Lost in Cyberspace

Hey!  Have you been following me at my new home, http://www.MrsTDJ.com?

You haven’t???  Oh vey!!  I thought that we had all the back end stuff fixed so that you guys could find me when I moved.  I just received a comment this morning from an old blog buddy who thought I had disappeared and not written anything since March.  I’m sincerely sorry for those that did not not realized I had moved.

Please come on over to http://www.MrsTDJ.com or like my page on Facebook, Just Another Day With MrsTDJ!

Guess Who’s Coming to the Stage???

The last time that I had the pleasure of stepping onto a stage, it was 1989 and I was the props manager for my school’s production of, “The Pirates of Penzance”. About a month ago, prompted by an email from my good girlfriend Nae over at I Choose the Sun, I threw caution to the wind and impulsively decided to audition for a play. Say what now? A play? Ya girl on a stage???

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You’re shocked, right?  Yeah, me too.  Go ahead and snicker if you must. I’ve been told that I have a flare for the dramatic, but I’ve never been sure if those comments were compliments or not.  Hmmm………

Well, a super talented group of people in the DC metro area auditioned for the national show, “Listen to Your Mother”, and I’m delighted to confirm that I was one of the 15 selected to perform here in DC. Head on over to the page and check out the full cast list. To be honest, I was already nervous enough about jumping on the stage, so once I saw the full cast list and read their bios? Whew! I am truly in the company of some amazing people.

Of course, I wouldn’t be my authentically nutty self if I didn’t find a way to make things even more challenging for myself.  The show is April 28, the very same day that yours truly had already set up and recruited a group of friends and family to walk/run a 5K fundraiser for LittleTDJ’s school.  And the events are a mere 70 miles apart.  Oh vey!!   So yup, I’ll be loading up on the vitamins that week and bracing myself for a very, very full day.  We’ll hit the race hard at 8am and I’ll be on stage at 2pm.  Yes, I do know that I’m a little crazy.  All in the name of motherhood and LittleTDJ, ya know?

Local folks in DC, Maryland and VA, I’m gonna need ya to come out and support a sista. Info on tickets can be found here and be sure to let me know if you’re gonna come through.  Y’all know that the last nine months have been more heartbreaking and painful than I can express.  A performance in a program like this is so far outside my comfort zone, yet I was instantly drawn to the idea of it.  With just under 8 weeks until the show, I’m feeling kinda giddy.  And giddy is certainly not a feeling that I’ve had in quite some time.

 

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Memories of Young Love

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On the eve of the love holiday, Valentine’s Day, I’ve been grinning and giggling with memories of my husband. We both enjoyed expressions of love and presents on random dates, and we really liked Valentine’s Day. Honestly, MrTDJ actually liked it more than I did, but just as I sought to make him LOVE his birthday, he set out to make me LOVE Valentine’s Day.

One early Valentine’s Day memory was in February 1994, a full 8 months before the slap heard round the world. I was away at school and this was my first foray into sneaking up the road to spend time with him. Hush, my parents found out years ago and since we got married, it’s a moot point. Two of my friends and I were traveling out of Charlottesville together, via an early, early morning train. Wouldn’t you know the night before our train, there was a snow and ice storm? ***sigh***

Panic didn’t really set in until the next morning when no local cab companies would answer our calls for a ride to the train station. My friends were pressed to get to NY and I was pressed to get to DC. Being ever resourceful, we started calling around trying to find someone willing to drive us the three miles to the train station. We were close to giving up when we hit pay dirt!

A buddy with a pickup truck was parked close by and willing to take us! Yes!!! Except, it was a two seater. Ugh!! We did a quick rock, paper, scissor and ya girl lost. So, on the longest three mile ride ever, one friend and I sat in the bed of that pickup truck. Y’all do remember me saying there had been an ice storm, right? Yeah, the bed of the pickup, atop a sheet of solid ice. Whew, young, dumb and in love. By the time we got to the train station, we barely had a minute to spare to catch our train. Climbing out proved difficult because my entire right thigh and leg were numb. I had barely any sensation during the 2.5 hour ride from Charlottesville to Alexandria.

