Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Blue Jay

You might remember reading about my experience with the lawn mower the summer after Dan died. Just to recap: I purchased a mower, put it together, filled it with oil and gas, just to have it cut out on me every time I mowed one row. I cried, screamed, panicked, pounded the ground with my fist cursing all things living and inanimate until I glanced up and saw the beautiful Blue Jay.
That Blue Jay was an every day occurrence for weeks and months after that moment. He was a symbol of hope and reassurance for the beauty of life. As time passed, he didn't show up daily, however would show his glamorous colors every now and again, reminding me to smile and appreciate my gifts.
Since I've met Nick, and fallen in love again my winding road has been a pleasant stroll through wild wilderness where everything is fresh and every experience a new and very much wanted "first." Who, of those that knew me in the darkest year of my life, would think that I would ever get to such a place on this road? I never did.
Just as I am smiling in the breeze, opening my eyes to other birds and their colors, I feel the Earth shake. It isn't another Earthquake, it's worse. My rock, my friend, the one who has and always will know best, my Mother, falls ill. I find myself swimming in the same pool of WHY???
I feel myself turning around on the road and heading in the opposite direction. I am sad, at times I am manic. Up Down Up Down Up Down, where am I? Did I just laugh and have a good time with friends...because I shouldn't. How can I do that when my Mom is in pain. When my mom is wrapped up in a blanket, tired eyes, bald head in a scarf?
WHY? Do I embrace this selfishly at times and say things like, "You took my husband from me, You are NOT ALLOWED to take my Mom." or "Don't you think I weathered enough?" "I JUST learned how to live again", why WHy WHY?????
While the tears roll down my face they scrape like knives. They remember the route they have fallen in the past and rush down the familiar path. I know hurt. I know pain. How am I supposed to be strong and positive when I haven't yet learned to not "think the worst." HOW? WHY?
As these thoughts raced (like always) during a run yesterday, I found it hard to breathe. Was it the hill I was climbing? The weight I've put on? The weight of the World? Maybe you should just give up, Tiffin. You've run half marathons don't HAVE to do this one. You have a lot on your plate right now, it's ok to make excuses. When you get to the top, go ahead and stop to catch your breath. At the top of the hill I never had a chance to stop. Out of the left corner of my eye, a bright blue friend flew in front of my face. He perched a little further ahead of me on the fence. He watched me, closely. (Yes, you can say that I'm crazy because I wouldn't give up in front of a blue jay) but I didn't. I ran so close to him before he spread his wings and darted into a nearby pine. Hi Dan. Thank you.
Coincidence? Maybe. Divine intervention? Not so sure about that. A myth I allow myself to believe for the purpose of comfort? Possibly. Has the ability to put wind back in my sail, to pony up and face the storm? Absolutely.
The road just got longer and the terrain nothing less than rough. My strength will rise and fall with my spirits. If I have learned anything so far these are the most important lessons:
  • Lean on the ones that love you the most. Tell them every day what they mean to you.
  • The people that leave this world, are never really gone. Allow their gifts to live on in your character and actions.
  • Find the silver lining in the storm cloud that is for casted to stick around.
  • Know that you are never walking the road alone, even when there is one set of "footprints."
  • Let courage fuel your positive thinking instead of fear fueling depression.
  • And, Pray out loud.

To my friends whom have felt the effects of my distance, and sadness lately: I am so sorry. Kym~ I haven't even seen your beautiful baby and that makes my heart ache. Kirty~ I've almost forgotten the sound of your infectious laugh. Hilly~ your text messages make me smile every day, but I need to hug you. Sputty~ My godson and his amazing brothers probably have forgotten I even exist. I am so sorry. Jessi~ Thank goodness we have a date, my life is fuller with you in it. Olivia~ Thank you for being the friend I can ALWAYS call, even at the wee hours of the morning, because you always answer, and we always pick right back up where we left off. To my best friend, My sister~ we talk every day, we text and email constantly, we had dinner last week, but IT ISN'T enough!! Do my sweet niece and nephew even know me anymore?? There might have to be a move in the future. Or I am just going to quit this super stressful job of mine and be their full time nanny. I will work for smiles and the sound of Lilly saying, "TEEEEEEEE, I love you so much."

This has taken me over an hour to write. I had to stop to wipe tears, blow my nose as well as, cry again at a commercial for a Tom Hanks/Sandra Bullock movie that is coming out. Tears are cleansing and so is writing and sharing my thoughts. Your prayers for my Mom are helping, so please keep them coming. If you get a minute the rest of my family could use some too. Love to all.

Monday, August 22, 2011

One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

In some ways it seems like forever ago that I was starting my first "new" school year without Dan, in some ways it seems like yesterday. Tomorrow will begin the school year for 2011-2012.
I've continued down this winding road, and am in a very different place than I was at the start of the last school year. With every passing day, I got stronger. I fell in love again, I've made new friends, new family members were introduced to the world, I ran 4 half marathons, and the issues involving Dan's estate are on the path to being made right.
Yet, again, I find myself with a heavy heart.
I woke up this morning and made coffee and a smoothie for breakfast. I walked outside and felt the warm sun hit my skin in between the blowing short breezes. I thought of the things I wanted to do today (my last day off). I want to run, make sure I'm set for tomorrow, do Marlo's exercises with him...etc. Then all of a sudden it hits me. It is actual pain that shoots from my chest to my bellybutton. My mom is sick, my mom is really sick and there is nothing I can do to make it better. My mom is in pain, emotionally and physically, and there is nothing I can do to make it better. My mom has a really long hard road in front of her and there is nothing I can do to shorten it. The guilt of planning out my day, feeling good, singing along with the radio permeates throughout my body. Now I'm sick, my stomach hurts.
I am really scared. I am also angry and confused. My mother has lived her entire life for the Lord. He is always first, He is always the answer, He is our strength. I don't understand how a woman who has dedicated her life to living and preaching His Word has to suffer. Shouldn't she be a candidate for a pass, a freakin' get out of jail free card? I remember this part of the road from losing Dan. I am mad and trying to answer questions that can not be answered by anyone here on this Earth. It doesn't stop me from asking them, though.
Keep those prayers going for the days that I get too upset to pray. For the days that my words to the Big Man turn ugly because of hurt. I am going to end this with a prayer. I pray for tomorrow to bring me strength and hope in the smiles of precious children. I pray I can lead them to knowledge and morals through example and love. I pray to hold strong, and learn to lean on those around me when I can't. I pray to continue to believe in miracles, and the power of hope.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What A Week

