What does gratitude look like to you?

IMG_0653I used to listen politely as people made references to the loss of an aunt, a mother, or even an adult child.  It was an attempt to connect with me, to identify with me about the loss of my son, Jody.   Beneath my smile, I would tune them out and in my mind say “You have no idea what you’re talking about, my loss is so different than yours.”  And, early on, I admit I would also think “My loss is much more tragic than yours.”

There is no question, a loss is tragic.  Losing someone you expect to live with and watch grow for years to come is so backwards, so upside down.  It doesn’t make a bit of sense. It has been 9 years and 323 days since Jody died, or should I say lived and I now see how intertwined loss is from one person to the next.  As a mom who has lost a baby, I can find support from others with very different losses.  After all, the tie that binds is love.

I recently had dinner with an older friend who lost her husband some years ago and she said something that struck a chord.  She told me very plainly “I loved him more than anything.  Do I miss him?  Of course I do.  Do I wish he was here?  Of course I do.  But I can’t change the fact that he’s gone.  Nothing I can do will change that fact.  So I choose to live a life of gratitude.  I choose to be thankful.  I don’t mean I’m thankful that he died.  What I mean is that I choose to be thankful that I know what it feels like to love and I know what it feels like to be loved.”

There it was.  So simple and, oh so, true.  In that moment I realized that losing someone you love is just that…Loss. It is heartache, it is grief, it is awful, and we don’t like it.  What we have in common, the loss of a baby and the loss of a great and loving husband is that we know what it feels like to love and we have a choice to make: to be thankful or to be bitter.

A few weeks ago, I sat in my therapist’s office and she asked if I had ever written letters to Jody.

“Of course,” I replied.

“What is the tone of them?  What do you say to Jody?” she asked.

“Typically, they are letters of sadness and regret.” I responded.

“I want you to try something for our next session together.  I’d like you to write a letter of gratitude to your son.  I’m talking about the bigger picture here.  Do you think you can do that?”

As my foot began to jiggle and I scooted my hands underneath my legs, I bit down on my and contorted my lips, I replied, “I think so.”

So, here we go.  My letter of gratitude to Jody, no apologies, no guilt, no  should- haves, no regret.  Just gratitude for my gift that was taken away.

My dear Jody,

Where do I begin?  It has been 9 years and 10 months exactly since you left this world and my how life has changed.  As a kid I loved to play the board game called “Life”.  You’d get this little car to travel along the twisting roads of life, there were choices to make and unexpected setbacks at each turn; do you go to college or do you start a family?  Medical school or become a teacher?  I think about that now and how if I had been given a choice 15 years ago of two different lives, one where all the difficulties and heartache would be on open display ahead of time and the other a fantasy of the “perfect” no-problem life, I would have wanted the fantasy.  The easy life, no job issues, no family problems, no genetic diseases and, of course, no losing you.

But, with all the choices we make in life we don’t have options with guaranteed outcomes and on the surface I would have never wished to go through what we’ve been through.  But as I look deeper and begin to uncover the gift of circumstances out of my control, I am thankful.  I am thankful that you graced my life.. 

I am thankful that I got to hear you cry, to touch your soft little feet, to feel you take a breath, and look into those gorgeous eyes.  So many parents, parents I’ve met in these last 9 years, never got that chance with their babies.

I’m thankful that because of you I know what true love is, this love envelopes me with an awe-inspiring sense of completeness.  I’m thankful that I pushed through the fear of losing you when you were first born, a mere 60 minutes, and allowed myself to fall in love with you.

I feel immense gratitude for God allowing me to see your life through His lenses, to see that you were much more than a baby who would die.  You were meant as a gift to so many people.  You brought people together and showered joy upon them.  Most of the world never got to know you, but for those doctors and nurses in the room, you will never be forgotten.

You alone taught me that gestures don’t have to be sweeping and grandiose to make a difference.  I know, because I’ve loved you, that simply saying a baby’s name and lighting a candle in their memory is all it takes to make a difference in a grieving parent’s day.  Spending an hour of my time having breakfast with parents whose baby is fighting to live, means more than their words can express me, but the gratitude in their misty eyes says it all.

