Wednesday, July 29

Loss is Loss

Today marks 9 years ago that my older brother was unexpectedly killed in a car accident. I've written about the grief that accompanied that loss before, here and here. Grieving Jeremy was difficult, long, and exhausting. In the years since his loss, I have wondered often what he would have thought of my life, if he would have been proud of me. Losing Jeremy was my first-and I fervently hoped my only-experience with raw, real, close grief. I remember a few weeks before Ammon died, I was sitting in Brooklyn's room nursing her to sleep. As often happened during those quiet times, my mind wandered over the experiences of my past, and more specifically-losing Jeremy. In a weird way, losing my beloved older brother had provided me with a sense of security for many years. I thought, surely, that I would be insulated from more tragedy. Our family had already experienced one startling and painful loss, and that would provide insurance against experiencing another. On that quiet winter afternoon, I gently reminded myself that the loss of Jeremy was not an insurance policy. I reminded myself of other people that I have known who lost children, parents, siblings, friends. Sometimes losses are separated by several years, and to the rest of the world, aren't lumped together. I calculated that it had been 7 1/2 years since the loss of my brother, and that whatever 'insurance policy' that loss had afforded our family, it was almost certainly expired.

I think that internal conversation was just another example of the small steps I subconsciously took to prepare myself for the loss of my beloved husband. I shuddered a bit with the realization that our safety net had expired, braced myself for further tragedy, and went on with my day.

Within weeks, Ammon was gone, and a second man was stolen immaturely from my life.

When I researched the old posts to link them on this blog, I read through them. This quote, from a post I wrote about 18 months before losing Ammon, reverberates with me today:

I can't believe sometimes that it's been almost 7 years since he died. Some days it seems like he just left, and then other days, it seems like he was just a figment of my imagination. It seems like I imagined that I had this great brother, and that he loved me and looked out for me. It's strange how a death affects the dynamics of your family, it makes everybody realign their position, even unconsciously, to fill the void that this person has created. You all feel obliged to fill the spot that has been vacated, the roles that are now available. I think the loss still reverberates throughout our family as we struggle to know how we fit together without him.

It reminds me of what I wrote in this post:

Sometimes, this is what being a widow feels like. Sometimes, it's not that fact that he isn't here that makes me ache inside. Sometimes, it's the fact that it feels like he was NEVER here that makes me wish I could curl up and die. The feeling that I made it all up--our marriage, our love, the future we had together. Because if it was real, if he really existed, how does it stand to reason that he's NOT here now? How could somebody so real, so vibrant, simply cease to exist? It's easier some days for my mind to rationalize that he wasn't real than to try to figure out how he could be so inexplicably gone.

I suppose grief is grief. I was a bit startled to see such kindred emotion poured into two different blogs. For two different men. At two different times. I know that grief takes a different shape for each person, and that loss affects each of us differently--apparently the twisting of memory, reality, and time is part of how my mind copes. And I think I'm okay with that, because really? what else can I do?

Today I'm trying to roll with it. I move in three days. I have packing, cleaning, and errands to do. I went to the gym this morning and need a shower while Brooklyn is napping, but instead I'm going to play my Quiet Mix (AKA: Songs to Cry Too) on iTunes, sit on the sofa, and miss the two great men in life.

Grief sucks.

And sometimes, I feel like a pro.

That sucks even worse.

Wednesday, July 15


I have learned so much as I have gotten more comfortable with my role as widowed parent in the last 15 months. I see in myself many changes, and am pleased with a lot of them. I know, for example, that I do not want to be the widow who, in five or ten years, says "I don't think I'll ever remarry". I DO want to remarry, and a life without another partner to share it with is inconceivable to me. In that vein, I am finally ready to declare myself 'out there'.

It's a peculiar thing, really. I know it's a question that most widowed people are faced with at some point or another along the grief journey, and it seems as though the widowed soul can't win. You're either dating too soon, not dating early enough, or dating the wrong people. You're either too reserved when dating, or rushing into a new relationship too quickly. You're either living your own life on your own terms, or dishonoring your late spouse by trying to move past your loss and find something new.

I'm not concerned with many of these. By some standards, 15 months is a lengthy grieving process. To others, 15 months is an extremely short amount of time. To me, 15 months is the only experience I have. In my previous half-hearted forays into the online dating world, I knew I wasn't ready. At 2 months out, I was desperately seeking to fill the void Ammon had left behind. I wanted a replacement for him, a carbon copy. I wasn't ready, but was lucky enough to come out of the experience unscathed. At 9 months, I tried again. At that point I was lonely, and seeking to fill the void in my own life. I was no longer seeking a carbon copy of Ammon, but tried too hard to make somebody else fit into my life. Again, luckily, I came out unscathed. I went on one actual date, then deleted my profile and canceled my membership to the site. Again a few months later, around the one year mark, I tried the dating site. I met another nice individual--but at this point, I recognized the signs of not being ready clearly. I backed away before the relationship could progress, and since then I have immersed myself in schoolwork, my family, and self-examination.