It was Sunday. I got a phone call from my lawyer about our upcoming court appearance dealing with Dan's estate. I've been dealing with issues related to his estate (and the person in charge of it) since moment one of my life without Dan. I fell apart after this phone call. A hard heavy sob came from unknown depths. Was it because there might be a resolution? Was it because the light of truth would finally be shone? Was it because evil and deceitful would be unmasked? Or, was it because no matter what, Dan still wouldn't be here?
This week was going to be hard, time to put on my game face. Late Sunday night: One of my best friends whom has been having a problematic third pregnancy and was confined to a hospital bed, sends a text that reads, "Baby coming now." My heart drops and I immediately begin to pray. I pray so hard and long, I don't even know when the prayer stopped and I fell asleep. Around 1:45 Monday morning, another text came that announced my Godson, Zachary's early arrival. He is little, early, on a breathing tube, but healthy. His mom, lost 80% of her own blood. She had numerous transfusions, and countless other procedures to save her life. TO SAVE HER LIFE. Just writing that, I get chills. We could have lost our Sputty. Thank you to God and all the angels, she is still here, beautiful, and smiling.
Monday afternoon. Anticipation of Marlo's surgery and court are rising. I speak with my step dad and he tells me about a procedure my mom is having the next day, Tuesday. I stifle a cry. I need to get off the phone. I need to call my sister. Jaime answers, I am trying not to sound frantic, but I want to know what is going on with our mom. Jaime tells me, and I lose it. My walls feel like they are closing in on me. I have been self consumed with my own issues, I was not aware of my own mother's. Guilt, confusion, anxiety, and fear come out in the form of hot tears.
It is not my place to announce my mother's business especially via blog, however, I will say the power of prayer is strong. Add her to your prayer chain, my prayer warriors.
Tuesday morning, Nick and I drop precious Marlo off at VOSM (the Ritz of orthopedic surgical facilities). Nick's funny jokes and quick wit keep me from crying. The staff immediately falls in love with Marlo (of course) and he happily trots away with the nurse. Afterwards, I go with Hilly to visit Sputty. We laugh and tell stories. I love doped up Amanda, I love not-doped up Amanda, but she was funny and entertaining. Tuesday night. I get the news from my mom's procedure. It wasn't what I wanted to hear. I break inside, here come those walls, faster than ever. Tomorrow is a big day. I'm nervous, sad, and I can't sleep. Gunner paces around the bedroom wanting to know where his brother is. I miss him too, boy. He'll be home tomorrow.
Very early Wednesday morning, I get up and make coffee. I should have made decaf considering how jumpy I already was. I got ready, called to check on Marlo, nursed a nervous stomach, talked to my sister, got a text from Nick that made me snort laugh (which I needed), and waited for my dad to come pick me up. At the courthouse, my dad, step dad, two lawyers, and I spent the duration of the morning in the hearing. The outcome was justice. It was exactly what should have happened. Actually, it never should have gotten this far if promises had been kept and duties been upheld, and what Dan would have wanted considered, but I digress.
I wanted so badly for when this outcome surfaced, to expose the people who have been the root of this unnecessary pain. I wanted to tell the world, what Dan and I already knew about them before all of this. I don't want to anymore. I feel just as good knowing that THEY know, how wrong they were. BY LAW, BY MORALS, BY ALL DEFINITIONS OF HUMANITY, they know they were wrong.
"All evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke. I stood up against evil in the name of my late husband, in the reality of what HE would have wanted for me, what he DOES want for me, and evil did not succeed.
As I sit here now, with Marlo drugged and coned beside me, Gunner resting beside him, I think of the past few days. I also focus on what is ahead. There is no end to this winding road, and no promise that it will flatten or be paved. I do, however, have the promise of not walking any of it alone.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Racing Subconscious Mind

I had to chuckle, because the first sentence I wrote for this blog was, "My mind is insane." That's how I feel sometimes, though. I guess I should phrase it as, "My thoughts are insane." I hate how my mind plays tricks on me, too, especially in my sleep. My biggest fears, saddest moments, total heartbreak, and darkest sides of me, come out and back to me as I dream.
For years now I have suffered from night sweats. Not a light "glow" or "dampness". I'm talking an all out, I need a shower and to change the sheets, kind of sweat. I've been to almost every doctor there is, tried different medications and homeopathic remedies, and a very expensive and bad purchase of sheets that were supposed to work wonders. Dan used to walk into the bedroom as I was changing the sheets and say, "oh great, it's asylum night." I would laugh and roll my eyes even though I did feel bad. These things were bright white and as comfortable as cardboard.
Recently, I have noticed that my worst sweats come with my most intense dreams. Two weeks ago I had a terrible dream about Dan. It was so bad, I don't even want to write about it. I just spent ten minutes explaining it, and then deleted every line. It hurt to even reread. I woke from this dream in a pool. It took minutes to put together the last year and a half of my life and realize that what just happened was a dream. I was sad, then so very angry.
After my anger subsided, a difficult week followed. As, Paul Young explains so eloquently in, "The Shack", The Great Sadness took over. Laughing was a chore, and I felt bad for everyone around me, because I just wasn't myself. I lost sleep and I think it was in some way because I didn't want to dream anymore. A complete feeling of "poor pitiful me" consumed me. I hate feeling sorry for myself, and I couldn't help it, so it made it even worse! I pride myself on being the "glass half full" girl and always biting the bullet, cowboying up, and smiling through it. I get even harder on myself when I have difficulty doing that.
Little things that reminded me of Dan kept popping up throughout the week. Maybe they were signs, but they made me mad. I wanted to talk to him, really, I needed him to talk back.
Everyone always called Dan for advice. Not only was he incredibly smart, he was also an amazing friend. I hope he knows that I never took that for granted. I hope I told him enough.
I go back and forth with finding it hard and easy to have conversations with God. Right now, it's hard for me. I'm not sure why I feel like if I say the wrong thing, I might be punished. Someone else I dearly love might leave my life. I know that's not how it works, so why I try and go about my day incognito toward the Lord, is a mystery to me. I know He is the reason that "The Great Sadness" doesn't last nearly as long anymore. I hope He also understands my confusion. I lay in bed, begin to pray, then my mind goes in a million directions. I forget I was praying and eventually go to sleep.
Today, I want to hug everyone I love. Even though that isn't possible, and my arms can't reach that far; I'm telling you now. Today, I am back to half full, and smiles. Today is another day on the winding road and even though it's 110 degrees, the birds are signing and my cheering section in the clouds can be heard loud and clear.
Everyone who is reading this, I love you, and love the way you have individually touched my life. Thank you. Thanks for staying on this ride with me, even though it's only been bumpy!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Shack

I love to read. I like to read mystery, fantasy, suspense, love, comedy, and even a romance novel now and then. After Dan died, I stopped doing many of the things I loved. I stopped watching football for a while, I stopped listening to music, I stopped watching any shows that we loved together. I did not, however, stop reading. During that "first year" without him, I actively sought knowledge about grief. Really what I was doing was assuring myself that other people had endured this pain, and survived. I read many books like, "I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye", "A Grief Observed", "Widows Wear Stillettos", "The Tender Scar", "Waking up Alone", and "Getting to the Other Side of Grief"; to name a few. Most of the books I read, made me feel stronger, but at times, I read words that would have been discouraging to even non-widows. I swore to never read another Nicholas Sparks novel, or Jodi Picoult, because I didn't need their reasons and words to make me cry, I had my own.
I'm slowly easing back into the reading scene of non-grief books, (currently infatuated with C.J. Box's novels that include the character Joe Pickett.) Before I began the Joe Pickett series, I read a book lent to me by my mom. She didn't really give me any background on the book except that it was a Must Read. I would like to say that my mom had no idea how right she was, but something tells me, yes, in fact she knew exactly what she was handing me as she carelessly put it in my purse one day after a visit.
I took "The Shack" by WM. Paul Young out of my purse when I got home. I read the book jacket, and thought, "Wow, Mom....Do you want me to kill myself?" It sounded depressing, and not at all like the uplifting words I needed to read.
I layed the book on my nightstand amidst the stacks of other to-read books. I don't remember how or why it popped out at me recently, but it did, and I am better because of it. I would love to tell you all about this book, and give my opinions, my views, thoughts, feelings, but I really want you to read it for yourself. I am going to write this:
For about a year and a half (since Dan's passing) there has been hate brewing inside of me. Hate for certain people who care more about themselves than the memory and beautiful life lived by my husband. Hate of being wronged, hate for lies told, and promises broken. Hate for harsh words, and stabs to the back and heart. My favorite phrase to those I spoke about this with was, "At least I'm not the one that has to judge them." I smiled believing and playing like a movie what their judgement would look like. Hoping it would be the hand of God smacking them all down into eternal hell, which is what I feel they have done to me. Would you believe me if I told you this book has turned my hate? Don't get me wrong, you are not going to see me embracing any of these people in a heartfelt hug, or let alone making eye contact, however I do not hate.
What I walked away with from this book is that God loves all his children. Even the ones that make our stomach turn in disguist, he loves them as much as he loves the ones that dedicate their lives to being good. Just like any parent loves their doctor or lawyer daughter as much as they love their addicted/jailed son.
I don't believe that I have to love these people as God loves them, but I do need to forgive them. Not for their benefit, but for mine. I need to release the hate that bonds me to them, and with that, they will forver be let go.
As young girls our mother told my sister and I, "Never say hate." "You can say, dislike, but hate is ugly." And just like the many lessons, she taught me so diligently throughout my life...
She knew exactly what she was doing when she slipped THE SHACK into my purse.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Heartbreak, and the Opposite