I’ve learned to be courageous, to trust in God, have faith that no matter what happens or which way life goes, what obstacles we may face, He will provide.  Not in monetary ways, but in ways to survive spiritually.  Because I’ve loved you, I love God.  His love has covered me and sustained me these many months.  I don’t have to like the fact that you died, but I can be thankful because I have loved you I know God’s love, I’ve felt it and I’ve lived it.

Because I’ve loved you, I’m a better parent to your sisters and brother than I think I might have been.  I think I might have gotten so caught up in the day-to-day of therapies, appointments, evaluations, and medications that I would have forgotten to stop and be in the moment with Joey and Jennifer. But Jody, as strange as this seems I am thankful for the light that Julianna has brought into our lives. It was the strength of the love I carried for you that allowed me to love her the way I do after losing you. Without apprehension, without the fear of losing her too.

Of course daily life does fog my vision from time to time, but when I’m with them on a perfect fall day and their laughter joyfully spills out of them, I stop.  I stare at them.  I smile and laugh with them and I thank God for them and you.

I am beyond blessed to be your mommy.  Each day I will promise to shed another ounce of guilt.  You soldiered ahead with grace and purpose and that is the example I want to set for your brother and sisters.  I want to show them that awful, terrible, heartbreaking things happen in life, but life does not have to be ruined because of it.  Life can truly be beautiful again and can have meaning deeper than you imagined.  I am thankful I have felt the deepest emotions known to mankind…love, grief, and joy.

Jody, I will always miss you.  I will always wish life had gone differently and that I was holding your hand in the morning as we walk into school.  But this is the life that was given to us and living in the past, full of regret is no way to live.  Thank you for showing me how to live, how to love, and how to find happiness no matter what challenges we face.




On your 20th Birthday, Dear Jennifer

“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further

than the crowd. The woman who walks alone

is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.”

~ Albert Einstein ~


Dear Jennifer:

Here we are. It’s the getting so close to your 20th birthday. We’re spending it in our typical low-key fashion.  Life’s moving along at its leisurely pace tonight, but I can’t shake the feeling that the slowness of this evening is mocking us. When I take a moment to realize that in a few days you’ll be 20-years-old, I realize that time has raced past us without full appreciation.

It’s taken me by surprise. That’s probably because of that unrealistic notion of time that I have, which you like to poke fun at. You know what I’m talking about. It’s when I say something happened “the other day” when it was likely that it happened two or three months – years – ago. Time is just like that for me. It’s stagnant. Until it’s not. Right now, in this moment, the dam has broken and time’s waves are rushing at me like a tidal wave of epic proportions.

Twenty years ago, I was walking the halls of the hospital waiting for you to arrive. Time control was a power I thought I possessed. Well it turns out the joke is on me because somewhere along the way you went from being a newborn to twenty and I soared from twenty to forty. Just. Like. That.

I don’t want to scare you. I don’t want you to think you’re going to wake up tomorrow and be blowing out forty candles on your birthday cake. But it will get here quicker than you think because we can’t harness time and we certainly don’t have the power to stop it.  As shocking as it is to comprehend that twenty years can go by so fast, I’ve learned a few things that might serve you well during your next two decades. Here I am again, every year giving you advice.

Give yourself room to grow. Don’t hold on too tightly to the idea of who you should be. Allow yourself to grow into the person you will be. Some days you’ll feel confused about who you are. Other days you’ll see a clear image when you look in the mirror. The you of yesterday won’t always be the you of today. Keep your core values, those standards you’ve set for yourself, close to your soul and the growing pains won’t be so intense or scary. One thing to let go of during this time is expectation. Holding on to expectation will strangle opportunity and you’ll wake up one day wondering how you got where you are. Life is a journey. Make sure you travel, meet new people, immerse yourself in a variety of situations, but remember you are the navigator. You can define the route and choose how you’ll get to the next stop.

