Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving.  The second one without her.  

Although I am missing her tremendously today, I am so very thankful for all that I have in my life.  For all the love of my family and friends.  

I am thankful I got to be her mother.  That I got to be there when she had night terrors and to wipe her tears away.  And for when she cooked for me or took care of me when I was sick.  I am thankful she was also my best friend and the best daughter.

I am thankful to have seen her excitement when she got her license and a car and when she got her first job.  I am thankful for the sleepovers no matter how noisy they were or how late they stayed up.  I am thankful to have been able to plan her birthday parties and play Rock Band on Wii with her.  I am thankful to have held her hand when she was hurting or suffering or just because.

I am thankful nothing or no one will ever take her place.  For being able to love her experiencing the deepest love for someone I ever felt.  She will always be my angel, my ubu boo boo or my Fred (private joke between us). 

I am thankful I am able to find solace in other people and life experiences to help me with my grief or to be able to be brave enough to make changes in my life.  I am thankful I am not wallowing in my grief, pitying myself or my life.

This Thanksgiving be thankful for life.  Make the most of it no matter what hand life has dealt you.  To my family and friends and supporters, I love you.  I could not go on without your love and support.  

I AM thankful…I am thankful to love her forever.

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Standing Ovation

I was asked to give a five minute speech about my life… a public speech. This meant telling strangers my story. The story that you won’t know from just looking at me. A story how my life was literally shattered into a million pieces. My friend told me my life is inspiring. I decided to do the speech which also included having a slide show. I signed up to speak at *Ignite Montrose. I don’t like public speaking. Hey I’m living a new life now. Why not?

I had about two weeks to prepare for telling my life in five minutes. It’s not nearly enough time to let my life’s story unfold. Once you are trying to figure out what to say for five minutes, it seems like it’s like trying to fill an hour. How do you fit all this info into such a short period of time? I thought about what I wanted to say…just a summary. Really? How can one’s past unfold in five minutes? But then I thought, how my life unfolded, unraveled, came to a screeching halt in a matter of seconds?

I needed to turn my slides in as soon as possible. I was late getting them in. I was speaking on Tuesday and sent them on Sunday. I didn’t give myself much preparation time. Then again, it’s my life and easy to tell just not with a short time limit. I practiced in front of my cousin and her friend. The evening before the big night, I ran through the slides once nervously fumbling with the words to follow along with the slides. I looked over and my cousin was visibly affected by my words. Keep in mind she knows my story well. I didn’t feel like I did very well even though she assured me I did. She also gave me some helpful pointers (insert emoji smiley face here).

Tuesday came. Tonight was the big night. I practiced my speech over and over as soon as I got home from work. I had about an hour to refine it. This is as good as it’s going to get I thought. So we get there and I already knew I was the second speaker after the intermission. I sat and listened to the seven speakers before me. I vaguely recall some of their speeches as it got closer and closer to my time in the spotlight. The audience included about 40 strangers in the backyard of a bed and breakfast on a gorgeous summer night. It’s now intermission and I feel my nervousness was setting in. I kept telling myself that I could do this. Heck I picked up and moved 2000 miles away from a comfortable, familiar place. I could do this speech. Maybe one person will be affected, maybe more.

It was my turn in the spotlight. I got up and walked up to the mic. I am so happy I used to play tambourine in a band which helped me with my stage fright. I picked up that mic with confidence. I could do this. It can’t be that hard right??? The MC announces me and my title “Amor Fati”. He mispronounces it and I am quick to correct him. I give a brief introduction and nod my head to start my slides. They begin and here we go…

The start of my speech was a bit bumpy. I was nervous. I began with how I was from Connecticut being a typical North-easterner working 15 miles outside New York City. The slide with that infamous date came up. I explained what happened. I looked around as I was explaining how we found out on Facebook that my daughter passed away. One of the previous speakers had her mouth agape. I kept going just like I keep going on with my life. I look around a few moments later and a woman has tears in her eyes. I went on speaking as the slides kept going. Running through that tragic day of my life—the worst tragedy I have personally experienced.

I explained the meaning of “Amor Fati” or at least my interpretation. I spoke how I am finding happiness after making huge decisions to pick up and go to jump start my life and LIVE! I kept looking around aware of my surroundings. The audience seemed fixated on my words. They had to be. I could feel all eyes were on me.

I finished my speech just as the five minutes ended. Talk about perfect timing. I thanked the audience and went to my seat with a huge feeling of relief from spewing the words of my tragic tale. The MC stepped up to the makeshift stage and thanked me. Then he asked the audience for a standing ovation. Everyone that I could see around me stood up and clapped. I was stunned. I saw how my words visibly took hold of the audience, but I was really taken aback and overwhelmed as I sat there. I am not too sure on the type of etiquette but I am pretty sure I probably should have stood up again. This was my first “standing ovation” for just me being up on stage. Just me. And my story.

