Saturday, April 7, 2018

07 April 2018 (3 years, 3 months, 19 days after The Day)

Today started like any other day.  Claire was awake and calling for someone to get her.  I got up and got her fed and settled.  My phone buzzed with a text from a fellow who owns an orchard nearby.  I had corresponded with him about getting some wood in exchange for some BBQ.  I spent the last weekend smoking about 80 lbs of meat.

That BBQ run ended up being the following:

brisket (1)
pork shoulder (4)
chickens (2)
pork ribs (5)
pork rib roast (1)

It turned out nicely but I had also used nearly all my wood to do this.  I was on the lookout for any fruit wood I could get my hands on.  The week before I left a note on this fellow's home and he called me back.  Anyway, he said he was available both today and next Saturday for me to stop by and get some wood so I called up my father-in-law to schedule a time to borrow his pickup and chainsaw.  By the time all this transpired Samantha was up and moving.  I took Madilyn and Ammon with me to get this wood.  We spent a few hours cutting the wood and loading it into the truck (long bed F150 Ford).  The cherry tree we took was substantial in size.  We only took a single limb but it filled the entire bed of the truck.  It started to rain towards the end of our time and by the time we got back to the house we were soaked to the bone.  I got cleaned up and took a minute to eat some lunch.

I noticed a txt from one of Jan's friends about her commonwealth school she founded.  Jan's friend created a separate domain name.  It was bitter-sweet.  It enables her to move forward with the school and for me to do something with the website that won't hinder the progress the school is making.

I feel like time has moved on.  I feel at times that Jan is near.  It is comforting to believe that she is aware of how the kids are and our current living environment.  Things seem to be so different from our lives back in Arlington.  In December I decided to change my health.  This has been a long-time brewing so it finally took shape in me making changes in my life directly after Christmas.  I altered my diet (permanently) and introduced activity into my life.  I have dropped about 25 lbs.  That sounds like a lot but I have a lot to lose so this is just a step in the right direction for me.

We took some family photos as well and I am just shocked at how the kids have grown.  It seems as if it is overnight.

Here is one of the entire family 

I realize that me writing in this blog is healing.  It is healing for me to just get it down somewhere.  Sometimes life moves at such a pace that we forget the little things.

The older boys and Emma Jean are on a high school choir tour that visited Disney Land.  They will come back tomorrow afternoon.  I'm sure they all will be super tired by the time they return.  Samantha and I have spent some time with the younger kids while the older ones are out.  It has been good.  I feel at times there isn't enough of us to go around to all the kids.  They have a lot of patience with us!

Well - I'll write more later - for now - off to the gym.  :-|

Thursday, December 21, 2017

21 December 2017 (3 Years 1 day after The Day)

Yesterday was like any other day.  I got up, started working, and then took my daughter to school.  I was getting a lot accomplished too at work.  I felt like I was ticking things off the list so to speak.  Jan's sister's oldest daughter stopped by with her husband and oldest daughter.  It was good to visit with them for a minute.  I haven't seen them in at least a year.  After they left I returned to work and worked into the night.  Perhaps it was me keeping busy that helped me move forward on such an anniversary.  Samantha baked a cake and I called grandma on FaceTime so we could all celebrate together.  Claire blew out the candles herself.   She has a sweet sense of humor.  She will grab Samantha's reading glasses and put them on.. sometimes they are on correctly... sometimes not.  

I had an opportunity to go Christmas shopping last night after dinner.  I think this is what started the memories.  I reflected on friends and family who had reached out to me earlier telling me they were thinking of me.  At the time I just dismissed the comments because I didn't want to relive the hellish memories I had so neatly packed away or perhaps those that I felt I had already processed.  But, alas, there they were... staring me in the face as I went Christmas shopping.  I recall how I suck at shopping for others.  I feel like a kid during a pop quiz.  My mind generally goes blank.  I find myself reliving what Ralph in The Christmas Story did when he spoke to Santa.