Protect your heart. It’s a fragile organ that feels deeply and is susceptible to bouts of unrealistic expectations, disappointment, and pain. Don’t stop loving others, but do so while respecting your boundaries. This is probably one of the hardest lessons to learn and something that I think continues until we die. I feel like I should tell you to love freely without worry or care, but no one has ever accused me of being a romantic. Maybe my 90-year-old self will write a letter to your 70-year-old self with a corrected version of how to love. For now, though, I say love without expectation and love yourself first. When we love ourselves and respect who we are, love gains momentum and flows freely from us bathing everyone we meet in goodness, respect, and dignity. Oh and Peanut, please show people you love them. Because the way you love is amazing, don’t hold back because of fear.

Share your gifts. You may not know what that gift is yet. Some people have tangible gifts like the gift of writing or singing, but I find that more people have gifts that you can’t gather into a box and slap a label on it. Those gifts can be harder to identify, but they are equally as important to cultivate. That’s why you need to give yourself time to get to know you. Eventually you’ll find that one special part of you that’s uniquely yours and you must resist the urge to hide it from the world. Share it openly and proudly.

Learn to work with others. Compromise, assertiveness, understanding, working through adversity, and compassion are skills we must learn as we grow. Working with others can be frustrating at times. Often, you’ll feel like you’re not being heard and you’re being held back. It’s when we figure out how to work through conflict that we move forward – together.

Choose happiness. Life is a series of choices and no matter what choice we make there will be consequences. I think that when we choose happiness, 100% of the time the consequences are favorable to our well-being. We’re not in jobs we hate, friends with people who suck the life from us, and we’re not held prisoner by loathing and self-despair. Find people and experiences that make you happy, not things.

So, I guess that’s it. I think I just gifted you the ultimate card for your birthday. It’s a little cheesy, overly sentimental, and long-winded, but I’m okay with that. 365 days from now, I’ll write you another one that’s just as mushy because as I get older I’m not so afraid of being emotional. Although, I still resist crying in public. Or in front of people.

Happy birthday, oldest daughter. I hope this next decade brings you happiness, fulfillment, and an abundance of love. Let people know who you are because you are magnificent.

I love you always,


A mothers grief… Where am I nearly 10 years later?

IMG_6609I was 38 when my son died.

Even now I do not think I can describe the endless night at the hospital, our return home, the hours that passed, the collective silence of relatives as they gathered in our room. I wonder if I could even remember.

Its nearly mid-night as I sit here and type. I laid down,  willing myself to sleep… Its been weeks. I just need one good nights sleep, or to just know why I cannot settle. My mind goes back to him every time. My son, 10 years, anguish, silence, sorrow I cannot explain to people; even if you know my pain.

My journey is not unique, but it is mine and I will own every bit of it. After he died every morning I opened the newspaper looking at the obituary page, to examine the only item I was interested in. It wasn’t death, it was life. I would read obituaries, young, old… It didn’t matter. It mattered that each of those names in bold were here, they were loved and in death they would continue to everything. Ghoulishly, I devoured confirmation that I was not alone. I was not the only one grieving.

In the early days, all I could think of was I failed at my most basic duty: I had not been able to protect my son. I could do nothing to stop what happened.

When I returned to work after a few weeks; its not like I had a baby to stay on leave. It was with the slow painful walk of a cripple. My words came with difficulty, presentations and staff meetings presented hurdles I stumbled over.

Among staff I spent my time staring dully out the door of my office, I resented the kindness, peoples determined advance upon my space, anything said to express solidarity, the slightest reference to what had happened. I was thankful for Janell, she sat beside me in those days. She was my bits of normal.

I remember thinking, the day I came home from the funeral, the first time you put food into your mouth, that is the moment you have decided to live.

I sought solace in people like me. We talked about our losses, we talk about marriage break-ups. Couples separate – they cannot take the burden of grief- their own and their partners. They want to get on with life.

I was there… I wanted to get on with life.

The time before, the time after –

There are some things we never do again. I have never since stuck a photo in an album, never put a rosary in my hands. My husband… well he’s not my husband. He quit being happy, forgot what normal was and lived a life filled with anxiety. There were places we didn’t visit because they were associated with him, songs we didn’t listen to, drawers that remain shut. Unbeknownst to anybody, we continued with our pointless statements. Even as we welcomed a new baby into our lives.