What is the common thread to all of these failed attempts?

I was simply not ready.

I knew, each time, in my heart that I wasn't. I purposely and intentionally chose men that lived too far away from me to make a real relationship work. I chose men that I knew weren't appropriate for one reason or another, and only gave them part of my attention. I shied away from anything resembling romance, or declaration of affection. I prepared myself for the backing away that I knew I would eventually engage in.

This time is different. I have little interest in the dating sites, because invariably the interested parties live too far apart to pursue any actual relationship. I know that I'm ready because I actually want to meet somebody that lives near me. I want to actually date somebody, not just exchange email and talk on the phone occasionally. I want to get to know somebody enough that they can meet my kids, and I want to feel romance again. It's not loneliness this time that has led me to seeking out a relationship--it is simply the desire to share myself and my family with another human being. I want to fall in love, and make time for somebody else in my life. I do it not to fulfill my life, but to enrich it. In these small differences, I know are the distinctions that matter. My love for Ammon hasn't faded. I wrote here previously that I would always be Ammon's widow--and I will be. I think, though, that I'm ready to tuck my love for him in a special compartment of my heart, to be taken out and held when I need to feel it's warmth. It's a portion of my heart that shall not belong to somebody else, but I'm not afraid to let him see it. To feel the texture of the love that I have for Ammon, this man who gave me my children and I will spend eternity with. My love for him hasn't changed--and yet it has. It's become more powerful, more pure, and more easily tucked away. And I feel that somewhere, he's pleased about this.

Through it all, though, I know that this too will be a journey. Perhaps it holds pain. Perhaps it holds another series of stepping back and re-assessing--and that's okay. I've experienced what I believe is the worst pain a human being can endure and still continue breathing, and have come through it stronger, more sure of myself, and confident. I'm grateful for the challenges that the last 15 months have presented to our family, and I look forward to whatever lies ahead. I'm hoping it includes somebody tall, handsome, and playful.

So, would-be-matchmakers-this is your assignment: your cute brother, your neighbor, your co-worker. The charming bachelor who sits a few rows in front of you during sacrament meeting--set us up. Put him in touch with me, or set up a blind date. I'm going with the rule of 15 here: he must be at least 15 years younger than my father, and at least 15 years older than my son.

I have faith that somewhere, somebody is being prepared to love me and my family. I hope he's nearing ready, because I'm ready to meet him. Here's to Chapter 2.

Tuesday, July 14

More Ohio Pictures

I shamelessly stole these from my friend Cindy's blog. She got pictures that I didn't, and since most of them include either myself or my children, I feel no guilt. Besides, she stole some from me first.

Sometimes, a girl just have to have her Sonic fix. Happy hour is a great thing, that's all have to say.

Emily and Cindy were fascinated with the size of these trees. In this picture, I am fascinated with the sheer size of my calves. Thanks for those cankles, Dad!
Brooklyn and Mommy having some love. We took a walk in the park the last day that Emily and Cindy were here, and Brooklyn really enjoyed being on my shoulders. It's always been a 'Daddy' thing to do in our family, so it's something she's never done before. She caught right on!

I think there's another picture out there after Brooklyn has put the glasses back on my face, and they're upside down. Cindy? Can I have that one too?

Thursday, July 9


After much anticipation, July finally dawned last week! My wonderful friends Emily and Cindy bought plane tickets to come out for a visit on July 1st back in January, and since then we have all been anxiously awaiting the day their vacation arrived. I've only seen Cindy once since I left Utah two years ago, and Emily twice-albeit one of them was for Ammon's funeral, and therefore hardly counts. The best part of this trip? EVERY child was being left behind. In the spirit of the trip, I also arranged for my children to go visit Grandma and Grandpa for a few days while Emily and Cindy were here (THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!). We packed every moment of our kid-free time. They arrived after midnight on Wednesday, and by the time we arrived back at my apartment after collecting luggage, we didn't settle down to go to sleep until nearly 3 am. After a few hours of rest, we set out on Thursday morning to King's Island.

Those of you with children will recognize Cosmo from the cartoon Fairly Odd Parents. I took the photo thinking Jeremy would be really excited, but upon seeing the picture he informed me that this looks "nothing like Cosmo. And where is Wanda?" Tough audience.
Emily and Cindy waiting in line. It's early in the day, so the crushing fatigue and throats worn raw by screaming haven't set in yet.

I located a kind-looking random stranger to take this picture.

On Friday, we again woke early and and drove to Columbus to attend the temple and do some church work. Friday was also what would have been my 9th wedding anniversary, and was an extremely emotional day. I sobbed my way through the temple ordinances, and cried again in the car afterward. Determined not to ruin the day, however, I pulled it together and we drove to lunch at Applebee's. The presence of an extremely talented balloon artist helped to further lighten the mood.

We received a monkey in a banana tree, a flower, and a pink flamingo. He was amazing!