MrTDJ and I had a fabulous weekend, and an unforgettable Valentine’s Day. Unforgettable because we spent most of it in the emergency room treating my frostbite. Yup, that truck ride got me. LOVE. When we finally got back to his house, he presented me with a few cute gifts and his piece de resistance below:

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Umm, really dude? Bless his sweet, young heart. LOVE. I absolutely hated those damn balloons! LOL!!! They were so big and flashy and big!! And he fully expected me to take them back to Charlottesville on the Amtrak with me. So, I did what any other young, silly, hopelessly in love 17 year old would do – I took the dang balloons. Once I was back in my dorm, one of my girlfriends took the picture. And it surely still makes me smile!

I know many don’t like Valentine’s Day for one reason or another, but I do. And I’ve always wondered why anyone would argue about a day relating to love? Who amongst us doesn’t want or need love?

This song by Chrisette Michele was one of my husband’s favorites and I’ve had it on repeat for an hour or so. I’d love to have another Valentine’s Day with my husband. For the moment, I’m wrapped in warm and sweet memories. I am lucky enough to have years of priceless memories. I hope that everyone takes the opportunity to spread a little love to someone on Valentine’s Day.

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A Moment of Reflection

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As I watch my friends and fellow bloggers reflect upon the end of the year, I have a sense of joy for all that is happening to others around me. There is a feature that keeps rolling across my Faceb.ook timeline called “Year in Review”.  Seeing the year that my friends and family have had, makes me smile at their successes and achievements, while continuing to wish them well on the not so great moments.

For me, the year was defined by my husband’s death. Maybe in years to come 2012 will have an abundance of layered memories. But at this moment, the singular, overarching thought is simply that in 2012 my husband died.  Oh there’s more of course. As a ripple to his death, my heart experienced blackness I didn’t know existed, my mind was pushed near the point of madness and my life changed course in the most unexpected of ways.

So, it is with bittersweet apprehension that I peek at 2013.  I can already sense the great relief at seeing a different year in “print”, while acknowledging that 2012 represents a time when my husband was alive and with us. I spotted the quotation above and it struck a chord.  We thought we had more time. Who’s to say how much more time, but we didn’t see his time here on earth ending in June.  2013 starts anew without him.  There will never be another calendar year in which he is present.  There isn’t a day that I don’t think of him at least a dozen times. But he isn’t here.  And I am.  I continue to push forward in fits and starts. Some days I experience bursts of laughter so true and authentic that I feel guilt, even as my face cracks a smile. Other days I feel waves of despair so deep and dark that I think this will be the one to push me over the edge and I struggle to hold it together.

But held it together is what I’ve done. Yup, I’ve done it for 6.5 months.  Not with a flourish or exclamation point.  No, rather with a battered dingy, full of holes and a roll of super sticky duct tape that keeps getting tangled in my hands.  I can’t stop thanking God for this special duct tape though.  My duct tape is made up of tears, deep breaths, long periods of silence, held breath, collective prayer, family, friends and tons of wine.

We have survived my 36th birthday, my 8th wedding anniversary, my husband’s 37th birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Oh what an emotional ride this holiday season has been.  Tonight, NYE marks a “holiday” full of traditions that we built over the years, but that he and I won’t ever share again.

My prayer for 2013 is that I remain gentle with myself as I certainly know there is no “end” to what I’m experiencing while trying to be as in the moment as I can with our son, Little TDJ.   May peace and blessings be upon all of you and your loved ones, today and in the year to come.

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Peace of Mind and Tempered Expectations

ExpectationsI received an email a few weeks ago from a reader and I was stunned into speechlessness.  So stunned, that I didn’t reply because I couldn’t form the proper words.  I shared the email with a friend over Thanksgiving and she insisted that I write about it here.  It went as follows:

“Hi MrsTDJ, I’m a long time reader and I wanted to express my condolences on the death of your husband.  From your stories, I kinda feel like I know him and you.  All the best to you in the future.  While I respect that this is your blog to write what you want, and I know you’re hurting, I’m curious as to when you think you’ll write some funny stories again.  You used to keep me and my office rolling.  It helped to pass the work day.  Everything you’ve written lately has been a little sad.  Take care.”