The years that followed were muddled in a bitter divorce. Another unexplainable loss. There are parts of us we leave behind though, the things we put into a compartment for later…

I turned on my old computer the other day. Looked at the pictures I took with my camera the day he was born, the day he had died. Remembered the little swirl on his head, his perfect jet black hair. I scrolled through the files, opening each one, page after page. I can barely understand what I had written, let alone relate to it.

I closed the computer.

Writing had once meant a lot to me, and now I wonder whether it too has collapsed along with so much else. My hands move over the keys. Uncertainly, I begin to jot down some of what I have been going through.

Its useless, words cannot do justice to what I feel. So I stare, in the blank screen I see my dim reflection. The reflection of a 38-year-old-woman.

To feel peace…

I still go to church. The one he was in, where our friends, family and strangers gathered over his casket.  I look around the people appear happy, content, calm and serene. I have spent days sitting in the pew over the years, looking for something. The answers to my sadness.

Tonight as I laid in bed, I thought its not the place is it? No place can free us from our suffering. Not a single place in the entire world. But I still prayed, it was my crutch.

I gradually stopped feeling like a victim. I stopped asking why me? Why him?

It been nearly ten years now. Ten years- with all my subsequent life.

The way I think now is deeply influenced by what I practice. For years I have tried to change myself into the person I was. I tried to regain my faith in Him. To hand EVERYTHING over like I had… Do I believe? Through everything I still diligently try to be the person who possesses wisdom, courage and compassion. A person who recognizes with the depths of her being that you cannot hold onto anything, not even your children. That if I manage to accept this basic fact I will not feel so violated, so alone in my waves of grief.

A spiritual journey is difficult to explain in words. Words seem tired, old, self-evident, obvious and simple. My faith is intact, its just different. Its not the same as it was when I was 28. Its changed and that’s ok, I have changed.

Miracles – I have said this over and over again…

Whenever I hear of parents whose children have died I think of the long, long road ahead of them. I want to rush out and hold their hands, assure them that their darkness will lift, that though their lives have changed irrevocably, they will be able to experience light again, a different light from the one they thought they would live in earlier, but light nonetheless.

I want to present with a smiling face. See, this happened to me. It happened, I thought nobody could help, but that was not true. I was helped, by many, many – even though it did not feel like help at the time.

Through my loss I was taught to love my children differently, to cherish what’s simple. So I hold their hands… I look at their fingers… tiny 7-year-old ones, dirty 13 year-old boy fingers and 20 year-old fingers that are just a little more experienced. I love harder, forgive easier and let go of what isn’t good.

Sometimes I struggle with knowing where we go… what is next? Have I done everything just right, have I taught my kids the important lessons. I believe they know the greatest gifts are love, forgiveness and compassion… They know to weather a storm with grace and to find the beauty after.

We were all there…

I was so lucky to spend nearly two weeks the kids in Hawaii…I am always thankful for how close these three are even with the separation in age.

On our first day sitting on the beach, all three kids were yelling. Julianna screaming that Jody was there with us!

This to me is EVERYTHING!

It’s your birthday!

Dear Jody,

Wow… It’s your 9th birthday! You would be so mature right now! I can just imagine what you would be like. I walked around the house last thinking about what your birthday letter would be about.  Is there something I haven’t said a thousand times before, something that’s not given knowing everything in the last 9 years.

Reality is there’s nothing unsaid…  April brings such sadness… it carries a weight I cannot explain. It’s a month where I feel suffocated by grief that cannot be shown. Because who understands? I am still grieving you, a baby that died 9-years ago. People who haven’t experienced a loss think, “She should have gotten over it.”… Others who have experienced a loss quietly grieve with me. I think it’s a show of silent support, honestly, I don’t have any idea. I know this… April is a month that feels like I have a marble in my throat from swallowing back my tears, a month where there’s the weight of an elephant on my chest as I try to breathe through the panic attacks, a month where the smile you see is hallow and my laugh comes slower.

In all that Jody, 9 years and 4 months ago I laid in bed praying for your diagnosis to be wrong. I begged over those months for you to be OK, I hoped for a miracle. Over the next 5 years… I carried anger, frustration, hatred and so many other things thinking “what did I do to deserve my baby to die” It wasn’t until this last year I realized the miracles after your diagnosis, after your death and still after these years. You were one of those, but there were so many more.

