An overdue update

It’s just how I roll, lately. Late.
For everything.
People who know and love me have just accepted it.
I used to never be late. Or so forgetful. Or slightly crazy.
But it’s me.
I accept it…but it doesn’t mean I have to like it!

The girls….

Carys is going to be 10 in December…and she’s quick to let you know it, too. She is fervently planning her birthday party, which I know includes a few friends to sleepover, facials, manicures, karaoke and treats galore.
She will be in the 4th grade this Fall. She is spunky and has a contagious laugh. She almost always has a smile plastered to he face and not much gets her down. I have always (and will always) admire that about her.
She has an eye exam coming up – I’m pretty sure she will need glasses…she’s not excited about that. I just keep reminding her that Chad & I both had glasses too. Hopefully, it won’t rock her little world too much to have to wear them.
She has also been seeing a therapist on a regular basis. She still holds a lot in, even two and a half years after Chad’s death. I understand, and I know we are getting to a critical point in her life that she needs to be able to express herself in a way that allows me to understand her feelings and help her sort through them. We will get there.
Patience is key. Mine wears thing quiet frequently, but I will never stop being an advocate for my girls. They deserve a chance to live life without so much emotional baggage.
Carys is my social butterfly, still. She has been so busy this Summer, with weeklong camps ALL the time. She loves going and seeing and doing. I joke that I could ship her off to China by herself and she wouldn’t bat an eye. It’s true. I can’t wait to see what she does with that gift one day – I just know she is going to be an amazing woman. She’s already pretty darn awesome!

Cailyn is so funny! She loves school and her friends. She will be in the 2nd grade this Fall. She just turned 7 in June and she is just the sweetest, kindest, most helpful little sidekick. She loves to clean (haha, she didn’t get that gene from me!) and really enjoys doing whatever it is that I am doing.
Her favorite things to do right now is drawing and coloring. She is always making cards for people, writing notes and sending letters. She is a sweetheart,  that’s for sure.
She has learned to swim pretty well this Summer and is trying to master the underwater flip. This is a huge improvement from last Summer, when she would rather sit on the side of the pool rather than jump in!
She is also a talked all of a sudden. Oh my goodness! I don’t know where all the words come from sometimes. She talks. And talks. And talks. She can’t help it, I suppose. But my ears need a break sometimes. I often wonder how she doesn’t get in trouble at school for talking so much.

Me …

I am still pursuing a career in the medical field. Still.
There have been some twists and turns. I had originally hoped to go to nursing school, but it just didn’t work out for me. I had a mystery illness last year that kept me in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms for a good 8 months. They never really figured out what was wrong with me, which stinks. But now I’m better – and I really think it had a lot to do with stress catching up with me. It can do a number on the body, that’s for certain.
I start school again this Fall and will be completely finished with Medical Assisting next Summer. And then I suppose I’ll find a job. And I’m excited about that. I’m not so excited that I’ll be away from the girls so much and won’t have Summers with them…so we’re soaking in every single moment this Summer. It will all be okay. I hope one day long from now, they will be proud that I made this commitment to change careers so I could support them. I hope they will understand that the sacrifices I made was for our best interests. I really hope that they don’t harbor secret hatred for me in the years to come that I spent less time with them because I had to work all of a sudden. It will definitely be an adjustment.

I stopped by Hospice this week. I hadn’t been in well over a year…and it was strange to walk through those halls that I called home for a few months in 2010.  Many of the same faces there, with the same hugs and same kind words. It was in that building that I decided I had to change my career and focus on helping others.
I currently have my Certified Nurse Aid license and care for an elderly gentleman that lives about 15 minutes away from me. I love seeing him a few times a week. I have grown to love him and his family as my own.

I have also added 2 new dogs to our household. Yes, Im slightly insane.
I will be in training soon to become a therapy team with at least one of my dogs. I will then be allowed to go into nursing homes, hospice, etc – to help patients through pet therapy. I am really looking forward to this!

I still take pictures, although not at often as I had been. I still enjoy it, I just haven’t put myself out there. There came a point where I had to decide what I was going to focus my attention on – photography or school, and school won the debate.

Anyway, thanks for those of you who still check in. We are doing well. I can honestly say the kids are thriving. We are all doing well, moving forward the best we can by putting one foot in front of the other. I can’t say it’s always easy, or that the answers to questions always come easily, but we are making it through to the other side. And that’s all that matters.

