Friday, December 31, 2010

One Year

One year ago today, at this very moment in time, Dan and I were snuggled in our bed. We turned on Sports Center and then laughed throughout the show "Mic'ed Up." I had never seen the show before. They play snip-its from football player's conversations on the field. Our favorite, that morning, was Brett Favre. Apparently there was a ref making terrible calls. In a very calm voice, Brett told the referee, "You know what man? Why don't you go ahead and take two weeks off.....then quit." We laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

While still in the bed, Dan's phone rang. It was Billy. Dan answered with a huge smile on his face, because he loved "HIS BILLY." It actually turned out to be Heidi on the other end, and Dan and Heidi made fun of each other (situation normal), then eventually talked about our evening plans. The four of us were going out to dinner in Baltimore.

We snuggled in bed some more and Dan eventually decided he was going to go to the gym. After countless attempts to get me to come with him, he decided he might as well put some music on his iPod, since I wasn't going to be there to conversate with. We had just purchased these iPods and Dan started messing with his. He made a video of the dogs, and then of me. I hate being recorded, especially as pretty as I am in the morning, but that made Dan want to do it even more. At the end of the video, I put my hand up toward Dan to block the view, and said, "Don't you have somewhere to be?" How could we ever have known, how right I really was.

Dan got up to put gym clothes on, and I got up to start rummaging through my closet. I pulled out two outfits for the evening. As Dan was walking down the hall toward the stairs, I stopped him, and held both outfits up. I didn't even have to ask, he knew what I wanted him to do for me, but instead he said, "You look beautiful in anything, wear what you want." I said, "Dan, just tell me." He replied, "I like them both, you be the tie breaker." At this point he had already headed down the stairs, and had the front door open. It was freezing outside, and Dan had on gym shorts and only a hooded sweatshirt. He looked up at me, and said, "Bye Honeyahhhhh." I rolled my eyes. He flipped up the hood to the maroon Nike sweatshirt and shut the door behind him.

That was the last time I ever saw my husband alive.

Six days later, January 6, 2010, they lowered him into his final resting place.

Today, I am remembering my Dan, and everything he was. His legacy lives on through me and everyone who loved him. Am I scared to face another year without my husband? Yes. Do I fear that I will never love as deeply as I did for him? Yes. Am I reluctant to fully enjoy what life has to offer me? Yes. Am I going to continue to lean on my friends and family for support when I can't walk down this road on my own? Yes.

Am I going to let it stop me from trying? No.

My precious friends and amazing family have been brainstorming and planning and loving me so much. They want to be there for me today, on Dan's "Angel-Date." The truth is, they have been there for me since this very date last year. Sitting on my kitchen floor and crying with me. Sleeping on the couch and crying with me. Feeding me, clothing me, taking care of me when I couldn't. Then, watching as my wings began to heal little by little. Smiling with me again. Running with me. Laughing with me, and then repeat. I am not sure what I can ever do to repay the fierce love I've been blessed with. But again, I am not going to let it stop me from trying.

I don't miss Dan any more or any less today than I have since one year ago. Although, today, I want to make him proud. I'm not going to spend the day in bed with the cover over my head ignoring the world. I started the day with this blog, I am going to walk out the door and go for a run listening to DMX and Tupac...just like Dan would have, I am going to have some coffee with Heidi and Billy, I am going to call my sister and listen to my Lilly-Bug laughing in the background. I will visit the cemetery. I will lean on all my girls, and love them as hard and unconditionally as they love me.

My heart will also be with my friend Jill, as she celebrates the life of her mother this morning at a memorial service. May God's loving arms wrap around both of us today, as we remember two lives, very well lived.

Make the resolution this year, to tell the ones closest to you that you LOVE them. Hug whenever humanly possible, and live with no regrets. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 2011.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

This Morning

Yup, it's still December, sigh. And actually it's December 25th, Christmas morning. I haven't been smiling a whole lot this month, however, I smiled when I saw the snow this morning. The light feathery flakes as they blew by the window and the thought of how big my Lilly-Bug's smile must have been when she opened her gifts from Santa, also brought me joy. There was also something else that made me smile, reflect, and hope.

As I let the boys out the back door this morning, I saw a small sparrow that was hoovering and trying so hard to fly. Gunner spotted the injured bird right away and ran toward it. The bird at this point was on the ground and Gunner was nosing it. I ran outside and yelled, "LEAVE IT!!". A shocked Gunner, looking at his crazy mom in her camo fleece pants and no shoes, immediately left the bird alone. (Luckily Marlo never saw the bird, or this would be where the story ends.)

I got the boys back in the house and frantically searched for something to scoop the bird into. I at least wanted to get the bird out of harm's way. There were going to be no birdy-murders in my backyard on Christmas morning, this I was sure of.

I put shoes on and headed back outside to the rescue. As I approached the bird I saw the scared look in it's eyes. The look of fear broke my heart. I scooped it up in the glass decorative tray (the only thing I could find) and just as I lifted it, the bird started to fly. It didn't fly fast right away, it hoovered like a humming bird, right in front of my face. I swear the bird was looking at me, taking me all in. Then just like that, it flew high into the sky. I could see that one of it's wings was not working as well as the other, but this bird still flew, and the bird still sang.

I can't help but think it was a sign this crisp December morning. A sign with a lesson to be learned. Just like Martina McBride's song, "And with a broken wing, she still sings, she keeps an eye on the sky....and with a broken wing, she still sings, man you oughta see her fly...."

I am broken. I am deeply wounded by grief and loss, yet I can still sing and one day, with the continued gentle "lift" of my friends and family, I will fly too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

They Said It Best

~Ah! You can die, the world can collapse, I have lost the one I love. I must now live in this terrible solitude where memories are torture. ~Albert Camus

December has threatened, taunted my every day. The December of two thousand nine, and now the December in two thousand ten. December 31, 2009 torturing my every memory with the smells of the hospital, the faces of my family as they entered the room. The room. The hospital staff had us wait there, until the doctor himself came in and asked me questions. Does your husband have tattoos? Where are they? What shoes did your husband have on when he went to the gym? My answers. "Mrs. Shriner, something tragic has happened. Your husband suffered a massive heart attack. We worked on him for a good long time, but there was nothing we could do. I am so sorry."

Am I here? Who's banging the table...that's the heart beat in my ears. Is it New Year's Eve, we have a dinner reservation to keep? If I dig my nails into my arm, I will wake up. Why am I bleeding, people don't bleed in dreams. I can't breath. I need my husband. Something awful has just happened, and I need to speak with my husband...

From that moment forward, the only speaking Dan and I have done, has been me, talking to him, across our worlds.

~Why do our faces search the empty sky? Is there something we have forgotten, some precious thing wandering in strange lands?~Arna Bontemps

Nine days ago, as the first of December descended upon me, I rose for the day with a heavy heart. As each day passes, and the temperatures grow colder, so does my perspective:

Wow, what a year. You look tired. Your face looks older than you are. You survived the year, even though you didn't want to, and at times begged not to, you survived. You completed the half marathon you and Dan signed up to do in April. You began to write, smile, joke, and laugh again, sometimes without faking it. You ran a half marathon in October and another this month, 4 days ago. Three in one year, Dan would be proud. You are working, making friends, keeping friends, and welcoming new love around you as well as new lives into the world. Good for you. So, What is the reward? Oh right, another year to endure without your husband.

When I went to the "Minute-Clinic" at CVS the other day, the doctor had to check my blood pressure six times. It was so high the first three times he checked it, he thought that his machine was broken, so he took it by hand. Still high. He sat back in the chair and asked me what was going on. I bet he's sorry he asked. As I walked out of the room that day, he took my hand. He looked at me in my eyes and said, "You have a very nice persona about you, Tiffin. I will be praying for you."

Thank you Lord, for I know that you place these prayer warriors strategically in my path, to help carry me down this precarious road. Forgive my cynicism, for I find it hard to be joyous with the hollow loss of my Dan echoing so loudly in my heart.

~Of all duties, prayer certainly is the sweetest, and most easy.~ Laurence Sterne

The sun is going to continue to come up every day. The Earth will continue to turn, and the moon will rise at night. It will do this on Dan's "Angel-Date" and the first of the year after that. I will continue to have times when I know I am going to be OK, and I will have moments when I can't pick myself up off the floor. I will also continue to share my journey, and appreciate the allowance to do so.

