When you turned 30, I threw you a surprise  party. Not just because you were newly diagnosed with cancer and every year, day, moment seemed precious and worthy of celebration; because….yes, that was why.
But also, I threw you a surprise party because I knew you would hate it.
You hated that kind of attention.
But there were so many, SO MANY, people that wanted to shower you with attention that day. You were loved. You are loved.

I lured you away from the house by talking you into getting a kitten.
A kitten.
That took some strong negotiating on my part. You were completely against getting a kitten right then. But I got the girls in on my scheme and you could never quite tell them ‘no’.

The look of pure surprise and disbelief when we pulled back into our driveway after picking up the new furry family member was worth every minute I stressed about the party.
I got you.

And there I was; lucky. It was your birthday and I felt like that lucky one.

You later joked, “All these people just showed up because they think it’s my last birthday or something.” And part of that may have been true. But I think that is the moment it hit you that YOU were so well loved. The calm evening after your party was one of the few times I saw you cry since IT came into our lives.

It wasn’t just our heart-wrenching situation.
It wasn’t just another birthday to celebrate.
It was you. They were there for you.

Fast forward these past 11 years.

You would have celebrated your 41st birthday today.

Happy, happy birthday, Chad.
I wish you were here. We would celebrate with carrot cake and birthday cake ice cream.

The girls & I will still do that today. Just for you.

I hope you know how much you are loved today and every single day after.

Skye & the girls

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who I used to be…

I’ve been getting to know myself for 39 awkward years.
And sometimes I do not recognize myself.

My life came crashing down a few years ago, and I have fought to rebuild a life I am proud of. I have dug myself out of depression, tackled health issues, raised daughters, and uprooted my comfortable life. All while moving forward with a fake a smile plastered to my face. 

It hasn’t been easy. There have been bumps along the way, bruises, lots of prayers, and a swear jar that should be able to fund a trip around the world by now.

But we have survived.
I am surviving.

When I look back at what life was like for us before IT came into our lives, I can barely remember who I was.

A young wife.
A young mother.
Someone who was so content to just raise my children in a quite country home, full of dishes, laundry and laughter. The picket fence wasn’t white, but it was there. All of my dreams were there. 

Then life changed. Without my permission. Certainly without Chad’s permission.

I became caught up in the process of becoming a widow. I just didn’t know it at the time.
There is a process for those of us who have knowledge before the death actually occurs. The cycle of grief doesn’t begin with the actual death when you are involved in a terminal illness. The stages of grief don’t begin when your loved one’s heart stops beating. It begins way before that.

When dealing with a long term and terminal illness, there is time to process it all. I had nearly three years to think about it. Three years to dread the eventual conversations I would have with Chad. Three years to lament on the unfairness of it all. Three years to cry, scream, kick my feet, bargain with God (and oh, did I!), deny, fantasize, be angry, HOPE and reflect. Three years to prepare myself for a life I never wanted. I unaffectionately refer to it as my other life.

IT happened.
The person I vowed to belong to for the rest of my life was…gone.
That is a deep, deep hole that can never be filled.
Nor do I want it to be.

I really do miss who I used to be.
I miss the way I used to think.
I miss the way life just happened all around me, instead of smacking me right in the forehead.
I miss it all.
I miss my best friend.
I miss being part of a couple.
I just miss all of it.

However, I do know that life is such a precious journey. 
We don’t usually get to pick the destinations or the route we have to take.
We just adjust.
We forever adjust.

I believe that life is good, even though it is sprinkled with not-so-good stuff along the way.

It took me three years to become a widow.
It took three years to wrap my head around the eventual outcome.
And yet, when the last day came, it took me all of three seconds to feel the most lost, alone and scared I have ever felt in my entire life.

I really do miss who I used to be. I miss the simplicity of not knowing such hurt.
I wish I could go back, almost daily, to linger in moments that seemed insignificant at the time. This me is stronger for it all and is humbled by the lessons I’ve learned.

I read something not long ago – it was the most fitting and poignant statement I’ve read in a long time.
“You don’t know this new me. I’ve put back my pieces…differently.”

Those pieces are a little battered and bruised, and they don’t quite fit together like they did in my other life.
But this life? The one I’m living right now?
It’s beautiful, even though I am still freeing myself from the guilt and the anger daily.
I want to do better, be better.
I am confident that I won’t always get it right. 
I am also confident that it doesn’t matter so much. 