As I wondered from store to store I was reminded on how Jan would have laughed at some of the items on the shelves.  We both would have had such a good laugh.  I immediately felt both joy and intense sadness.  It is such a paradox.  I have such love and admiration for Samantha.  She has taken in 4 kids and treated them as her own.  She loves me for who I am ... both the good and the bad.  She really is a wonder woman.  She and Jan are similar in that they accepted me for who I am and perhaps that is the challenge.  I never stopped loving Jan.  I felt she was ripped from my life and yet I love Samantha too.  Sometimes I feel guilty for moving forward and yet I know that is silly because my kids need a mother figure.  This is true especially for Claire who has stepped into life without any knowledge of anything being amiss.  So I live in this environment that seems to contradict itself at times yet it is right.  Right to me anyway.  I gathered my purchases and headed home.  I filled up with gas and as I pulled into the driveway I was reminded that the low pressure tire sensor was lit and I needed to attend to that.  I did and came back into the house.  Snow had started falling outside.  Claire was asleep and Ammon was super tired.  Perhaps it was all we did that week.  Yesterday we took the kids on the train up to SLC where we went through Temple Square.  We had as much fun as you can have with a toddler who had her moments.  Anyway - I put Ammon to bed and I think that is when it hit me.  I just started reliving what was going on 3 years ago.  I realized that 3 years ago I was waiting for a doctor to tell me what was going on... why it was taking so long?  I relived the memory of the funeral when the viewing room was packed with well wishers... I looked over and three feet from the casket was Ammon just staring at the closed casket.  Not crying... just standing there staring at it in disbelief.  It is so difficult to process those memories that sometimes I still break down and cry.  Why is it that memories have the ability to cut right to the heart sometimes?  For me I put on the movie RED 2 to try to take my mind off of things.  I got cleaned up for the evening and Samantha was so comforting to me.  She just hugged me as I wept.  I think it is perhaps that she too is a widow and understand loss.  Sometimes this life can be so tough.  

I am so very thankful for Samantha and my life now.  It is weird to think of all the changes that have occurred in just 3 years.  I feel like a different person.  I have stepchildren now and I love them even though I suck at being a stepfather.  I have a different life.  It is good.  It is very good.  It is just different and I suppose that difference is what highlights the memories so clearly.

So - as I start this day with a tear stained face I embrace all the memories (both good and bad) that make me who I am.  I think for us all character building is a painful process.  I'm sure you can look back on your own memories and see that even the tough ones are so vital in making you who you are today and so it is with me.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

29 August 2017 (2 yrs 253 days after The Day)

So - Hurricane Harvey has dumped trillions of gallons of water on Houston.  Many families have had their homes flooded.  This flooding in Houston is beyond any flooding ever seen in Houston.  Places that have never flooded have water in them.  I used to watch events similar to this and feel so bad for the people who had their lives turned upside down.  I felt bad but then would say well - this is so far away ... what could I do??  Then I would turn the channel and move on.

Well - with hurricane Harvey this was not possible for me to do.  I am from Houston.  I have seen flooding.  I have experienced driving in high water and have lost a vehicle to my pride in believing I could drive in high water.  My mom and sisters live there.  My mom and one sister had their home flooded and for some reason this event is a punch in the gut for me.  In a very real way it has thrust me back to when Jan died and my life was upside down.  Here it is my mom and sister have lost their home and two vehicles.  In a single night a family of five went from having comforts of this world to being homeless.  Their kids stripped of everything normal.  While I didn't experience losing a home with Jan I did experience the same feeling of the continued thinking of "48 hours ago everything was normal".  I did experience the pain of my kids having such pain.  This time I am just an observer... it is so painful.  I don't know another way to describe it.  In a way I am reliving the pain.  I just want to fix all the flooding and issues in Houston.  I wish I could just wave a magic wand and fix it all.... to put things back to normal.  I know God works in mysterious ways and that all these painful events are for our benefit but still.  It is painful.

My sister is keeping a sense of humor in all of this and that is good.  I just have to remember to take my own advice when all of this happened - just take 1 breath, 1 minute, 1 hour, 1 day at a time.  Think about what you have control over and not what you don't.  That simple advice helped me function in life after Jan died.

So - donate to the red cross or other charity that is helping those in Houston who have lost so much.  I believe it will be a while before Houstonians are back to normalcy.  


Sunday, April 16, 2017

16 April 2017 (2 yrs 120 days after The Day)

So, let me just preface that music in my family is important.  Jan and I were both active musicians in high school and college.  It has always been a symbol between us I suppose... It is even on the back of our headstone.  I mainly loved to play jazz.  While Jan leaned towards classical music she also had a love for jazz.  Harry Connick's Blue Light, Red Light was a staple in our music library.  She would also sing Ella Fitzgerald's tunes.  Summertime, for example, is one that she could sing beautifully.  I would find her humming or singing to herself sometimes.  Her voice is angelic.    