~One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book. Give it, give it all, give it now.~Annie Dillard

I want December to speed away, and leave me be. I want the days to grow longer and the click of my heat to stop sounding on. There are many "wants" on my list these days but above all, I want the courage, the strength, and the wisdom to get me through.

Allow me to not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. For, it is because of Jesus Christ's birth and then death, that I will be able to see my Dan again, one fine day.
~Every parting gives a foretaste of death, every reunion, a hint of the resurrection.~Arthur Schopenhauer

Monday, November 29, 2010


I just got off the phone with my sister. I don't have to explain to her every detail of a "Blah" day, because she knows what that means. She most likely knows that it's a "blah" day even before I do because our spirits are so kindred. Either way, today was just, "Blah." Nothing could have made my heart smile to it's full capacity, there weren't even tears on the cusp, there was no road rage (even when I was cut off at the "Death Circle"....those of you that live in Odenton know exactly the circle I'm talking about too, the one by Lucky's) anyway, today I was just indifferent about everything.

Sparing you every small detail, I will retell some of my steps forward, and then back, a dance if you will, over the Thanksgiving break.

Wednesday: I took off my wedding rings. I cried, cried, and cried again as I put them in my engagement ring box, and established them a place in my room.

Thursday: I went to Ryan's Father's house in a land Far, Far, Away. Seriously, you drive to the end of the Earth, and then make a left. It was lovely, it was different, and I was really OK. Besides not feeling well, It wasn't like "normal" Thanksgiving, so there was no added sadness to the sadness that lays upon my heart daily to begin with. It was a turkey dinner with wonderful people and hopefully a "new" tradition for me.

Friday: Sick and then sicker. This equals quality couch time and maybe a little feeling sorry for myself.

Saturday: Feeling better, spent a good portion of the day writing/reading and then continuing that pattern at the cemetery. Came home and had the AWESOME (insert sarcasm) idea to charge Dan's iPod. Last year on Black Friday we went to Best Buy at 4:00 am. We spent entirely too much money on electronics including two new iPods. On the morning that happened to be Dan's fateful day, we laid in bed watching Sports Center. We laughed, teased, loved, and snuggled. When he decided to go to the gym, he went up to the loft and grabbed his iPod. It didn't have any music on it yet, but he was messing around with it and figured out that it could take video. What was there to video but sleepy me in the bed and our boys. Fast forward to Saturday night: When the iPod was fully charged, and I had consumed too much Bud Light, I decided to watch the videos he had recorded. NOT SMART. I cried, screamed, snotted, upset the boys, and I'm sure anyone else within a 100 mile radius too!

Sunday: Always feel better after a good cry. It was sunny and I liked the warmth. Gingerbread coffee, kisses and amazing hugs from my Lilly Bug, my sister feeding us delicious fatty snacks while watching football, a Raven's win, and in bed by 8 pm made for a pretty good day.

Today, Monday: BLAH.

1. Couldn't leave for work without putting my wedding rings back on.

2. "Want To" comes on the radio on the way to work.

3. "Want To" comes on the radio on the way home from work.

4. Why am I giving myself a timeline? Why do I second guess my every emotion and everything I do? Why do I continue to judge myself harder than anyone else ever would?

5. Stop with the questions, your heart is palpitating. Just freakin' live your life, would you?


Tomorrow is the last day of November which will signify the last day of the 11 month without my Dan. There are SO many things that I have done/accomplished that I NEVER thought I would eleven months ago. Some things I am extremely proud of, some things I am not.

Team Shriz leaves on Friday to run the Rock N' Roll Vegas Half Marathon. We are minus a few Team members, (Jaime, Ryan, Michelle, and Greg) but I know they will be our Maryland cheering section, just as I know my angel runner will guide us on every pound of the foot in Nevada.

Tonight, I am going to finish reading a book I started this weekend called, "90 Minutes in Heaven" by Don Piper. This book offers comforting words about those who go before us. I so hope that Dan is enjoying some of the wonderful things witnessed by this man. I also hope that it is true, when you go to Heaven, you don't think regretfully upon the things you left in your mortal life. I don't regret any time that Dan and I had the pleasure of spending together.

I would like to stop feeling so confused and regretful at times, in my new life as well.

~And we can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask for anything in line with his will. And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that he will give us what we ask for. ~ 1 John 5:14-15

Lord, Please hear my prayer. Please.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Boys

Only other dog lovers can understand how I feel about my kids, Gunner and Marlo. They have the ability to shine light on even the darkest days.

In 2004 Dan and I went on vacation. We were going to be very early for our flight so we decided to follow the pet adoption signs to a Pet Smart in Georgia. We were in Georgia, so there was NO WAY we were going to adopt a dog, right? We walked up to front of the building and bounding over (all ten pounds of him) was a black and white wild eyed puppy dragging a 270 pound woman in his wake. She kept calling, "Whoa Nathan, slow down, Nathan!" I think Dan and I decided immediately to adopt him, just to save him from his name! You can't name a pit-bull from the dirty south, Nathan!

We did adopt him and immediately named him Gunner, after Dan's work in the Marine Corp. We bought a cat-carrying case and placed Gunner inside. He came on the plane with us, staying under my seat. He slept the entire way home from Georgia to Maryland, however, his intestines were WIDE awake. That puppy passed gas every 2 minutes the whole 2 hour trip home. I swear I thought the pilot was going to drop the oxygen masks at the requests of the passengers. Of course, Dan being Dan, kept pointing at me and shrugging his shoulders, knowing how embarrassed I was! I giggle every time I think of that.

Gunner grew up to be an amazing dog. He is not the pit-bull we were told he was, and even grew out of looking like one at all. He is beautiful, smart, loving, and the only reason I would want to know what kind of dog he is, is because I would like to breed a million just like him. I loved Gunner so much, I didn't want another dog at all. I was certain that I couldn't have as much love for another dog, and I didn't think that was fair. Plus, we had just bought a townhouse, and the thought of two dogs, all the hair, and everything else was not on the top of my list.

It was December 2006, and Dan and I were laying in bed on a Saturday morning. He rolled over and started hugging me and smiling that "I'm being super nice right now, because I want something smile." I remember laughing and just waiting for his sales pitch. Here it was, "So you know how you were going to go Christmas shopping for me today?" My response, "ummhmmm..." "Well, there really isn't anything I want. What if we went to the SPCA?? If you let me adopt a dog, that could be my Christmas AND birthday present??!!??" I say, "Dan, we can go to the SPCA, but we are NOT adopting another dog. Let's just go look." (Of course, he knew he had me at this point. Who goes to the SPCA or Humane Society and 'Just looks'?) His smile was so big and so bright, that even though I didn't tell him, I had already changed my mind as I was getting ready. If he wanted it, he would have it.

We ended up at the Howard County Humane Society. We put the windows down in the red civic to let Gunner stick his nose out of the car while we looked. I had already spotted a LARGE American Bull-Dog, all white, beautiful. She looked older, but there was something about her face that made me walk toward her. In a pin next to her, there were balls of fluffy puppies. The mother was distraught because people were all around her liter, and she was not able to protect them. My heart broke for her, but her sweet puppies called to us as well. A plump puppy with the sweetest dot on his head bounded over and picked us right away. I picked him up and am pretty sure I never let him down again, until we were home.

It should have been foreshadowing for us that for Gunner we basically had to give blood samples and ten forms of Identification to adopt him, but with Marlo, they swiped the credit card for the adoption fee, and couldn't get us out of the door fast enough. Gunner couldn't care a thing for our new family addition, until Marlo nosed by his food. After a few times of showing Marlo who was the boss of the family, they became fast friends. It also helped Marlo, that he soon outweighed his older brother by 30 pounds or so!
Gunner is smart and fast. He is a trail-runner and herds anyone and anything to wherever he needs them to be. He is the protector of the house, and carefully reads every situation. When he loves, it's strong, but you have to earn it.
Marlo is not the sharpest tool in the shed. He is a big teddy bear with people, and would most likely go home with anyone that promised kisses and food...lots of food. He is a little broken and has some issues, but that just makes me love him more. If people judged me on my brokenness, I wouldn't have anyone to love me!

There wasn't a weekend morning that Dan, Marlo, Gunner and I would lay in the bed together, and I wouldn't say, "I love our family." Dan would always, respond, "Me too, Honeyah", and kiss me on my forehead or the corner of my eye." I remember those moments as some of the best of my life.