I am so glad I did it. So happy I gave my speech. It was worth it. Keeping her memory alive even to strangers was healing for me. Their reaction inspired me to keep going. That I am on the right path to kick grief’s butt. Don’t get me wrong. I still cry over her loss. I have moments or a day that I am overwhelmingly missing her smile, her laugh, her smell, her touch. I must move on. I am not going to let myself fall victim to grief and stop living. It’s too easy. I am a fighter.

By the way, I have not written in a while due to living. I am happy to report that soon I am moving another 200 miles north to follow my heart…keep following my heart. I have learned it is okay to give up “things” and “stuff”. It is worth it to follow your heart. Happiness is priceless. Funny thing about that though, happiness comes from within and one would think it would be easy.

*Ignite (in any city) Montrose is a forum for public speaking giving five minute speeches. It is sort of like Toast Masters but without the um, ah, but person counting how many times you mention filler type words. They have them all around the US.

My Dear Love

This past week would have been her birthday…if she were still in this realm, we would have celebrated her 23rd birthday.  It was tough remembering the day she was born, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.  She gave a fight coming into this world. Surrounded with love and anticipation of finally meeting her, we were thrilled after thirty three hours of labor when she finally came out–especially me. Those hours will always be precious.

I always made sure her birthday parties were fun like the scavenger hunt at the mall or dipping anything she could think of in chocolate fondue instead of having cake.  I made sure all the holidays were fun instilling my own traditions.  The holidays are okay to get through now, but her birthday this year, no–that was a different story.  I felt it this year.  Last year I was still numb even surrounded by family and friends.  I made it through the day with tears shed but I made it.

As a baby, she would let anyone hold her and only fall asleep in the car if she was tired.  When a toddler, I remember she once patted me on the belly and said “look at that fat belly”.  That’s only because she was repeating what I would say to her.  I didn’t say that anymore.  One year when it was a very warm Spring, there were a lot of bugs out.  She was in the backyard and freaked out with all the bugs flying around.  My mom said it would be a very long summer.  Nothing ever changed. She always hated bugs even butterflies–which I found out at a live butterfly exhibit.  In kindergarten, she bit another little girl whom the teacher explained the two of them fought like siblings.  I would have never guessed that the other little girl would turn out being her best friend forever.

When she was a preteen, we went on a European cruise.  She ate gelato in every city we stopped and ordered chocolate lava cake every night for dinner.  We had gyro’s in Turkey.  She said it tasted like corned beef.  The woman next to us was kind enough to comment it was lamb.  She stopped eating mid-bite and her face got a horrified look on it. Soccer was also a big part of her life around this time too.  Her team wasn’t really a winning team, but they were certainly winning in the game of loving each other. The longer they played together, the better they got eventually beating a long-time rival team. That victory was glorious!

Her high school years were challenging. I would often remind her of what I told her when she was younger–you will never stop loving me but you may not like me as much as a teenager.  I think those years are challenging for all kids. The peer pressure and cliques. She stayed tight with her besties and there were many sleepovers. She wanted to be a chef and took cooking classes in high school.  She would come home and make me fried goat’s cheese or crepes.  The best was her Shepard’s pie with melted cheese on top. She would even layer it with broccoli. I am so happy that she showed me how she made it.  I love making it now.

I have so many happy memories that no one can ever take from me. She will always be my dear love obviously that will never change. She was funny and had a great sense of humor. She was beautiful inside and out. She was tall towering over me and would hunch over to hug and kiss me. When I was sick, she would take care of me and would do a good job too. We would walk to a local restaurant when it snowed to get dinner. We had planned a trip to New York City December of 2016. It snowed that morning, so we didn’t go and walked to a nearby diner for breakfast. I told her she would always be my baby no matter how old she got. We laid together and watched TV in bed. We always said ‘I love you’ when hanging up the phone or ending a conversation via text.

We argued too. I was once told I would never win an argument with her because I was only arguing with a mini me. Life with her was not always butterflies and rainbows. Though her being difficult at times never took away from the beautiful person she was. I never knew she would try heroin. I never knew or would have guessed.

She will always be my dear love. I miss her and no one will ever replace her. Forever she will be my baby no matter where she is now. She is always with me too.

One Day at a Time…

I am living…just like I wanted.  Actually, I have been quite busy living.  Settling into a new location after uprooting one’s self is challenging and has been challenging.  Finding new employment was a challenge as well as my own suitable housing.