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Happy 35th Birthday

Dear Chad,

There is a song that tugs at my heart each time I hear it – If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away. It’s a country song. You wouldn’t like it.

If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away

I wish I could pack up the kids and got to Heaven for the day.
I wish they could give you a hug.
I wish they could remember your face more vividly.

I wish I could make you your favorite things, pack them in a wicker basket, tuck it in the back seat of my car and just go.
Go to Heaven.
Just for the day.
So I can remember your laugh.
And your smell.
Your smile.
So I can see these sweet little girls sit on your lap and laugh contagiously.

The girls were with Nana this week for Spring Break, just as last year on your birthday.
They had a little celebration; had dinner, released balloons on the beach to one of your favorite songs – Black Betty.
There were no tears this year. Just love. How you would have wanted it, I know.

There are so many days I wish I could pick up the phone and ask your advice.
You always knew how to handle a situation. And you had back-up plans. And back-up plans for your back-up plans that went awry.
I try to think like you when I’m in a jam.
It’s just not the same.

Life is continuing at full-speed.
Not much I, or anyone else, can do about it.
The kids grow.
They learn.
This week becomes next and before you know it, six months have passed.
They are getting so big.
Growing and learning and doing and being so good!
They are such wonderful little souls and if we ever did anything right, it was them.

I’m doing well.
A few hard times over the last year or so, but I’ve learned that’s just the way life is.
Whenever I’m in a tight spot, I always think to myself, “I’ve been through worse.”
I hate that I have been.
And I hate that using our unfortunate circumstance has become a ruler by which I gauge anything “bad” that can ever happen in my life.

Funny that way it is – the way life sucker punches me  and expects me to wake up the next morning, every morning, moving on like nothing ever happened. And then I see something beautiful, like the sun rays shining from the clouds on my drive home…and I realize that life is so beautiful and fleeting and I am so lucky. I have wrinkles and laundry piles and notes from the girls and slobbery dog kisses and people in my life that make me appreciate it all.

Like you.
You have made me appreciate it all.
Thank you.
We love you.
We miss you.

Happy Birthday!

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one year.

Dear Chad,

Here I sit.
The end of my first year without you.
The beginning of the second.

A year ago, I couldn’t imagine what a year without you would be like…what it would feel like, look like…what it would be.
I couldn’t even imagine a minute of my world without you in it.

Three hundred sixty five days.
Four seasons.
Three broken hearts in one small house.

I’ve not
heard your voice
smelled your cologne
washed your laundry
given you a kiss
or a hug
prepared your beloved maple and brown sugar oatmeal
made your bed, with the pillows just the right way
read the Sports section to you
argued with you about getting out of bed
felt the pounding of your heart against my head as I lay it on your chest
felt you gaze at me across the room

We’re mending, but never to be fully fixed.
I am proud of us, how far we’ve come.
You gave that gift to us; you made me (and the girls, too) stronger than I ever knew possible.

I’ve done my best and I’m certain you know that.
I will always keep my promises to you.

I love the little moments in my daily life where I can remember our life without tears falling down my cheeks.
I actually laugh more than I cry; which is a critical shift I’ve been waiting for.
The memories and joy outweighing the pain.
It’s taken a while to get here.
I’m grateful.
And I’m relieved this year is over.

The girls are doing well.
They don’t know the significance of today.
And I am not going to tell them.
When they get older, they will remember the date all by themselves.
I owe them one year; at least one “anniversary” that I didn’t bring it to their attention.

They have been doing so well; I don’t want to drag them back down, even briefly.
Carys is actually making some serious progress lately; I am so proud.
Cailyn is headstrong (thanks for that, by the way), but she is also such a sweetheart.
They miss you and talk about you almost daily now; without tears. Happy memories from before IT was a word in our vocabulary.

There were so many things I planned to say to you today.
You already know.
You let me have plenty of time to say it.
Thank you; for being you, for letting me be me, for giving me these beautiful little girls, for helping me find my own confidence and strength and perseverance.

I miss you.
Still.
Forever.

xoxo,
Skye

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Almost, but not quite

Remember the Grief Monster I spoke of?
He’s knocking on the door.
And I do not want to let him in.
He’s coming regardless, and I am preparing myself the best I can.

Yesterday, I received a card in the mail from the funeral home that handled Chad’s arrangements.
A “Thinking of You” card to express their sympathy as we approach the one-year mark.
I was sucker punched.
I didn’t need a reminder.