On December 31st of last year, when the officer called me asking about my husband, I had just gotten out of the shower. I put on clothes, shoes and no socks, and ran out of the house with wet hair. My first sprint was to Heidi and Billy's. Marlo and Gunner watched me from the bay window banging on their door, screaming their names. Marlo started howl. It was a howl I had never heard before. It was the exact sound my heart was making. Gunner was barking too, but Marlo's howl was ominous.

That was the first time the boys have ever acted like that when I have left the house, but it hasn't been the last. When I leave the house now, to go for a run, Marlo howls that same howl and Gunner backs it up with a bark. It is so loud that the other morning around 5:30, I went for a run and it woke Heidi, worrying her. It makes my heart ache. I wonder if they fear that I might not come back, or if I do come back, I will be as shattered as I was when returning from the hospital on New Year's Eve.

When Team-Tiffin stopped spending every night with me, and I tried to get back to some sort of normalcy, there were days that my boys were the only things that got me out of bed. I love them so much, for everything they are, and for loving me unconditionally. As I watch them sleeping on the couch right now, my heart fills with joy.

As Thanksgiving fast approaches, the whole "Holiday without Dan sadness" is definitely looming over me, however, I still have so many things to be thankful for. That is why today, I decided to share how thankful I am for my two big, hairy, sometimes stinky, terribly sneaky, but 100% perfect to me, boys.

Friday, November 12, 2010


My chest hurts. It feels like someone has laid bricks on it. I pause every time that it's hard to catch my breath. I think about Dan. I wonder, "Is this how he felt the minutes before his soul left his body?" I place my hand to my chest, feel my rapid heart beat, try and relieve the pressure, it just gets worse.

The tears come, because I am mad at myself. I am angry with myself for wishing it were a heart attack that I am having. I miss Dan every day, but these past few days I've missed him so much that it's hard to think about anything else. I constantly think of the past. I think of the future we never got to share. I also think of our happy reunion in the after life. "Memories of Us" by Keith Urban was playing on my way home tonight. He says, "I want to make you this promise, If there's life after this, I'm gonna be there to meet you with a warm wet kiss, yes I am." Really WPOC? You want a tragically sad widow who's doing 80 on the beltway to be crying too?? Not safe, my friends, not safe. I don't like thinking that Dan is up there just waiting for me. If I know him, though, I'm sure he's entertaining everyone and flashing that beautiful smile. I wish I could be there to laugh with the angels. I know I will one day when the good Lord wants me, but I could really use an angel myself right now.

Anger, Fear, Sadness, and Missing my Dan have consumed me. I can't remember what I'm saying when I talk. I can't fake a smile. I only want to be alone. Yes, I am lonelier than any human you've ever known, but, I am only lonely for my husband, my best and most treasured friend.

I believe I've mentioned before, that the days after Dan passed, I HATED the sun. Every morning that it rose I would curse the day and any light it brought with it. Darkness was what covered my heart, and how dare the sun shine like it was just another day? I feel like that now. I drove to work this morning and the sun hit my face. As I progressed in my healing, I would cherish these moments and take a minute to be grateful for my blessings when I felt the warmth. Today, I got angry. I hit the steering wheel and cursed everyone who drove by me with wedding rings on. Why do you get to go home to your wife today, or your husband, and I have to continue down this road alone? WHY????

Why have I regressed to this place of despair? This feeling that I am completely empty inside? I knew that the holidays would be hard, and the cool weather. But, sprinkle in some other elements and I'm just not Tiffin anymore. I'm not the strong widow who has made leaps and bounds in her new life. I am a girl, just a girl who wants to find a cave and stay there until I don't have to fake smiles, I don't have to wear a coat, I don't have to see the sun, and until my chest stops hurting.

You wouldn't think after rereading this post, that I've made any progress in my healing what-so-ever. I guess this is one of those "dips" on the roller coaster ride.

I'm going to sleep on the couch tonight with my boys and their "slumber party" guest, Joie (A beautiful puggle who has a crush on Gunner). I will watch the sun come up tomorrow and hope that I don't get angry because of it. I will think about one of my favorite writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and his encouraging words; "What a new face courage puts on everything." I pray that I have this new face tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


If I were an evil person, I would wish harm on those that cause me pain.

If I had a black heart, I would make public dark, dark secrets that would burn to the core.

If my tongue were forked, and horns crowned my head, I would retaliate evil with evil.

If I were corrupt, my most devious resourses would be deployed.

If my soul were full of hate, venomous slander would accompany my every move.

If I were malicious, revenge would consume my days and keep my eyes from closing at night.

If I were spiteful, no respect would be shown to those who did not respect me.

If life were perfect, evilness would not exist. Death would not have seperated me from my husband, and we would all be living our fairy tales. The world is far from perfect, and fairy tales do not exist. However, I do believe in Heaven and the perfection of the promised land. I believe in grace and forgiveness, even though I have to work at both of them. I also believe:

If I hadn't known such deep love, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

If I didn't have such an amazing support system, I might not be so far along on my journey of hope and healing.

If you receive jewels in your crown when you reach the Promise Land, my family and friends' crowns will be too heavy to wear.

If there is only one set of footprints in the sand right now, it is because I am being carried.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Countdown to Nothing

Sundays have been particularly hard for me since football season is underway again. Sundays were our days to sleep in, eat terrible food, drink beer, love and laugh with one another all day long. It isn't a conscious move for me to cry on Sundays or let the pain sink in, it just happens. This past Sunday was Halloween, it also happened to be 10 months since my husband has been gone.

Yesterday, I was writing the date on the board of my classroom and I got a shooting pain like I had been stabbed in the back. The countdown begins, 2 months until Dan's "Angel Date."

What exactly am I going to accomplish by dreading this date for the next two months? On December 31st, there will be no reunion of our souls, no happy hugs, there will just be me....and the fact that one year ago my husband left this Earth.

The chill of this morning solidifies the reality that winter is fast approaching. Little varmints are choosing their places to hibernate and as I write, Marlo is prowling the perimeter trying to chase them away (or eat them).

I wonder if this winter will be as bad as the last? On Dan's birthday last year, the storm was so bad that the weather channel called it, "Thunder Snow". I had never heard that phrase before, and I thought, "Only on Dan's birthday would Maryland have Thunder Snow." I remember hanging out with my neighborhood family and laughing about the name. Inside I was thinking that it would be appropriate to call how my heart felt, a thunder storm, raging and wild, aching and pained.

My heart doesn't feel like that every day anymore. I am getting through this.

This past weekend, Billy and I ran the Seaside 10 miler in Ocean City. I decided to run without my music on this crisp Saturday morning. The breeze from the Atlantic was cold and the smell of salt was prominent in the air. As I listened to the waves crashing I talked to my angel-runner, I know he listened. When the race was over, to the beer truck I went. When the first few bars of "Don't Stop Believing" started to play from the DJ booth, I had to smile. I should have known he would be waiting there to congratulate me, right by the beer truck.

The next morning I walked with a good friend on the beach. Besides the fact that a seagull tried to steal our breakfast out of the bag, it couldn't have been a more beautiful walk. At the end of our walk, we looked back at the marks we had made in the sand. It reminded me that nothing in life lasts as long as we hope. As fast as our feet were making the impressions, the wind was coming to erase them.

Life is full of beautiful moments that you have to carry with you in your heart. Like footprints in the sand, moments fly by. Cherish each moment that you have and store those mental pictures in your mind's file. On a day of "Thunder Snow" you might need to pull out that warm walk on the beach.

I hate that I am "counting down" the days until the end of the year. I hate that the last day of the year will always be the day that my best friend left our marriage, our life, our world. I don't, anymore though, hate that I am still here. Even though there is dread, there is also the hope of more life and more love to come.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


As I sit in front of my computer, journals open, words of the past two weeks scrawled on post it notes and lined paper, and a pile of Jujyfruits on the table to my left, I feel rewarded. I feel another wave of pride for my recent accomplishments.
As most of you know, I trained very hard for the Baltimore Running Festival's Half Marathon that was held last Saturday. About three weeks before the race, I started getting pains in my right lower leg. I ran through the pain, and even smiled at times as I was half running, half hobbling up a hill during training, wanting so badly to quit, and then hearing Dan's favorite saying to me, "Don't be a big baby." I swear I could be sick as a dog and not able to get off the floor, and he would say, "Are you being a big baby?" He always did it with that smirk and half smile, and even at my sickest, I had to laugh and roll my eyes...before telling him to get some freakin' Pepto or Tylenol ASAP!!