We've all felt them. When Dan died it was as if I was having daily heart attacks because of the severity of the pain I felt within my chest. A stubbed toe was momentary relief of the physical pain I felt in my heart. I used to wonder if the pain I felt was anything like what Dan felt the last moments of his life.
Today, those severe heartbreaks/aches are few and far between, however, my heart is far from being above aches and pains for various reasons, and every time they happen, it takes me back to the realization that none of us have any control.
I've struggled with sharing this piece of information, but with careful thought, I do not believe I am dishonoring Dan by divulging it. Dan's cardiac arrest began on the treadmill at Lifetime Fitness, but it didn't end there. He sat down on the treadmill with his head between his knees. He then got up and went to the restroom. Evidently, cardiac arrhythmia can at first disguise itself as nausea or the onset of a very upset stomach. Dan was found slumped over in a stall by a Doctor who had been running on the treadmill next to him and carefully watching his actions. The doctor began CPR immediately, but we all know it was already too late.
Fast forward to last Saturday night, the 18Th. Nick and I went out to a restaurant/bar in Edgewater. There was a point in the night when I happened to look over at Nick as he was walking inside. I watched his tall frame move into the bathroom with a smile on my face, giving a silent thank you to God for my courage and my ability to allow myself to love again. I continued with my conversations and soon was lost in laughs and jokes with friends. I looked over again a little while later, and didn't see Nick.
A rational person wouldn't have given this a second thought. A person who lost her husband begins to feel the rapid beat of her heart. A rational person thinks that he is fine and will meet up with him in a while. A person who remembers watching her husband walk out of the door, never to return again, walks briskly inside the bar. A rational person would glance around and then resume activities with friends, not putting too much thought into the whereabouts of her social boyfriend. A person who lost her husband in a bathroom stands stalkerishly by the men's room door, fighting the urge to rush inside, fully ready to administer CPR. A rational person never would have gotten to this point, so the rest comes from a person who is terrified that the ones she loves will die tragic, untimely deaths. I rush back and ask everyone if they have seen Nick. They haven't. My fears are confirmed, I just know it, he is sick or dead in the stall of Coconut Joe's.
I find Nick listening to the band. It's been a total of fifteen minutes, yet I've worked myself up to the point that I throw myself into his arms as the lump in my throat tightens and my eyes ache as I fight back the tears. I am holding on entirely too tightly to this rational person. This rational man who is looking at me wondering what is so wrong. I wanted to suck the words right back into my smiling mouth as soon as I said them, but it was too late. "You're not dead."
This type of heartbreak is stealth and is brought on by deep fears mixed with panic. It starts as a rapid heartbeat and thoughts that you can't control rushing through your mind. Thoughts that you know are irrational, but you can't help but to think them, and then you can't help but to believe them. Your head is spinning as a rubber band is placed around your heart. Someone is pulling the sides of the rubber band as far as they can extend and letting them go at a milliseconds pace. Your neck tightens and lips quiver even if you are not crying. Sometimes the eye will twitch. When the episode is over, and the things you knew were OK in the first place are really OK, it might end with a few relief tears. Most of the time I can stifle them to only a gloss of the eyes. The heartache is far from over, even if the "episode" is. Your loved ones are OK, so the embarrassment of your panic sets in. The sadness that you have these episodes in the first place, takes you to the dark place where they began. You wonder when the next one will take place, and if you will be able to get through it. You pray.
Sunday afternoon, the 19Th. My sister has a father's day barbecue and I feel no such heartache. The rubber band has snapped in the night, and no longer constricts my heart. The muscles in my face are relaxed until a smile erupts from the love that is presented at this event. I watch as Lilly chases bubbles, knowing that the only worry in her world is whether or not she would catch the bubble or if it would burst before her perfect hands could make the grasp. My heart sang as Carson and Dillon swing as high as birds and slide down the slide. I hold my heart and face as if trying to keep myself on the ground as I watch Taylor stretch and squeal as her Daddy lifts her in the air. I want a million of these days. I want children to protect, and love, and lift. I want to feed off of their innocent fearlessness, their lack of panic, their sense of security.
This is the opposite of heartbreak, I wish I knew the perfect antonym for the word. Then again, maybe I do.... Faith, love, hope.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Craig Coyne

It happened 3 days ago. Just around the same time it happened last year. I went to the mailbox, and there it was. It was addressed, (as always) to Dan and Lilly Shriner. There are only a few people on this Earth that don't know he has passed, and only one that has always thought my first name was Lilly. It was Sam, the jeweler from Craig Coyne, in Ellicott City. The inside read, "Dan and Lilly, Congratulations on your wedding anniversary, our best wishes to you both, ~ Sam." Two days from now, on June 7th, we would have been married 3 years.
I think I was the one who drug Dan into the jewelry store on a beautiful day that we played hooky together. I think I had made up my mind that it had been long enough, and he needed to know what kind of ring I wanted, even if he didn't think so. We met Sam, and fell in love with his style, his people skills, his interest in Dan and I as a couple. What I wasn't aware of is that Dan went back there the next day to start "building" our forever.
This past Friday night was a night spent on the town in Ellicott City. Nick, Cara, Ryan, John, and I ate and hopped to a few bars up and down the quaint streets. I knew I was getting close to it, as we walked down the hill. I felt my heart start to race. Tiffin, this is natural. It's been a long time. It's close to your anniversary, you just received a card from them, it's okay to feel like this. Don't let them see your eyes. Look away, stop slowing down, don't look in the window, don't look at the "Craig Coyne You Ware" on the door. Why did you slow down? Don't linger, they will know something is up. Keep walking and enjoy this night.
It was more than I could bare, and I did break down. Thank God for the girls bathroom. Thank God that I had Cara that night, and she knew just what to say, she knew to just listen. I guess I am also thankful for good crys, even as inopportune as they might be.
Cara and I hugged and joined up with the boys. I saw Nick before anyone else. My throat got choked up again. What if I lost him? What if something dreadful happened to him? What if I had to do this all over again? Could I? I couldn't. I'm scared.
I am still scared last night. I can't sleep. I watch Indecent Proposal, I watch Investigation Discovery, I watch the beginning of Crazy Heart, then the TV timer turned the television to off. I laid there with my eyes open. Nick isn't snoring, is he breathing? I get really close to his face to feel his breath. Am I psycho? What if he opened his eyes right now? Why do I feel like this? Why am I crying, again? The warm tears run out and down, and I can't stop them. I am stifling my sniffles and breaths, but it's hard. Roll over, and go to sleep. Why can't you ever sleep? You worry too much. You can't control ANY of this, Tiffin. Worrying isn't going to change the course of the universe.
Today: Sadness. That hint of depression that says, "all I want to do is sleep." I manage to shake it somewhat, but not the stomachache that accompanies it. Nick has an idea that we should go for a walk, so we do. We wondered down by the river in Savage and walked side by side. We had a conversations about anticipatory anxiety. The wait of something that might scare you is more of a nuisance than the actual event. We spoke of how life can throw something at you, and in an instant your "normal" is something severely feared. It's crazy. What a lame way to describe something so big, but crazy seemed to explain how we felt about the unexplainable during our walk today.
Tuesday, and my would-be anniversary will come and go. I will most likely smile, and have a "normal" day. Besides visiting Dan at the cemetery and spending some time with my girls, on a week night, nothing else will change. I will still hold Dan near to my heart, but I will also continue to love this new, strong, wild, love I have now.
At some point, before this happens next year, I am going to inform Sam of this world's tragic loss. We will most likely cry together, and then laugh and smile as he shares his memories of how picky and choosy Dan was. Sam doesn't know it yet, but eventually I want him to make me a piece of jewelry that incorporates both of my rings, as well as his. I know he can do it, and I'll ask him when I'm ready.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Pocket