The great news is I have found employment.  I even changed careers.  I am happy to say I work at a shoe factory–the only one in Colorado.  I pick and pack orders and handle customer service.  The really cool thing I get to do is be creative with social media.  It is also a huge learning curve as I am venturing into a job responsibility I have never had–marketing.  I look at analytics for websites and clicks.  I even wrote an article about the factory for a tourist site.  I am part of a team and feel valued.  It was not an easy start as I now have to be creative on demand.  This is a welcome challenge and career change for me.  I would have never stumbled upon it if I didn’t feel the need for a change and the urge to move.

My landlord on the other hand is yet another type of challenge.  I have been living in a tiny house without heat.  It’s been a mild winter and not too cold.  Thanks to my “Northeast” ways and moxie, I get to apply this when dealing with him–like not paying rent until I get heat.  Here is another challenge that I have adapted.  The good news is I am closer to getting heat.  Using my negotiating skills,  I demanded the landlord pay the electric bill.  Maybe that helped, maybe it didn’t.

I do have to handle each day at a time in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed.  Change can be like floating down a river quickly approaching rapids.  One can either succumb to the raging waters or fight to live.  I choose to fight.  Change is scary too.  Since she died, my whole world has been turned upside down.  Then I went and added more chaos by moving 2,000 miles across the country.  Yes, I have family that welcomed me here.  I still left my comfort zone behind to forge through my grief.

A drastic change has been worth it though.  Especially when I get to form bonding relationships with new people.  The first is my cousin.  She has been my local rock.  I will always be grateful and love her for that.  Barely knowing me, she welcomed me with open arms.  I have even added her to my “best friend collection”.  We see each other at least once a week.  We are there for each other.  She cares about me and I care about her.

The second person I have grown especially fond of is an amazing man.  Near the end of November, I was a bit bored.  I signed up for a dating site only for entertainment purposes.  I have never put too much faith in meeting people of value on dating sites. Guess what…I did meet someone.  Our first date was on New Year’s Eve and since then we have seen each other every weekend.  He listens to me and he gets me.  He never judges me and he laughs with me.  I can be completely honest with how I feel in my life.  I can freely and openly talk about my daughter and her death.  He doesn’t even view me as broken.  He accepts all of me.

Change is good.  In fact, it has been great.  People ask my why I moved to Colorado.  Most people I just tell them for a change of scenery.  There will always be challenges in life.  They don’t go away.  I am learning to live again.  It can be raw and frightening.  It has also been refreshing and vivid.  I have been able to add a couple more people to my intimate circle of family and friends.  Yes, I still miss my daughter immensely and cry about her loss.  I think about her everyday and I always will.  The grief comes flooding back in fleeting moments.  I brush the tears away and go on.  On difficult days, I remind myself why I wanted a change.  I feel strong and alive.  I am living….again.

By no means am I trying to replace her loss.  I am only filling up where there is room for more loving people to be a part of my life.  I let more love in and get more love back.  I am thankful I have been strong enough to push myself outside of my comfort zone.  Life is grand but truly living is priceless.

 

Chasing Rainbows

 

Rifle Falls

Always look for the rainbows…

Back in September of 2017, I decided to move.  I quickly figured out where I wanted to move to and asked for some signs that the location was right.  I am very spiritual and I pay attention to the “signs”.  I chose to move to Colorado which is a little over 2000 miles from where I had been living in Connecticut.  Also the signs did not disappoint.  I got three immediate signs for Colorado in the form of a conversation of co-workers in my office, a caller that was provided with incorrect info but looking to move to Colorado and the sight of a Colorado license plate while sitting in traffic.  I asked and got three immediate confirmations all in the same day.

I had offers of places to move to–Upstate New York…Florida…even the Dominican Republic.  My decision to move to Colorado was based on part that I spent five years of my childhood growing up on the Western Slope–Grand Junction to be specific.  I loved the time there and was really sad when we moved to Connecticut.  I even came back to visit quite a few times after moving.  I always cherished the diversity of living on a farm to moving to a city.  I felt it was right…besides the “signs” confirmed to me it would be right.  And I also have family living in Colorado too.

So I made the arrangements to move.  I gave notice to my job which was 15 miles outside New York City and hired a real estate agent to rent out my house.  I was so busy and felt so alive…finally.  I knew I had a lot of work to do.  I felt like there was purpose to living again.  And yes, I was renting out the house I raised my daughter where I had lived for the past 15 years. I spent the next four weeks purging the contents of my house.  It was not an easy task.  I recall going through boxes of her saved school projects, artwork, school papers and just crying.  I kept going.  I packed those items carefully away.  I packed away the Christmas decorations as I knew I couldn’t bear to see them or her nutcracker collection.  I just wasn’t ready for that this year.