Days before the race, I decided to make an appointment to get my leg X-rayed. The results were inconclusive, so I then went for an MRI. Waiting for the MRI results (on the Friday before the race) was like holding my breath under water for hours. I kept thinking, "Come on God, are you really going to strip this away from me too?" "The pounding of the pavement I've grown to know as my therapy and healing?" "You really haven't taken enough??" "Really?" I felt myself getting bitter and had to talk myself out (again) of feeling like I was being punished.
I received the news Friday evening that I did not have a stress fracture! I amazed myself at how excited I actually was at running 13.1 miles the next day at the crack of dawn, but for some odd reason, I was ecstatic.
The morning of the race was a whirlwind of excitement. I tagged along with Team Legrand and enjoyed the entire atmosphere and tangible elation of the throngs of people in Baltimore that day. For the second year in a row, Allyson, Brian, and Bo came to see me off at my starting point, that in itself made me teary, because of the wonderful friend that Allyson is. Then Michelle and I hugged as our corral was being called to start. We wished each other luck, and we were off. My first three miles are always my hardest, as my legs are getting warmed up. After that, I got my groove, steadied my pace, controlled my breathing, and took in my surroundings.
I spotted the sign for MILE 8, and thought..."Are you kidding me?? I am only at mile 8???" "AND ANOTHER HILL TO BOOT??" (Insert as many cuss words as you can think of. I think I even made up some of my own.) Jogging up that hill, there were not as many spectators as at the other mile markers. I saw one girl standing on the side with a sign. When I ran by, I felt the chills. I am sure that through my music, I heard the sound of beating wings next to me. The sign said simply, "Don't Stop Believing." If you knew Dan, you knew that Journey = The Greatest Band That EVER Was. You couldn't get into that pearly white Infinity after a night at Woody's without partially losing your hearing over the blaring 80's sensation. That sign was all the motivation I needed for the remaining 5.1 miles. I finished in 2 hours and 5 minutes, shaving 6 minutes off my Nashville time.
Even though I found out today that I have repetitive stress injuries in BOTH of my legs, and should take a couple of weeks off, I am so happy I ran the race. (And to be perfectly honest chances are I will only take a week off of running...tops.)
The signs continued to be posted on my road throughout the weekend. "Sunday Morning" at Ropewalk on Saturday night - Thank you Jaime and Eileen for the dance. Journey popped up again on Sunday, as I shared another dance, smiles, and laughs-Thank you David. The signs are motivators, ushering me to continue to move forward. Never to take a day for granted. Love the ones around you, and let yourself be loved. Smile and laugh until your sides hurt. And DON'T (ever, ever ever) STOP BELIEVING.

Monday, October 11, 2010

In Awe

Every time I post I am in amazement at the feedback I receive. Every time I smile, I am amazed at the smiles that are returned to me. Every time I reach for a hand, I am astonished at the number of extended arms. Every time I need, the offer for assistance is profound. Every time I crash I am bewildered at how fast the fire is put out, before I burn completely.

Every time the sun rises in the morning I am overwhelmed, grateful, indebted to the people in my life who love me.

When God created friendship, he created it in the mirror of love. Friendship is loyalty, respect, honesty, and above all, love. I believe that God knew my path would fork, he saw that the road itself would fall from beneath me, and then come crashing down around me once I hit the bottom. For reasons I won't understand, he chose not to change that path. But what he did do, was put the most beautiful people on the paths parallel to mine.

Of course, there are always those rogue joggers who cross onto our paths and leave trails of hate-dust behind, but that is because they don't have that love, those beautiful people who get pleasure from lifting and carrying you when you are tired, not stepping on you when you are down. Anger and Guilt: An acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored, than to anything on which it is poured. ~Seneca Quotes, (Roman Philosopher mid-1st century AD)

I wanted to write tonight about the swelling of my heart, the blanket of love I feel that covers me everyday from those around me. I can't seem to find the exact words that express how thankful, how obliged I am to my friends, my family, blood or not.

It would take days and endless pages to write about every kindness that has been bestowed upon me, one day I should try, it would be a glorious story, telling of every special person in my life who have earned countless jewels in their crown. Tonight, I am just going to mention a few things in last week that have helped to mend an infringed heart.

Note passing and school girl giggling with Jill and Michelle at a meeting. A "Happy New Day" note and delicious danish (from Michelle) on my desk after a hard previous day. An email from my soul mate friend, Jessi, her words working to make the world make sense again. Text messages from Sputty that make me snort-laugh. Instant messaging on Yahoo with Kirty will always bring a smile to my face. An note from someone who probably has no idea how much her sweet words impacted me that day, thank you Christa. Dinner with my parents, Jaime, Ryan, and my perfect Lilly-Bug. Sharing tears and hugs at that dinner with the family that wild horses couldn't tear apart. The unconditional love of my sister, and the unparalleled love I have for her. Listening to anything that comes out of Ryan's mouth, an all-time favorite simple pleasure of mine. A weekend day and night spent on a Harley, drinking Bud Lights, dancing and laughing, with some of the funniest most genuine, down to Earth people you will ever come across. People who take you for who you are, and just let the world turn as it may. A hilariously vulgar message from Hillary, I couldn't love you more, my sweet. A Monday lunch with Allyson, seeing how beautiful pregnancy is on her, and wrapping my arms tightly around the bond we have formed over the years. A compliment from my boss, so sweet, that it almost took my breath away. A care package from a friend in the mail, some light reading for those sleepless nights, thank you Molly. The immeasurable support I receive via Facebook and this blog. The list is endless, and because of this, my heart is brimming.

To say "thank you" or "I love you all" just seems so scanty and insufficient. But know this; your love will never be taken for granted. My loyalty will never waiver, and with every breath that is left in my soul, I will repay your kindness.

I do not know what I did to deserve love/friendships like this, but you should, you need, to know how humbled I am because of them.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

3 Steps Back

Yesterday was Saturday, October 2, 2010. It was a day full of abundant sunshine as well as love. Douglas Wade and Eileen Treder became Mr. and Mrs. Wade on one of the most beautiful days we have had all year.

Sitting outside at the beautiful park, the sun was warming every one's face, and the smiles of the happy couple were warming every one's heart.

It was the first wedding I have attended since losing the man I pledged to spend my life with. I was apprehensive about the emotions I knew would slink upon me, but so far was doing well. The officiant spoke eloquently and beautifully a speech about love, respect, and bearing all things that life brings together, as a union.

"Together as a union": bearing all sorrow and tragedy and anything life lays upon them. Here is where my tears start. What happens when the tragedy is that life itself is taken away and that union of two now becomes one? I know what happens, but I don't want to know anymore. I paid my dues, I've made great strides in my healing, but now, right now...I want my husband back.

Doug wore his "Dan Bracelet" through the ceremony. More tears. The officiant spoke of remembering the friends who were no longer with us. Audible gasp, harder tears.

My thoughts: Tiffin, Remember why you are here, this is not about you. This is a ceremony of utter happiness. Get it together. Stop imagining Dan by your side. Stop remembering how he kissed the corners of your eyes when you cried. Picture him saying, "lock it up T, lock it up." Get a tissue, take a breath, focus.

Just then...

The wind picks up. He is here. He wrapped his arms around me I heard him tell me to let go of the sorrow and give up my pain to the wind that was him. Let it sail away, T, just be free.

The entire wedding from start to finish was perfectly magnificent. The bride and groom glowed. There were moments where I couldn't stop my tears, but my rejoicing for the happy couple superseded all. Doug and Eileen will have a life of prosperity and euphoria, this I know.

Today I wanted to sit at Dan's grave, dig up the hard dirt, and cover myself with it. I want to feel the peace he feels. I want to just be still. Again, I hear him: T, stop. Your turmoil is wreaking havoc on your spirit. Others need your spirit to be strong, you need your spirit to be strong. Don't beat yourself up for moving forward in your life, I am so proud of you. There is nothing that you can do now that will make me love you any less. Our love reaches across both of these worlds. Just live, my honeyah, please live on.

I knew I would have these days, where I stood on my new life's foundation and angrily kicked it down. I also know that I am able to rebuild, especially with the love I have from my friends and family. Tomorrow I will work hard, stand tall, live on. But tonight, I will let myself cry.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

9 Months

It was the last day of December when he left this Earth, today, nine months later, it is the last day of September.

Even though the rain sliding down my windshield this evening reminded me of that tragic winter's eve, I must admit, the emotions I have felt today have been more prideful than pitiful.

