Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year New Life

As you have read, the holidays weren't that great for me. I am glad that they are over and I am actually looking forward to New Year's Eve. I mean, new year, new life, new dress? Why wouldn't I be? 

I hate 2012 with most of my being although I have to say there were still many many good times. There is a saying that goes a little something like this; "things can't get any worse". I foolishly used this statement in a year known as 2010. I remember it crystal clear... I was sitting at a rehearsal for a friend's wedding who would be married the next day on New Years Eve. A friend and I were discussing life as Matt had walked down the aisle to take his seat. He had a huge scar on his head from his 2nd brain surgery. He had surgery only about a week and a half prior but the trooper that he was, healed quickly and still made it to all of our holiday plans. My grandfather had passed away only a few months prior. A lot had gone down in only a few months. I shared with my friend that I was looking forward to the New Year because really how could things get any worse? 

So as I stand at the end of 2012, I realize that although I suffered the greatest loss of my life yet, I still have much to be grateful for and things could always get worse since you just don't know what tomorrow brings. Sometimes I struggle with the fact that more bad things will happen to me. I know this sounds pretty depressing and I still sound like a fool in 2012. Really, what I mean is that when you have dealt with an incredible amount of hardship by the age of thirty, you think surely this is it for me! Or more simply I just can't take anymore! However, I know this isn't true because mainly life is impermanent with many many ups and downs especially when you put yourself out there in any sort of relationship. While 2012 was defined by a very giant down, there were certainly some ups as well. So below is my list of Top 10 accomplishments and moments of 2012 and I encourage everyone to do the same! 

1. Hawaii - I made the trip to Hawaii that I never imagined I would take by myself. I originally went with Matt to Hawaii when my grandfather took my whole family back in Spring of 2007. We loved it there and were happy to hear one of Matt's friends would be having his wedding there. We discussed attending this wedding many times together and I knew if it was possible, I would get him to that wedding. Unfortunately Matt did not make it to the wedding. I missed him greatly and it was tough but I am glad I went.  I also know that Matt was happy I went to celebrate with his friends in his place. 

2. Turning Thirty - Not that I had a choice with this one or it was really an accomplishment but I turned thirty this year. While I never thought I would be where I am at thirty, I think I am making the best of it. I embraced the day of celebration and found the perfect way to enter this new era of my life...  a hot yoga class with my friends and family followed of course by some boozy Popsicles!

3. Fixing Stuff - I still have the initial inclination to call the handyman but then I remember how expensive that is and I at least give the home repair a shot. Yesterday, I put my heavy glass shower door back on track. A month ago, I changed all the light bulbs in my house including the super tall one above my front door. I also learned that not only are those fluorescent light bulbs better for the environment, they mean less changing of the light bulbs!

4. Blog - I started this blog and love writing. Who knew I had it in me? During Matt's battle with cancer, I was always pretty private about it all. Expressing my feelings with many friends and family has helped me immensely. Blogs helped me in those early days of grief immensely. Hopefully this helped another young widow out there. Sometimes when you are suffering a loss, the best thing is simply to have someone to associate with. It's true, misery does love company. 

5. Headstand - I won't bore everyone again by going on more about this but remembering that I set this goal for myself last year (January 1, 2012) and achieved it makes me happy. Can't wait to go to class on New Year's Day and chill in headstand for 10 deep breaths! And today, I decided what my pose goal for 2013 is, Handstand! Got into it this morn with the help of the Instructor!

6. Zumba - Somehow during all of the commotion I still showed up for my students and taught with love and passion. Not only did I teach but I attended Convention which was life changing. Then I went on to host a Zumbathon with an outpouring of support from friends, family, and students. We were able to raise over $4000 to benefit the ABTA. I think one of the best moments happened to me just about a week ago when one of my students came up to chat after class. She shared with me that Zumba was a huge stress reliever to her as her sister battled breast cancer. Mission accomplished. 

7. Plan B - Despite my life plans being turned upside down, I created a new plan and found a way to look forward to each new day. I am so ready for this!

8. New friends - Loss and grief truly rock you to your core. It shakes up everything you thought to be true which includes relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. Some friends and family have simply stepped up to be by my side like I could have never imagined. I have made many new friendships that simply wouldn't have happened unless I was in this situation. I also know what types of relationships are healthy for me and which ones I want to maintain. Thank you... you know who you are! 

9. I am a Good Dog Mama - Matt did a lot of the caring for Lila. He fed her, walked her, and took her to the dog park everyday. However, he knew he would be stuck with this when we signed up to adopt Lila. I found myself in charge of all these responsibilities. I know, people do this everyday and Lila makes my life that much better, but nonetheless it was a change for me. At first, I would forget to buy dog food and would have to make a last minute run to the pet store for the expensive stuff but eventually I learned to just buy the bigger bag! Lila and I figured it out and she is a happy little dog. Lila is still a legend at Wigglyville but her Papa is still greatly missed there. 

10. I was a supportive wife that stood by my man. My marriage lasted till death did us part. 

Here's to a wonderful, amazing New Year... as with all years there will be some ups and some downs but hopefully we can all move through it gracefully and appreciate the downs for what they teach us and enjoy the ups with a smile on our faces!



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The After Christmas???

Well again I made it through another huge first by myself. I am feeling the after effects of Christmas but definitely not in the usual after Christmas blues or sales kind of way. More of an I just laid around and did nothing but ate, drank, and felt sorry for myself for the past five days. I certainly can't forget my acting as a grumpy Scrooge acts as well. I know being lazy and eating a ton is pretty standard for the holidays but I just haven't been myself. Typically I am pretty energetic and I at least get up and work out a few days over the holidays but not this year. 