I was asked by many why I was moving.  Was I running from the pain and the memories?  What did I hope to find by moving?  Was I scared to leave all behind?  Well I knew I was not running from anything.  I was moving towards something.  A new beginning, new memories for me to make, new holiday traditions, new….new…new.  Part of me couldn’t fathom the thought of the upcoming holidays and not having the same traditions we celebrated since my daughter was young.   Guess what?  You can never run from the pain either.  It is still with me just as it was before I moved.   I am pretty sure that no matter where I decided to move, the pain of losing her will always be with me no matter what.

The important thing is that I was forcing a change in my life.  A change that was definitely going to jump start my life.  A change that I knew would be difficult and is still difficult.  I am finding myself again.  I am answering those questions that I had when she first passed.  I am finding out how truly strong and resilient I am.  I know I can’t replace her or the memories and I wouldn’t want to.  But I can create new adventures and memories to file along with the other cherished ones when she was alive.  I also know that she is always with me in spirit…ALWAYS!

I do feel vibrant again just like a rainbow.  Maybe I feel more alive than I did before she passed since I have a new life to rebuild.  I jump started my life with a major life change and am now chasing rainbows of happiness.  I love rainbows and always have.  I find them mystical and beautiful.  I want my life to be full of rainbows.  Some rainbows are brighter than others and some are harder to find.  Sometimes you don’t see them for awhile.  I will keep chasing and looking for the rainbows.  I can’t wait to share them with the new people I am meeting as well as my family and friends I left in Connecticut.  Besides, the ones I left behind are only a phone call or a plane ride away.

I am not saying that everyone needs to pick up and move like I did.  Moving just happened to be MY rainbow.  Define what your rainbow or rainbows are and go chase them!  Go seek out your happiness.

Peace, love and light.

Loving yourself…

 

Ever stop and really think about unconditional love?  Have you ever loved someone unconditionally whether it’s a child or other family member?  Maybe it is a spouse or your best friend forever or a pet.  Unconditional love can be given to so many different categories of people in your life.  What about loving your self unconditionally?

Today is Christmas Eve…I wasn’t sure what to write about.  Truth is I have been having a really tough time this past week leading up to the holiday.  For one, it’s my first Christmas without my beautiful daughter.  Second, the one year mark of her tragic passing is only a few days after Christmas.  This past week has been  filled with incredibly raw emotions.  I have felt so emotionally vulnerable, sensitive and ungrounded.

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time alone reading, drawing, meditating, watching videos that interest me.  I felt peaceful by the time I spent a good part of the day keeping to myself.  I was more grounded.  This past week, I didn’t meditate every day like I usually do.  I felt like I was in this tearful abyss within a black hole of emotional junk.  I started to be upset with myself for not meditating.  Today, I realize, I still need to be gentle with myself and forgive myself.  I have imperfections and it is okay to have imperfections.

With it being Christmas Eve this morning and also a Sunday, I went to church.  I am not religious by any means–just very spiritual.  But I went to accompany someone who had asked me to go.  As I sat there sort of meditating letting the junk out of my head and peacefully listening to the choir, a conversation with a friend came to mind from the prior evening.  We were talking about loving your self.  And that in order to love someone else, you have to truly love your self.

Today I was thinking more on how important I need to love myself with greater effort.  Not in a vain or conceded way.  But in a loving and gentle way allowing myself to make mistakes.  You know why, because as humans that is how we learn and is what molds us into the person we are or will become.  It takes time.  I don’t think loving your self unconditionally is something that you may automatically possess.  I feel as I get older, I am learning to accept the things I didn’t care for about myself and to love myself no matter what.  This is a sort of love that takes time and energy.  Unconditional love to your self should be the greatest romance in your life.  Then you may be able to set your self free of the demons that haunt you.  Mine happen to be the demons of grief and the emotions and feelings that are caused by grief.  Everyone has something different.

With this revelation that came to me, I am going to practice more on loving myself unconditionally.  I have to in order to get through the darkest days that are coming ahead so I don’t lose myself in that emotional abyss again.  If I do feel lost again, I will do my best to remember the unconditional love that I have for myself to guide me out of the darkness.  Unconditional love for myself will be my guiding light.  I felt lost this past week with the anticipation of the coming days.  I have to love myself in order to be fully living in this life.  I always say that the only person that truly has your back is…yourself.  If you don’t love your self, then how can you be truly happy and free? If you love your self, would you not be inviting others to love you too?  Like opening up a gate and letting the love flow in.

For Christmas or whatever other holiday you may be celebrating or even with the coming of the new year, give your self the gift of unconditional love.  My gift to myself is wrapped up and ready to go and is full of unconditional love.

Peace, love and light.