I am proud of how I have handled this journey so far. I have had severe lows when the only time I resembled human was when I was punching, pounding, or bellowing noise from the depth of my soul, as well as, highs where I have laughed so loud and so hard that my eyes water and my sides hurt. I appreciate every high, low, and in between because it solidifies that fact that I am still alive, and I can still feel.

During this ninth month of September, two perfect bodies and souls entered this world. Tucker Gavin to his parents Olivia and Chris, and Sloane Theresa, to her parents Sharon and Brian. I had the privilege of holding both of these miracles only hours after their arrival. The perfection of an infant is incommunicable, the beauty defies description. I look at the (both) first time mothers and admire their ability to be so harmonious with the new life that was just laid upon them. The doting fathers, the snapshots, the smiling friends and family, this is what God had in mind when he created the world. The short while of blessed innocence and pure joy in an otherwise broken and harrowing world, this is perfection.

I was meant to do this. I thought Dan and I were meant to do this.

Tonight at dinner with my dear friend Katie, we laughed, loved, and shared as we always do. There are never any secrets between Katie and I, and tonight we even reached further and learned more about one another. Her and I were unaware until tonight that we have shared a few bricks that have helped build us into who we are today. (Smart, beautiful, funny, amazing, wonderful people in case your were wondering, wink wink.) It wasn't a realization that we shared, because it's something I've known, however, we shared an awareness that it was not in my plan to have a child with Dan. It is a (very disguised) blessing that we didn't have a child that would have had to endure some of the same tribulations and distress Dan endured growing up.

God knows, and I'm learning.

9 months symbolizes many things for me tonight, as you can tell. One of them being that I'm acknowledging the phenomenon that I can do this. I will do this.

I will be a mother one day to hold and protect sweet innocence of my own. I won't just be a mom, but I will have a family. I will love again and I will let someone love me. I will be a strong (brick) foundation that friends and loved ones can and will lean on in their times of need.

I will do all of these things, but if and only if, it's in His will.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Good People, Good Love

I have been having conversations with friends lately about little gifts that you can give/receive throughout your days and life that, even though we don't spend an excessive amount of time thinking about them, they have patched a hole somewhere in our world. The gifts that I speak of are as small as a smile from someone you are walking by to a very selfless and special gift, like I was given today.

This week has been a roller coaster ride for me emotionally. I find myself smiling more, laughing more, and feeling less broken. Then I bully myself into believing I shouldn't be feeling this way. When will the day come when I can just have a feeling and not second guess the HELL out of it! All of the second guessing, and too much thought pays it's toll on me physically as well. I don't eat well, and tend to not stay as hydrated as I should. Throw in the fact that I'm sufin' the crimson wave, have a sinus headache, and I am just a real peach! Even though the stars were aligned against me, I still laced up my shoes this morning for a 10 mile run.

Around mile 6, I was really struggling. I guess I looked like I was too, sweating and lips dry. I ran past a church that was having a yard sale. As I passed a women and her daughter, the woman lifted her arm toward me and in her hand was a bottle of water. I looked at her and she said, "would you like this?" I all but kissed her on the mouth as I took her gift and stopped to drink. Her sweet little girl looked at the mother and said, "Mommy, that was my water." The mother said, "Hush honey, we have plenty." I couldn't thank that woman enough. I continued my run, and continued to struggle, but her act of kindness would not be forgotten. She probably has not had a second thought about the sweaty white girl that she saved from heat stroke today, but I know she was another piece of the bandage that is patching small portions of my aching void.

I love good people, and I try with all my might to be one of them. I want to be the reason for someone else's smile, a piece for someone else that patches a hole. I know I will be given many opportunities to pay the love I received today forward and I look forward to it.

As for my emotional state now that I am at the end of the week, I am still grappling to make sense of the feelings I am having. I love, the laughter I have shared this week, the smiles that have been from ear to ear, and the glimmer of hope I have seen for a chance to enjoy life again and have a happy future. It's all part of the healing journey, and to the people who have shared in making this week a baby step closer to having the old Tiffin back: You will never truly know how much you are appreciated, but I will do my part to give it back, ten fold.

I am realizing that love that is shared within this world doesn't die, and I have much more love to give.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wild Child

There are so many thoughts running through my head this evening. Conflicting thoughts and hypocritical views, my mind gleans them throughout the day. This road...nobody said it would be smooth.

I gave a speech to some of my students today about how fast decisions can end up coming back to hurt you in ways you never imagined. I spoke of making good choices, from the breakfast you choose in the morning to the people you choose to spend your time with. I preached of wise choices and higher roads..............Who do I think I am? I wouldn't know a good decision if it bit me in the ass.

I had this discussion with my friend Heidi today. She laughed and said that all teachers had to be a little hypocritical. I mean when I first started teaching I was smoker. I will never forget the anti smoking stickers I put on each child and the florescent pencils I handed out. I got in my white Honda that afternoon and couldn't wait to light up! I might have even stopped at the liquor store to buy Bud Light instead of gas!! I probably smoked those cigarettes and drank that beer with people whom my mother never would have approved of, too!

I have since stopped smoking, but we all know I still love my Bud Light (If I could figure out how to play Billy Currington's "I'm pretty good at drinking beer" while you were reading this, I so would). I also do not choose to spend my time with people who don't except me for all of who I am. Pretending, being fake, and molding yourself into what the people around you want you to be takes too much effort. Heidi actually told me (within said conversation) that everyone I surrounded myself with was good and I was the one people should be worried about!! She compared me to the little devil that sits on your shoulder always contradicting what the angel says! I couldn't stop laughing. Even though I know she was kidding, I can't help but recognize there is some truth in that....however, that is part of my charm....I think.

When I decide to follow my "free spirit" side, I am my own worst enemy. I always second guess choices I've made and constantly beat myself up. I have written in the past about people being judgemental and overly critical. I AM DOING THAT TO MYSELF!! I have no doubt in my mind that Dan would want me to be me. He fell in love with the Tiffin at Hella's that ordered two beers at once and a shot, downed them, got up and sang karaoke with a 90 year old man who resembled Charlie Daniels. He loved that girl and I need to love her again too.

In my sweet friend Jessi's own words, she said, "You were a wild child before Dan, you were a wild child with Dan, and you are going to be wild on this new road as well."
Well, I have to say, this road is as bumpy as a busted wheel chariot on gravel, but I'm going to put on my big girl panties, slip on some padded shorts, grab the reins and drive this baby to the end! Thanks for the support along the way!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dan's Heart

Every morning begins in relatively the same way: Get up, turn on TV so I can listen to the news in the shower, after the shower I take care of the boys. (Well, first I have to pull the pillows away from the faces they've burrowed under them and wake the sleeping princes.) Then I continue watching/listening to the news as I get ready.

Yesterday morning I awoke to a story about a walk this Sunday that is taking place close to my home, at Centennial Park in Ellicott City. It's the 2010 Howard County Heart Walk. ANY run/walk/fundraiser that benefits our lives and the lives of ones we love is amazing. However, that's not where my mind was while listening to this story on the news. I wondered if Dan and I had gone to this walk last year, would he have gotten a "free heart screening?" Would we have been able to find out that his heart was impaired and needed fixing? Would he have listened?

My husband dies of a cardiac arrhythmia, at 30 years old, that was never detected and never reared any of its ugly signs in all of those 30 years, not even through intense physical training/work of the Marine Corps. Can you tell that I am still terribly stuck on the WHY??? I'm not looking for anyone to really answer that question for me, because I know they can't. I won't find out the why until I meet The Maker and he Makes it all Make sense. Even though I am not actively seeking the answer to why, I still scream it out loud and cry it to sleep.

This morning I woke to another story on The Today Show. A young married couple is being interviewed. The 28 year old wife suffered a heart attack in their home. The husband performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. She did not have a pulse and was not breathing on her own for 72 minutes. After 72 minutes, she stabilized. Her road to recovery has been long, but today, her and her husband are walking to promote Heart Awareness.

I know it is coincidence that I turned the television on to these two stories. I know that "happy heart health" and the "happily ever after" of the couple this morning was not specifically created to plunge a dagger within my own heart. I KNOW THIS, so WHY do I perseverate on the WHY?

I do it, because I miss my husband. I miss my best friend. I miss my lover. I miss my partner. And as terrible as it sounds, I am jealous of those people who still have theirs. It is awful to admit this, and I considered not even publishing it, but it's true. Anyone who knows me, knows I ONLY wish happiness for everyone and their spouces. Not just happiness, but a long prosperous life together too. I can wish and want all of those things and still be envious that I am not included in that category anymore.