Who I used to be? She’s still in there.
But this me… she has an open heart, believing eyes, and knows that life is going to be a beautifully tangled web of experiences. That fake smile was traded in for a real one because I was tired of dragging it along with me. 

It’s always going to be okay in the end –  any other ending is not quite the end, just wait for the good.
It’s always going to be a good day – another day lived, another opportunity to choose joy.
And my choices will always reflect what makes me happy, thankful and grateful for the opportunity to grow from who I used to be. This me is better


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happy holidays!

This is, by far, my most favorite time of year.
I wish we could live in a world where everyone spreads kindness daily like they do at the holidays. Can you imagine how wonderful that would be?

Merry, merry Christmas to your family from mine! 

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it’s story time, y’all

I had a busy day today. Well, “busy” is relative; it was busy to me since being home on short-term disability. I had an appointment at 10:30 and then was going to scoot on over to my surgeon’s office to drop off some paperwork. Those two tasks required me to wear real clothes and put forth some kind of effort with my hair and face.    So busy, you guys!

I head over to the 3-story office building that is conveniently located next to the hospital. The parking lot isn’t too crazy today; I actually found a parking spot in record time. I gathered the papers I needed and glanced at my cell phone. Decided to leave it because I would only be a minute. Why am I telling you this minute detail? You will see….

I walk across the parking lot and notice a food delivery van parked right at the door. There’s a guy bent over the seat behind the driver’s side, fixing his hands around a cardboard box. Must be a food delivery for an office. Never heard of the eatery on the side of the van. I made a mental note to look it up later. 

With my keys and handy paperwork in tow, I bee-bopped through the lobby and headed towards the elevators. I think about taking the stairs briefly… but they are on the wrong side of the building. I press the elevator button and look up to see the food delivery guy coming in. We stand in silence together for a minute until the elevator chirps and the doors open. No one comes out. And it’s just us two going in.

“What floor?” I ask politely – because my mama raised a polite Southern Belle.
He replies, “Third, thanks.” 
I press two buttons. The door closes and we start to move up.
Granted, we are only going to the second floor for me to get off first, so our journey isn’t too long. 

The lights in the elevator flicker. They come on. They go off. They come on. And then they’re off. Like O-F-F, off

It’s pitch-black. No light. Not a single light. I couldn’t see anything. 
No worries – I’ll just use the flashlight on my phone.
Remember? I left my cell phone in my car. 
Apparently my new friend, who we will call Sam, also left his phone in his vehicle.

Here we are. Staring into absolute blackness and wondering if the lights are going to come back on or if we are stuck. In an elevator. 
Guess what???
We. Are. Stuck.

We both say something like, “Ugh! What is going on?” 

I hear a voice outside the elevator door, “There is someone in there!”
She sounds way more panicked than I feel.
But wait.
Should I panic?
Is this bad?
I don’t think I am going to panic.
It’s fine. It’s all fine.

I have a nice little exchange with a voice on the other side, and she says, “Ma’am….we know you’re in there. We are trying to get someone to help you. Can you use your cell phone to call 911?” 

Sam and I laugh at this assumption that we had our cell phones. I tell the voice we do not have cell phones. Or a light.
But wait!
Sam has a lighter in his pocket. And I have a mini-flashlight function on my watch. He lights up the elevator with the Bic and I jokingly say, “Oh man! Don’t you put off any smoke detectors in this thing.” He didn’t laugh at my obviously funny joke.

Instead, Sam reaches over and pushes the button on the elevator that says “PUSH IN CASE OF EMERGENCY”. You know that button? The one I have scolded my kids not to touch, EVER, unless there is an emergency. Like being stuck in an elevator. I always told my girls that the button would directly link you to 911. Well, guess what? That’s not what happened.

Sam & I laughed at each other when there was a ringing on the other end of the button. And then there was a recorded voice directing us to press a button for assistance. Well guess what, folks? There wasn’t a key pad. No phone receiver to pick up and talk into. Just the button Sam pressed, which is now flashing red. Another recorded voice in Spanish apparently repeated everything that was just said. I don’t know. Then….a recorded voice directs us to “please hold“. HOLD? Where are Sam & I going to go? 

Then classical music started to play. Actual elevator music from the emergency call in our paralyzed elevator. Again, we laughed.
And sat down because we realized it might be a little while.

We sat in silence for a few minutes until a cheerful lady on the line says, “Hello, you’ve reached the call center for XXX Elevators. How can I help you?”
“We are stuck on one of your elevators,” I calmly say.
“Did you try to push the ‘door open’ button, ma’am?”….
Y’all. She was serious. I laughed. Because…really???