After a sluggish Christmas Eve, I woke up on Christmas Day to volunteer at a homeless shelter for women and families. It was a nice way to start the day and I guess if this is the only real thing I accomplished over the past five days, then I should be proud. After that I hung around my Grandmas eating and hanging with my family. I have to admit I had to take some time outs to sit in my room quietly with Lila. We opened presents with the most fun part of the day watching my second cousin open presents with delight. She is the only little one in our family so she steals the show. After presents I headed to the movie theater to see Les Miserables with my Mom and soon to be sister in law. I had bought the tickets a couple weeks ago since it was opening yesterday and I was looking forward to it. I saw the play on Broadway when I was there on a high school trip but didn't remember much. It turned out to be the perfect dark love and war story for my own dark love and Christmas story. I know the songs had a lot of different meanings than what I attached to them but I certainly found myself lost in some of the lyrics of the solos. Below is an excerpt from "I Dreamed a Dream" sung by the character Fantine (played by Ann Hathaway in the movie); 

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Yes, this is really dark but it's where I was yesterday on my first Christmas without Matt.  

Today on Boxing Day, I am still sitting in Ohio as I was snowed in by the Midwest storm. Yesterday I was kind of hoping for another day with the family laying around so it was an added bonus although there was certainly some annoyance to reschedule appointments, missing another day of work, and not teaching Zumba. Really, I think it was just what the doctor ordered. But now I can safely say with the major family holidays behind me along with five days of being a slug... I am ready to pick up with life again and get back on track with the game of living. I know there is still New Year's to bear but I have a hot new dress and I need to get to the gym to look good in it! Then it's on to big plans for the New Year! So I guess the holidays weren't all that bad since I am getting back out there and thinking of the future but with all that said I still have to wish you a Merry Fucking Christmas! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cindy Lou Who?

Wow this sucks. No other words for it. No way to sugar coat it. This sucks and I just want it to be over. I know I know I should never wish away the days but I am done and ready to move on from this holiday season.

Last night I did have some Christmas joy as I visited an old friend, her husband, and her two adorable children. There were a lot of laughs, a few good cries, and everything in between. I brought the kids a couple of Christmas gifts which included How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. I am sure you have all seen many forms of this beloved Christmas tale. It's a classic for a reason. The kids had seen the Jim Carey version many many times but this was the first time reading the book. I delighted in reading this to their little girl especially when she went on and on about Cindy Lou, you know the little girl that turns the Grinch's heart...

Matt used to call me Cindy Lou because of my love for the season. We met shortly before Christmas in 2005 at our work holiday party. He sent me a beautiful bouquet after our first date as a Christmas present. I will never forget this moment. The doorman called to tell me that I had flowers and I didn't believe him! Very good move on his part. My mom was there too so he earned extra bonus points by impressing my Mom. The next Christmas I lived in a little place that I had decorated and we celebrated Christmas before we parted ways and headed to our respective homes in the Midwest. The following year we were living in our first apartment together. Matt quickly saw my enthusiasm for the season as I pulled out the decorations and put on my Santa Hat. He dubbed me Cindy Lou and we went on to start celebrating Christmases together in Wisconsin or Ohio every year. There were many good times in both places. This year we would have gone to Wisconsin and I am missing his family in their very fun Christmas Eve celebration. I will never forget taking part in my first White Elephant there. I didn't know people bought good presents like OPI nail polish, BBQ sauces, and the ever popular six packs. My ornament quickly became the present left at the end of exchange. One year we went to Navy Pier to see A Christmas Carol at the IMax. We enjoyed the movie and afterwards Matt wanted to show me something and led me to the Winter Wonderland. An old hangar that was filled with tons of Christmas cheer and lights. He took me there simply to see my eyes get big with the glow of Christmas and revel in my joy of the season. Last year, we headed to Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant. This was probably my last real date with Matt when he was somewhat himself. 

I am so thankful for all of these joyful memories but Cindy Lou is not doing so well today and I don't think she could stop the Grinch if she tried. I didn't hang up one Christmas decoration and didn't buy any gifts aside from those mentioned above. Very few Christmas cards were sent. I couldn't face Church tonight with all the families dressed up in their new sweaters and dresses and the overall merriness. This is probably the first time I haven't gone to Church on Christmas EVER... my Catholic guilt pushing me on in this downward spiral. Right now if I saw that Grinch slithering down the chimney, I would stay in my heap on the couch and watch him take it all begging him to leave the Baileys. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

One is the Loneliest Number

I have posted a lot about events, firsts, trips, and headstands and how these have impacted me. I don't think I have really discussed or could ever possibly emphasize enough the loneliness of being in this place. Perhaps I have in earlier rants but I am just feeling it so much right now that I have to dedicate a whole post to it. Losing your best friend through life is the worst part of this whole process. 

The past two weekends were full of celebrating including a friend's birthday , a wedding, and the holidays. All were good fun with plenty of friends and laughs but I missed Matt. I missed my date through life. I missed walking into the party with him... I missed talking to him at the party... I missed laughing about it the next day. Please don't take this to mean I am one of the those namby pamby women that can't go places without someone by her side, I am pretty independent woman and going by myself isn't the issue...but Matt, Matt I want by my side. 

On Sunday, the loneliness was eating at me. I basically walked around in a panic all day because I missed him so much and because I couldn't find my old Iphone which has tons of messages from Matt on it. It's so hard to go from sharing your life explicitly with someone to not. You come home everyday to tell the person what happened to you. I love to talk and tell a good a story so our evenings were typically spent discussing the day over dinner or TV. Sometimes I can't help but hang my head when I come home to see my place dim under the street lamps the warm glow of Matt inside with the lights on gone. Thankfully, I have family members that talk to me on pretty much a daily basis.... my three leading ladies; my aunt, my mom, and my grandma. They pretty much pick up the phone at anytime and always call me back. They have certainly helped to put my "I need to tell someone this energy" somewhere. As you can guess, it's not quite the same. 

In marriage, you are signing up for someone to become your life partner, your lives become quickly intertwined. Your day and your happiness is theirs and it all becomes one. It's the little things that you share on a day to day basis that are fun, sad, silly, stupid, your life. I miss it so much. I miss telling Matt everything. I STILL have things happen in my life and can't want to tell him. Honestly, these usually aren't big things... telling him that I saw the crazy guy at the dog park, that I got a free Potbelly sandwich, that I saw his buddy on the train. Of course there are the big things that I miss sharing too; that I had to have another laser treatment on my foot, that I turned 30, that I did a headstand. 