Thursday afternoon I was exhausted. I hadn't slept well and all I wanted to do was lie in the cool of the basement and take a nap. I propped up my feet onto Nick's lap, put my head on a pillow, and just glanced at the TV, thinking I would soon be asleep. I had only turned the TV on, and there was Oprah. I haven't watched Oprah in a long time, but this story caught my attention quickly. A woman dying of breast cancer, made a plethora of video and audio tapes addressing her daughter, Peyton. Life lessons, love stories, smiles, and tears are all shared on these keepsakes. Oprah had Peyton, and Peyton's father (the woman's widower) on the show. They were a beautiful family. As Peyton's father was being interviewed, he cried and spoke of a hole that will never be filled in his life because of the tragic loss of his first wife. Oprah then asked his current wife, how that made her feel. She was poised and confident when she said, "Any woman wants to be their husband's everything, but it would be foolish to believe that his past life didn't exist." She explained that everything her husband went through made him into the kind of man she wanted to spend her life with.

When it comes to the father/husband, I can relate to so much of what he knows and how death of a spouse molds you into a different person, however I disagree that Dan left a "hole"in my life when he relinquished this Earth. Of course in the beginning, it felt like not only a hole was missing, but that half of me was gone. In time, I changed my thinking. I realized that if I ever had a hole missing from my life, it was before I met Dan. When he came into my life, that hole was filled with everything I needed for a strong foundation and future.

Now he is gone, but not from me. He is no longer physically here, but I know he still looks after me. My mom said it perfectly the other day, "True love is when you want the absolute best for the other person." Dan still wants the best from me and he is celebrating me from his seat on the edge of the clouds.

Is Dan missing from my life? Sure. But I imagine the hole I would have, had he never been a part of my life, and I am thankful every day for the time we were blessed to share together.

When Dan was welcomed into Heaven, his new life began. And, as much as it wasn't planned, and for as much as I wished it weren't so, mine did too. Even though mine is without wings, yet not without sorrow, I have chosen to live it with courage. I have reopened my heart and welcomed the world and all it has to offer, instead of shutting it out and growing cold.

This winding road has lead me to new faith, new friends, new hope, and new love. I will never replace the love my husband and I shared, however there is no "hole I am trying to fill".

I think of the piece inside that is missing Dan as a pocket. In this pocket, I place daily smiles. I put memories in the pocket. I fill it some days with hugs from children and smiles from strangers. What I know is that my pocket will never be empty. I keep all of you in my pocket, and that pocket rests on my heart.

Fill your pockets, my friends. Live life positively, but aggressively, it is only ours for a short while.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Angel Runner

Dear Angel Runner,

On April 24, 2010 you ran a half marathon with me in Nashville Tennessee. It was the race we had signed up to do together, when your soul was still here on Earth. It was the first for both of us. I've never felt so close to an angel as I did along that run, on that day. As I've continued to run, I've continued to feel your presence.

A little over a year later on April 30, 2011, we ran our 4th half marathon together in Ocean City, Maryland.

I have to admit that my mind was racing as my feet were whisking the pavement. I wasn't focused on the fact that I run to remember or that I run because your Earthly body cannot. It was more in the back of my mind. I thought about my training, I thought about the beautiful landscape I was running through, I listened to music and worked on my drum beat breathing.

Running up the bridge to get to Assateague Island, I struggled. I remember speaking to you and telling you that I could really use the help of your wings. There was a wind that graced my back, but I felt like I was running in place. When I got to the bottom, I felt deflated, tired, and confused. Confused as to why I choose to do this to my body. My spirit was broken. As I slowed my pace to a walk, I heard a woman's voice. "I've been following you for 12 miles now, you are not going to stop this close to the end, let's go." We ran together the rest of the mile. We talked about the wild horses and I remember laughing when she said, "I can almost smell the beer." When we reached the finish line, she sprinted ahead and finished hard. I saw her after receiving our medals and we hugged. I never got her name.

I was disappointed in myself that it was that easy for me to want to give up after coming so far. I thought about how, that wasn't your spirit running in me. I thought, where were you?

When I woke from a much needed nap, I started to put my things into my bag. I touched my iPod and it came on. Journey was playing. I just started to laugh. You were there the whole time. You didn't give me wings, because you always wanted me to "do it myself." You always wanted me to be proud of my accomplishments. Then, I thought about the woman. She was an angel in human form, and now, I see that was no coincidence.

I started running to finish the race that we began together. I ran to remember, sometimes I ran to forget. I run now for me. For everything I am because of you, and for everything I will become. I run for the future that wasn't meant to be and the future that will transpire.

Continue to be my Angel-Runner. Continue to watch over us as this race called life streams by.

Hebrews 12:1~ Wherefore seeing we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.

Bib Number 594

Monday, April 25, 2011


One week ago today, was the first Monday of Spring Break. When I went to sleep on Sunday night, I was so excited about sleeping in that I was having trouble falling asleep. Instead of awaking around noon as I had hoped, my eyes opened around 6:00. I knew I didn't have to get up, so I smiled and hunkered down further in the covers. The light had just begun to fill the room. It was that early morning light that looks more like the sun going down, than when it is rising. That primordial light creeps into the room and casts a blue shade onto everything in it's path. A memory flooded me.

There were so many early mornings, especially on weekends, that I would wake right around this time. I would look at my sleeping husband and notice that the blue cast made his brown Italian skin darker than normal. Then I would sit up ever so slightly to peek at the boys. It never failed that they would be sharing a bed sleeping as yin and yang. I would lay down again, smiling. My eyes would sweep over all of the imperfections of our house, and still, I would be smiling. The thought that constantly ran through my head was, "I love my family."