People always ask about your foot print I had tattooed on mine… I never tell them you have passed away. I just tell them it’s yours, because you walk with me. My wish for your birthday is for you to know that I walk with you too. In a very earthly way… In my heart you are here, your spirit is celebrated and your memory is always honored.

The kids and I are celebrating your birthday this Friday… we are going to light 60 lanterns in the preserve to remember your 60 minutes. After our flying lanterns last year this may be overly ambitious and quite comical. So help your mom out… Give us a cool night with no breezes on Friday and bless us with your spirit as we remember you.

Always remembering,


Dear Jody,

It’s been 8 years… There are days I sit and think about holding you and there are those other days where I feel like it was the life of a whole different person. I can’t remember the weight of you in my arm. I don’t remember what you felt like.

I never thought I would be that mom who had to remember her son who died. Or that there would be this emptiness I had to struggle with for the rest of my life. There have been times I ached to be with you. To just know as your mom I did everything I could for you. To know you were not in pain, that you felt the love that surrounded you the day you left us. I think about the anguish in Uncle Mitch’s cries as he stood at the foot of the hospital bed holding you… He could barley stand… At the time I didn’t think about it. You had just died and we were all there to just accept what time you had and to love you. Now, I watch the video Angelina made… the images take me back to the moments where you were the most important thing. Where I waited, praying you would be born alive… Praying your sister could meet you…

I tell people you are my greatest gift. Your brother and sisters have each individually taught me so much. My biggest lessons as a mother have come from you and ironically some of the largest life lessons were formed while I carried you… and later after you died.

8 years later Jody, I am still so very thankful for you. I am grateful to have been your mom. You were my miracle and you will always be my son. My love for you does not waver… Over the years I don’t talk about you as much in terms of your loss. I have gotten to the point where I can talk about you as though you were here and you lived because you did.

The most beautiful thing is that you continue to live through your brother and sisters. Julianna talks about you all the time. Nearly everyday… She is always a reminder. At times I get frustrated when she wants to look at your things. She sits next to your chest touching everything in it. The first time I showed her I panicked when she touched your blankets, hugged the bears and coughed so close to your locks of hair. Now though, her excitement and the way she admires the tangible things that were yours is so special. When she holds your outfit against her chest and remarks about how small you were I smile. You weren’t small…. You weren’t large… You were simply perfect with the softest feet, amazing lips, my nose with a sweet little smush and when you grabbed my pinky your hand wrapped it tightly…

Happy Birthday in heaven sweet Jody! I will always celebrate you and cherish the small window of time we were given to love you. This year I am celebrating being your mom even more so then other years. As I close my eyes and breathe in the smell of orange blossoms in the air I can feel you with me. The smell reminds me each and every year of you.

This year give me a gift! Come visit me in my dreams so I can hold you…

I love you for always…


Some gifts only God can give.

Dear Jennifer,

Eighteen years ago you came into my life. I wasn’t trying to be a mom, I didn’t have any idea about being a mom. But I could never fimage1orget the first time I held you in my arms. I loved you even more from that moment. I taught you to believe in yourself… and look at you today! You’ve blossomed into a beautiful young lady with wings spread so wide.

In you I see all my hopes and dreams. And as you naimg_0042vigate the phases of life, I watch you dream big and work hard to achieve them. I watch you create memories with more friends than acquaintances. I watch you hold your standards high without compromise.

As you grow into adulthood, my heart is filled with great joy because there is no question you’ll follow the song in your soul. And you’ll have the courage to grab every opportunity that comes your way.

Life will never be easy but it is too short to wake up with regrets. So remember that genuine success comes from true fulfillment and happiness. It is however, without doubt I know you have the strength to persevere, and the confidence to take you through this journey called life.

But Jennifer, today I have to tell you my heartaches. I am anticipating the moment you leave, because you are my forever person. You are etched in my heart so differently then anyone, you’ve impacted me in so many ways.