I miss him so much right now, its palpable (line stolen from Carrie Bradshaw). Like I said, all the celebrating hit me hard compiled with the holidays and the overall grief of the country, it's too much. The days are getting longer for me filled with lots of ups and downs and general exhaustion by bedtime. I am excited about my new life plans but I am tired of scheming. I have been agonizing over renting this condo so all can go as planned. I want to be talking about our plans for Christmas discussing what time we will take off on Saturday... not deciding when I will leave to trek across the country and move from our home... talking about when we will start trying to have kids not dreaming up the best way to start over.  

I have been reading a book a dear friend gave to me, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron and for the day I leave you with two paragraphs from her book although I highly recommend reading her book in particular the chapter on loneliness. I will certainly be working on this over the holiday season...

"Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It's restless and pregnant and hot with desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down."

"When you wake up in the morning and out of nowhere comes the heartache of alienation and loneliness, could you use that as a golden opportunity? Rather than persecuting yourself or feeling that something terribly wrong is happening, right there in the moment of sadness and longing, could you relax and touch the limitless space of the human heart? The next time you get a chance, experiment with this."



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Comfortably Numb

Last night I did a quick Facebook check and a college friend had posted that he had just seen a good duo of Eddie Vedder and Roger Waters of Comfortably Numb. I asked what was going and he alerted me of the 12.12.12 Sandy Relief Concert and I quickly turned it on but had already missed the song. I hit record to enjoy the rest of the concert at a later date. 

As you know, Matt, was an Eddie Vedder fan so it obviously made me think of him. He would have loved this jam and would have loved this concert. As he was a fan of Palladia and Fuse, I am no stranger to the TV concert. One of the best presents I think I ever bought him was of a live Pearl Jam concert that he assured me was a rare find which I had no clue of when I bought. I quite enjoy TV concerts and I'll admit are a nice distraction from my normal squawky reality shows and make for some perfect background music. Matt would have known about this concert and had me watching it. I don't often find myself playing the "what would we be doing now" game nine months later but the game was playing me last night. I pictured us on the couch watching the concert surrounded by our Christmas decorations with Lila snuggled on her bed. 

Today, I pulled up the You Tube of the Comfortably Numb duo and quickly became entranced by the words. Lately, I have been thinking about how I have been seemingly doing better with this whole grief thing and finding the sunny side of life again. But I have also thought to myself... do you just at some point have to rise above it? I mean you simply can't live in that state of grief forever, it's just not possible. Do you have to stop thinking about it at some point to move forward. I haven't been crying as much lately (until today), I mean sure at any moment I could make myself cry if I thought about all this stuff but I don't so I don't cry. Have I become comfortably numb? 

Enjoy the video here...



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Plan B

I have been wanting to post this for quite some time now as I have been working on "Plan B" for awhile but I had to wait until a few more things were in place before I could. So here goes, my Plan B. 

The plan is to take some time off and eventually move out West. I love Chicago and it has been good to me but it will always be Matt and I's city in my heart. I met Matt about a month after I moved here and he helped me navigate the city at first which included numerous frantic calls wondering where I was and how do I get to where I am going. Then it became our home as we moved in together and eventually bought our first place and married. I could continue to live here and enjoy it but it's time for new surroundings and a change of energy. 

Eventually I plan to move to San Diego but not until I travel across the world for a couple of months. I will first head to San Diego to check out some places and then drive up to LA with my Mom to attend the LA Zumba Conference. From LA I will be flying to Australia to stay with one of Matt's best friends from Wisconsin and his lovely wife. Another friend from Appleton will be visiting while I am so it will be a trip down under Sconie style!  

After spending about two weeks there I am headed to Bali for a one month yoga teacher training. I will be staying in Ubud but I am sure I will be doing some traveling while I am in the training. I also have some time after the training to travel as well. 

Once I get back, I plan to make the journey out west and settle in San Diego. I am going to drive out there with Lila and I am looking forward to making stops across the nation. Matt once made the drive across our great country and I look forward to doing the same in his beloved Audi. 

As far as choosing San Diego? I have visited there a couple of times and always wondered, "why don't I live here?" The last trip Matt and I made together was to San Diego for a friend's wedding. Sitting on the beaches of SoCal with him are some very good memories and of course always hitting up In and Out Burger. One of my best friends from grade school lives there with her family and I can't wait to live in the same city as her again. A few of Matt's friends live there as well and hopefully they will invite me to a party or two ;)  

So that's it! I hatched this up many months ago and thought about it for awhile before putting the actual logistics in place. It's all set now, just need to rent out the condo so if you know of anyone looking for a 2 bed/2 bath in Chicago's north side, let me know!

Yep, it's a pretty great plan and I am allowing my heart take me where it wants. Having something to look forward to and organize has given me the gift of waking up excited about each new day again. I am so thankful that I have received so much support in discussing Plan B with family, friends, counselors, and co-workers. I am fortunate that no one has ever said, "are you crazy?" or "are you sure you want to do this?" because frankly, I have thought that a few times. I have been met with nothing but hope and excitement about this new adventure in life and for that I am truly grateful. However there has been a response that has made me cringe although I know it comes from a good place. Please don't say your jealous. I mean I get it... who doesn't want to quit their job to take off for warmer weather across the world? But I am only doing this because my Plan A, the life plan that I wanted and built with Matt didn't work out. I wanted the boring life of 1.5 kids and a picket fence but as we all know some of the best laid plans just don't happen. Right now, this feels to be the next best thing for me. So please share your excitement and your hope for me but please don't say your jealous because all I can think of is how much I had to go through to get to this plan. 

I simply can't wait to see where this takes me and I look forward to you taking this journey with me via blogspot. Heading out of the Windy City the last week of January... let the going away party planning begin! 


Your Soon to be West Coast Widowed Certified Yogi 

Matt and I in San Diego August 2011 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Zumbathon for the ABTA - December 1, 2012

I hosted a Zumbathon this past Saturday, December 1st to benefit the American Brain Tumor Association. I have wanted to do this for awhile but simply didn't have the time, energy, or power to put it together. Finally, I mustered up the strength to host this and I have to say I am beyond proud in how it turned out. On Sunday, I found myself thinking, when can I host my next Zumbathon? So between my headstand and the Zumbathon... I am still tooting my own horn and Zumbaing along as I do it! 

