The One Where Brandi Purged Her Mind

I need to say a few things. Some of it probably won't go over well with everyone. Hell, some piece of it will probably piss off everyone at one moment or another. I don't care. I just don't care. I am broken. This world is broken. It's broken and we need to get serious about fixing it. All weekend long, Kate and I talked about the innocent lives that were lost at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday. She asked questions. I answered them as honestly and as candidly as I could. We discussed mental illness. We talked about violence and guns. She asked her Daddy to hug those children that were lost and now rest in heaven beside him. I fielded questions that no parent ever wants to address. I know I was not alone in that. So many other parents just like me were doing it all over the nation. On Friday evening after learning of the days horrific events I found myself in my bathroom. Staring at myself in the mirror. I thought about all the hardships that have made up my past. Events that people often say "that would never happen to me". My parents house fire, that left 85 percent of their house a charred ruined mess. A fire that hurts more to remember this time of year because it destroyed all of our childhood Christmas treasures. I remembered the months at Rush. The emergency transports in ambulances and helicopters. The years of sleepless nights. Losing what I perceive as my battle with VEDS when I let it take my husband. Being a 33 year old widow. The 3 rounds of invitro, where we challenged every ounce of medical knowledge to create a healthy child that was part Scott and part me genetically. All things that most of society simply can't imagine. Each one of these moments puts me in a group. A group of unique people that can relate to a specific event because they have lived through it. I am not the only person that has been through IVF. I am not the only person who lost their treasures in a accidental fire. I am not the only person who lost their spouse at 33. There are others. We huddle together in cliques. Nodding, smiling and hugging each other. Several new groups of people were made on Friday. Survivor; those that made it out of Sandy Hook Elementary alive. Victims; those that have gone to rest in heaven. Grieving parents; those that will never hear the voice of their child again because of a senseless act of violence. I will never be a part of one of those groups. It was not my child that was lost that day. But as I stood in the bathroom staring at the mirror, I ached. Just as so many others do. I have walked my path but I have not walked theirs. I cannot imagine. Just as others cannot imagine mine. Without thinking, I opened my jewelry drawer. I pulled out the mother and child pendant that Scott got me the Christmas I was pregnant with Katherine. I put it on. I put it on, not only to remind me of my own child but to hold each one of those children that were lost that day. I held it and whispered each child's name. I closed my eyes and mentally wrote their names on the back of my eyelids in big scrawly cursive letters. For that moment I gave each child my undivided attention. I held them in my heart. I wore that necklace all weekend. Frequently touching it and remember one of those innocent babies. This morning as I struggled to get Kate ready for school, she asked if she could wear it. She wanted my necklace. Honestly, I didn't want to share it. I wanted to keep her and all those babies with me as I sent her off on the school bus, to a place that felt so safe just a few short days ago. I asked Kate if she wanted to wear her daddy necklace. I just didn't want to give it up. "I always have Daddy with me. I want you with me today too Mommy." I'm not wearing my necklace now. I put it around her little neck. And as I started to cry, I said to myself "she'll be home soon. Stop it. It would never happen to you." But here's the problem. I'm not naive enough to believe that. It could happen to me. It could happen to all of us. Every parent could find themselves like the parents left grieving the lives lost at Sandy Hook. This is just unacceptable. Flat out unacceptable. We have to accept illness, accidents, random acts of terror from Mother Nature. We do NOT have to accept these random acts of violence. DO NOT! This problem is so multi-layered you simply can't place blame in one spot. The burden and the blame for what happened at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine and others like them lays in many, many places. I've heard people barking about gun control. I've heard the opposing side bark back "if a teacher had a gun this wouldn't have happened". Here's the reality folks. Nobody needs an assault riffle. Hunters don't need them. People "protecting" their homes don't need them. A handgun, a 22 (for hunting), something larger for extreme hunting maybe. But oozies, and semi-automatic machine guns like the AR-15 used on Friday... there is no place for them. This doesn't mean I want all guns taken away. I believe that people have rights but I also believe that people need to stop being so wrapped up in their "right to bare arms" and start being realistic about what's actually necessary to do the job right. If I've got to put a nail in the wall to hang a picture, I do not need to get out my high-power compressor and pneumatic nailer. A regular hammer and nail will do just fine. Think about what you're trying to accomplish and get the right tool for the job. If your job "requires" (and I use that term loosely because each person feels differently on what is needed) a hand gun. Then there needs to be proper channels, regulations and classes to teach you how to properly use the tool. Your "right" does not, and should not ever, compromise my right to a peaceful existence. You shouldn't be able to whip out your handgun at the mall where I'm window shopping with my 5 year old just because you saw a kid steal a sweater. What kind of harm would there be in limiting serious heavy duty weapons to military and police? What couldn't you do as a regular person with a more typical (arguably less deadly) gun? Beyond that why would any law biding, mentally stable, person resist stronger laws for obtaining proper permits? Why would anyone not intent on doing wrong things object to stricter penalties for those that have guns illegally? I just don't get it. The problem just isn't the guns though. The problem is much, much deeper than that. Mental illness and it's "stigma" are part of the problem too. Why is it so difficult to get someone help? I know first hand the over the top hoops one must go through to get a loved one the mental health they need. I know the fight with insurance companies. I know the out of pocket expenses you're burdened with. I know the whispers, glances, and shock from people when they hear that somebody is struggling with mental illness. Mental illness is an illness just the same as any other. When Kate asked me why someone would commit such atrocious acts, I answered her as honestly as I could "because there was something wrong with his brain that made him so mad or sad that he couldn't see another way to say what he needed to say." Those with mental illness should not hide in the dark. We should acknowledge them, speak openly about ways to help them. Most certainly, we need to make sure that the very, very few of them that are so mentally ill they could commit this type of grievous act, get the attention they deserve and are put some place where they cannot harm others. I'm sure this mother, a victim herself, tried. As we learn more about what type of life this young man had, I'm sure there will be things that show us that she knew something was wrong with her child. Talks to the pediatrician that perhaps got fluffed off. Numerous trips to hospitals, on-line research, reaching out to family and friends... who knows what all this mother did to help her child. I can say positively, and this may anger some, she should have NEVER taken the child she knew to be mentally ill to a gun range. NEVER. That to me is like an alcoholic working at the liquor store. You're just asking for trouble. Here is where I go back to intelligent, gun ownership. No mentally unstable person, even the most docile of them, should be allowed access to weapons. It's so unsafe for everyone, including the person with the illness. This mother and her "right to bear arms" belief taught her very sick son how to load, re-load, aim and nail a target that is shaped like a body. When Kate asked how many kids were in the hospital, the reply of "none" made me queasy. If this young man wasn't as versed in guns and target practice maybe a few more of these innocent babies would be victims recovering in hospital. These shots were obviously direct on target and quick. It sickens me. Where did this mother, who I believe like all mothers was probably trying her best, think this was a good idea? Where did we as a society go wrong, that this mother couldn't tell that this could be a bad idea? We as a society, need to get real about being a good parent. Every parent fails, myself included. We try something and it backfires and we're left going "well that was a bad idea". That's ok. We need to gather our resources and figure out how to correct the problem in a better manner. In a lot of ways, the internet has helped with this. It's so easy to jump on line now and ask other parents what their thoughts are. To find out how others handle it. While one thing may work for one parent and child and not another, we have access to resources that is unparalleled in our history. Every parent is so busy being the "perfect" parent that they don't dare ask. Stop acting perfect. Stop acting like you don't need help. Stop being naive. Stop being proud. Ask for some help. I do not solely blame his parents. Just as I do not solely blame the guns he had access to. It's all of it. Right down to this notion that I'm seeing going around now (Mike Hucakabee being it's chief sponsor) that it's because of the lack of God in schools. That these children need to fear God. I'm sorry Mr. Huckabee, but WHAT? Now more than ever, with all our very diverse religions and beliefs, we need to teach our children love and acceptance of everyone. Not fear. My