I have 8 more days.
8 more days to feel a little normal.
Normal?”
Almost, but not quite.

8 more days until.
It’s been almost a year.
Almost, but not quite.

I’m fine.
I’m fine.
I’m fine.
Almost, but not quite.

They tell me this milestone is the hardest.
No.
I have to disagree.
The first day was the hardest.
And then every day after.
They say, “It gets easier with each passing day.”
Almost, but not quite.

It seems I live a double life most days.
One life where I’m on a ever-healing journey.
One life where I’m almost content with myself.
Almost, but not quite.

I’ve made it.
I’ve survived.
A whole year.

Almost.
But not quite.

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Free Fallin’

For his 30th birthday in 2008, I threw Chad a surprise party.
It was the first birthday he’d celebrated after finding out about IT, and we had so many people who wanted to help celebrate with us.
He was shocked to see so many people had shown up.
It was the first, and only, time that I was able to keep a secret from him.

He received a gift certificate for skydiving.
He had been talking about it for some time – especially since we found out about IT and started compiling the Bucket.
He planned a day to jump, but it was rescheduled due to high winds that particular day.
Then our lives became so chaotic that he never got the chance to go.
It was neatly written on the “to do” list on our fridge for years.
I swore it was an activity I would never, ever, EVER do with him.
“I will never do that. Period.”

Well.
Never say “never”.

I checked skydiving off Chad’s Bucket List this past weekend.
Here are a few pictures – enjoy!
I will have more pictures and a video in the coming days…I’ll post those when I get a chance.

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Lisa, my mom & I with one of the photographers – all suited up!

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When I get nervous, I laugh. A lot.

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Still waiting…strangely enough, I wasn’t a ball of nerves at this point.
I was just ready to go!

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Finally headed up!

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This is actually Lisa dangling from the plane. Crazy!

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And this is Lisa, again, falling! Isn’t that intense?!?!

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This is probably my favorite picture! That look on my face is so genuine.
I had to force myself to look. And then that stupid look was plastered on my face
for a while because I just couldn’t move anything, not even my facial expressions!

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I relaxed a bit!

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Wink, my photographer, grabbed my hand and we started spinning.
Not too fast – but it was definitely a crazy experience…

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I love this picture too!

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I survived!

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And so did my mom!

Each time someone asks me about the experience, only one word comes to mind: AMAZING!

I will not lie;  I was scared out of my mind. I couldn’t even think about it for a few days leading up to it without knots forming in my throat and tummy.
I checked the weather forecast Wednesday or Thursday, hoping the jump might be called off due to rain. Or wind. Or something weathery that would make jumping from an airplane a bad idea.

As I realized that the weather was supposed to be perfect on Saturday, I just went with it.
I’m doing this.
It’s coming up very soon!
And it will be fine.
It will be fine.
It will be fine….

And it was!
We had a slight delay because there was an issue with the plane; a malfunctioning wheel or something.
We made jokes with the staff and had a great time as we calmed our nerves.
When it was finally our turn to jump, everything went kinda fast – which is good. We didn’t have time to think about what the heck we were doing!

My mom and one of my dearest friends, Lisa, and I all crammed inside a plane with many “professional” skydivers — at least that’s what they told us!
A few student divers went out first.
And then it was Lisa’s turn – you actually see her dangling and then falling out of the plane in the pictures above.
Then it was my turn and it just happened SO fast. I saw her fall and suddenly, I was right behind her.
That first step was a doozy.
I literally thought to myself, “WHAT did I just do? I am falling like a piece of lead through the sky! I want to go home. NOW.”
Of course, those thoughts were brief because my instructor started talking and giving instructions. The photographer grabbed my hand and all three of us spun around like a top. It was so much fun!
I could barely open my eyes and I couldn’t close my mouth or smile. I couldn’t even move my arms/hands/legs for a bit – the force was crazy!

But then…
I dropped through a cloud. I touched it – even though there was really nothing to touch.
I was IN a cloud.
Amazing.
That’s all I can say.

When the chute was pulled, the harness jerked me erect and everything went silent. We just floated. And chatted. I got to steer for a little while. I could see everything and hear nothing. It was…well, amazing.

I closed my eyes and soaked it in for a moment or two.
It was breath-taking.
And I know Chad would have loved it.
I can see him landing, fists pumping in the air, and yelling, “WOOOOOOOOoooooooo!”, like he always did with an adrenaline rush.
And I’m sure he would have wanted to do it again.
Which is what I plan to do, too.