I loved every single minute of planning this as well, except the couple of hours leading up to it when I was nervous. But I kept it pretty in check throughout the planning process and told myself it was all for a good cause and if something, goes wrong... what's the worst thing that can happen?

I think the most amazing part of it all was how many people came together to support me and this event. And of course that we raised just over $4,200 for the ABTA! My friends certainly stepped up in many ways including; generating raffle prizes, finding photographers, asking how they could help, and of course showing up to Zumba even if they hate dancing or were incredibly hungover! Friends came from near and far and I was very happy to see so many of their smiling faces on Saturday. My family traveled from various parts of the country and not only made the journey but allowed me to boss them around the day of. Some family even brought their friends who were also quickly put to work. They had no idea what was in store when they rolled in for what was supposed to be a fun weekend in the city! The community also helped the cause by donating raffle prizes. Most of these were local business that I support so I appreciated them supporting me back. And of course my Zumba buddies came to help me instruct the whole thing! They were amazing to say the least and kept all 65 people moving the entire time! These are Instructors that I took my first class with, teach with, and met at Convention... I am so lucky to have the Zumba community by my side! 

The whole event was so moving and so much fun! It was wonderful to see friends try Zumba for the first see Zumba enthusiasts come to party their hearts out.. and to hear everyone talk about all the Instructors and who got them groovin to the music... it was all so so amazing.

Thank you to all who donated, contributed, showed up, Zumbaed, shared, led, and made the day one of the best I have had in a long time. Certainly wishing we could do it all again this weekend! This was all done in honor of my always smiling love, Matt, in hopes that we can find a cure so no family has to ever endure this heartache again. Matt would have been so proud. I wonder if he would have actually Zumbaed? It made me giggle when I thought about him dancing around that gym. One thing I know, he would have been damn proud that I had a local pizzeria donate free pizzas!

Please check out the list of donors below and some special shout outs of thanks. Enjoy the pics that were graciously taken by Craig and Cory Stevenson. Check out what their company can do for you here...

Raffle Donors:
State Restaurant -
Ravenswood Fitness Center -
Comfy Fitness -
Buddah Beads -
Goran Coban -
Naked Pizza -

Special Thanks:
Julia Ralston
Lisa Proctor
Ashley Bussen
Gloria Crawford
Laura Hunt
Heather Burkey

Zumba Luv!


Monday, December 3, 2012

The Year of the Headstand

For the past year, I have been obsessed with getting myself into a headstand. On January 1st, I posted this on my Zumbamel FB page (where I include all motivational fitness related it if you haven't already!)... Here's to a year full of health and fitness! Started my morn with a great yoga class at CorePower Yoga! Fitness goal of the year... HEADSTAND!

Some of the classes at Core Power include time to play with headstand and some don't. Then when I went to the ashram, almost everyone could do headstand including those that didn't seem to be in that great of shape (I know that isn't yogi of me but darnit I workout EVERYDAY). Then I became slightly obsessed with getting into this asana (pose).

This time of year has been difficult for me as I shared this is really when Matt began to change. He just wasn't himself, he held onto it as long as he could but it was starting to show. I regretfully did not spend New Years with Matt so I know this one will be hard. Plus at New Years, it was undeniable that Matt was very ill and would probably not make it to another New Years. I initially planned to spend the evening alone, I know boring as all heck but I was tired and looking forward to a night of relaxing on the couch. I had plans to meet up with friends on New Years Day anyways. Unexpectedly I got a call from a friend who had gotten engaged. I pulled myself out of my sweatpants, still didn't wash my hair but I made it out to celebrate her engagement. I was so happy for her. At the same time, I simply couldn't believe that while most people's lives were just starting together, mine was coming to end. 

I had an enjoyable evening and the next day, I woke early to attend a New Year's Day yoga class before I met up with my friends. When the time came in class, I tried to get into headstand which I was newly enthralled with after the ashram but wasn't close to getting up there. I was still excited about the prospect of doing a headstand and made it my goal of the year. Looking back, I wonder how the hell did I post this when my life was falling apart? How did I have the mindset to hope for something and set my mind to it?

Proudly, I can now say headstand is mine! And it's almost the end of the year! I have been practicing in class whenever I get the chance and sometimes when I stick around afterwards to practice. I started by the wall and slowly inched myself away. While at the beach for Thanksgiving, I asked my aunt to spot me in the sand. To my surprise, she didn't even help me up and I held it long enough to enjoy the view of the ocean inverted and snap a few pics. The next day, as I was practicing yoga by myself in the early morning, I decided to try it by myself and up I went! Soon I was acting like an inverted fool trying it whenever I could watching; the sunrise, the sunset, people walking by. The sand was the perfect practice place!  

I am elated that headstand is mine!  I am so proud! You see, it's all about getting over that fear. Getting yourself up there and realizing, that if you fall down, you will be okay! I feel backwards several times but landed softly and gave out a chuckle. It was even kind of fun to fall backwards and  I soon found myself envisioning a headstand to wheel maneuver. Perhaps my next conquest? I was so fearful to fall but once I did fall and realized I would be okay, it was on! Not only is it amazing to accomplish a goal, there are many health benefits from a regular headstand practice including; stimulating a face lift, decreasing gray (now ya got me here!), minimizing depression, and of course reversing your blood flow. Please see a list of more reasons here And as the article mentions, it is a darn pretty cool party trick. 

Somehow amongst all the craziness of last year, I somehow found the optimisim to set a goal for myself and accomplish it. I think I just had to find some sort of manageable goal amongst all that was uncontrollable in my life. Sorry for gloating but I am pretty damn proud of myself. Here's to fitness goals and to my next conquest! And be sure to check out a few headstand pictures below ;)




Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkey Day... without the Turkey

As I type I am watching the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico on a small island in Florida. This Thanksgiving was anything but typical. My aunt rented a beach house in St. George Island, Florida months ago and I had planned to bring my Nanny along. We would meet my Aunt, her husband, and his daughters in Florida. I had made these arrangements months ago and I was satisfied with my new life set of alterna-Turkey Day plans. 