child does not fear the wrath of God. She does not fear her mothers hands. She did not fear her fathers belt. She does not and will not know what it's like to feel fear from those that are here to love, nurture and care for her. We are here to guide her in her life. Teach her right from wrong. Allow her to make mistakes that won't result in serious harm for her or others. So she can see what happens when. Kate knows right from wrong. She learns something about it every day. It's not because she afraid, repressed or brow beat to learn it. She learns it everyday by watching her actions and seeing the consequences. I'm not a "natural consequences only" parent. Sometimes the consequence of her action comes from my reaction and not just what "may" happen as a result. It's called being a parent. 24 hours a day from the moment she was born until the moment I die, I will be her parent. Sure, I can wear my friend hat and play a game but the second she tries to cheat, I'm correcting her. If she wants to keep up the behavior, the friend cap get ripped off my head and it's all mama. It's endless, tireless, and thankless (most of the time) but that's the job I took. Believe me, correcting my child the night of her fathers death when she did something small, was absolutely brutal for me. I was exhausted, numb, empty and completely drained. Correcting her actions made me feel like the hardest, worst parent ever. But in reality, that was one of my finest moments as a parent. A no jumping on the couch rule exists in my house for a very specific reason. Kate's known it her entire life. Her then 3 year old mind was reeling from the days events and she needed to know where she stood. And guess what, she knew that her mama loved her enough to stick to the rules and make her get down. She knew that even though absolutely everything else was in a spinning vortex of hell, her mother would not let her down. I didn't give her a reason to fear me, I gave her boundaries and consequences. The same unmoving boundaries she's had her entire life. Not just when I feel like it. Some rich, entitled, white mans version of God and how we should fear (or love him, for that matter) does NOT belong in my child's public school. Just the same as an Islamic radical, and their version of God and how we should show our devotion does NOT belong in my child's public school. There are specific schools that teach specific things. If your families believes are as such than please, by all means, send your child to one of those schools. But the public school system (and all it's inefficiencies) is not the place for this. Care, respect for all, tolerance for opposing views, are what the schools need to be teaching and demonstrating. Intensely personal beliefs are best taught, at home, by the teachers that each child should hold in the highest regard, their parents. Teach them at home and they shall carry it with them forever. More God in the schools is not the answer. A police officer in every school... Now that I can get behind. We've got school superintendents making $750,000 a year but schools "can't afford" a $50,000 a year trained police officer? I call bullshit. I live in Illinois, the land of bankrupt, corrupt, school systems, but come on people. The money exists for this if we make it happen. We have to make it happen. We need to stop over paying for supplies and inefficiencies in our school districts and start using the money to protect these kids. Armed guards in banks and jewelry stores no problem. But in schools, no way. Are our children not worth as much as our money and sparkly baubles? Our society needs to wake up. We need to get real and start dealing with all of these issues (and so many others). We need honest debates that are not just "let me shove my personal belief down your throat" conversations. We need to listen. We need to compromise and find middle ground. We need to realize that what might work for me and my personal beliefs may not be the best thing for everyone. These kids deserve so much more from us. I walked into Kate's room tonight to put her to bed and found her searching her book shelf for her nightly story. I suggested we finish another Frog and Toad chapter. She became almost belligerent searching for a specific book. In the end, The Next Place by Warren Hanson, was what she needed. A beautiful book about what we, in this house, call heaven. Mid way through the book, she broke into the most awful sobs I've ever heard from her little body. She misses her daddy. She doesn't understand why twenty little kids her age would be taken into heaven. She doesn't know why she can't go to heaven and be with her daddy too. I held my daughter and wiped away her tears. Rocking her gently and doing my best to ease her troubled mind, knowing I can't answer her questions and I can't keep her safe from the evil in the world. Then it hit me. I get to try. I get the opportunity to do my personal best. There are 40 parents tonight in Connecticut that aren't holding their crying babies. This is unacceptable. Not from this.... We need to do better. We are not collectively doing our personal best. Brandi.out.