What You Have Taught Me, Jennifer:

  • img_0043You taught me unconditional love.  As parents, we discover unconditional love when we have a baby. This love is a fiery protective, all-encompassing love I developed for you soon after you were born. What really has astounded me is your unconditional love for me.  I have messed up time and again as your Mom — sometimes in the BIG TIME ways that sink my heart and leave me thinking, “Oh crap, I’ve really blown this whole parenting deal.”  Yet you still love me and forgive me without question. You have taught me about God’s east-to-west forgiveness for me. Thank you.
  • You taught me perseverance. I have watched you struggle img_5891through challenges most adults would buckle under the weight of carrying. Life as the oldest kid in our house is not easy. We have serious issues that go on here, and as the oldest you become first mate to my piloting many times! You manage with grace. You’ve had personal and emotional issues you haven’t denied but faced head on. I see your hard work and am so proud of your determination.
  • You taught me joy. You have a zany laugh and the most beautiful smile! From you I’ve learned a quiet person can be an extrovert. I would want you in my life even if you weren’t my daughter, because you are one gorgeous woman. You shine light.

So today as your mother I can say I did it! You are this wonderful woman because of me. I know though, that you are your very own person and I am so proud of you. Happy 18th Birthday to you my wonderful daughter!

Love you always and forever…


February brings sorrow…

It was 7 years ago on this day, February 4th I received the worst news imaginable. After weeks of bed rest, praying and bargaining there was no hope. Jody would be born, most likely he would be sleeping… I would never have the opportunity to be his mom. To hold him… I remember driving out of the parking lot of the doctors office so hysterical I couldn’t drive.

And moments later sitting at the park with Jennifer explaining that even though we thought things would be ok… that her brother would die. I have sat and had coffee at that same picnic table for the last 6 years alone. Recalling those moments of sadness. The early years that followed I did so in a way to mourn him… To cry without judgment…

Its these days that I sit back and feel humbled by Jody being in my life. I don’t know how to explain it but I have believed that I was chosen to be Jody’s mom. The why’s I could never answer…. maybe because my heart is strong enough to hold on to the hope that his spirit was chosen for me to celebrate and learn from. To know that in the days, weeks and months I carried him knowing he would die I would be required to embrace the fact that my job was not to nurture his earthly form… it has been my job to love him despite not knowing him as a person, to love him beyond the relationship and attachments that are formed when we raise our children….

I honestly don’t know what I am trying to convey… I do know that today is a day that most people will walk not knowing that 7 years ago I learned the hardest lesson of my life…

In some cases it is what it is… We do not have a choice, there is nothing we can do to fight for a change. We can embrace the role we have been chosen for and walk forward not knowing where the path will take us. But knowing that in life there are some things that are out of our control.

The realization that no amount of anger, hatred, bitterness, begging, pleading, bargaining, praying, sadness or resolve will change the outcome.

On this day 7 years ago I had a precious life growing in me… his weight I remember was 16 oz, his heart rate was perfect and he wiggled as the doctor told me he would die… He kicked when termination was offered…

In that moment all 16 oz of his little person told me… I am here… Without hope from anyone… You will keep me alive.

In 7 years this has been my hardest task. To keep a child I loved and prayed for in my heart without being given the opportunity to be his mom, to hold him and love him the way I do the other kids.

I have learned many things though him… The biggest has been as it was stated so clearly by Dr. Wolfson “It is what it is.”

I look back and for that simple lesson I am thankful I was chosen to be Jody’s momma… To love a child long since forgotten by many… To know his spirit walks with me even though his earthly form no longer exists…

So today… I hope you will hug your children tight and know that in and of itself is a gift that many people do not have.

Dear Jennifer


Tomorrow you are turning 17 years old. I’ve sat reflecting for days about you and it seems like it was yesterday that you entered this world. I remember holding you for the first time. You, my sweet precious, toddler size baby. You held my fingers with your little hand and I thought… Wow, I did this!

IMG_20150912_181432When you entered my world, I learned about new relationships; the meanings they held. There are so many things I want to share with you – I don’t know where or when our relationship changed, but I always envisioned it different. I always thought we could sit and talk. I still pray each day that as we age you will see that you are the one thing that happened in my life that changed everything for the better. You offered me a purpose, a drive to be different… I wanted to be the person you would look up to your entire life.

So… Today I want to share certain things with you. Because I know we are changing, as you grow, you want less and less time with me. I have less time to offer you lessons and advice. As your mom, sometimes I wonder if I am doing a good job. Then I have the opportunity to look at who you are and I’m humbled by who you are.