I have plans to get a lot of things checked off the List in the next year; and I’m not sure if anything will measure up to this experience…but I’m going to find out!

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Out of the blue

Grief is a wild, untamed thing.

An animal all its own, with fangs that sink in to hold you paralyzed when you least expect it.
An animal that hides deep in the woods, making you forget just enough and feel just safe enough to forget about the vulnerability that you cast aside.
And when you think you are safe, when you think you have found a place to hide that seems quite like a blissfully transparent paradise, grief comes. Quick and without warning.
It sucker punches you; leaves you breathless and then just walks away – ever waiting to pounce again.

I suppose it’s the time of year.
This time last year was just so…well, the sadness was palatable.
While in the middle of it, I could vividly recall every single detail.
Now, my memory has faded some.
Honestly, someone asked me the date of Chad’s death.
And I couldn’t remember. I knew the date range; but I couldn’t be sure about the actual day. That shocked me.

So, like an idiot, I went to the blog entries from last October and November.
And I cried yesterday. For two hours.
Just remembering the worst time of my life, the last days with my best friend.

Right now, I see the leaves scattered on our lawn and some of the memories come flooding back; like someone holding my head under water without letting me get a full breath above the surface first. I can smell the Hospice Home, I can see the light streaming through his room with the doors wide open, I can feel the heaviness in the air resting upon me like a steel jacket. Almost a year. It can’t really be.

One year ago, I made that sweet video of Chad telling the girls he loved them (click to see it).
One year ago tomorrow, to be exact.
It feels like yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago.
I watched that clip a few times yesterday, searching the features of his face.
He smiled after saying their names, which was allll him. I didn’t prompt him to do that. He loved his girls.

Those eyes. I miss them.
The way they followed me around the room.
The way they talked to me without words.
The certain way they closed half way when he laughed.
The way I look into them now, even in his absence, every time I look at our girls.

I am in a place that I’ve been longing to get to; a place all my own.
I am enjoying everything I can; filling up my glass until it runs over.
But sometimes, out of the blue, the grief monster comes to visit.
Thankfully, his visits are less frequent than I ever would have imagined they could be a year ago.
What it lacks in frequency is surely made up by intensity.

I’ve made great strides this year; I’ve come far.
I’m not exactly where I want to be, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.
That’s enough.
I know what’s on the horizon and I know God has something wonderful for me and these girls of mine.

People have asked me how I’m doing so well, despite everything.
Honestly, it was all in preparation. We had the opportunity to discuss things – not everyone has the opportunity to do that.
He wanted me to be happy; he wanted me to take my time to give my best and then get back to it…get back to life.
If you knew Chad well, you know that this is so true.
We talked about my future a lot; the things he wanted for me, what he wanted for the girls.
When he couldn’t speak, he even went as far as to take off my wedding rings, place them in my palm and close my hand around them.
He released me from the guilt of surviving, of being his survivor, of living a life that would contain happiness again.
So selfless of him, really. I am ever thankful.

As this final month approaches in the first year’s journey, I’m ready for the unknown.
I’m prepared to cry. To be mad. To cry some more.
And to stand back up and get back to it.
To be happy and not feel guilty for it.
To chase my dreams, laugh every day and dare the grief monster from stealing my joy.

Posted in Chad, no words, the girls | 6 Comments

Blog-no-more

Where have I been?

Here, there and everywhere.

I’ll try to catch you up as quickly as possible…

I have taken on way too much with far too little time.
I won’t be here much.

School x 3 in this house is quite tricky.
I am on an indefinite hiatus from photography.
I still love it. I just can’t give it my full attention and that’s not fair to anyone.

As for the blog, I have grown tired of my own words.
I need to start focusing on the future instead of drowning in the past.

I plan to keep the blog here for a while; at least until I decide what to do with it.
My only goal is to preserve it for the girls, and once I get that under control, I may let the domain lapse.

I am doing well; fabulous, actually.
Finally.
I know who I am.
I know what I want.
And I’m going to get it.

The girls are also doing well – growing and learning and amazing me every day.
Carys just started the 2nd grade. She loved it.
Cailyn starts kindergarten in two weeks.

I kicked my coffee habit over the Summer.
Then it came back this week.

We’re in the process of rehoming two of our three dogs.
I just cannot do it all.
The superwoman cape is going to be hung up for a while.
I’m doing what I need to do, focusing on the girls and finding my new happy.