18 and 10

You've been gone so long. It gets harder to remember with each passing day. I don't like this part. It hurt to remember some days, always having your voice so close to my ear. But, now...this...I have to search for your voice in my ear sometimes. You're never far when it matters. Baby Girls first day of school, every night when we talk to you, tonight when I just want to sit and cry. You're here when it counts. You always have been. My strong, reliable, never failing love. Our day is coming. 10 years.... It would have been 10 years. What would you have planned for us? How would we have celebrated that first date? The night we talked until the sun rose and our voices failed. The night I knew that I was made to love you. Your nervous Seinfeld impressions.... "I promise I'll stop now." You said I twirled my hair, my nervous habit, I guess. I didn't feel nervous. I felt certain, alive, connected. How should I honor our day? How do I say the things that can't be said anymore? Whatever I do, I promise to pay the bar tab. I won't have the distraction we did 10 years ago. 18 and 10... 18 and 10...


Happy Birthday Scott!

You loved birthdays! You didn't care too much about your own but you loved birthdays in general. A chance to be with family and friends celebrating, sharing, laughing... You loved it. You should be turning 37 today. Kate's been wondering if you get to celebrate birthdays in heaven. She's been wondering about a lot lately. Her little mind is racing with questions all the time. I do my best to answer them honestly but there are times that I just don't know what to say. If you have birthdays in heaven, do you get older? Without all that getting achy, wrinkly, forgetful crap. Or will you always be exactly as old as you were when you died (but restored to a healthy you), like Jack on Titanic? You know only wrote that so I could antagonize you into to saying "Jack, come back" in your Rose voice. That never got old, unlike a few of your jokes. That's the stuff I miss the most these days. Those little details that only we shared. The things that made us, us. I taught Kate the hand squeeze. She does it all the time. Her little hand slips into mine as we walk across a parking lot and there it is, the three little squeezes. If I'm distracted and don't notice, she does exactly what you used to do. She shakes my hand, makes a grunting noise and does it again with a sad, lost puppy dog look on her face. You are ever more present in her everyday mannerisms. I couldn't be happier. We're going to Daddy Lake today. Uncle Joshers is taking us fishing. Kates first time. We went to Daves Bait and Tackle and got Kate line for her reel. Kate loved it there and Dave loved having her there. Future summer job??? Kate asked to send balloons up to you. She sat down with me last night and had me help her write you a note. You're so very alive in our hearts. Dinner at Crandalls with some of the gang. Everyone wants to raise a glass (or broasted chicken wing) to you. Happy Birthday Baby! Always, B.



I didn't know this was published. I wrote it, submitted it, declined the offer to be in the book and moved on. I stopped checking the site sometime ago, not wanting to spend any more time crying. Something made me check today. Dear Photograph


The Big #5!

Happy Birthday Bug Face! Mommy can't believe you're 5 already. You wore me out today so all the pictures will have to wait. But, for now.... Untitled Untitled I can't wait to see what the next year brings!


Dear Scott,

It's been a while since I've written. We talk to you all the time so it seems like I don't have much to say most days. Tonight though, on the eve of our girls 5th birthday, I've found myself with plenty to say. You knew her for almost all of her first three years. But you've missed out on her entire fourth year. You missed out on so much. When I think about how she was when you passed compared to the little girl she is now, I'm overwhelmed. She started swimming. Our girl isn't going to be an Olympic swimmer but she has finally gotten past her fear and insecurities and is making some progress. She puts her entire face in the water but won't quite submerge her entire head. Like somehow it's too much having her face and her ears in the water at the same time. Our kid has quirks thats for sure. It took her such a long time to warm up to her swim instructor. She just couldn't trust her. But now... now things are getting better. It's like she became a new kid when she started skating. Yep, our girl is a skater too now. She hit the ice and never looked back. You wouldn't believe how confident and driven she is out on the ice. It's like skating has given her a huge boost of confidence that's carried over into the rest of her life. Kate has already decided she doesn't want to play hockey and only wants to "dance on the ice like a ballerina". Such a little princess. I think that's because you always treated her like your princess. Boys have also come on her radar. You would be happy to know that she's only interested in being friends with boys. When other kids at school tease her about her "boyfriends" she just shakes it off. I know, I know, I'll keep doing what I can to keep her mind off the boys and focused on more positive things. I'm hoping she'll be too busy with school in the fall to really pay much attention. You wouldn't believe it but she can read. Really read. Nothing complex or too difficult but just a few weeks ago it was like, WHAM she's reading. I can't tell you how much joy it brings me to sit with her for the last 20 minutes before bed and listen to her read the stories to me. I haven't given up my bedtime story book just yet. There is something about snuggling with her and reading a story to her that keeps her little for me. I know if you were here her reading would be better. You had the same intense, calm, intelligence that our daughter does. I think back to all the play-doh time you guys spent together. You taught her to stay quiet, calm and focused. Thank you for that. I struggle every day to be a little more of that for her, it's just not my strong suit. We're working on getting rid of her training wheels on her bike. You never got a chance to see her ride with her training wheels and yet they are already being out grown. We miss you every day. But Baby, don't worry. We're doing just fine. We've got our rhythm and we manage. More laughter than tears. We're doing just fine. Tomorrow I'll give Kate the first of many cards from you. I'll try not to cry when she realizes it's from you. I'll chase away the memories of sitting in your room, in your wheelchair, next to your bed, watching you write those cards. Thank you for writing those. I know it was hard but tomorrow, it will have been worth it. Forget the toys, the cake, the hoopla, the card with your message to her, written by you, will be the best part of the day. We love you. Always, B.