I would be fidgety enough at this point where Dan would have awakened and I would tell him, "I love our family." He would give a grin. That grin said to me a few things: 1. I'd like you to shhhhhh, because I am sleeping, 2. I think it's funny that you consider the dogs we rescued our sons, and 3. I love our family, too. It was mornings like this that led to our wedding song being "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5.

Even though the family dynamic has changed, Dan will always be a part of it. This past Monday, I continued to think of how much I love my family. My mother and step father are the two most supportive people I know. They back my every decision with love. They comfort me when I need to be a child again, because the world is too cruel. They look at me with pride in their eyes. My father and step mother share in that support. I am still daddy's little girl, and if I hurt, so does he. My sister...I could spend hours on to find a word that encompasses all that she is to me, but when I put my mind to it, all I come up with is everything. She is everything to me. Ryan is the best brother-in-law in the world, and his entire family has taken me in, as if I were blood related. Lilly owns my heart. My friends are extensions of my family, and I pray I treat them that way, so that they always know it. Easter Sunday was spent at Heidi and Billy's and again, I am treated by their family, as one of their own. And now there is Nick.

One week later, and early this morning, I dropped Nick off at the repair shop to pick up his car. We went to get coffee and then parted ways. I had a stupid grin on my face the whole way home. There are so many things about that man that make me smile, I don't even think he knows. I thought about last night and how he and his father spent the holiday with me and Merediths/Lyons/McDonels. I flashed back to a text I received from Gretchen, Heidi's sister. She told me that it was amazing to witness Dan with us, shining down on me last night at dinner. I can only believe that is Dan's way of telling me and others that he is proud of me, and that he shines in my happiness.

It is an amazing feeling to be happy again.

I think the future will always be a scary concept to me. I know all too well, that I can't control any of my plan, or the plan of others. I can only pray. I pray that there will come a time when I wake in the blue light, every morning. I will sit up and (hopefully) look over at a man who accepted the broken parts of a widow, and knew how much more love she had to give. Then my glance will turn to the boys, but as I slowly raise up, I will also be listening down the hallway for little sounds made by baby sons or daughters. I will remember my past, and everything that has made me the person I am. I will whole heartily and without taking one second for granted, cherish the present. I will thank the Lord for my many blessings and continue to say..."I love my family."

"If the family were a container, it would be a nest, and enduring nest, loosely woven, expansive and open. If the family were a fruit, it would be an orange, a circle of sections, held together, but separable-each segment distinct. If the family were a boat, it would be a canoe that makes no progress unless everyone paddles. If the family were a sport, it would be baseball: a long, slow, nonviolent game that is never over until the last out. If the family were a building, it would be an old but solid structure that contains human history, and appeals to those who see the carved moldings under all the plaster, the wide plank floors under the linoleum, the possibilities." ~ Letty Cottin Pogrebin

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Dreams Continue

Why are most of the dreams I have about Dan not ones that I'd like to remember? I had a dream the other night (again) that Dan came back. I am constantly trying to convince him to get to a doctor and he never wants to listen to me. We were at a party and all he wanted to do was spend time with his friends. He was annoyed with me and annoyed that I kept telling him that there was something wrong with his heart. He laughed at me and said, "Yes, clairvoyant Tiffin...I'm sure I'm going to die soon, sure." I started to cry and he told me that I always made a scene to get attention. I woke up, confused and angry. Dan- If you are going to come to me in a dream, will you at least try to be a little nice?

I don't understand why we have to fight in my dreams. Are these issues that I feel were never resolved with us? There was no "closure"to our relationship and I wonder if subconsciously I am trying to "work out" problems and find answers to questions I consciously know I won't have answered until the day I am called Home.

If I had these answers, would it make me less panicky when Nick walks out of the door? Less anxious when my loved ones don't respond right away to a phone call or text? Would I still have the timorous feeling when someone talks about a gym or running on a treadmill?

I never thought I would do many of the things that I've done since Dan has died. For example, I just KNEW I would be alone, lonely, unable to be loved, and unable to love. As I type, Nick is laying by side. He probably thinks he is still watching TV, but he has dozed off. As I look at him, my heart fills with warmth and the butterflies have a party in my stomach. I can't believe I have found another best friend in a man.

That being said, maybe one day my tremulous way of thinking will be proven wrong as well. There is so much happiness in my life right now (my precious Lilly who I love so much it hurts, my new nephew to be, Roman, the laughs I can only have with my sister, the fact that I am going to be a Godmother, spring break 3 days away, wet kisses from my boys, and yes, the cutie pie that is next to me right now) that when these "episodes" of panic and fear happen, I feel like I momentarily take two steps back.

On a funny "dream note" I had a dream the other night that I was part of a math club and I took it very seriously. If you know me, you are cracking up right now.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Last year around this time I remember posting an angry blog, something about "stupid daffodils" and the fact that Mother Nature could be so insensitive to my broken heart. How was this beautiful daffodil sprouting from the dirt when my life was so impenetrable by the sun? I distinctly remember a night when I took out the trash. I rolled the trashcan over one of the daffodils and it felt good. I then proceeded to stomp, crush, kick, and tear the rest of the innocent flowers from the still cold ground. I cried the angriest tears a human cry. Afterwards, I came inside and fell on my knees. I was covered in dirt and tears and I was alone. I kept telling will always be alone, this is it, you will always feel like this, why is everything just "continuing" to exist when you so badly want it to cease completely?

I am thankful my life did not cease. I am thankful that during those times of pure despair, I was never really alone at all.

Recently those same flowers have found their way to the surface again. Smiling every day at the sun that begins to hit them in the wee hours of the morning. I began to notice them sprouting one day as Nick and I were walking out of the house. I, for a split second, remembered the anger, hurt, and fear that came with the newness of Spring last year. Then as fast as it came on, it was gone. Left in my heart and on my face, was a smile. Had Nick turned around and seen the cheesy smile on my face, he'd probably wonder if I was hittin' the sauce that morning! But, for those short minutes I felt an overwhelming sense of pride about how far I've come down this winding road. And as I hurried to catch up with him, and grabbed around his arm, I felt ready for whatever the future has to offer.

Because those daffodils are growing haphazardly in the, "flower bed" (and I use that term extremely lightly) I am going to dig them up tomorrow. I will make a bouquet and take them to the cemetery. Dan and I spent long hours and days working in the yard every spring and fall making it pretty, but you would never guess it now. I let my apathy for anything beautiful and anything that required energy to push me deeper into my shell, last year. My shell has since cracked and the coldness has lifted off of me like fog over a bay. I want to take to Dan some of the resplendent fruits of his labor. I am going to tell him that everything bright and beautiful will always remind me of his smile. I will lay the flowers over his name as I tell him (even though he already knows) that I am okay. Not just okay, but good.

A light exists in spring

not present on the year

at any other period

~Emily Dickinson

Monday, March 14, 2011


I have written before of my anxieties and fear of abandonment by my loved ones since the passing of Dan. Some days are better than others. Some days my thoughts are not consumed by the possible losses my soul might endure. Other days, the thoughts of mischance lay heavily on my heart.

Last Friday, I turned on the Today Show as I was getting ready for work. The news was teeming with coverage of the Earthquake in Japan. When word of tragedy enters my brain these days, it's different than before. I truly believe that I can feel other's pain. I laid my hand on my heart. I do this often now, and am not sure if it is because I physically feel the pain in my heart, or, because I know how vital the heart is to life.

