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

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Every Day is a "First"

Since waking up on January 1, 2010, every moment has been a, "first." My first sunrise without Dan, my first sunset without Dan. From firsts as minuscule as the first time I drove, to the first birthday and holiday that passed since his fate. This past Monday, I conquered another difficult "first."

As you know, Dan and I married in June of '08 on a piece of property owned by two very close friends. John and Jackie were so welcoming of the idea that we would pledge our lives their backyard! When I say, "backyard", most of you are thinking a swing set and possibly an above ground pool, this was not the case. The backyard I speak of is a portrait so perfect, Bob Ross would be jealous of it's colors and lines. When I think of the happiest day of my life, I see Dan and I standing on that landscape, the sun being the only thing brighter than our smiles.

Monday, I returned to this place. As I drove down the long white and rocky driveway, I remembered the morning of our wedding day. I was so confident in my choice of a husband (it's easy to feel that way when you are marrying your best friend) I felt zero nerves or even a twinge of stress. Allyson and I even drove to Dunkin Donuts to get bagels and coffees, I was only smiles. The scenery was just as beautiful as I remembered it. I parked my truck and looked out at the rolling water. I watched the two trees that we united between sway a little in the breeze. A doe and her fawn looked up, ears high, nervous tails twitching. They saw I posed no threat and actually continued to graze closer to me. I thought of Dan giving me this little gift of peace and serenity. When I stepped out of the truck, it became Olivia's day and not about me anymore. I was there to celebrate the soon to arrive precious baby boy she is carrying.

The set-up, the surprise, the food, the whole party, went off without a hitch. It was beautiful, and so was Olivia. As she was opening her presents, my sister and I sat next to one another. Of course we were watching Olivia, however we were also gossiping and laughing and being hilarious...well, we thought we were hilarious. Then it started. The first two notes, that's all it took for my heart to sink. My eyes met Jaime's and we were already crying before the words even started. The song that was playing was "Want To" by Sugarland. Dan proposed to me during this song at the Sugarland Concert at the Delaware State Fair, July 2007. He was asking me, "Do you like this song?" "Is this your favorite song?" "Do you love me?" ...etc. I was SO annoyed because it was my favorite song and I just wanted to hear her sing it!! Then he said, "Do you want to?" I looked over and he had the ring out and open, and said, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?" I don't remember any more of that concert. My life had just gotten better than I ever thought it could.

Jaime and I ended up walking down to the pier when people started to notice we were crying. We then exploded into laughter talking and thinking about how Dan's timing was ALWAYS so inappropriate.

I miss his inappropriateness, his sly smile, and his arms around me, however, it's little signs like that, that solidify the fact he is always with me.