Saturday was the 4th of July, and after a sweaty session at the YMCA, we all showered and headed up to Dayton to pick up my kids. We ate lunch with my in-laws, loaded the kids up, and drove home. For the rest of the day, we basically took it easy. We played, we grilled diner, and we barely acknowledged the passage of the fourth of July. Last year, the fourth was a tough holiday for me. The same held true this year, and I was content to not force myself to attend any of the festivities. I'm grateful for friends who understood this. By Monday afternoon, after another session at the gym and swim lessons for the boys, we went miniature golfing.

The kids had a great time going through the course at their usual speed, and since we were hoping to make it to a movie after golfing, we made no effort to hold them back. We wisely only paid for the boys to golf, which allowed us to move quickly through most of the course.

We took a few pictures while waiting for the golfers ahead of us to finish.

Our final big activity: we deposited Brooklyn with my nieces for a couple hours, and took the boys to see Disney's UP in 3-D. It was so neat! I was absolutely enthralled with how the images jumped off the screen, and was disappointed that the boys didn't want to wear the glasses.

I'm so grateful that Emily and Cindy took the time out of their schedule to visit us here in Ohio. I was also able to schedule a gathering of some close friends from my church on Friday night, and I think everybody enjoyed sitting around and chatting about life in general. I scheduled the party that night in an effort to show Emily and Cindy what it is that I choose to stay in Cincinnati--I have a family here, and they are amazing. I'm so grateful to have been able to share part of that with some of my Utah family. Thanks guys, and I'm already counting the days until next year!

Dale Hollow Lake

The boys and I had such a fabulous time at the lake in Tennessee. We left here Sunday morning after sending Brooklyn to Dayton with Grandpa, and the five hour drive was pretty uneventful. Thanks to a combination of GPS and written directions, there were no hiccups in the drive. We found our campsite, and quickly identified the group that we would be spending all our time with.

The first night there was a downpour. The torrential rains continued for most of the night, and by morning everything inside our tent was damp. The humidity and heat were extremely high, and between those factors and the constant drip inside the tent, sleep was hard to come by. By morning, as I laid everything we brought out to dry, I seriously considered packing up and driving home.

Finally, by late afternoon, it appeared as though most of our belongings would recover, and the pontoon boat was finally ready to run. Within the first few moments on the lake, with the wind running through our hair and the smiles of my children, my earlier plans to abandon the camping trip were forgotten.

The kids each took a turn driving the pontoon boat.
The other adults on this trip were kind and helpful, and the boys thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them.
Miss Karen was our resident boating expert, having attended this bago in the past, and let each one of the boys take a turn steering.

By the third day, the speedboat was finally ready to run. The first trip out held (from left) Lois, Dave, Peggy, myself, and three of the youngest kids--mine included.

After a quick lesson from Miss Karen on the rules of boating, and an overview of tubing hand signals, we were ready to go.
One of the more experienced kids rode the tube first to show the kids how to do it, and then Jeremy took his turn. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of Kadon riding the tube, or myself. My camera spent most of the time either on shore or on the pontoon boat, so pictures of our water activities were few and far between. As these activities constituted most of our trip, there aren't very many photos.
One of the nights we were there, we all walked to the Sunset Marina Restaurant. Ray, the head camping goober, was in charge of this shindig. The speedboat was owned by him, and he did all the coordinating prior to the trip. He is somebody that I met in Florida, and it was good to reconnect with him and get to know him a little bit better. It was also good to introduce my kids to Raybob. They really enjoyed hassling him, and he handled it like a pro.

By this point in the trip, the kids were exhausted. Every night was a late night, and every morning we were up with the birds. Combine a basic lack of sleep with spending every day in the sun and water, and I'm actually pleased that the kids held up as well as they did. There were very few tantrums, and a minimum of whining all things considered. In fact, at least two nights while we were there, Kadon asked to go to bed. They slept so good when we got home!

Some of my fellow widows: Peggy, Karen, and Lois. I enjoyed, as always, getting to know them, and the sharing of stories. They are all farther out than me by quite a bit, and their experience is invaluable.
Diana and her two children became great friends to us. After the first night when everything in our tent got soaked, they insisted that the kids and I squeeze into their pop-up trailer. We were so grateful for the dry beds and air conditioning that we ended up sleeping there for the rest of the trip.
This night we didn't even make it to the restaurant until 7:30, so my kids were both starving AND exhausted.

From the top of the double-decker pontoon boat, this slide went into the water. After some initial hesitation, Jeremy happily spent several days sliding down it. No matter what incentive I offered, though, Kadon refused to consider a trip down the slide. Maybe next year, I suppose.

As always, I had such a wonderful time. It was an incredibly liberating thing to pack all our camping supplies into the car, drive five hours to a place I have never been, and camp--mainly with people I had never met. We got the tent set up, we went boating, we had a fabulous time. So many times since I have been widowed, I have learned that I am capable of more than I think I am. Usually this ability manifests in some sort of household task, ability at school, or general emotional competence. Sometimes, I get lucky. Sometimes, that ability is manifest in something exciting, new, and different. I'm so grateful I got to give my children this experience. I'm sure it's something that they'll never forget, and I can't wait for next year!