“We pushed all the buttons,” Sam says.
“Are the overhead lights on?” she asks.
“Nope, no lights,” we say.
“Is the door closed all the way?” 
“Yep, the door is closed. No lights. Buttons not working. The power is out in the whole building,” we chime in.

We could hear some commotion outside the doors and were hearing bits and pieces of information. We knew there was an issue with a power pole; we didn’t know if there was an accident or if the construction out front accidentally cut the lines. Did it matter? Nah. We stuck, yo.

We are put on hold while Elevator Call Center Lady finds our location…and then we get disconnected. No worries. She knows where we are now, so she can direct someone to help us. Right? Right!

All during this time, we are also talking to people on the other side of the door. 
They don’t have a key for the elevator. They don’t know what to do. They can’t open the door. They are very reassuring to us though, which was nice. 
Thank goodness Sam and I kept our cool because that little steel box suspended by cables was getting pretty toasty and was starting to smell like the inside of a deli. I like delis thought, so it was fine. It was all fine. 

“I have cookies. You want a cookie?”
I assured Sam I was fine and didn’t need a cookie.
A cell phone or elevator key maybe, but definitely not a cookie or chips (as he offered a few minutes later). Sam was a nice stranger to be stranded on an elevator with.
Trust me on this. I know…

Elevator Call Center Lady calls us back, which was weird. All of a sudden, there is a loud, “Skye???” coming from the elevator speaker. She informs us that she has alerted an elevator mechanic who is on his way, but will be about 30 minutes. 
“Okay,” I thought to myself. “Thirty minutes is fine. It’s fine.”
But Sam? 
Nah, Sam wasn’t having any of that.
He asks Elevator Call Center Lady to alert the fire department to come help.
She verifies his request – like he was kidding? YES, we want the fire department to come help us get out of this elevator. K, thanks!

More commotion outside the doors, as the staff is trying to evacuate the whole building. It sounds like chaos out there. Sam & I are just chillin’, no chaos in the elevator. Just blackness. And heat. And sandwiches and cookies and chips, too. 

We chat a little, but not too much. We were listening to everything going on and trying to piece together what was happening. Every few minutes, someone would say, “Hello? Ma’am? Are you okay?” I would assure everyone that Sam and I were alive and well.

And then we just sat.
And waited.
In the darkest dark I have ever experienced.

Sam and I discussed if we were between floors and I tried to decide how I would crawl out with my one useful arm and protect the one bum arm. You know, I was preparing for a disaster. Which thankfully didn’t happen.
(But I was prepared to eat all the sandwiches and cookies and chips. Carbs or not, this girl won’t starve.) 

We heard some jingling, like keys or someone taking tools out of a toolbag. We saw some light come from the edges of the elevator shaft, like someone was shining a flashlight. The elevator moved slightly and then light started to creep in, slowly. The door was pried open and my God! It was so bright. I felt like I was staggering out of a tunnel and had been trapped for 3 weeks without food and water.
Alas, it was only 35 minutes or so. 

I saw a sea of faces, one I recognized as a staff member at the doctor’s office I was trying to visit before I was stuck on an elevator with Sam and his sandwiches. She scooped me into the office, like I was traumatized and needed to sit down.
“I came here to drop off these papers and I am not leaving until I give them to someone,” I say as she ushers me through the waiting area of their office.

I saw Sam head towards the stairwell and attempt his sandwich delivery upstairs.
Bon voyage, Sam. I hope you have a wonderful life outside of the elevator. You were a great companion for 35ish minutes of my life.

The parking lot was full o’ fire trucks, ambulances, security, medical office staff – it was a scene, for sure. And no one was there asking for my harrowing account of surviving in that elevator – HA!!!!!

Oh. Seriously. I have to call that office tomorrow and verify that someone has those papers. They might have to meet me in the parking lot if they need anything or didn’t receive them. I ain’t going back in that elevator, y’all.
Just kidding. Yes, I will – but only because there are only 3 floors.
If it was 43 floors, I’m OUT. 

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the end of another summer

School starts in two days for the girls.
I am not ready.
They are not ready.

But, still. It’s upon us.
In the past, I was eager for school to start back at the end of Summer.

Not because I was ready to ship my kids off to school, but because it was so stressful to juggle childcare and school and house projects and fun time, too. I was always exhausted and ready for a routine so I could plan what was next.

