able to find a travel agent that found the perfect ski in/ski out resort where my dad wanted to be, we were able to make it happen.  Kelby, Aaron and I had a shuttle drive us to the mountain.  It was worth EVERY penny.  As we got closer to the resort, we drove right into a Colorado snow storm.  This made for GREAT skiing conditions the next day, but the drive looked impossible.  I am happy to report, we all left Colorado without any broken bones.  The icing on the cake was watching Aaron go down the bunny hill with no fear having a blast!

Before Christmas, I had worked out many of the details for the wedding.  And truthfully the only thing left to reserve is the DJ for the reception here.  This is a great feeling.  This is a terrifying feeling.  I am going to spend the rest of the blog explaining that last statement.

I remember days after Jay died telling myself I would never love again.  I remember hearing people tell me I would love again.  Their reason?  There were a few.  “Alyssa, Jay wants you to love again.”  “Alyssa, this is not the end of the story for you.”  And the one that hurt the most, “Alyssa, you are young and beautiful.  You will love again.”  I remember thinking in my head “Yes, I am 33 years old.  I am a widow.  I am the mother to a 6 month old boy. I don’t feel beautiful right, but thanks.  My husband died of a heart attack.  Who in their RIGHT mind would want to love me.”

To an extent, I was OK initially with the thought of never loving again.  You see, if you never love again, you never hurt/lose again.  As a computer geek, a classic “If-then-else” statement went through my mind.

If – you love again

Then – you will hurt/lose again

Else – you never hurt/lose again

Feeling the hurt of losing Jay was something I never wanted to feel again.  The looks from people.  The “I am so sorry” look is unbearable.  The “I do not know what to say” look hurts even more.

But the reality is to never love again is pretty damn lonely.  It is exhausting.

So, love it is.  I went out looking.  Hesitantly, I went looking for someone who could understand me.  I went looking for someone I could love and who would love me back, despite everything I brought to the table.  And I found him.  He loves us so much that he wants to marry me.  And I love him more then I ever thought possible.

Here comes the hard thing to explain.  As I plan this wedding I find myself saying, “Nope, cannot do it that way.  I did it this way before and that end result wasn’t good.”  I am literally trying to do everything completely different so I do not have the same result of May 9th, 2012.  A church wedding is now a destination wedding.  When we went looking at rings, I picked a completely different cut of diamond. As much as I tried to have a reception  on a Saturday, no place I wanted to go was available Saturday.  “They were available Friday though.”  So Friday it is.  Thank you universe for helping me out, I guess.

Turns out planning a wedding completely opposite of your first is almost as exhausting as not loving and letting people in your life.  And in the midst of being so happy and in love, you are constantly being reminded as to why you are loving again and planning another wedding.

And when I stop for even a second in the wedding planning, I see the big picture.  I have found someone to trust with my world again.  I have found someone to love again and depend on.  I have found love.  And the reality is no matter how I plan the wedding, I could lose everything I have found again.  And that, is terrifying.

Christmas 2015 – Year 4

It doesn’t seem possible.  4 Christmas holidays without Jay.  As I sit typing this blog I am listening to Christmas music…and enjoying it.  If you would have told me 4 years ago I would be where I am today I would have cried and said you were out of your mind.  And yet here I am.

The remember the first Christmas, it was so difficult.  My family had asked how I wanted to celebrate.  I told them I didn’t want to be at my house and I didn’t want to be at their house.  So, we went to a hotel with a water park.  Looking back now, I don’t remember much of it to be honest.  I slept a lot.  Looking back, I become very aware of how lucky I am to have the family I do.  My parents, brother and sister-in-law took Aaron swimming and played with him.  I was exhausted.  I wish I could tell you the memories of that first holiday have faded.  Truth is, if I allow myself, they come back crystal clear.

After surviving the first, I thought the second would be much easier.  I was a year and a half into this journey without Jay.  I had moved forward through so many tough conversations, situations and emotions.  But I can remember thinking, this doesn’t get easy, just a little more livable. I bought Christmas gifts for everyone in my life.  I expected and wanted nothing in return.  I wanted to make others holiday happy.  If mine wasn’t the way I envisioned it, I wanted to make others the way they envisioned it and more.

The third year brought a whole new set of emotions.  I had started dating and was starting to feel “normal” again.  This should make the holidays much easier right?  In many ways it did, but there was still difficult emotions to navigate.  Guilt and fear being two big emotions to navigate.  Did I deserve to feel normal again?  Was I suppose to feel normal again?

Year 4, where I am now.  There are moments I still feel like I’ve been a real scrooge the last 3 years.  By age 4, most kids have visited Santa.  This year was the first time I took Aaron to see Santa.  And from the picture below you can see how it went.  Maybe that is how I have felt about Christmas as well.

12341538_10207947250939828_1151503009631635630_nYear 4, Aaron is finally understanding who Santa Claus is and what Christmas is all about. He learned the Santa says “Ho Ho Ho!”  We put the tree up and for the first time he called it the Christmas tree.  A year with Kelby has been good for him.  A year with Kelby has been good for me.  I still have this feeling of not wanting any gifts for me.  I have slowed down on the amount I get for friends, but when asked what I want for Christmas my response is either “world peace” or “for all pain and suffering to cease in this world.”  Joking aside, this really is my Christmas wish.

Year 4 will be yet another adventure as we do something completely different.  It will fun and exciting.  And all said and done, I will be with the most important people in my life.  And although life is amazing and beautiful, the holiday is still difficult at some level.  I now enjoy Christmas music.  Aaron has met Santa.  Who knows what next Christmas will bring.

Year 4, here we go.