Ever have a day that somewhere in the middle of it you find yourself thinking "this is easily in the top ten, worst days to date?". Well, today was one of those days for me. One of the many (many) reasons for that - our family cat Gizmo was unexpectedly put to sleep this afternoon. Thirteen years ago while visiting my Grandpa Jake, we feel in love with the cute, long whiskered, black and white kitty and drove her the six hours home to live with us. Gizzy went through a brat cat phase, a fat cat phase and in the more recent years, as us kids moved in and out of my parents house, Gizmo became my moms girl. If Mom was gone Gizmo would sit at the top of the stairs by the front door and howl for hours. Even under strained situations, like after my parents house fire when my parents, my brothers, my sister-in-law, and three cats came to live with Scott, Kate, our two cats and I, Gizmo was the best behaved of the bunch. She settled right in and acted like a true princess. My parents had Kate today while I was out of town. She was with them at the vet when they got the bad news. Not being able to control the way Kate was told broke me. Her concept of death, the way she relates to it and balances it, is something I'm very protective of. There is, in my opinion, a right way and a wrong way to help a child understand the concept of death. I've found the way that seems to be working for Kate. Not being there... Hell. Pure hell. Even though I knew Kate was with the two people that love her almost as much as I do, it just wasn't enough. I know we're going to have some rough days ahead as Kate once again struggles to figure out death. As she realizes that yet another "family" member won't come home again. I wish I could take this away for her. I wish my almost fiv year old didn't understand so much. She never ceases to amaze me though. As we "talked to Scott" tonight, she told him "I was really sad Daddy. I was crying and crying. Then I think, maybe with Gizmo with you in heaven you won't miss us so much." I love her. We'll miss you Gizzy. I'm sure Scott's already scratching your ears. Untitled I took this picture just two weeks ago while decorating Easter eggs. It's a horrible picture but I had to share her furry face.


A little thing called Easter

Did you know that I really like Easter? You probably didn't because I've never really said that out loud. Untitled I'm coming out of the closet... I like Easter! Like, really like it. It's all bright and springy. This year even the weather got the "be awesome!" memo. Untitled Kate is at the perfect age for Easter fun. There were far fewer broken eggs this time. Untitled Speaking of dyed eggs... We colored these with kool-aid! They came out awesome and didn't stink up the house. Untitled *this is Minnie, she belongs to my parents * Untitled My dad is a nut. He felt the need to "re-use" the kool-aid and made himself a drink. He obviously wasn't paying attention when we mixed one entire packet of kool-aid with 2/3cups water to dye the eggs in. For those of you a bit rusty in your kool-aid making, it's one packet of water a cup of sugar and a pitcher of water. Sigh... Only my dad! Untitled Minnie still loves him. Untitled Kate worked so hard on her eggs. Sitting and sounding out everyone's names and making each family member their own egg. Untitled That night while we were talking to Daddy before bed, she apologized to him for forgetting to make him an egg. I assured her that Daddy didn't mind. Untitled I love that she still thinks to incorporate him into her daily life. I wonder at which point she'll have fewer memories with him then without him. Where did her mind start making lasting conscious memories? Was it when she was two? Has she already formed more without him then with him? Will she forget all the memories she has now? Hell, I can't remember what I went into the kitchen for 10 minutes ago. What does she remember and for how long? Untitled Back to Easter.... Untitled We tried a new place for brunch this year. My only criteria for the restaurant was that they had an Easter bunny. Kate just loves the bunny! Untitled We got the bunny and we got a real treat for brunch. I loved the food and it was a nice, relaxed environment. I don't know about the rest of the family but I want to go back next year. Untitled Throughly stuffed, we headed home for Kate's Easter egg hunt and basket opening. I can't decide if Kate would want some consigns to join her in the egg hunting fun or if she would hate sharing. Untitled A quiet afternoon of couch lounging, sports watching and Lego building. Untitled I can think of a lot worse ways to spend the day.... Untitled A few people have asked if I'm going to keep blogging. The truth is I never really quit writing I just quit posting. I needed to find my voice again. I needed to feel confident in how I was moving forward so when the inevitable Internet idiot would email me garbage about all the things I was doing wrong I could easily tell them to "shove it". I needed to find my stride, my mojo, my identity. Untitled This place needs work. It no longer feels like me. I'll be fixing that. This place is my way to show Kate (and myself) just how far we've come. Were still building, life is nothing if not a work in progress but it's a progress worth sharing, even if it is just for me. Untitled