I'm going out for a run now. I might not be running to raise money or awareness or to support, I'm just not there yet, but I am going to run for Dan, as I always do. Run for our love, run for his legacy, run for his every sense of the word.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tonight's Thoughts Made Public

Tonight I am laying down thinking about the last time I saw Dan's body, still, and cold. He was wearing the black button down shirt and gray pants I bought him. I bought the outfit for him to wear New Year's Eve, he wore it 6 days later. I kept looking at his face thinking at any moment he was going to open his eyes, part his lips, blink and yawn. I held his hands, they were the only thing that still resembled my Dan.

It's nights like tonight, when I close my eyes to pray, I find it hard to thank the Lord for my blessings. Don't get me wrong, I know I have been blessed in many ways and in many facets of my life. That being said, I also have moments, like now, when I feel punished. I find myself asking God, begging rather, not to take anything else from me. It's not, "Thank you for this and thank you for that or please help someone else and lift so and so up". It should be, but it's not. God was the only thing I clung to weeks and months after Dan's death. Then, all of sudden, I can't pray unselfishly anymore. I find myself asking:
"Lord- Please let Marlo and Gunner live forever. I know Gunner ate 2 pair of underwear today, don't let it hurt him. I know Marlo ate the entire cantaloupe, let him pass it. Keep my sister, Buggy, Ry, and folks safe and happy. Please don't take any of my friends or family. I can't go any lower than this, Father, I wouldn't be able to go on."

I have these thoughts that Dan was taken from me to bring me down a notch, to teach me something. I start to panic when I think what might happen if I haven't learned the lesson I am supposed to learn yet. I refuse to live in fear. I hate thoughts like this. I need this to pass.

I need to believe that my God knows the sadness of this place, that he is holding me and understands my anger. He forgives me of my faults, instead of punishing me for them.

For those of you out there who bend The Almighty's ear, think of me. I am again, being selfish in my request, however, when I get back to a praying place, I promise to return the favor.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

House of Cards, No More

Today I made a realization. I should probably rewind and start from the beginning:

I woke up today and completed my routine just as I have for the past 8 months. Take care of the boys myself, take care of the house myself, take care of myself...well that one's debatable. After my run, I mowed the yard and did laundry. This was all accomplished with no tears, it was accomplished on auto-pilot. Here is my lightning bolt (I would say Ah-Ha moment, but Oprah uses it so much, it's ruined for me.) I have been rebuilding my life one day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time for eight months. However, I am rebuilding without substance. I felt like I've been rebuilding pretty well, and at times, I've even stepped outside my world and said, "wow, good job, this new place is okay." But, this "new" place is a house of cards. A blink, a sneeze, a tear, a breath, will send it crumbling again.

It takes a tactical master to place each card just so. The constructor is focused on placing that one card, however, in the back of his mind he is worried about all the other cards. One false move could start a terrible chain reaction. I have been this "constructor" worried about how my activity might affect someone else, or, how my activity might affect someone else's view of me, worst of all, how it might affect my view of myself.

I've heard recently; "You look amazing, didn't take you long to bounce back", "You just healed up so nice" or, my personal favorite, "Doesn't look like your living in the past, anymore, good for you." I hear things like this and I start to think, "Am I not grieving properly? Should I be wearing black every day? I guess I shouldn't go out with my friends, at least not in public!"

HOLD UP! This is my life, and I am still alive. No, I am definitely NOT ALL HEALED UP. Now that you've brought it up, I am actually happier when I am thinking of the past, I wish I could live there. And, if "bouncing back" means I have stopped having thoughts of suicide, then yes, I guess I have "bounced back".....Idiot.

I have been so concerned with how people are perceiving me (or my grieving, rather) that building a house of cards was the only option. Other people are less than half the problem, though, I am my own worst enemy at times. I immerse myself in the routine. I put on the smile. There is not ONE second that passes that I don't curse my loss and at times my life. My sadness is always there, so when I am around people I like to fill the other places of my soul with their joy and their love for life. One day, I will be able to wake up and feel truly happy, I have faith in that. Because of that faith, and because I have grown weary of "going through motions", I huffed and I puffed and I blew that frangible house down tonight.
I enjoyed a beautiful day with wonderful people, but I came home and cried my eyes out. It was a wonderful and much needed release. Tonight I broke ground and placed my first brick. I am going to build this house and it's not going to be delicate, like the other one. I will slap a brick on here and there, and I am sure some days I will tear one down. But, one thing is for sure, when this new place is finished, it will be the strongest, tallest, sturdiest, and safest place to be.

I will be proud of it, because I built it for myself, by myself.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Without Fail

We all have times when we really need or want something, but because of our luck, or lack there of, we find ourselves staring the opposite of whatever we need or want in the face. Most of the time our "without fail" moments are things we can take with a grain of salt, and move on from quickly. Here are a few of mine.

Without Fail:
  • I am in an extreme hurry and am in the exact position at the light where I get to sit through it twice.
  • I pull by the only pump available at the gas station, and the credit machine is broken. I go inside and hear, "We very very sorry, ATM not working to today."
  • I give someone the tampon out of my purse and the next day Aunt Flo comes. I haven't replaced it yet.
  • I stand and am teaching all day, being animated, exciting, and effective, and the moment I sit down for a minute, the principal wonders in. I swear they should wear bells!
  • I choose to shop in the only store around without a bathroom after I just ate cream sauce. You don't want me to elaborate.
  • I drank my first beer and am headed to the bar when I slip of my cute wedge. I have now been labeled the girl who should be cut off and the nights only just begun.
  • Someone that is close talking me has a booger or horrifically bad halitosis.
  • I am running through the trails and drop trow to pee. I squat over the only poison ivy bush in the forest.
  • I send a semi-insulting text message about someone TO the person it was about. That is Karma slapping me in my smug face! (Sidebar: This happened on more than one occasion with Dan. We would be arguing and I would be texting Allyson or Jaime about what a jerk he was being. A few seconds later, I would hear Dan call up from downstairs, "I love you too, jackass." Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! And yes, that did happen on more than one occasion. I don't learn lessons very well.)
  • Marlo or Gunner decide to dump-out only when the streets are teaming with people or cars. I have since started taking them out after dark!
  • I am in a meeting and my stomach makes a fart noise.
  • I introduce people and use the wrong name.
  • I tell an inappropriate joke to the wrong audience.
  • The coupon, promotional code, discount credit, or other VIP, MVP card is EXPIRED!!!

There are also without fail moments, more recently, that I never take for granted. I look forward to these moments, because they are signs from above. They are not moments that I move on from quickly, some because I want to linger in the moment, and some because of the pain. Either way, I cherish them.

Without Fail:

  • When I go to a restaurant or bar, Dan's favorite songs come on right when I need to know he's with me.
  • When I am driving, songs that we considered "our" songs come on to keep me company through the drive.
  • When I am toiling in the yard, the blue jay watches me and lets me get so close. He wasn't scared off the day I broke down in the yard.
  • When I visit his grave site, I am the only person there. It's just the two of us again.
  • When I smell lemon or lime I am flooded with memories of our wedding day.

However, my favorite without fail moments have come on my runs ever since the passing of Dan.

Without fail, when I run, I get goosebumps whether it's 75 degrees or 110. I know he runs with me every time. Those goosebumps encourage me to finish this race called life. Finish it for my Dan.

And I will.....without fail.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bud Light

Dear Bud Light,

I made it through the first week of school without you, but I thought of you often. I thought about holding you and pressing you to my lips. Even though you are cold by nature, you always warm my heart. You get along with everyone, and you have a style for every occasion. I love you dressed up and sexy in a frosty mug. I love you business-casual in a bottle. Seeing 12 ounces of you wrapped in a koosie is a favorite summer sight. But I have to say, seeing you in your slim, cylinder 10 ounce container is my all-time favorite.

When Dan left us, I thought I would never enjoy you again. I didn't think I could ever enjoy anything we did together as a couple, again. I have slowly let you back into my heart, and I am happy we are friends again. One of my favorite times that we spent together was during Ravens games. Whenever our boys would score, Dan and I would take you and shotgun your contents in a celebratory fashion. Now whenever I see or hold you, I can be flooded with good memories of the three of us together.

I know that at Redeye's Dock Bar, you are cold and cheap. (I mean that as a compliment) I am looking forward to spending time with you tonight.