I set out on Sunday to pick up my Nanny half way between Chicago and Dayton and quickly got frustrated as I took a wrong turn when I wasn't paying attention (I have made this drive millions of times). Then my fancy new phone wouldn't work properly and I couldn't get back on track (yep the new IPhone 5 maps are just as bad as they say). Then I was soon honking and cursing frustrated that my Thanksgiving was so different. I shouldn't be preparing for a 4am departure on Wednesday morning with my grandma in tow, I should be talking to Matt about when we are going to head to Wisconsin or Ohio. Him prodding me to leave on time, not pack too much, and have Lila's things ready. 

Nanny and I made the journey successfully and arrived in Panama City unscathed and thankfully uninterrupted by the Chicago fog. After we arrived, we stopped and had lunch at a wonderful seaside restaurant and then stopped by the local fish market to pick up Thanksgiving dinner; shrimp and grouper. The trip was off to a more than successful start! We headed to the beach house and were pleasantly surprised by a beautiful house, steps away from the beach. We enjoyed the rest of the evening and then woke on Thanksgiving Day.

I was sad to miss some of my favorite pre-Turkey Day workout extravaganzas but was lucky to walk with my Grandma and Aunt on the beach before running back. Then I laid on the beach reading in my swimsuit for a few hours before getting ready and enjoying some wine poolside. Next was preparation of the dinner, prepared and shared by all. 

After dinner, we enjoyed a game of catchphrase including my Nanny which Matt would have loved to see. She was pretty good too! As we were playing I turned on the CD player for some music. Last post I mentioned cosmic coincidences and what I am about to tell you was surely one. The CD that had been left in the player by some other guest was, the "Eat, Pray, Love" soundtrack. I am sure most of you have heard of this book/movie. I recently read and watched both as I am planning my own Eat, Pray, Love journey to none other than Bali (more on this to come in another post). Strange. I instantly recognized most of the songs and was surprised by a few including Eddie Vedder's voice. After we were done playing I looked up the soundtrack and found the song, "Long Run" by Eddie Vedder. I was shocked by the lyrics and quickly downloaded the song. Below are some highlights from the song (copied from So fitting. 

And I wished for so long, cannot stay...All the precious moments, cannot stay...It's not like wings have fallen, cannot stay...But I feel something's missing, cannot say...
Holding hands are daughters and sonsAnd their faiths just falling down, down, down, down...I have wished for so longHow I wish for you today
We all walk the long road. Cannot stay...There's no need to say goodbye...All the friends and familyAll the memories going round, round, round, roundI have wished for so longHow I wish for you today
And the wind keeps roaringAnd the sky keeps turning grayAnd the sun is setThe sun will rise another day...
We all walk the long road. Cannot stay...There's no need to say goodbye...All the friends and familyAll the memories going round, round, round, round)

The Thanksgiving was so different that at first, it was hard to realize it was the holiday. There was no turkey, football, or sitting around my Nanny's house so it was all unfamiliar. Then as I was sitting poolside enjoying a glass of wine, it hit me. I didn't care about the holiday or what day it was...I just missed  Matt. His absence was palpable as I looked at the lounge chair next to me. Matt loved a good beach vacation and he would have especially loved this one. Thanksgiving by the beach with family, Matt would have been pleased! I could see him in his ratty beach shirt and swimming trunks urging me to get up and play Frisbee with him. He always wanted me to play. Sometimes I would indulge but I am more of a lay on the sand and read type of gal. Why didn't I play more Frisbee with the guy? I didn't get up and play every time but I can say I am a pretty decent Frisbee player at this point. Sadly, I forgot his Frisbee this trip, typically I still bring it along. 

On Black Friday, there was no mention of door busters or early AM shopping trips. Well, I guess now they are PM shopping trips on Thanksgiving evening. I was so glad not to hear much about it, frankly this year it has made me sick. I don't need one extra thing in this world and I don't have a lot of people to buy for this Christmas. I again went for a run and laid by the beach all day. We also rented some kayaks. I enjoyed kayaking in the late afternoon sun. I could definitely feel Matt's presence and I know he would have been so proud of me in that kayak in the sea. 

I am left with a couple more days to enjoy here and I am really trying to live in the moment and take it all in. I am so thankful to spend the holiday here with my Nanny, Aunt, her husband and his family. I am truly blessed to have the luxury to take this vacation and spend the holiday as I see fit and forge some new traditions. I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving this year, however you chose to spend it... hopefully with friends, family, and some good laughs! 



Monday, November 19, 2012

The Meditating Widow

I had certianly heard about meditation prior to going to the Ashram in December 2011 but my experience with it had been minimal. I had never really sat down and tried to meditate on my own. When I arrived at the Ashram with my Aunt we arrived late in the afternoon and made it in time to attend the evening services, Satsang. I knew Satsang was from 8 - 10pm but that was about it. We arrived and there was hushed chatter before the Swami belted out an "Ommm" and dimmed the lights. We were left to our own devices to meditate but for how long I wondered? They hadn't told me? Would it be the whole 2 hours? No way, I couldn't do this for 2 hours! My back hurts! Why didn't I sit in one of those chairs!

Thankfully another Om pulled me out of my meditative panic about 30 minutes later. This was a full bellyflop into meditation. Luckily, there were three workshops on meditation while we were there given by Tom Spector. I eagerly attended the first workshop and ended up going to every single one. I learned several techniques on mediation and found the one that was right for me and an optimistic plan to mediate every day.

Additionally, it seemed as if I was brought to the Ashram at this time in my life to meet Tom Spector. Tom was involved in pharmaceutical research for cancer. He also helped cancer patients and their families with meditation and helping to put them at ease as they moved into the next realm. Tom's book, Our Two Gardens: How to Cultivate Healing, includes a section on how to best vist with cancer patients. I told him why I was at the Ashram and he immeaditly gave me a big bear hug. Tom shared that he strongly belevied in cosmic coninciedneces and encouraged the group to always reach out to someone if you feel you should. Well this was definitly a cosmic conicidence for me.