Standing in the kitchen this morning I'm getting Kate's breakfast ready, boiling the eggs for this aftrnoons egg dying and flipping through yesterdays mail. (I'm a super multi-tasker.)
I'm scanning the Hospice of Pallative Care of Northeastern Illinois newsletter. There are always interesting tidbits of helpful information and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of services they provide to people at the end stages of life. I catch myself thinking about all the ways that Hospice helped us that last week and all the ways they have cared for Kate and I in the almost 13 months since Scotts death.
Opening the annual report I see a number that catches my breath.
That's the number of people that Hospice helped in 2011. There were 2,662 other people that were blessed with the loving care of Hospice's services.
And there was Scott. My Scott. My life. My baby girl. Me.

For those that knew him best, Scott was anything but a statistic. He was (and continues to be) our Scott.

This is the only picture I have of Scott on my iPad. But I wanted to include it for two reason.
1) we were being supported by Hospice when it was taken and
2) even 2 days before his death, in obvious pain, he was Scott. Silly, goofy, endearing, loving, kind...

Thank you Hospice. Next time I feel personally connected to your annual report I hope it's because I've won the lottery and have shared handsomely with you.


Just Can't Get Enough

My Aunt Marie is here visiting. When she asked to go to Daddy Lake, I jumped at the chance. After all, I just can't get enough.
How could it be possible to get enough of a place that makes the world seem like a better place? A place that takes my worries and pushes them aside. A place that brings me nothing but happy memories. Load up the bus I'm in! And this time, I'm bringing the whole damn family!

Its been a non-typical week around these parts. It's not often that I get sick but when I do... Look out! My body is a fan of the 'go big or go home' motto apparently. A cold turned into laryngitis, turned into bronchitis and in triumphant fashion at 2am Friday, a ruptured ear drum! Kate and I still managed a week of classes, school, work but without our usual flair.

I needed to feel the healing love of the lake. And boy did it deliver! Another absolutely glorious day! I keep pinching myself, afraid it's just a dream. I wasn't the only person feeling the love (or the pinching probably).

This was the first time the extended family gathered at the lake. The first time I've really had to share the space. I was afraid that I was going to be too busy, too distracted, too...whatever, to enjoy it. I'm so glad that wasn't the case.

I find that there are things that I don't like sharing. Pieces of him that I just want to keep all to myself. Even a year later. I'm always happy to talk about Scott, share one of his jokes or tell a story but there are just a few things, places, details, that I want to keep hidden. Tucked away from other people's opinions or thoughts. Safe from contact with any others. Kate is the only exception. And maybe that's because I know she can't change the story or add something to it.

I think that's part of the reason I stopped posting for awhile. I just didn't want to share anymore. Does this make me strange? And no, that's not a trick question like "does this make my butt look big?".

Here's the thing about being 'strange' in how I move forward with this life, I don't care if I am. I don't care if the entire world thinks I'm a flag flying freak. I am what I am and that's the end of it. I can't change it so I must embrace it.

If there is one thing I hope I can instill in Kate it's that. When there is a pure, genuine feeling in your heart, all you can do is accept it for what it is. Let your freak flag fly.

Thank you Aunt Marie for wanting to go. And thank you to the rest of the family for going. Sharing feels good. I just wish the rest of me felt that good.


Part 2

Kate started ice skating lessons last week. Today was her second time on the ice. She's a natural. Her smile radiates off her face when she's on the ice. Grinning from ear to ear she just keeps getting back up and trying again. Just like her Dad.

I imagine what their conversations would be like right now if he was here. I know she's disappointed to come home to the empty house and not have anyone else to share her good news with. I sense the pause in her when we enter through the garage and she yells "were home" adding "Jake and Becky". Like she doesn't still want to yell "were home Daddy".

His room is her playroom now. Neither one of us like to play in there. The indentations in the floor from his bed still a reminder of what isn't here. We'll sit in there sometimes, lounging on the floor, and talk about him. Telling stories. Sharing.
She's asked to hear the story of his death more in the last month than she has in the last 11months. She wants to know every detail. When she's sure she's heard it all she asks to hear the story of her birth, or of Scott and I's first date or of the Cub's game. Absorbing as many of those details as she can before finally moving on to other important things. Like, would Ariel really marry Prince Eric?