To begin with, I want you to be and do whatever your heart wishes. Remain true to yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not to satisfy other people’s expectations. Living in the world we do we are often forced to wear different masks. Its overtime we begin to mistake those masks for the faces we had hidden in the past. Don’t let this happen to you!

I think the hardest lesson I had to learn was that no one owes me anything. So always remember that no one owes you. Its because there is something special in you that has touched someone’s heart and brought them immense joy that people love you. And from now on, persistently try to find in you that special something and through recognizing and appreciating it, allow it to grow so that more love and friendship comes you way.

Open your heart to goodness. No matter what happens, don’t let negative people or 2015-11-16 09.36.41_resizedthought take hold of you. The world is a beautiful place. But there are things that make it seem harsh…. You are made of love… follow your heart; and listen to your head. You always have a choice. You will be confronted with the choice between being an optimist or a pessimist…. Choose one, but choose wisely!

You can’t let the child in you die. As long as you nurture the child within you , you will find happiness and joy in life.

In everything… there is a purpose. Its in the people we meet and then things that come into your lives. Whatever falls your way, always try to find the purpose behind them. Find the space in your heart and mind to learn a new lesson from every purpose. If you find your close to failing with something you’ve started… ask for help from those around you! The one who realizes that he is ignorant, is ignorant no more.

I read somewhere once that every man’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers. There will be times in your life when you think this is not true, you will feel that life is too hard to be a fairy tale. Its in those moments, I want you to remember that fairy tales contain wonder and beauty but also a few bad things. Each one contains some sort of unpleasantness. The trick is to conquer this slowly. But before conquering those external forces; conquer the monsters hiding in your own heart. This reality for me has been my biggest struggle. Letting go of what binds our hearts that is unhealthy…

IMG_20150630_062924_resizedBe bold, be brave and believe in the power of your dreams. Its your dreams, ambitions and your heart that will continue to push your life to the place you want it. Embrace what’s broken and move forward knowing yourself.

My dear sweet Jennifer, I love you. Who you are and I am so excited to see who you will become. My heart is open and I cannot wait to experience the world through you as you continue to become an even more amazing woman.

Always close,

Your mom

I need a glass of wine!



Where do I start on this one? I couldn’t begin to tell you the whole story on how Joe and I ended nearly 3 years ago… Or everything that lead up to it… About the control and abuse… about resentment that builds and is so difficult, but not impossible to overcome.

Resentment was the catalyst in my decision to ask for a divorce. The closest description to what my marriage was is… Death by paper cuts. Joe was 12 years older then myself and at first it didn’t make a difference. Or so I thought… But years later sitting back I know everything started in the beginning. He started obsessing, drove me to and from work everyday… all sorts of things… yet I never realized it. I liked that he was different and even when it did bother me I didn’t say anything.

Resentment grew… I sought individual counseling and went to Joe trying to deploy the tactics I was taught… I failed. I learned I was pregnant with Jody… One of the hardest things I will ever admit is that in the beginning of my pregnancy I didn’t want any of it. I cried because I felt like I was stuck. Then the fatal announcement… Joe and I grew closer in many ways and further apart in other ways. After that the focus on Julianna took over the issues in our marriage.

It never changed though. It was always masked by smiles and false appearances of happiness. Don’t get me wrong there were happy times. I loved being with family and with friends.


There came the realization that I had so much resentment built up that no matter what I would never allow Joe to fix it. Something would always be wrong. It took years…. Years of smothering… suffocation… isolation…

I asked for a divorce. Not the first time… and not the last time but I did finally say I was done. I just couldn’t take it. I need space to breath. I needed to be able to sit with friends and just be myself… without the pressure of “what did I say wrong this time.”

My description is so minimal…


As much resentment as I had, I wholeheartedly believe that Joe had more. He hated the fact that I couldn’t love him the way I loved my kids, the way he needed to be loved. In other words… neither Joe nor I had grown enough individually or together to be the person that the other one needed.