I say a silent prayer. It starts as a general prayer for those affected. This prayer makes me feel as small as a grain of sand on the bottom of the vast ocean. My thoughts shift to the pain I know of first hand. I think of the widows, especially the young ones. I think about how they woke up on a Friday morning, with plans of the weekend dancing in their head. They rolled over and touched the shoulder of their husband, never imagining it was last time they would see them alive. My mind swirls. I think of the young widowers, then parent-less children, fearful mothers, daughters, fathers, sons. How can nature: strong, powerful, untimorous, incredibly beautiful, also be so cruel and unmerciful? How do you comfort the ones catastrophe has been afflicted upon?

Keep praying Tiffin. Remember that YOU ARE as small as that grain of sand. You will never know the answer to "why" as long as you walk this earth. These people have a plan, just like you. It might not be the plan they saw for themselves, but there will be light on their road, just like there was on yours. Pray that they see the beauty in that light, sooner than later.

Calamity such as this, adds to the weight on my chest. When will I be able to not fear for the lives of the ones I love? Will there be a day when I only enjoy the love, and not have thoughts of loss in the back of mind?

Like the wild creatures of the world, I have learned to greatly appreciate the survival of the day. I would like also, to come into the peace of not taxing my life with the forethought of grief.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A New Chapter

Yesterday my last surviving Grandparent, my Mother's Mother passed away. Stella Lawson Phelps lived a good long life.

It was raining yesterday. It was raining when I woke up in the morning, and it was raining when I got the news of her passing. This seems to be a pattern for loss in my life. The night Dan was brought Home, the rain was puddling everywhere my eyes darted. I hated the rain for the longest time. Every time I saw the ominous sky I would curse God and my existence here. And when the sun decided to come out, I would curse it too, catechizing its reasoning for my torture.

I don't remember the exact day that I stopped hating the rain, and I don't remember the exact day that I stopped hating the sun when it rose, what I do know, is that I look at both of these phenomena as blessings from a Creator that will one day give me all the answers I seek.

The rain drops that fell yesterday were the happy tears of my Grandmother's friends, family, and her beloved husband, my Grandad, greeting her as she entered the pearly gates. I spoke to my Grandma on Friday. She was not alert, but I believe she heard what I was saying. I told her to hug Dan for me. Really, I told her to give him a HUGE hug (because that always made him uncomfortable and I think it's funny). I also told her to go ahead and call him by the wrong name, because she always did. In between the tears that streamed down my face, I smiled, and prayed for my Grandma's peace. The whole room was crying, not sobbing, but soft tears of goodbye. I looked at my sister in this solemn moment and couldn't contain my laughter. She was wiping her precious tears off of her face (with the cheapest toilet paper know to man), and had some stuck to her face. I am not talking about a little toilet paper, Jaime had actually paper-mached her cheek, and I couldn't stop the giggles. Straight out of the movie, "Steel Magnolias" Jaime and I smiled and said, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." And this remains true.

My favorite emotion is laughter, that being said, I am invariably trying to guide myself toward happiness. This past December, I literally stumbled into my new found happiness.

I met a tall drink of water by the name of Nick Smith, and the best part about us is that we became instant friends. I wasn't looking for anyone, and frankly, didn't know if it was possible. I am so happy we took a chance on each other. I knew that it would take a strong man to be with a widow. "Ghosts of Husbands Past" has to be an uncomfortable, and even concerning way to start a relationship, but he did. He accepts me for who I once was, he likes me for who I am, and respects who I strive to be. I appreciate his acceptance, am intrigued by his mind, warmed by his soul, and never take one of our many laughs together for granted. (I also happen to love his crooked little smile)

Every little step on this journey has been new and scary. This particular step is scary in a fun way.

Before I changed my relationship status on Facebook today, I wondered what my widowed friends would think, Dan's friends, my friends. I then remembered all the support I've gotten over the past year and longer. There is no one that is of importance in my life, that wants to see anything but my happiness. And for that, I thank you.

This is the beginning of a new set of chapters. A new story, a different path off the same winding road. Continue to walk with me friends, now in the light, since it is because of you that I shine.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today is a snow day. I was lazy with my boys this morning, then began to get some things accomplished. In the widow-world, I made some huge accomplishments today, however, I can't write about them yet. I'd like to share them with you, but there are some people following my writings to use them against me, instead of following my writings to walk with me on my journey. Instead of sharing my small triumphs with you (which is always more inspirational) I am going to share two feelings I have had since December 31, 2009.

Panic and Fear of Abandonment

I will start with the very scary emotion of panic. When Dan had been at the gym longer than 2 hours, I was concerned. I wasn't overly concerned, and to be honest, I might have been a little annoyed. I was annoyed because I was hungry, I had put a pizza in the oven, it was finished, and I really wanted to eat it. I also wanted to wait for him to get home, so we could eat it together. A few unresponded to texts, and a couple of phone calls that left me with his voicemail, turned that concern into a touch of fear. Fast forward to the phone call from the police at the hospital and my crazed state getting to Howard County General. That feeling had now turned into panic.

Present Day: I am here, I am smiling, I am moving forward with my life. But wait, there is that feeling...panic. I can't get a hold of Jaime...panic. I try Ryan's cell because I can't reach her, no answer...panic. Someone I love walks out my front door...panic. Should I run after them and tell them I love them? Have I said I love you enough to them, so that they know? How many times can you tell someone to be careful, drive safely...etc, before you are no longer just a concerned loved one, you are a psycho?

When will my racing heart and panic stop? Am I going to fear the uncontrollable for the rest of my life? Is this why my blood pressure it that of a 90 year old man who has only eaten fast food his whole life?

This is where my fear of abandonment comes in. I get scared sometimes that my psycho tendencies might scare someone away. I try and lock up my fear most of the time, but, I know that most see it in my eyes. I hug harder and longer than most. I take a mental picture of faces before I leave or they leave. I am always thinking..."What if this is the last time I see this person." I HATE THAT! Just sitting here at my computer, writing this, has my heart pounding. I am thinking of the faces of everyone I love and praying that God will keep them safe always.

Lord~ Keep my loved ones safe and happy. Let none know first hand of the panic and fear I carry. Help me enjoy the peace of the day, and not waste precious minutes worrying about things only You can control. Let the ones that I adore, know that I adore them, in case there were ever a time I not be able to say it myself. Thank you for the old and new people you have placed on my path. Thank you for the light and guidance you have given on this journey. Allow me to continue my smiles, my strength, my courage, and allow me to do this without hate and fear. ~ Amen

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Unexpected Change

I love children, I love my students, and I LOVE the things that come out of their mouths sometimes.

Today, we were reviewing a lesson on "change." There are 5 generalizations that can be made about change: It is linked to time, it is random or orderly, natural or caused by humans, change is everywhere, and finally change is expected or unexpected.

I asked the students to give me some examples of these different generalizations. I am always amazed at some of the things they come up with that I never would. I sometimes wish that I had uninhibited, unguarded thinking. One of my students raised his hand and said, "Mrs. Shriner, you didn't expect that your husband would die, you've probably had to make a lot of changes because of that."

I don't think that I took a breath for a while. He caught me off guard, but what a connection! Yes, my life has taken a very unexpected change, and many things have differed because of it. Some of the other students looked at him in a manner as if to say, "what are you doing???" But, I didn't mind, it was a teachable moment. I spoke briefly of perseverance. I spoke of strength, friendship, and courage.