After visiting the Ashram,  I went back with a plan to meditate everyday right after I got out of bed. I had explained to Tom that my mind was jumping all over the place all the time. I wasn't able to focus on anything and my mind was always elsewhere when I was at work/home/etc. He promised if I continued with my practice this would change. I thought, it's worth a shot!

But as life got continually difficult, my practice fell to the wayside. I would pick it up and drop it again and again. Last week, I decided to take Deepak Chopra's 21 Day Meditation Challenge. It was all over Facebook and I signed up looking forward to finding my practice again. Now, I have to say I don't condone all of Deepak's beliefs (he is Oprah's guru) BUT he has gotten me to meditate every day for the past fourteen days.

And guess what? My mind isn't as jumpy! With all that is going on and all the plans I am trying to make, my mind was hopping around like a crazed monkey. Oh yes, Monkey Mind at it's finest. So I am a beleiver and will be continuing this challenge. It's not too late for you either! Check out the details here...

Just thought I would pass along my experiences with meditation, everyone should at least give it a shot!



Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Calm After the Storm

So I am writing which means I made it through another milestone. How did I fare? It went okay. It actually gave me some renewed hope for what is sure to be an emotional holiday season.

Friday I attended the mass to commemorate All Soul's Day. The church invited us to bring a picture of our loved one and I brought the picture of Matt posted below. This was taken on the sunset cruise in Aruba. I have to say, Matt had the best picture. It was sad to hear his name read especially given the rest of the church goes who probably lost their loved one at a more "typical age". I had dinner with friends afterwards and it was a nice way to spend the evening.

The following day, I went to my Zumba event and it was great and I learned a lot! Afterwards I went to a mall in the suburbs I had never been to before. Living in the city, I love a good mall. It didn't turn out well though. The juxtaposition between what I was going through and the material consumption was too much. I made a quick exit and had a breakdown in traffic on the way home. Traffic just has that effect. And mostly, I could hear Matt wondering why the hell I had gone to a mall in the suburbs on his birthday. He would have shaken his head in disbelief wondering what I was thinking. Not because he cared that's what I had chosen to do on his bday but why I thought it was a good idea to go to a mall in the suburbs on a Saturday afternoon.

That's the thing about Matt. He never felt a sense of obligation to this or that or doing what the world thought he should. He was true to himself and did what made him happy. Throughout his bday I wondered what Matt would want me to do? He would want me to do what would make me happy. He wouldn't want me to do this or that because that's what I should be doing. He just liked to see me happy. God love him. I am so lucky to have this example in my life.

So today is 8 months (or it was when I first drafted this on Friday, November 9th). After preparing for last weekend, I didn't have the energy to agonize for another. Right now, I am thinking it's just another day. Eight months doesn't seem that significant but when I think about nine that means more than half a year, almost a year! As I mentioned, after last weekend, I am feeling a renewed sense of hope. I was able to more positively reflect on good memories on this milestone instead of being incapacitated like I was on our first anniversary. I enjoyed making a list of birthdays celebrated and focused on happy memories. I can't describe how much this puts me at ease for the holidays. I know they will still be hard but at least I was finally able to move past the horrible deliberating sense of sadness to reflect on the positive. When you are in the first couple months of grief, it's impossible to find or see. You are simply to sad and stricken to see anything but that. People tell you at least you had so many good times and you just want to puke and tell them I am not done with the good times! Again, I will still need to prepare and take it easy on myself for the holidays but they seem much more manageable with some warm memories amongst the sadness.

I have also been making some exciting plans for the future which has kept me energized and looking forward to each new day. More to come on this. I will also be hosting a Zumbathon to benefit the American Brain Tumor Association on December 1st. Please find all the details here Putting effort into throwing a successful Zumba event for the ABTA has been an excellent way to channel my energy and I can't wait to see how it all turns out! The support that I have received from family, friends, and students has been amazing and inspiring. Thanks to all that are willing to travel to this event and volunteer your talents. Hope to Zumba with you on December 1st!




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Preparing for the Storm

As our country prepares for Hurricane Sandy. I am preparing for my own storm of grief to come this weekend. Hoping for the best with this storm and as little devestation as possible reminding everyone that having your loved ones safe and sound is the most important thing. Stuff will come and go. And also realizing that I need to take my own advice when it comes to stuff. We hear the familiar quote all the time, as long as your loved ones are healthy and safe. And oh believe me, it's true. But sitting on the other side of that statement, what then?

As I posted last go around, I was a major Crankmonster B the past few weeks. Work is starting to calm down and I feel the crankiness start to subside with it. I think that while I was busy storming around the city I forgot to be sad. Or I was sad but I didn't have enough time to sit around and moan and groan so I was just stomping around with my grief. But I am starting to feel better, making some new plans, and getting excited about some things and also allowing some time to greive. But then another storm is brewing... this Saturday should have been Matt's 33rd birthday. And there is a special mass at our church on Friday evening to remember those that have gone before us, where we both got married and held Matt's memorial mass all within three years. So just as I was feeling better, here comes another event to shake my stability.

I invited some friends to attend the mass with me and I am thankful that several stepped up to come with me. Saturday, I have some Zumba events planned to keep myself busy but I feel like I should be doing something "fun" to celebrate Matt. But as I type that I realize that just isn't possible, how can I have fun on Matt's birthday when he isn't here to celebrate. There probably just isn't anyway to handle this right so I will do the best that I can.  

Then I start thinking about his birthday last year, getting a nice steak dinner and surprising him with Badger tickets. Well trying to surprise him... I am not good at surprises. He caught on to my surprise in the waiting room of the University of Chicago last year... waiting for a second opinion. As much as I love getting gifts, I love giving them but get way too excited and let the cat out of the bag way before the big day comes.

Mostly I am dreaming about our honeymoon that was going on three years ago exactly. We had waited to take our honeymoon in Aruba about four months after our wedding and it was the perfect plan. Living in Chicago, I love to take a vaca when the cold is here and it gave us some time to rest from the big wedding we threw. If you haven't put two and two together, Matt celebrated his 30th birthday while we were down there. I of course wanted to do something special and probably pulled off my biggest surprise to date.