WOW! I guess it happens… I think sometimes there are attachments and issues in marriages we cannot overcome. At the same time the task of separating from the other person is astronomical. You’ve been married for 10+ years with kids, a house, cars, financial obligations, campers, boats, friends, family, neighbors… what would happen and WTF would everyone think?



There is unhappy and there is unhappily attached to the wrong person. I honestly think that when we were married Joe’s focus was on me. What’s happened over the course of our separation and divorce? I did the worst thing I could do. I unattached myself from Joe, the one thing he held so tightly to.

So what did I get? An angry, bitter, mess of a person who will stop at nothing to make things difficult for the kids and me. A person who will take… take and take… more and more each and every time. A man who has no pride to walk away with the knowledge in the divorce he got everything of value, he left with substantially less debt, he left with a business that was untouched… he left with me paying him. Paying child support… my pride and most of all I pay every day for the decision to divorce him.


The hardest thing for me was to let go of my anger towards him… I can’t tell you how many times I have said, “he’s actually not a bad person.” “hes just very angry”, “honestly he was always so different”, “I do still love Joe”, “I think if I am patient he will be the person I always believed he was.”


I realize none of those things are true. I try so hard to hate him for what he does to my family. But hate can never over power pity…


I’ve learned over time that Joe is afraid to let go. There’s a fantasy in his head and he’s hanging onto it. He’s trying to justify his rage and suffering… he will do it long enough for me to realize how I hurt him, how badly I made him feel. And maybe, just maybe I might feel even worse then he does. I realize he is so afraid to let go of his anger because in some twisted, sick way it keeps him connected to me.

He is angry… he is trying to make me pay for his suffering. However, he is suffering because after all this time he can’t emotionally divorce me. While I have detached myself from him he has yet to detach himself from me.

He is arrogant to a point, but does not have the courage to look me in the face. He can’t speak to me without cowering in a corner because the reality is that in the big picture he lost.

He lost his pride… In two suicide attempts, one of which he really should have died… In me paying him child support… in believing I am here today to pay him because he made me the way I am. Ugh… Well there is more. But for today… I have to say this…9e9c3ddf06c6d8896bedf9729e4d515d


It took enormous courage to walk away from Joe, to detach myself from him physically and emotionally. When I let go of the anger I allowed new things in my life. I allowed myself what I deserved… Love, comfort, friendship and the knowledge that I can do this myself, without him and the ability to show my kids what healthy life is.


I have a post it note in my bedside table… a passage from a book and forgive me because I have no idea what the name was… but I’ve memorized it over the last several years…

We rely on this emotion to preserve the very dignity and integrity of ourselves. Anger is not a bad or negative emotion. It can take great courage to admit and express anger. But it requires just as much courage to free yourself from the corrosive effects of living too long with anger and bitterness…. A challenge that may include forgiveness but it does not require it.

I forgave him… and I forgave myself…

Dear Jody,

You would be 6 years old today! Can you believe that, it’s been 6 years since I got to smell that beautiful scent on your hair and to touch those soft little feet.

I can remember specific things about the day you were with me … it’s the things that have been missed or left behind in my memories that wear on me. I keep thinking I should remember EVERYTHING. Each moment… nothing should be lost. That accounts for so much… Memories, you…

This would have been a BIG year for you! You would have started Kindergarten. On the first day of school as I walked Joey to his class I looked at those little kids with their parents and questioned if they knew what they had. I was missing celebrating your next step in life. I was missing you.

It’s the 4th year I’ve missed your birthday. As I sit here writing there is a sea of people. All gathered talking… No one realizing what today is, what today means or that the smile on my face is just there for their benefit.

Jody, every piece of me screaming wishing you were here… Each year things change so much. We grow… there’s the ebb and flow of regular life. People come in and people leave. But the constant is always your family… Brothers, sisters, mom and dad…. It’s the knowledge that you’re supposed to be my constant that gets to me. When I lay down with Julianna I wonder what you would have been like. I see her and think that life could be so different if you were still here.

So today… as I close my eyes I will not fight back tears. I will invite you to celebrate with me. Because I know you are here as I celebrate quietly.

Happy Birthday sweet boy… I hope your heavenly family is making you a pancake breakfast and celebrating how special you are.

I love your forever, your always in my heart and your never far from my thoughts.