Really??????  A backazzed compliment????? Hey widow chick, sorry for your loss, but um, when can you start entertaining me again with funny stories???  Whoo saaaaaaaa!!!  Anyway, that little diddy has prompted me to take a step in the direction of cleansing all the extraneous stuff from my mind and heart.

I’ve learned many new things in the last few months about myself and about people.  I’ve been reminded just how amazing and special my family is.  My friend circle has shown me more love and support than I could have imagined.  I’ve been encouraged and humbled by the kindness that my online communities have blessed me with.  And, on the flip side, I’ve learned that the world keeps spinning and people have returned to their daily lives.  Without malice or evil intent, folks have categorized my “situation” as “finished”.  With open hearts, they called, emailed, visited, attended services and then life kept going.  Remarkably, there are those who have surprised me in the best ways – being there in ways I couldn’t have predicted or imagined.  Painfully, those who I wouldn’t have expected to pull disappearing acts when I needed them most did just that.  Almost 6 months have gone by since my husband passed away, and there are people who haven’t reached out to me in 5 and a half.

I  wanted to not talk or write about the hurt and disappointment, but it’s real and I must.  In therapy we discuss allowing people to take your power and govern your emotions.  I’m taking my power back.  By allowing myself to write, I am releasing parts of what pains me.  I’ve expressed my appreciation to those that have been there for LittleTDJ and I, both personally and through my writing.  I’ve been less vocal about those that haven’t because I didn’t want to air dirty laundry or bring negativity into my writing.  However, I’ve been holding onto tiny scabs that are starting to fester.  I can’t allow that to happen.  Minute to minute, I must draw on strength I didn’t know I possessed to complete life’s most basic tasks, such as bathing, driving and saying hello to a coworker.  The memory of my husband’s smile pushes me to accept the collective prayers and blessings of my circle in order to give LittleTDJ the best version of myself that I can muster.  I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to fathom how hard it is for me to string together a sentence.  To that end, I must acknowledge then banish those that don’t wish me well from my life.

I’m not the same person that I was prior to June 9th and I know I’ll never be that exact person again.  I am a version of that woman and some people aren’t comfortable with that.  I saw the quotation above and I realized that’s what I had been doing.  Subconsciously, I was imposing my expectations on others because of the kind of friend, cousin, niece, aunt, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law that I was.  That stops now.  I’m disappointed in the words and actions of some friends and most of my in-law family as they have shown that they do not have the time nor interest to invest in LittleTDJ and I.  There are those who have shown me, without exception, that LittleTDJ and I are not important to them.  I’m hurt, yet not mortally wounded.  I’m owning my emotion and moving forward.  Amazingly enough, I am relieved.  Relieved to see the cards on the table and realize where people stand.  They have taken the guesswork out and cleared space in my life that they probably shouldn’t have had anyway.  Some will read my writings today and take my message very, very personal.  I can’t control the reaction or interpretation that anyone may have to my thoughts, nor will I try.  If you think this is about you, it probably is.  On this journey, authenticity and vulnerability have been a source of healing for me, so I will continue to speak about much of what I face.

LittleTDJ and I are surrounded by love and from this moment forward, I am actively choosing NOT to allow any more space, time or heartache be wasted on those who aren’t in our corner for the right reasons.  Thanks to all who continue to shower LittleTDJ and myself with love and prayer!

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The Passing of the 9’s

Funny how things take on a clarity that’s not apparent until you are in the midst of the situation.  I gave myself way too much credit and I was overconfident about my ability to control my emotions.  I made a conscious decision that I would not mourn the anniversary of my husband’s death.  Nope, WOULD NOT DO IT.  I told myself that it was foolish.  Although June 9 changed everything, I didn’t want that date to paralyze me for eternity.  Yeah, go ahead and shake your heads.  “Denial” is more than just a long azz river in Egypt, right?  Somehow I thought that I could actually control the dates upon which I felt the most pain.  Riiiiiiiiiiiight. I was even so bold as to tell my therapist that I wasn’t counting the days since MrTDJ passed away.  I’m a liar.  A naïve, well-intentioned liar, but still a liar.  Little did I know that I’d have not the teensiest bit of control and would be at the mercy of my calendar.   I have not taken an actual calendar and marked off the days since his death, but my mental calendar is clicking and ticking.