Every night we would see these Kukoo Kunuku party buses whizzing by in a blur of loud drunkenness. Matt and I laughed at them as our vacation was the exact opposite including nice meals and relaxing on the beach. Plus there were always people hanging out the windows shaking maracas. I think he was eagerly awaiting to hear about my plans for his 30th and I acted like I again let the cat out of the bag and told him I booked us a first class ticket on the Kukoo Kunuku party bus. He was devastated. This was not Matt's ideal birthday celebration and he quickly started pouting and demanded to know why I had done this for his birthday celebration. It would have been more hilarious if I kept it going until we were waiting for the bus to pick us up. But I let the cat out of the bag for real and shared the real plans which was a sunset cruise in the Caribbean. We had a wonderful cruise and enjoyed pizza at a local Aruban place afterwards. What I wouldn't give to be back in Aruba with him right now.

But I am not, I am here waiting to see how I handle this weekend and hoping that I can make it through without being pulled back into a slump. And also pissed off that Matt doesn't get to celebrate another birthday and enjoy a lot of the things he deserved in this life. Don't ever complain about another year on the calendar, celebrate it with all your being and be thankful you are here to take another breath.

I think the hardest part of this process is anticipating and analyzing every single situation. Life used to come and go so easily. I constantly find myself preparing for events, thinking about how I am doing, and wondering what the next first will have in store. It's getting old, I just want to be. I know it will come someday for right now, I still need to plan for the storms and evaluate the damage.  

In Aruba watching the Packers game... Go Pack!
Lounging on the Sunset Cruise!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finally an Update from the CrankMonster

I have been trying to update this blog for two weeks now. I originally wanted to on October 9th which was the 7 month sadaversary. That didn't happen because it was a crazy week so finally last week I started drafting an update. I just now sat down to reread that and tried to edit it up to date but realized it was just too outdated. So here I am trying this again. I want to get some things out but feeling stalled. Realizing that my life is going along very fast whether or not I want it to and it's hard to keep up and find time. So here goes...

The past couple weeks have been difficult. About three weeks ago, I felt myself slipping into a low. I didn't know how to stop the momentum but sure enough I found myself deep in it again. This time grief rears it's ugly head in a different manner. Last Monday was National Grouch Day and that pretty much sums it up. Except it was National Grouch Week for the past two almost three weeks. I was just angry-ish with little things setting me off. Some big things naturally set me off as well. Sorry for any friends, family, or innocent strangers that had to be a part of this. I am the first to admit that I am a moody gal evidenced by my Cancer sign and then pushed into neurotic territory recently by my grief. Matt was well aware of this wonderful trait of mine and knew that it was aggravated by lack of food. He knew that when I told him, "I was really hungry" that he better get moving to the nearest food establishment fast. We also lovingly called each a "Crankmonster" from time to time. You know that time when your loved one is just a beast so you just tell them, "Stop being a Crankmonster!"

Now to give myself credit, things haven't been business as usual around here. I have been working a lot which has included a lot of travel. Travel is not what it used to be for me. I used to enjoy a night away, a decent meal, and a big fluffy bed. Now there is so much more to it. First of all, I have to board Lila which I hate. She senses something is going on that whole day so she paces around the house wondering what is going to happen next. I hate throwing her off schedule more than she already has the past year. Her whole world has been shaken up too. By the end of the trip which includes lost of hosting and talking to people, I am ready to get home. I race back to the city to usually hit some traffic and then pick up Lila. I am exhausted and ready to get home but then I get home. All the lights are off the blinds are pulled and there is a chill in the air. I am then sad to get home.

Thankfully, I think I just unpacked my bags for what seems to be the last time in awhile. I am looking forward to a more stable schedule as is Lila. I went to yoga the past two days and hope to keep on this trend. With all the travel, I haven't been able to stick to my normal schedules of Yoga and Zumba which is probably pushing this further into CrankMonster territory. But things are looking up right now, well at least for today and I think I am beginning to climb out of the low land.

In yoga class tonight, the Instructor encouraged us not to judge ourselves. It's difficult in class and even more so in life. I constantly find myself looking around the studio to see whose crow or wheel are better than mine. Why can't I do a headstand, I have been trying this for months now! I tried to apply that to my life and my state of mind the past couple of weeks. I haven't been in the best of moods and not proud of myself but I can't judge myself too much. I think maybe this just had to get out, being angry at the world and my situation. During counseling sessions, I have been consistently asked if I am angry at Matt as this is a typical response in spousal lose. I wasn't angry at him but I was just generally angry. Again, I know I have plenty of things to be thankful for and I am not saying I have it the worst out there but maybe I just had to let my inner CrankMonster out about this situation for awhile.

I think I unleashed the beast for now and I am ready to find some more positive territory. But if I do have to stomp around the house every once in awhile and punch the air to let it out, I don't think there is any harm in that



Monday, October 8, 2012

Quotes from Checking Out: An In-Depth Look at Losing Your Mind

As promised, the following are some of the quotes from Checking Out: An In-Depth Look at Losing Your Mind by Catherine Graves. Thank you Catherine for summing this all up in a way that I am just not able to yet...

"In short, damage from a tumor or from surgery to the frontal lobe will result in significant alterations in movement, intelligence, reasoning, behavior, memory, personality, planning, decision-making, judgment, initiative, inhibition, and mood. In essence, everything that makes a person “human.”
"But I knew as soon as I loosened myself and walked out of the room, they would be taking him away, to a place where no more decisions needed to be made. There was no more what-to-do-next; this man I loved had no future."
"Nothing is ever the same about the particulars of anyone’s loss, but it seems to me also that there exists a level where everything is the same, and that’s what makes this world what it is."
"There is no handling grief. It is complex, every color at once, and shrouded in the mystery that is the unique inner life of every individual. Even observing someone else’s sense of intense grief can be a terrible life-changing experience, and some people will go as far as they can to insulate themselves from that, consciously putting as much distance between themselves and anyone going through it."
"The realization of what’s happened to you, the one left behind, may not hit you until eight months to a year after your loved one’s death. This is about the time when most friends think you should start coming out of mourning."
"It’s horrible that it’s true, but when you assume, you do make an ass of u and me."
"Sometimes you just can’t get a clear perspective when you’re smack in the middle."
"I can’t hold myself responsible for missing something obvious. Because everything he was experiencing in the beginning was too everyday and matter of fact."
"There is a brutal significant value in surviving a grueling time but the time to reflect for me – I think for anyone – is when it is small the rear view mirror, not when it still dominates the landscape."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Widow's Book Corner - Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind

I know you have all been waiting for another book review. I can't keep up with my speed of reading! This was a book I had wanted to read for a long time, my aunt had passed along the recommendation. This is the only account from a widow who lost her husband to brain cancer that I have read. There probably aren't a ton out there. I have read a lot of widow books thus far and lately I have felt myself wanting to read some "lighter" books. I have only moved on to a spiritual memoir but I guess it's a change. In the beginning I craved to understand that all the emotions I was feeling were "normal". Well now I know, it's all part of the grief process. All of these books certainly have helped me realize this but I also thought the other day, no matter how books I read, I can't read away this pain. So here it is....

Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind by Catherine Graves

Book Description
April 25, 2011
Making mistakes and owning up to them can be difficult, but feeling truly absolved is much more difficult. In Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind, new author, Catherine Graves, does what shelves and shelves of self-help books could never do; Graves makes keeping it together possible by realizing that the poor choices and mistakes she makes has consequences and repercussions. By forgiving herself for her actions she is able to inspire others to see that there is life at the other end of immense grief. When her husband starts to act out-of-character and increasingly disinterested, Catherine Graves suspects the worst—but while she needs confirmation of one sort, a different type of nightmare begins, which becomes the toughest year of her and her two children’s lives - a dreadful year in which nothing for their family will ever be the same. Moving beyond survivor’s guilt and any sense of resentment, this poignant, bittersweet memoir is about tolerance and humility. Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind is about a mother, a son, and a daughter pulling together in order to survive. Readers will respond to the narrator’s honesty—this sort of candor is hard to come by—and be thankful to lead less extraordinary lives. Catherine’s real-life story is as dramatic as any thriller; ultimately, it motivates readers to accept the things in their lives that they cannot change.

Widow's Book Corner Review:

As I shared, my aunt had told me about this book quite some time ago and I was anxious to read it as this was the first book that I had read from another widow who had lost her husband to brain cancer. And well the book title kind of says it all I guess?

The beginning of the book is what I found the most interesting or shall I say the most eerily identifiable with. Catherine Grave's husband, John Graves, begins to act very different. She actually suspects that he is having an affair and then ultimately thinks he is having some sort of a mental break down. She decides to take him to a mental facility where the Doctors tell her that what he is experiencing is physical and they rush him to a hospital immediately. Her husband is diagnosed with a glioblastoma (GBM or Grade 4 Brain Tumor). The worst type of tumor. Matt was never officially diagnosed with this. His diagnosis was a Grade 3 tumor but his certainly acted more like a GBM especially towards the end. I found Catherine's description of a GBM especially haunting, "All in all, you'd rather have almost anything other than glioma. You'd rather have a dead-shot hired killer trying to track you down. At least then you'd know what you were fighting, and you might have a chance to get the first shot off." I remember sitting in the emergency room hall (there were no open rooms) of Northwestern. The nurse came out and told us that Matt had a Glioma. I had no idea of the magnitude of what she told me that day. I didn't even know what the hell a glioma was. After the diagnosis, Catherine's husband endured surgery, chemo, and radiation. John passed away about five and a half months later.

I can't imagine what this woman went through. Yet I know it all too well. I could barely read the beginning of this book, it hit way too close too home. I wanted to read it but I would read a sentence and I felt her pain so much that I could barely read another sentence. I KNEW that Matt had a brain tumor that wasn't going away and I STILL didn't know that it was affecting him from a mental functioning stand point. Or perhaps I refused to believe? Just about a year ago now when his personality began to shift, I just didn't put two and two together. I would also get upset with him, why don't you do this or that or want to go out or talk to me more. I didn't know that this is how these tumors manifest themselves. Matt had seizures before, his persona was never altered. I was on the lookout for seizures not this! And then the decline came quickly with Matt soon needing someone to be with him at all times should he head outside, lock the door, and take off somewhere. This woman didn't even know her husband had a tumor and experienced similar changes in John only to lose him months afterwards. I can't even imagine, no wonder she lost her mind! Catherine  experienced a lot of guilt especially since she suspected him of something so harsh. I sometimes feel guilty for being upset with Matt at times but how did I know? I was just doing the best I could each day, I have made peace with it. But really, after you lose someone, I am positive there is no way not to feel some hints of guilt.   

After her husband's death, Catherine fell into a deep depression and eventually checked into a mental facility. She went on to write this book and work to help others and let others know her story. She certainly inspired me in this way. Catherine states,  "I didn't want to live a life worth a book or a magazine piece, nor even a short prizewinning film with the part of me being played by Sandra Bullock. I craved a normal life with a husband I'd spend a long time with that would be so wonderful, that fifty years later, it would feel like only a moment had passed." Although, my lead would be played by Hilary Duff, I did not want this "sob story" to be mine. But it is. And it is mine to do with it what I know I must. I will turn this all into something positive and I know it will have something to do with helping others. I look forward to seeing how this unfolds. Thank you Matt for inspiring me.

Recommendation: I am going to go ahead and recommend this to all those that have experienced the loss of someone who had a brain tumor specifically to those that are friends or family of a spouse that has lost someone to brain cancer. Yes, that is a very spelled out hint for my friends and family to read this book. Sometimes I, nor others in my life realize or remember the magnitude of what I have gone through. This book clearly reminds me that what I went through was intense, not easy, and not to be taken lightly. Not that I do, I am living this truth every day but I mean my husband died from brain cancer at the age of 32. There isn't a lot more seriously intense than that. (I had to come back and add this as it's been bothering me... I know there are worse things out there and I am greatful for what I have been given) This is way too much to get over in a few months and thankfully I have not ended up in a mental facility but it would be certianly understandable. Some people are just realizing what the hell happened after 7 months. In writing this review, I paged through all of my Kindle highlights and was simply amazed by all of the quotes in the book that related to me. The following post will be a collection of those quotes.