But this Summer? I feel like I have been robbed of a proper summer.
We have had a strange few months; surgeries and me being out of work. It was nice to be home with them this summer…but I want more. There were so many things I wanted to do this summer; but time & my ability didn’t quite allow much of it. 
I have enjoyed hanging out with my budding sarcastic teens. We’ve bonded over watching television (a lot of it, while I was immobile), laughing, freaking out over bumps in the night after watching horror films, and just being around each other ALL THE TIME.
They are funny and sarcastic and silly and honest and so intelligent. I knew all of these things, but I have really enjoyed this time we’ve had without all the chaos of homework and after school activities. I’ve just really enjoyed them.
I’m just not ready for the chaos, emotions & routine of the school year.

I’m not ready to give up our time together.

I’m not ready for any of it.

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still, it stings

I can’t count the times I’ve stopped whatever I am doing and just think to myself, “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.” Sometimes I shed a few tears, sometimes I sigh heavily and return to whatever I was doing.

It is okay.
But that feeling?
Still, it stings.

I am watching my girls change into young women right before my eyes. One is on the cusp of high school and will be on to start her own journey before I can bat an eye.
The younger is right on her sister’s heels.
And then what will I do?

I had plans, at one point in my life, for what comes after the girls leave.
We had plans, should I say.
Now I don’t really have any. Everything feels up in the air, all the time.
I know our time in SC will come to an end and I will move on to another area; somewhere I want to be for the rest of my life; a home my grandchildren will eventually visit and fill with memories.

But now? Now, I go to work (which I love, by the way), come home to sleep while the girls are at school and try to be present at much as one exponentially exhausted person can be.
I am here, though. I am good cop. I am bad cop; the comforter and the punisher. I am the fun-planner, the boring-master, the road trip driver, the daily taxi, the short order cook, the lazy housemaid, the dog whisperer, the homework figure-outer, the snuggler, the stern-talking-to-er…the mender of all things, from hearts to jeans to shoe soles to fish tanks.

I am so many different, needed, things.
And I am also missing my husband, my partner in crime, my compass, my best friend.

There will always be a Chad-shaped vacancy in my life. It’s like finding a rogue puzzle piece and trying to make it work in another puzzle that’s missing a section. It just doesn’t work. It’s not right.

I’m learning, every day, that grief is always lurking around the corner.
Some days are easier. Some days are harder.

But the sting? It’s always there.
Just in case you were wondering.

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the best season of the year!

I love the Christmas season.
I love how people smile a little more,
laugh a little longer,
give a little more
speak more kindly to each other.

It’s magic.
How wonderful would it be for us all to live this way every single day!

Wishing you a Christmas season filled with love, wonder & peace,
The Lanford Ladies

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7 years

Everything can change in an instant. Then there is only ‘before’ and ‘after’…

7 years passes quicker than you think possible. We miss Chad daily and speak of him so often. Sometimes the loss feels so fresh we can’t see past it.

I see him, his big blue eyes, his quirky intelligence and sense of humor in our daughters.

Our ‘after’ may not look like I had always imagined it. But it is still good.
It’s still full of everyday victories, memories, laughter & love.

I pause sometimes, just to take an inventory of this life we’ve built after. It’s good; we are good.
And TODAY is the day I received my first-ever paycheck as an RN. Today; of all the possible days in a year. I think of it as a little fist bump.

I am so grateful, today and everyday, ‘before’ and ‘after’.

Thank you for the love today.
We appreciate it so much ♥️

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first day

Today, my girls started a brand new school year.
Carys has been excited to see her friends.
Cailyn has been so nervous leading up to her middle school debut.
I’m happy to report they had a great day and have so many nice things to say.
It’s so nice having them in the same school on the same schedule this year.

When I see these pictures, I just can’t believe how quickly they are changing.
Right before my eyes.
Taller and a little wiser.
Oh, and sassy…if you can believe that.

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new beginnings

This journey was amazing and so difficult.
But it’s finally over!
So humbled and proud to walk the stage with some of the best people I’ve ever met.

I have accepted a position at a local hospital and will start in late October.
The only thing left to do is celebrate….and pass the NCLEX-RN to earn the privilege of putting those beautiful letters behind my name.

Thank you so much for encouraging me along the way.
Your support of my little family and our journey has meant so much to me.

Yes, I did become a nurse for ME.
I did it for my girls.
I also did it for Chad, who I know helped push me across the finish line.

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