I keep a personal journal and thank goodness it is the only witness to the daily arc of my thoughts.  It’s clear to me now that I was altered and unable to honestly acknowledge that there was a connection between my waves and the 9th day of each month.  I awoke this morning at 1:41 and was compelled to pull out my journal.   Hmm, me thinks maybe there is a pattern.  On July 9, I had a dental appointment for a crown repair.  Ugh, bad day, no wonder I was in such a terrible mood.  Riiiiiiiiight.  August 9 found me calling into work because I’d barely slept two hours in the three previous nights.  I cancelled plans with friends at the last minute on Sunday, September 9 because I just didn’t have the energy.  Although October 9 came on the heels of Columbus Day and a three-day weekend, I simply couldn’t get it together to do or say much to anyone.  And now, it’s 3:23 am on November 9 and I can’t stop crying.  The 9th of each month has done just what I unrealistically denied it could do – slam me against a brick wall and send me spiraling down the rabbit hole.

I know not how to change the course.  It’s as if I build myself up from the 10th of the month and then subconsciously, my defenses weaken around the 7th of the following month and by the 9th, I’m drowning again.  I think of my husband hundreds of times each day and the good memories have not yet tempered the stinging ache of having lost him.  That’s not to say that I don’t smile and laugh, because I do.  Undoubtedly as the 9th approaches, my efforts to sustain a sense of normalcy seem to be in vain.  At some point today, I know that I will drift off in the middle of a conversation, stop watching during the middle of a television show or completely check out during a meeting at work.  During that time, I will relive, with laser like precision and accuracy, the last 2 hours of my husband’s life.  Those 120 minutes run through my mind in about 7 or 8 minutes.  The moments play like snapshots in a photo montage and then there is a pause.  The pause makes way for our last, laughter filled conversation as we awaited the arrival of the paramedics.  Snapshots again.  Then another pause for MrTDJ’s last interaction with LittleTDJ.  And then the FEELING.

I’ve never blogged in detail about the events of that morning and I doubt I ever will.  I’ve journaled them and talked to my therapist and inner circle about them.  What I will share is the FEELING that I experienced.  I was standing on the front porch of our home when my husband made his transition.  At that very moment, I KNEW.  Minutes before a paramedic came to update me on his status, I KNEW.  Well before we traveled to the hospital and he was officially pronounced, I KNEW.  We’d shared a heart for 2 decades and gone through too much for me NOT to know.  I FELT his spirit pass through my body followed by the gentlest of breezes blowing across my cheeks.  I KNEW because I FELT the essence of him hug me tightly, and then release me.  I was absorbed in the stillness as I FELT him float to the heavens above me.  The tears didn’t come until much later.  Dare I say that the moment was both heart wrenching yet peaceful.  It’s hard for me to express in words.  When I think of it, a line from the Sarah McLachan song, Angel, passes through my mind.  “In the arms of the angels, fly away from here”.

I feel him all the time, but on the 9th, everything deepens.  The 9th marks another month that I’ve had to survive here without him.  Maybe someday, the 9th won’t send me straight into darkness without passing go.  Tonight, I’ve got plans with friends and I’m trying to prep myself to hold it together.  I know how I’d like today to go, but the universe has offered me no assurances.   Five months into my new normal and it still seems like I’m living somewhere in the Land of Oz.  And even the Land of Oz would be ok if MrTDJ could get here.