Two days ago I spend the day rebuilding a tool box.  I spent the entire day in the garage disassembling, cleaning, re-lubing, and reassembling this box.  I listen to all types of music but that day was a jazz day for me.  I listened to the jazz I love- Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb & His Orchestra, BBC Big Band Orchestra, Chu Berry, Duke Ellington, Jerry Gray, and Doc Severinsen to name a few.  Perhaps this type of music has just been with me recently.  I don't know.  Anyway - as I have previously stated - I don't really recall my dreams.  I know I do dream but nonetheless I awoke this morning with a song sung by Ella Fitzgerald which I knew the tune but not the lyrics.  As I found myself humming this tune in the shower, I was thinking to myself - what is the name of this tune?? ... Then it hit me.  Dream a little dream of me.  I looked up the lyrics on Google and they are a bit eye-opening since I hadn't thought of Ella's songs in such a long time and I didn't know this one.

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper "I love you"
Birds singing in the sycamore trees
Dream a little dream of me 
Say nighty-night and kiss me
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me
While I'm alone and blue as can be
Dream a little dream of me 
Stars fading but I linger on dear
Still craving your kiss
I'm longing to linger till dawn dear
Just saying this 
Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me 
Stars fading but I linger on dear
Still craving your kiss
I'm longing to linger till dawn dear
Just saying this 
Sweet dreams, till sunbeams find you
Gotta keep dreaming leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
You gotta make me a promise, promise to me
You'll dream, dream a little of me
Needless to say I immediately thought of Jan and her singing of Ella's songs.  I don't recall her ever singing this but in a way it was a sweet reminder to me that our loved ones are always with us.

Today, in our family, we celebrate Easter.  Easter represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb.  It is a touchy subject for me since death generally helps each of us get real on what we believe.  I was reading today's Sunday School lesson yesterday which asks the following:
Do you actually believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the literal offspring of the Father? 
Do you believe that the voice of God, the Eternal Father, was heard above the waters of Jordan declaring, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”? (Matt. 3:17.) 
Do you believe that this same Jesus was the worker of miracles, the healer of the sick, the restorer of the infirm, the giver of life to the dead? 
Do you believe that following his death on Calvary’s hill and his burial in Joseph’s tomb, he came forth alive the third day? 
Do you actually believe that he yet lives—real, vital, and personal—and that he will come again as promised by the angels at his ascension? 
I get that religion is different for many.  I get that people have differing beliefs.  I only share this section to highlight that for me, "What do you really believe?" was a question I had to answer when Jan died.  I had to get very clear.  I had to do this not only for me but for my children who were looking to me for guidance.  Do I believe that there is life after this one?  For me the answer is a solid yes.  Because of that belief, life events like this silly song hit me with profound influence reminding me that there is more to life than mortality.  For me, knowing that I will still be very much alive ten thousand years from today makes me think of mortality differently.  My life decisions are different because of it.  I think eternity has a place in all of us.  We may not want to acknowledge it but as children of God he has put a little bit of divinity in each of us.  God is not dead nor will we be in the hereafter.  That I believe.

Happy Easter to all -

Saturday, April 8, 2017

8 April 2017 (2 yrs 112 days after The Day)

So I guess I kinda suck at keeping up with this blog.  At the time that I started it was used in an attempt to keep those that wanted to know what was going on updated.  It then turned into a place for me to write down my thoughts and begin to understand my feelings.  Once I felt like I was on my feet again I slipped back into just living life.  I feel I have done myself a disservice by not writing down my thoughts.  After all - how many times do we hear stories from our kids and we honestly don't remember it.  I swear that is my life.  So again - I will give it a go to keep up with this blog.

So - much has happened since the last entry.  I have had some growing experiences with all the kids.  Some are more receptive to change than others.  Ammon wrote thank you notes to everyone.  He did this on his own.  It was very touching.  I swear that kid has such a kind heart.

The adjustment to this location is starting to settle in.  I know it sounds weird since I have lived here for as long as I have but I am starting to call this place home.  I am looking at the entire family (both biological and extended) as one.  This has helped me to adjust.  I still have sad moments.  Today was a sad day for me.  I don't know what triggered everything but I just was a little down.  I took Madilyn early this morning to eat donuts and that was a fun experience.  I am making time to not only go on daddy/(son/daughter) dates but also to have a date night with Samantha.  We went to dinner and then bowling... which was a bit interesting because of my knee... ok - need to fill you in on that.