Your loving consumer,


Monday, August 23, 2010

This School Year

Today was Day 1 of the 180 day 2010-2011 school year. Piney Orchard was bustling with students, parents, and teachers all day. It was hard for me to walk out of the house this morning, with no hug, no kiss, and no wish for the best crop of kids from Dan. (It was also really hard getting my dress zipped on my own, and forget about the bracelet I wanted to wear!) My loving friends and family knew today would be hard and I was inundated with calls, texts, and even the most beautiful bouquet of daisies from Heidi and Billy. I also had sweet hugs from parents past and present and a goody bag from a prior student with Jujyfruits!! All of this made for a very successful and tearless first day. As I prepare for bed and think about this upcoming year, I pray. Here is my prayer:


Give me the strength and courage to wake tomorrow morning and every morning after with a bright outlook on the day. Please allow me to be the teacher, nurturer, and the guide these students deserve. I fear, Lord, that my sad heart will prohibit me from being who I once was; full of happiness, enthusiasm, excitement, patience, and smiles. Lift the sadness from my heart so I can fill it with the joy and wonderment of 30 young minds. They deserve my entire heart, a happy one. Allow me to focus on the importance of my job, my calling, given to me by You. If my mind should wonder towards shadows and doubt, be the strong voice that lures me back. Give me signs throughout the year so that I may see progress, in the students and myself. Let Dan's smile shine down through the clouds so I can project that beautiful smile from the very core of my soul. Give me the tools I need to believe in love and thankfulness again, so that I may teach these virtues. Grant these young children a long innocence before the weight of this broken world weighs heavy on their shoulders. Prohibit any evil from breaking their strong spirits. Allow me to be a positive in their day, a positive influence in their lives, and house of knowledge and morals. Let me be the friend that my colleagues, parents, and friends of Piney Orchard were to me in my darkest hour. Let no person know first hand the depth of this pain, and the loneliness of this place. I ask for patience, compassion, and the voice to reach every mind.

Hear my prayer, Amen.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


This morning I woke up and geared up for a 6 mile run. I always dread the runs, but once out of the door, listening to my music, and pounding the pavement, I feel a sense of comfort. It was beautiful this morning and I was already happy to be outside as I turned the corner out of my community. As I look to cross the street, I see my friend Karli's Jeep turning into Aspenwood. I slowed down to the very dumb-looking "jog in place" so I could talk to her for a second. We talk about hanging out tonight and then waved goodbye. As I am waving I start to run again. Now I am waving and looking at Karli in one direction, and running in the other (recipe for disaster if you are as uncoordinated as myself) and I tripped. Not a little scuffle of the feet, but a full blown trip. My body bent almost completely in half as my face was headed for the pavement and my arms were flailing around like propellers desperately searching for something to grab onto. All the while, my body is still progressing forward. I was able to keep myself from falling all the way, but I am sure the whole 40 second event was HILARIOUS! I got myself together and looked at Karli (who was stopped mid turn), her hand was over her mouth and her eyes were as big as saucers. We just cracked up hysterically. I gave her a behind the back wave, as I attempted to cross the street again without doing myself bodily harm.

For the first mile of my run I was laughing at myself. I started to think of the times when Dan and I ran together on the trails and how often I would trip and fall. He used to laugh at me (and get annoyed) at the fact that I always fell on my face! I don't know why I did not get that innate protective instinct to PUT OUT YOUR ARMS AND HANDS when you are falling! You can compare me to timber that's been cut at the base, I just fall over, and when it's always in slow motion when you are in that moment. What makes my lack of saving my face ability so much weirder is that I have a terrible fear of loosing my teeth. You would think that someone as terrified as me about loosing their teeth, would put almost every body part closer to the ground to absorb the fall. Nope. Not this girl...face plant, here I come! One of my favorite "fall" stories takes place on the trails of Savage MD, but before I tell it I need to give you some background information.

Dan NEVER called me Tiffin. I always had a nickname, and so did EVERYTHING else. It was almost like we spoke our own language, and I know for a fact most things were only funny to us.

If you ever look at older photos of me, you will see that one of my front teeth was shorter than the other one. This bothered me so much, and Dan knew it. Instead of giving me loving support and telling me I was beautiful anyway, he named it, "mini tooth." I couldn't even get mad, because it was so funny. "T, you have chocolate on mini tooth or T, mini tooth doesn't like it when you open things with it." Mini tooth had a voice, and it cracked me up every time.

Now back to the trails. We are running on the trails and my toe catches a rock. Insert scene from today's run, but this time I go rolling down a very steep hill. I stop right before rolling into the river. I got up and my face was bleeding, both knees, elbows, but I wasn't badly hurt at all. I get up, start giggling about how freakin' graceful I am, and Dan yells down, "Honeyahhhh!! IS MINI TOOTH OKAY?" I laughed so hard I could barely make it back up the hill.

A few months before Dan and I got married, I decided that I did not want mini tooth in the wedding photos. I had a veneer replace mini, and became much happier with my smile. That day, when I came home from the dentist, Dan had made a MISSING/REWARD poster for mini tooth that he put on the fridge. He drew a replica of my mouth and circled mini tooth. It even had a 1-800-FND-MINI hot line, last seen date, height and weight.

I absolutely love days like today when I can think of our times together smile and laugh instead of cry and mourn. There was never a shortage of laughter in this Shriner household, and I am keeping the tradition today. Thanks Dan, for all the wonderful memories.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lonely Enough - Little Big Town

The words to this song have been my prayer every second since Dan was taken from me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Defeatist and A Conqueror

Yesterday was one of "those" days. It started off fine: work during the day and then a good (I use that term loosely) run with Michelle. There was even a small triumph as I assembled the new lawn mower I purchased, filled it up with gas and oil, and adjusted the grass cutting height. I was hot and sweating and ready to start cutting. I got one row of mowing accomplished when the lawn mower cut out. Now, this has happened before with the neighbor's mower, it's because the grass is too wet, too high, and it clogs the blades, but when it happened this time, it was different.

I broke downand had to abandon the mower in the yard and go inside . I cried, screamed, pounded my palms and heals into the carpet. The more I cried, the angrier I became because no matter how loud or hard these tears and sounds came, it wasn't bringing him home. When there were no more tears streaming from my eyes, and my my head felt like it had been hit with a 9 lb hammer, I needed a release. I started to write. The pain shifted from my heart to my head, to my fingers as my thoughts and words raced each other on a page. I wanted to be in the page. I wanted to wrap myself up in these words like a blanket while dancing in each and every memory as they happened. I wanted this whole thing to be a movie and I could now write my alternate ending. Turning this horror film into a romantic comedy....or at the least a comedy. I now share with you my alternate ending, my happily ever after, my sweet sweet dream.

December 31, 2009: Dan comes home from the gym. We go have steaks, as planned, with the Merediths at Flemmings in Baltimore. We drink way too much, and laugh until our sides hurt. We come home and crash lovingly into one another's arms. The next day we sit around on the couch watching football and eating food that is terrible for us. We joke with each other saying, "I can hear you getting fatter." Several weeks later we find out I am pregnant, our "New Year's Eve Baby". We still go to Italy where I can't indulge in the wine as planned, but the baby and I put on 25 pounds of pasta. In May Dan graduates with his MBA from Loyola. I start a new school year in August. Allyson, Sharon, and I are talking day care plans instead of setting up our classrooms. In October I give birth to the first of the 3 boys we wanted. Marlo won't stop licking the baby, and Gunner is too jealous to pay him any mind. Dan never stops smiling. He smiles until 60 some years later when his wife of 62 years (me) is called Home. I go first because that's what we talked about. I HAVE to go first, because I wouldn't be able to handle it. I wait for Dan in Heaven as he lives out the rest of the beautiful life he earned and deserves. The End.

I spent a lot of time mourning the "what could have been" yesterday. Sometimes I just need to let those thoughts out, and free them into the world, so I have. I thank you for allowing me the freedom to share without judgement.