Amongst the beautiful quiet faces, my newest student, a bright little girl, smiled and said, "Mrs. Shriner, you are the most lively person I have ever met, I would have never thought you have been through such tragedy." What a compliment. If that is what they are seeing, I know I have come far, considerably far.

The somberness of the talk took a humorous turn when another precious student said, "Well at least you're beautiful and someone else is bound to love you." Then, another chimed in and said, "And your not even too old to have babies, so if like that's what you want, you still can."

Yes, my darlings, I want. I want many things for a full life. That includes never wanting to miss a precious talk with the young minds that will one day run this world.

Over a year ago, I felt like a large stone that had been dropped without warning into a cold river. Today, I am the ripples on the wake. I am reaching out, grasping, feeling, and attaining all that this short life has to offer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February 9th

On February 9, 1979 a beautiful (OK, to be honest....I used to tell Dan that he looked like smeagle the little creepy guy in Lord of the Rings but that's neither here nor there) boy was born.

Whether it was singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" in his fifth grade play or protecting my honor in high school, even though we didn't know each other that well then, Dan was always making an impression.

As I stood at the cemetery today, cold and and staring at the stone which holds his name, I smiled. What a life he lived. Yes, it was too short, but Dan traveled the world, fought for his country, had hundreds of friends, smiled every day, loved and married his best friend... I was lucky enough to be that girl. He LIVED, LOVED, LAUGHED...He WAS that poster/banner/sign found at every Home Goods store.

It is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I have now been on this Earth longer than he ever was, but I have SO MUCH more living left to do to catch up to his accomplishments, his feats, his legacy.

I know, I can tell, that this year is going to bring me smiles and continued healing. When I run and have my conversations with Dan, I can hear him telling me how proud he is of me. I hear his voice telling me to keep moving forward, to continue and finish the race that has been set out before me.

When I first started to run for distance and to compete in races, I didn't think I could do it. I puked after the first mile, my legs felt like jello after 3 miles, and it didn't seem to be getting any better. I had signed up to do a 7 mile relay race, and I was starting to get nervous that I would let my team down by being the weakest link. One gorgeous day I went outside and got into my "run zone" for the first time. I ran 6 miles without stopping. When I came back home I ran downstairs and said, "Dan, I think I am going to be able to do this." I will never forget his face, it had a confused stare and he said, "Of course you can." He never lacked in confidence for me, never.

I am never again going to lack confidence in myself, I love that he taught me that. I am confident that my smiles are genuine these days. My smiles were even genuine and confident today, as I thought of his life well lived.

I have a beautiful life ahead of me, I am confident of this, and I am going to live it well, too.

~Any life, no matter how long and complex it my be, is made up of a single moment- the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is. ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, January 31, 2011

Stronger Than Most?

The other night (over cold Bud Lights and the beautiful ambiance of Wings Sports Bar) Heidi and I had a discussion. I love that I can tell my "sister-wife" anything....and so I do.

Somehow a discussion of strength came up. I told Heidi that I didn't like when people say things like, "You are SO STRONG...If I were in your shoes I would have curled up and died." Or, "You are SO STRONG... I still wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning.." Little comments like this hit my heart painfully. Not because I truly believe anyone means harm by this, or even judgement, however it often feels that way.

It makes me feel like I didn't properly grieve my husband. It makes me feel like people think I am not still grieving him.

Dan was my best friend. He knew the good, the bad, the ugly, and loved every part of it. There are few loves like that in the world, and I was lucky enough to have had the chance to experience it. That being said, that doesn't mean, I'm not going to give love another chance. It doesn't mean that I am going to say that my best years are behind me, and it's all down here from there. I truly don't believe that. There is a plan for me, and I am excited to live it.

I put live in bold because that is what Dan would want me to do. It's what my sister and family want me to do, it's what my friends and those who love me want me to do, it's what I want to do.

The other night, I opened one of Dan's dresser drawers to grab a pair of his boxers, which I often still wear to bed. I looked at some of his clothes and thought: Tiffin: You can do this. Tackle this one drawer, and you will have jumped another hurdle on this road. So, I did. I took out the boxers, the t-shirts, the socks, and few random shorts that Dan must have stuffed in there. (And he always called me the stuffer.) I made a pile of t-shirts I wanted to keep and ones I could donate. As I pulled each t-shirt out of the drawer, each and every one was a memory. I could picture a day that Dan wore that shirt, what we were doing, where we were, his always grin...

Yes, I cried. I cried really hard as a matter of fact, but when I was finished, I wiped my face and started to giggle. I looked at myself in the mirror and stared at the hot mess standing in front of me. I remembered the first time I cried in front in Dan. He stroked my hair and kept telling me that he had never met anyone that looked beautiful when they cried. He said, "Everyone has an ugly cry face, except for you." Whether he meant it or not, it got me to stopcrying and I even got (one of my many) nicknames out of it. He called me Stormy, because he said my eyes looked like the sky right after a storm.

I realized after I bagged the clothes, washed my face, blew my nose, that dealing with my grief has definitely gotten easier. I don't cry as often anymore and when I do, it doesn't last as long as it used to. When I think of Dan it is to smile, not cry.

I received an email today from someone I've never met. She is a friend of a friend. The email was titled "Getting Up" and it brought tears to my eyes as I read it. It wasn't an email that told me "You are SO STRONG....because I wouldn't be able to...." It was an email that just said, "You are SO STRONG." Thank you, my new friend, I appreciate those words so much.

My advice to anyone who might be inspired by someones strength: Don't sell yourself short. Don't compare yourself to someone else's strength, especially if you have not experienced their situation. Be undaunted in the fact that you can and will tackle whatever life has to throw at you. Be confident that God has a plan for you, and "Getting Up" in the morning is half the battle.

Thank you for all of you who continue to pray for me and my strength, it's working! I am living again, and loving every minute of it. I love when my real smile runs across my face. Just knowing that I am not faking it, makes me smile that much bigger!

Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them. ~ Washington Irving

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dear, Part Two

I have always been the one to do the grocery shopping. I used to go to Giant in Columbia, when Dan and I lived in Columbia. When we moved to Jessup, I started frequenting Weis in Laurel. I didn't think that my switch of the grocery store was pertinent until one day Dan's eyes got to be the size of saucers as he looked at the Weis logo on a plastic bag. He held it up, and said, "Where did you go grocery shopping?" I lifted my eyebrows and gave him my best, "DUH" face and pointed to said bag. Dan did not like the fact that I grocery shopped after dark most days, and that now I was grocery shopping at "the scary store" after dark. My response was, "Honey, it's fine.... there's always a security guard there." He didn't appreciate that either. After that, Dan would usually call me or text me while I was trying to get shopping accomplished. It probably didn't make matters any better since I normally came home with stories of interactions I had at the store. Even now that Dan has passed, I still shop at Weis. I have never once felt threatened there, and even less now that I have this guardian angel. I have, however, had some fantastic encounters that I'd like to share via "Mean Tiffin."