I’m Guest Posting at Black and Married with Kids

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Ronnie and Lamar Tyler, the creators of the site, Black and Married with Kids.  I’d been a reader and fan of the site for quite a while.  Once Ronnie and I chatted, it seemed that I might be able to offer a unique perspective to the BMWK audience.  I’m honored and humbled at the opportunity to share my love.  The post is something that I wrote in July, about a month after my husband’s death.  I’d love if you’d head on over there and check it out.  If you’ve already read it, read it again.  =)  While you’re there, browse the site and I’m sure you’ll find other great things. 

“The Intersection of Grace and Grief: How Grieving for My Husband is a Daily Struggle”

Celebrating Him In My Way

Today, October 20 would have been my husband’s 37th birthday.   As you read this, I’ll be about 2300 miles from home allowing the sun, sand, blue water and wind to have their way with me.  The idea of tackling yet another “first” made me sick to my stomach.  I knew that I would not be ok if I didn’t do something a bit outside the box during the period surrounding his birthday.

I’ve always loved my birthday.  Growing up as an only child, my parents always went above and beyond to make sure that my day was extra special.  When I met my husband in high school, he didn’t quite have the same love for his birthday.  Say what???  Hmph, so it became my mission to make him love it.  I started right away by decorating his locker when we were in 12th grade.  Got ‘em and he was a birthday fool after that!

Throughout the years, we celebrated most holidays rather modestly, regardless of our financial picture.  But, when it came to birthdays, we tended to give those a little extra pizzazz.  Before his passing, I had not yet made any concrete decisions regarding what to do for his birthday, but knowing that it would be on a Saturday, I toyed with the idea of a weekend away.  After his death in June, my birthday in July and our anniversary in September, I was firmly set to travel for his birthday.  I could not bear the thought of the encroaching sadness for a day he would never get to enjoy.

Day by day, I exist by counting the seconds and minutes until an hour has passed, then another and another.   I’ve been grieving and pressing forward in my own way.   This weekend, I’m embracing the peace of getting away and breathing.  I’ve not “stopped” for very long since June and I haven’t allowed the stillness to settle into my being.  I have no agenda bar the single activity that I will do as a salute to my hubby.  He had a love for motorcycles and ATV’s, so I’ll be off-roading on an ATV as a birthday shout out to him.   I surely wish that we were riding together, but I’ll have to settle for his memories.

Following The Advice of My Son

Little TDJ has developed a new, favorite expression, “Take it with us.”  He uses it anytime that he wants to bring a toy or a food item from its current place, to travel with us somewhere else.  Normally it refers to the iPad that he’d like to take in the car, or a toy that he wants to take from his play room to another room in the house.

His vocab doesn’t yet contain the words bring or keep, so he uses “take” to represent all three concepts.  Lately, he has been using it to refer to photos of his dad.  Once we’ve completed our nighttime routine and we are preparing to get into the bed, he will grab different framed and unframed photos and say, “take it with us.”  The first time that he asked, I was a little shaken.  He and I got into the bed, along with a pic of our family of three.  I know that he misses his dad and it’s a struggle for him to express how he’s feeling.  That was the first night of many that MrTDJ has “joined” us and whenever he does, our son falls asleep with a smile on his face.

Hmm, I realized that Little TDJ was on to something good.  I’d been trying to find my own way to keep him with me. Regardless of what else is going on, thoughts of my husband are never far from the surface.  And yes, I am still carrying his wallet.  But, I’ve been wanting something else; something tangible.  I know of many who get tattoos in honor of their loved ones.  I debated on that for about three nanoseconds.  Aside from being completely freaked out by the thought of pain, I simply don’t like body art enough to get any on myself.  I’ve seen bumper stickers and back window decals, but I don’t really dig those too much either.  License plate?  Nah.

And then I discovered Posh Mommy.  BAM!  Found it!  My necklace arrived last week and it is perfect.  MrTDJ and Little TDJ in one place.  I touch, rub and twirl it all day.  I am amazed at the sense of calm that drifts over me when I do.  I’ve found my own way to “take it with us”.  Thanks to Little TDJ, a little dude that is wise beyond his years.

***The opinions expressed in this post are mine, and mine alone.  I received no compensation or incentive to write about Posh Mommy Jewelry***