Acknowledging that Dan is gone, and deciding to still live has proven my hardest challenge yet. I felt defeated yesterday, but just as one of my favorite quotes proclaims, "Courage does not always roar, sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I will try again tomorrow." I did. I woke up this morning and tried again. I conquered today, and that's all I need to worry about; one day at a time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I made it through today without tears. There was definitely the pang in my heart as I was driving home from work, knowing that I wasn't going to be able to run up the stairs to Dan's office and fill him in on the gossip of the day. As that pain moved from my gut to my throat and the lump began to form, I started to remind myself that he was there the whole time. I didn't need to "fill him in", he was with me in the meetings, he was with me as I fixed my desks (laughing no doubt about my weakness with the Alan wrench), and he was even with me as I hugged and smiled with people I hadn't seen in a while. I know he is always there, I do, however, I am here and I am only half of who I was.
With another school year comes another twist in my road. Who am I? The ty-dye sign outside of my classroom says, "Mrs. Shriner", but am I still Mrs. Shriner? I still have my wedding rings on, I dusted off our wedding photo that sits on my desk, I still feel married, but the truth is, I'm not. God, it hurts to say that. I deleted and rewrote that statement 10 times. I didn't ask to NOT be married anymore, this wasn't a choice.
Most of the students coming into 3rd grade know my situation. They will not ask why I go by Mrs. Shriner, but don't have a husband. What do I tell the other ones? Call me Ms. Shriner? Widow Shriner? (That just sounds scary) Maybe I should go retro like Prince and become a symbol. People will refer to me as, "The Teacher Formally Known As...." No matter what anyone calls me, it's going to hurt.
Mrs. Shriner is just a reminder of the husband I no longer have. Ms. Shriner makes me feel like I was never married, and I refuse to go back to my maiden name. As much as I loved being Tiffin Lilly, I was so proud to take Dan's name.
I am going to continue to wear Dan's name proudly, no matter how much it hurts. We promised to be Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Shriner forever, however, for us, forever was entirely too short.

Friday, August 13, 2010


This is not a "strong Tiffin" entry. This is an entry that would make Dan want to smack me, but I feel pitiful tonight. Am I pitying myself? Not sure...haven't quite figured out my current emotions, but here is what I'm struggling with:
  • It's Friday night at 10:28pm. The extent of my Friday night "action" now comes from a wet slobbery kiss from Marlo and if I'm lucky, Gunner will let me be the outside spoon. I miss Dan's lips, I miss his arms.

  • The only movies on TV are romances. Gross. I would rather stab myself in the eye than see another "happily ever after." Thank you "Last of the Mohicans", for ruining my night, and possibly the whole weekend.

  • The ice maker makes me jump, and any noise outside is absolutely that serial killer they never caught from the shows on Investigation Discovery that I watch all the time. (I know, I should stop watching them, but I just can't.) I think I need a better weapon than the 10lb flashlight next to my bed.

  • I could go out with my friends, but this pity party is hard to leave.

Should I just keep going? It feels pretty good. Never thought I'd do an "I hate" but I feel it coming:

I hate that True Blood only comes on once a week, I could totally use a V-fix right now, I hate that Eric from True Blood doesn't know he is in love with me yet, I hate that I am currently out of Jujyfruits, I actually hate the fact that I have this candy addiction, I hate that the Royal Farms by my house is so scary or I would go buy myself some candy right now, I hate that when I go to bed my upstairs is 20 degrees hotter than the rest of the house, I hate that I'm going to bed at 10:30 on a Friday night, but my number 1 I HATE is.....Jessi, you're gonna love this......white sunglasses. Random right? I do though, there is just something about white sunglasses that drives me nuts. Please forgive me if you own a pair....but burn them immediately.

Thank you for being a part of this very pitiful (and at times random and weird) party. I actually feel better and am semi-smiling. Love how therapeutic this whole blog thing is! Hey....I just said I love!! Things are looking up.

Good night.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gladiator - I'll see you again but not yet, not yet

The One Thing

Camp Widow was an experience I wouldn't trade. I wish there were more women there without children, because I believe that makes a huge difference in this widowhood journey. I hope to connect with other gals whose husbands left this world without "living" legacies. I was watching "True Life: I'm Pregnant" on MTV last night. When one of the girls gave birth, her boyfriend was so excited it looked like his smile could wrap around his entire head. Here's that gut-punch again: Dan and I will never have a child together. Never. I was sad, and then angry, and sad a little more, and then I thought of a conversation I had with Jessi after Camp.

We were driving and she asked me to name the most important thing I gained from the weekend at Camp. I knew right away, but I thought carefully about my answer. I am conditioned to say what I think people want to hear, what isn't going to scare them, or something that will make them feel warm and fuzzy inside. Conditioned to say something that when the listener thinks about the conversation and they lay their head down at night, they silently smile saying, "Tiffin's going to be okay." I came up with something generic, smiled, and changed the subject.

Later that night at dinner, Jessi and I were laughing and sharing, again. I have always felt that I could open up to Jessi about anything. She doesn't get overly concerned, she isn't a crier, she ponders responses before speaking, and best of all is blatantly honest. I decided she deserved the same.

I told Jessi that The One Thing that I had taken away from this trip to San Diego, and my stay at Camp Widow was this: I want to live. Sounds simple, right? We all want to live. Well, for me it hasn't been that simple. The past 7 months, I haven't gone out seeking death or even had a "death wish" but I have silently told God that if he needed me sooner rather than later, that would be more than OK. I don't feel that way anymore. I WANT to live. It just feels good saying it, writing it, living it.

There are many things left for me to do in this life. I still have grieving to do, and tears to cry, but I also have laughing to do and joy to feel. I will allow myself to live. I will allow myself to love. I will allow myself to mourn the family that Dan and I never had, but I will also not shut out the fact that I am still young, and could possibly still have children some day. I will do all of these things knowing that Dan is my cheering section in the clouds.

I keep thinking about the movie Gladiator, one that I've seen hundreds of times. Russel Crow sees his deceased family and so shook and plagued with grief, he can't even make noise with his tears, he drools, and collapses to the ground. I know this pain. I've lived that moment. I then think of his fight (literally and figuratively) to live. He makes a friend who gives him the will and want to survive even through the pain of his loss. When Russel Crow does eventually die, his friend looks to the sky and makes a promise, "I will see you again, but not yet...not yet."

I am taking that quote with me everyday, everywhere. I will see Dan again, but not yet.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Dear Creeper at Seaport,

When I first saw you jogging in your Adidas sweat suit, with your two tiny dogs fluffy tails wagging, my gaydar started beeping. Then the first words came out of you mouth, and I was sure. However, the sentences you formed confused me, because the words you spoke were giving anyone who doesn't have Garmin Gaydar the illusion that you were straight. Here are a few things that made our chance meeting that day at the beautiful waterfront so unforgettable:
1. When you told my friend and I how "it sucks" that our husbands were dead.
2. That you actually asked me twice how my husband died because you were too focused on the next round of bull shit that came out of your mouth to listen to me the first time.
3. When you told us that you were about to become a "widow too" because your girlfriend had been missing for a few days, and she is a raging alcoholic. (Good thing you're jogging with your palmoranians and hitting on people trying to enjoy their lunch instead of looking for her, AND the fact that men aren't widows, especially when they aren't even married, but I digress.)
4. I enjoyed how you looked us up and down and then told us how your girlfriend (when she wasn't in the hospital recovering from liver failure) was so beautiful that we would LOVE and actually GIVE ANYTHING to be in her shoes.
5. I truly appreciate, because this is a talent, how many times you were able to mention ATM, bank, international wire transfers, real estate property, allowance, and money in one short conversation. Kudos!

If I didn't think Dan purposefully placed you in that moment, just to see my facial expressions, and hear sarcastic comments, you would have gotten a round house kick to the face.

The girl who would actually rather be a widow than anywhere CLOSE to your girlfriends shoes!

Dear Mr. I think I am the most important person in the room,

You are a widower at Camp WIDOW! I am SO sorry for your loss and would never down-play it, however, that being said: STOP interrupting the speaker to share intimate details about your wife's suicide, your children, your dating experiences, and ESPECIALLY your new girlfriend Jasmine!!! I am here to learn coping mechanisms.

P.S. Your jokes aren't funny.

The disgruntled widow who feels like taking some anger out on you.

Dear Mean Tiffin,

You should be a little ashamed of yourself at all the judging you did today. You are far from perfect, and most of the time, your jokes aren't funny either. You should not chuckle at the fact that when grace and "the opposite of grace" were defined, you fit 5 out of 10 for the opposite! You are also going to hell for the fact that right after you cried your eyes out, used about 20 tissues, and shared deep, raw emotional feelings about your loss of Dan, you looked out the window and wondered if that one guy that had his shirt off earlier was still at the pool. Please take careful consideration of why you are here this weekend.

Nice Tiffin