Today she skated and we went to Daddy Lake. We ran, we chased, we played and we sat. We sat on that pier and we talked. She told daddy all about skating. She told him about starting kindergarten in the fall and about her friend Azier at school. "he's a boy Daddy. But don't worry he's not my boyfriend. I don't want one of those until after college."
This is all stuff we tell him every night and before every afternoon rest. But being on that lake with the glorious sun shinning on us, I'm pretty sure both of us knew for certain that he was sitting on that pier with us. How else can you explain 80degree weather on March 15th in Chicago?
It felt so good to be so close to him. So close and yet so far.

She is so much his girl. Quick with a joke. Always wanting to make others smile. His long eyelashes and small mouth. But it's her calm that is most like him. Her gentle ease. Sitting on that pier, a tear ran under my sunglasses. She just leaned her little body on mine and whispered "he still loves us." A true grace that can never be defined but that can only be experienced to fully understand. If you knew him, you know the grace I speak of. How did I get so lucky to have it in my life twice?

Our dinner at his favorite restaurant didn't go as well as our trip to Daddy Lake. No warnings, no signs, no information. Just locked doors. Not ones to give up, we made it work at the Olive Garden. It doesn't really matter where we are after all, it just matters that we're together. In thinking about it now, the Olive Garden is really a pretty good place. His last birthday with us was spent there. One of my favorite pictures of he and Kate, the one that sits beside my bed, was taken there. Looking at my big girl sitting across from me tonight at dinner and trying to connect her with the six month old baby in the picture on my dresser... an impossible task. Realizing that her daddy is holding on to her now just as he was in that picture; so very easy.

Every date on the calendar has now been lived since he left. Every major holiday has been conquered. We got through the past year. I'm sure we didn't do everything "right". I know it wasn't always pretty. I know there is more longing, pain, heartache to come. Beyond that though, I know we can do this. I may not always want to. But we can and we will.

This is our one wild and precious life.

and we're going to live it.


A year part 1

My first thoughts this morning as I opened my eyes to see 321 on the clock, "normal, I feel normal". As the eyes opened so did reality. The crushing pressure in my chest; my constant companion this past week and the blinding searing pain that radiates over my eyes were back. How can I do this? How can I manage this day?
Toss and turn. Toss and turn. Mind swirling, empty thoughts, fragments of thoughts really swirling in my head. The same thoughts that have lingered all week.
He wouldn't recognize his daughter now. She's so big. Her face has changed. Her speech is clearer. Her thoughts more structured and concise. She too carries the sadness behind her eyes. A sadness that didn't exist a year ago.
She remembers him so well. Things I didn't think were possible for her to remember she holds with such clarity. She draws him as an angel. But talks to him and about him like he's here. Until it's time to make a wish or talk about what she wants to do when she's older. Then it's the same thing every time. "I wish my daddy could come back home. When I get big enough I'm going to invent a time machine to bring Daddy home.". Ugh.

I'm not where I thought I would be by now. This isn't what I pictured. I had a plan.

Toss,turn,toss,turn mumble,dream,breathe...

Get up. The alarm is screaming that it's time to workout. Another 90 minutes of sweat to chase it all away. I've got muscles I never knew I had. Even then, when I would literally carry my husband I wasn't as strong as I am today. Carrying him made me feel strong, powerful, like I had a purpose. Now... I can sweat.
Today's 90 turned to 27. I can't do it. I just can't. My breathing is wrong. My focus, my drive... Gone. As I lay on the floor all I can think is write. Write! Write to him, write to her, write to yourself. Just write. So here I am. Writing. Breathing. Listening.

I don't remember the birds chirping outside my window last year. But I wasn't in my room. What do I remember? The struggled, labored managed breaths. The eyes that lit up every time Kates voice could be heard. The scratchy, raspy, barely audible, voice that said "don't leave me, I can't be without you. I don't want to be alone."

This is my journey. This is my path. I get to choose how to spend this day. I will not spend anymore time remembering the alone, the sad, the loss. I will take our girl and I will remember the good. We'll do something new, visit you at the lake and eat your favorite dinner.

I will put away the memories of my sighs, eye rolls and complaining. I will tell her again the story of us. I will share the funny times. That is where the life is. That is what matters.