Dear Weis Supermarket,

I first want to thank you for your convenient and diversely beautiful location. There has never been a time that I have been to your store without some kind of experience. I have been taking note, and would like to share a few of them with you. I'd like to start in your produce section where there are copious amounts of employees. They do not speak English, and normally aren't smiling, but they can water the hell out of some broccoli, and those apple displays are nothing short of amazing. Asking for corn on the cob one summer and being led to the sweet potatoes didn't stop me from coming back. I also like how the salad bar is conveniently located just at the side of the produce section butted right up to the seafood counter. Nothing says delicious salad like the smell of imitation crab and day old salmon. The absolute best part is the jolly looking man with the long gray hair working behind the seafood counter. Last summer as I was holding my breath, and creating a salad, I felt the stare. I looked up at your friendly employee and saw his grin. I gave him an awkward smile, knowing by the look on his face that he felt the need to share. He said, "Hey....You don't get a body like that from eating salad." In my head: Really, Santa Clause? Don't you have some elves to go control? I say: "Not everybody can be this lucky." in my most sarcastic tone with squinty eyed-smile. Yes, I felt embarrassed and insulted, however I continued to load that salad with bacon bits and ranch and headed on my way. Again, I haven't given up on your store.

My next encounter should have been embarrassing for this gentleman, but I was the only one red in the face. Just like all other strategically placed items in your store, the soaps are also conveniently located next to the adult diapers. I was shopping for body wash, and look to my right to see an older man scanning the Depends. I felt a pang of sadness for him, and wanted to leave him alone in the isle. I would come back later. He looked up at me, as I was looking at him and I just smiled at him while I was turning my cart around. He said, "You got an awfully pretty smile. You whiten those teeth?" In my head: Sir, I really don't know why you care when you have 2 and a half teeth in your entire mouth. Starting to floss now or pursuing a whitening regimen is not bringing anything back...but I digress. I say: "Thank you." Still turning the cart and headed in the opposite direction he begins to speak louder. "I drive a truck that delivers steaks to a real nice steak house down the street." "If I could get a discount on dinner would you like to go with me sometime?" In my head: You are shopping for adult diapers, you probably have shit and piss in your pants right now as you are speaking to me, you don't have any teeth, and could possibly pass as a leather handbag from afar, and yet, you think you have a chance? What's that say about me? Damn Tiffin, you need to put on some makeup before you come here from now on! I say: "No thank you, I am married." and rush out of the aisle as fast as humanly possible. I chuckled as I passed the meats and glanced over the steaks.

Another day as I was moving toward the milk, I felt a very close presence at my back. The security guard, (appropriately dressed in SWAT gear) had just passed, so my fear level was low. I turned around and saw a black man in an all black sweat suit. I'm all about comfy shopping, so there was no judging there. He tipped up his all black hat and looked behind him, in front of the two of us, and then started to whisper. "So, I see that you married, but you real fine.""Can I call you sometime?" In my head: OOOOOOHHH, so this is what Oprah means by the "DL"? That's a really nice wedding ring YOU are wearing! I say: "I appreciate the compliment, but No." "Well, if the answer is NO, why you smilin' at me like dat?" In my head: Because I am really uncomfortable, I giggle when I'm nervous, and crap, I just broke a sweat on my upper lip! I say: "Have a good night." He throws up his hands, and says, "All right, all right now, just thought I'd ask."

There have been more fabulous encounters, but I will save them for another letter at another time. I can't wait for my interactions now that my wedding rings have been taken off. Tell your produce employees that it doesn't matter they can't speak English, Tell Santa that his wife is a closet "salad eater" and three of my bodies wouldn't make up one of her...yah, he didn't think I glanced at that photo on the bulletin board, but I did. Maybe try moving the adult diapers next to the baby diapers, so these people can at least pretend they are being doting grandparents. And finally, the OCD cashier that has to write down the skew numbers? I understand equal rights, but holy 25 minutes in line for 10 items or less! If you must keep him, promise me that he never works a busy Sunday and any other lane but express.

To many more evenings together in Laurel,

Mean Tiffin

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Dreams

The night Dan passed away and every night that followed for a while, I fell into very deep sleeping patterns. Yes, they might have been Xanex and Zoloft induced sleeps, but either way, It was a way for me to escape.

The first dream I had with Dan in it, was the actual night he was gone from this world forever. I will remember the dream for the rest of my life, he came to me to say goodbye.

I was laying on the couch that night, in a ball. I was paralyzed by shock, denial, and fear. I must have fallen asleep. In the dream, Dan walked downstairs to the basement, just like he did every other day. He smiled at me and I felt so relieved. I told him, "I had the most terrible dream." He didn't let me finish telling him about the dream. He layed down next to me, almost to the point of being on top of me. I remember trying to hold him, but my arms wouldn't move. He just held me. He said, "I am so sorry." I couldn't talk, I think at this point, somewhere, somehow, I knew it was a dream, and he wasn't really with me. He held me and told me that he loved me, and he was so sorry that he had to go. I wanted to hold him back, I wanted to scream, I wanted to beg and plead, but only tears poured out, no words, just tears. It's as if my tears were his words, and the soft, quiet, wetness of them woke me. I opened my eyes, and still felt his arms around me. I stayed very still, I could feel the pressure around my shoulders, I started to cry harder, as my body shook, the feeling of him left. I have never felt him in a dream again.

My dreams about Dan continued but they were nightmares. He would call me on the phone and tell me that he faked his own death because he hated being married to me. He would show up at the house and I would be so excited to see him, knowing that a miracle happened, and all he wanted to do was pick up some of his things. He didn't love me anymore. These dreams would always leave me empty, crying, hurting. That hurt would stay with me for days to follow.

Those nightmares ceased and another set of dreams occurred. Dan would miraculously come back from the dead. He would come home and I would beg him to go see a doctor. We would have discussions about how he died of a heart attack, and how we have to prevent it from happening again. He would always be stubborn-ass-Dan and tell me to "Stop lecturing him", "I'm fine." We would sign up for races and I would beg him not to run, until we were sure his heart could take it. The dreams always ended the same way. Dan dies again of a heart attack, while running. Every time I woke from these dreams I would feel the shock and pain all over again. I would wake to the eyes of the doctor, being handed his wedding ring, the rain on the windows.

My dreams have changed as I have been changing. My wings are healing and I am starting to learn how to fly again. I think the dreams I am having now show growth in my healing, however they are still painful at times.

In my most recent dreams, I have moved on. The dreams always take place at my old house in Arnold, Falcon Crest, the reason behind this, I have no idea. I am living in the house with someone. The someone doesn't have a face, and he isn't really in the dream, however, I know he's there, and he is in the basement watching tv. There is a knock on the door and when I open it, it's Dan. He tells me that it's a miracle, and he's back. My heart sinks. My first instict is to run down the stairs and tell whoever the man is to leave. Leave...leave quickly, my husband is home!! But then, another wave hits me. A wave that I haven't felt before, I have moved on. I am content with this new life. Who gives you the right to come back and expect me to be the same person after leaving me a year ago, no goodbye, no warning, just gone. All of these emotions hit me so quickly in the dream, and I am usually sweating so badly at this point, I wake up. I don't know if I will ever make a choice in the dream. I do know that in real life, I don't have to. My husband is gone and he is never coming back. If I know anything, Dan wants to see me smile. He wants me to be happy, to get back to the Tiffin that he fell in love with.

I am slowly but surely getting back there. When I got out of the shower this morning, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was smiling, I thought, "Hey...I recognize you." I loved it. 2011 is going to be fresh start for me, and I am actually looking forward to it. I felt guilty for a second even writing that, but I shouldn't! Who should feel guilty about wanting to live again?

Who knows what my next series of dreams will be, but if someone could throw in a little Channing Tatum, I'd appreciate it.... maybe he could be the other guy??!!?? ;)