Last weekend I smoked a bunch of BBQ and it turned out nice.

We had a bunch of Samantha's side of the family over.  It was good to visit with lots of people.  Afterwards the boys were playing baseball in the back yard with various yard objects as bases.  They invited me to play and I weighed the options ... and decided to go ahead and play.  The grass was a little wet and after about 30 min of playing I ended up slipping on the grass and injured my knee .... again.  So, I always hate that moment when you are injured and everyone tries to help and you are just a pathetic pile on the floor.  I decided I was going to smile and laugh.  It was a silly moment of excruciating pain.  The first thing I asked was if I landed in dog poop.  I think everyone knows THAT would make any injury worse.  Luckily I hadn't.  I was able to get up and hobble to the bed where I got some ice and tried to get the swelling to lessen.... so bowling a week later was more like slow pitch softball than bowling.  I find that I get a better score if I chuck the ball 1/4 of the way down the lane.  Anyway - we had a good date.

So - yes - I am settling into this new normal... yet I have times of sadness.  Today was a bit of sadness.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

8 Feb 2017 (2 yrs 52 days after The Day)

Sometimes I dream.  It is not often or perhaps better stated - I don't always remember my dreams.  I know I have them but for some reason when I wake up if I don't immediately write down the dream I really forget it quickly.  So anyway - Since Jan's death I have had only a handful of dreams with her in them.  Generally speaking she just acts normal like nothing happened and I am the weirdo flipping out that she is alive.  Anyway - all of my dreams so far with her are like that.  I always awake feeling odd like it is weird that I miss her or something.  It is hard to put into words.  Apparently my kids have also had dreams from time to time.  Sometimes they are good... sometimes not.  One of my kids is worried that I will die.  I think all my kids felt this way initially after Jan's death but since that time we have settled into a new life.  It is just a little unsettling when my kids are upset.  I don't know what it is but seeing my kids in pain is much more painful than me in pain.  I still remember Ammon at the funeral just standing amongst a mob of people in the viewing room where Jan was... he was just standing there in the center of the room looking at Jan's closed casket.  Alone.  I have so many thoughts and feelings when I see my kids experiencing pain that they shouldn't experience at that age.  At least... in my opinion.  I wish I could take their pain away.

My life when Jan was alive seems a blur.  I still have anger and still have sadness.  I am happy again. Samantha and I have a different kind of relationship which I attribute to two things - 1.) we are older so we kind of skipped to the end like we have been married for 20 years and 2.) we both experienced losing a spouse so we both strive to put first things first with our marriage.  It is so easy to stop being husband and wife and just exist as mom and dad.  That happened between Samantha and her late husband and me and Jan probably more than we want to admit.  Having a weekly date night has helped us.  Samantha found a saying on social media that said "raising kids is like being pecked to death by chickens"... sometimes it feels that way.  With one kid in college and 6 at the house we thank God that we have some sanity in being able to manage all that is going on.  Scouts, church activities, service projects, kids working, school activities, cleaning the house, go go go... honestly nobody has to rock me or Samantha to sleep.  And... little miss priss keeps us smiling the entire time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

20 Dec 2016 (2 yrs after The Day)

Well - two years has passed since that hellacious time in my life.  I learned much about myself, my children, my family, my friends, and my work.  I learned the most about God.  I learned that God allows us to live through horrific times so that we can love deeper and help others more.  For those that have to live through awful times I think you can appreciate this.  During this healing process, it was very tempting to emerge bitter and angry.  I was angry at Jan for leaving.  One thing is for sure... this event helped to strip me of pride.  I think I appreciate life more now than I ever have before.  I think back on all that has transpired and realize that I still really miss and love Jan.  I also realize that moving out of state has helped me "move on" in a way.  I suppose this pain will always be there for those that I love that pass on.  Samantha and I have an agreement with each other.  Since we are both widow/widowers ... our agreement... "You are not allowed to die".  I have grown to appreciate the love that spouses can give to each other in times of trial and sorrow.  I don't think I can adequately say how much I love and appreciate Samantha.  She really has provided stability for me in times that tough.  

Today I celebrate Claire's birthday.  I also celebrate Jan's birthday.  We had Jan's favorite cake... (yellow cake with chocolate frosting) only this one had a #2 candle on it.  It is a tough day for me.  I don't like to think about all the hell that transpired two years ago but I am thankful for a sweet daughter that loves me even during my darkest of hours.  I'm thankful for children, spouse, and family.  Love really does heal.