Thanks for the support, y’all.
I couldn’t have done it without you.

xoxo,
Skye

Posted in Chad, Chatter, no words, the girls | 4 Comments

Today.

There are definitely days that are harder than others.
Today is one of those days.

This year is full of dates that I try so hard to ignore. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries
Even though I try to busy myself around dates that were, and still are, important to Chad and I, memories get the best of me.
It usually begins with tears – and ends with laughter, which is the way I prefer it.

Tears for the hard, sad truth that things will never be the same.
Laughter for the memories that will forever bring joy to my heart.

Today, Chad & I would have celebrated ten years of marriage.
The date is still circled on my calendar.

Last year, despite his difficulty communicating, he wanted to take me out to dinner.
(I put together a small slideshow of our life for our anniversary last year – you can view it by clicking here.)
I cherish that last date – and the fact that he insisted we go as a family to the very place where he asked me to be his wife.
It was the last time we went out as a family before he was moved to Hospice on August 17, 2010.

My heart is flooded with memories of our wedding day; how happy and young and hopeful we were.
No children yet, no mortgage, no joint checking accounts.
No pain or fear or regret.
Just love and hope.

There are so many things I want to say, but today, I am keeping it to myself.

Thank you for the well wishes and kind words today.
I do appreciate them immensely.

The girls and I are having a good day.
We have dinner reservations at our special place, just the three of us.
We’re skipping the traditional menu and opting for dessert only.

After all, life is too sweet to eat dessert last.
I plan to savor every tiny bite.

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We’re alive!

One of these days, I’ll update you on what’s going on in our lives at present.
But not now…

We’re alive.
We’re having a great Summer.

As if life isn’t chaotic enough, I’ve added a whole other dimension to the craziness by going back to school.
And I haven’t even started classes yet!!!

I’ll be back when I can catch my breath.

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Happy Father’s Day, Chad.

Happy Father’s Day to all the men in our life who are lucky enough to ever have been called “Daddy” by a small voice.
And to all the fathers my girls “borrow” from time to time, THANK YOU for giving them the opportunity to have strong male role models in their lives. It matters more than you could ever imagine.

This morning, the girls and I sent Chad some more red balloons.
In honor of Father’s Day, the girls made a card – which they sealed with a kiss and stuffed inside of one of the balloons.
Then Carys found another card she had made at school that she wanted to include.
My original plan was to send one balloon up this morning, but the cards weighed the lonely balloon down and it wouldn’t float — so we inflated a few more. Since the first balloon was so full of love (and paper), it needed a few chaperones to make sure it went upward. SO we changed plans…pretty typical for us nowadays.
The girls drew pictures and wrote lovely messages on the balloons; I wrote a simple note.

Cailyn drew chocolate chip cookies on her card; she wanted to make sure Chad knew she remembered his favorite things.
Carys picked some flowers yesterday from Chad’s mom’s house – and wanted to make sure Chad knew she picked them just for him. His favorites – that he used to pick for his mother, too.

The girls were very excited to do this today. They didn’t even take time to get dressed – they got right to work this morning.
All of us, in our pajamas, stood in the front yard and sent our Father’s Day wishes to Chad. Then the girls released the four balloons…and watched them disappear into the sky.
The girls stood there for a bit, even when the balloons were no longer visible, just in case the red vessels came back into their sight.

fathers day 2011
After our balloon release, the girls and I got dressed (finally) and grabbed some lunch.
Then, we dropped Carys off at camp. For a week! EEEEEEkkkkkkkk!
I cannot believe she is old enough to do this – or to want to do this – without Mommy there.
She was so excited, but a little nervous as we pulled into the camp area and she saw how many people were there.

We unpacked and got her all set up.
And then I learned that my baby is not a baby anymore.
Which I knew.
But it helps my mommy*heart to think she still needs me more than she actually does.

She wouldn’t allow me to kiss or hug her “in public” because I was embarrassing her.
I really thought I had a few more years before she started complaining about her embarrassing mommy…but, no. That day came too early for my taste.

I hope she has a fabulous time – which I know she will.
She has a friend from her Girl Scout Troop that is sleeping right next to her each night.

I can’t wait to hear about all the fun times and memories she’ll make this week.
And it will feel kinda strange not having her around this week.
Cailyn will see what it feels like to be an only child for once in her life…and I suspect she will start missing her sister fiercely after day three.

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