Saturday, November 2, 2013

On It's Own

Today marks 5 1/2 years since Brad's death.

It's interesting how the passage of time changes things.
{and how it doesn't}

I remember having a physical "flinch" on every 1st of every month. Another month without Brad. I was always counting. Hours, days, months.  Sometimes it's hard to believe that I'm counting years now.

I remember being really sad when it was the first new year. I did not want 2009 to come. Thinking that Brad died "last year" was something that made him seem so far away.

You also reach a time where people act like you are supposed to be ok. You are expected to move on and get over things. I'm not sure what time frame that is... or who decided that,  but I do know that no one who has lost someone significant in their life ever says that. {some days I'm extra grateful for those people who get that you don't "move on"...}

At the beginning, I hated the passage of time.  As time passed Brad felt further away and people felt that I should be "adjusting". I wanted time to stop all together. Because my whole world had stopped. I was literally angry and offended that the world kept spinning.

For a long time I thought that holding on to Brad meant holding on to all this pain that came with losing him. I think I held on to my grief with all my might. I clung to it. Wore it like a badge of courage. It was my little partner and I got pretty comfortable with it.

The thing that was the scariest to me - my worse nightmare, was that time would pass and Brad would start to feel far away. And that me healing meant that I would lose that connection I had with him. That I would start to look at our life together and it would feel like a dream. That it wasn't real. I remember praying that I would remember every little detail of our life together.  For a while, clinging to my grief was how I tried to fight off the passage of time. How I tried to keep him close.

My sweet husband has always been very patient with me. {he had, "the patience of Job" my dad would say :)}  He has been patient with me while i've been learning some important lessons.

I remember feeling and knowing that he was so close in the days following the accident. And being terrified that that feeling would go away.  I was scared the feeling would go away when he was buried, or when we left our beautiful home we shared and moved back to Utah. I was scared that feeling would go away as time passed. And all the while, my sweet patient husband has been able to reassure me that he's not going anywhere.

And I think he's finally gotten a new lesson through my thick head. And that lesson is this:

That the love I feel from him {and for him} does NOT have to be accompanied by the intense pain and sadness I feel from losing him.

The love exists ON IT'S OWN.

It's not tied to any of the pain...
so I'm working on letting that part go.

It's a process I will probably deal with forever. But now instead of clinging to that grief and feeling that it is what makes Brad feel close. I am feeling good about letting it go.

It probably sounds simple. But it's a big perspective shift for me.

I'm focusing on remembering that being loved by this amazing man changed me.
And that it still is.

one day closer to you.
I love you my boy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A new Yes

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage
—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically,
 to say “no” to other things. 
And the way you do that is by
 having a bigger “yes” burning inside.  
Stephen R. Covey

About 4 years ago I went to a Time Out for women. I remember listening to a speaker and he was talking about dreams and goals. He asked us to make a list of things we wanted to accomplish in the next  five or ten years. So I started writing. He then said to look at our list and take off the items that are about our husband and our children. He explained that this list was supposed to be just goals for us.  I sat there and stared at my notebook and started to sob. I remember being mortified about it and trying to find a way to sneak out.

Brad had been killed less than a year earlier. I was still in survival mode. Not thinking much more than a few days ahead. That was all I could deal with. So being asked to think 5 or 10 years down the road was not just overwhelming, but heartbreaking for me.  My whole life was different than what I ever had planned or imagined. 

I kept trying to think of something to write. I could think of things that I wanted to learn, places to visit or fun things to go do... but they all seemed very superficial to me. Not worthy of a long term goal.

Brad not being physically here changed everything. See, we were supposed to have 4 or 5 kids, explore the world together and raise our little family. Teach and laugh and learn together. And someday when our kids were grown we were supposed to retire together and sit on our porch holding hands. 

Every dream, every hope I had for my life could not exist without him.

That feeling I had that day has been a hard one for me to process. I've been working on it for years. Coming to terms with having to change all your hopes and dreams is hard.  And trying to find new ones....
 well, for me, that was even harder. 

Obviously, my girls are my greatest joy. I feel so privileged to be their mother. They are my first and most important priority. And they always will be.  But I could see the value in having goals and dreams of my own. Because one day I would be on my own. And I needed to be able to be happy with that.  I needed to find something that I loved to do. Something that I was passionate about.... 

I kind of always knew what it was. It's kind of always been there. This little dream. Just waiting patiently to be let out.  It was something that was never practical so I just ignored it. But when I asked myself, What would I do if I could do anything in the world?
 That little dream jumped up and yelled. 

So I knew what it was long before I dared to do anything about it. It makes me sound really wimpy, but I THOUGHT about starting on that little dream for years... but I didn't even dare say it aloud. (because it sounds kind of goofy) and i didn't ever dare actually START it, because, well, I hand no idea HOW to do it....

So fast forward a few years and I'm sitting at a retreat for military widows in Seattle. We are all talking and Taryn, (founder of American Widow Project) asks me what I'm passionate about. What I want to DO with my life. And I start talking about my beautiful girls.... and she says, ok, but what about YOU? What do you want to do? And you know, that little dream just spilled out. Maybe it was because I was with a bunch of people I just met, and may not see again so i wasn't afraid of what they thought?  Maybe it was because I felt like they "got it" {other widows are really good at "getting it"}

I told them, "Someday I'm going to be an artist."  

And you know what? they didn't laugh -  They didn't say well, that's a nerdy dream.  They didn't ask why or what is so special about that? 
But they did say one important thing, 
{and they didn't buy my big plan about not being able to do it till Addie was in school all day or figuring out how to fit college into my life}

I came home inspired and signed up for my first art class in my life.
{did I add that I had zero skills to go along with this little dream?}

That was last summer. Over this past year I've been having fun playing with paint. And I've figured a few things out. The most important thing being that I LOVE doing this. I can not believe how happy it makes me. I really am feeling so grateful that I've found something that I love to do so much. And it has come at the perfect time in my life. I was dreading my baby starting school and I was REALLY dreading my sweet Tyler moving away to college.  It sounds dorky, but being able to go down in my little art cave has really helped me deal with all those changes. 

I used to be nervous to show my work to anyone. I thought I would be hurt if people didn't love it. But, I've found that I'm not concerned about that anymore. I don't really care if anyone else likes it, or if I ever sell a painting.  I ABSOLUTELY LOVE every second spent creating these little works of art. and that, I've decided is what matters.

So if you can't find me I'm probably in my basement jamming to Spotify, covered in paint. And maybe a few happy tears might be sneaking out,  because I found a new Yes. 
p.s. I'm saying no to cupcakes.
p.p.s. If you need Brad that's where he'll be as well.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” - Anne Lamott

Got the broken part down. 
I am working on the dancing part.

See, dancing with Brad was just about the best thing ever.  He was a really good dancer. He knew exactly what he was doing. He would twirl me around, all I had to do was hold on tight and he took care of everything. It was easy. and a lot of fun. 

It's amazing to me how much that reminds me of our life before.  

Now, I'm learning to try and do it on my own. But I never was as good a dancer as he was. I'm clumsy and I fall. And you, know one of the reasons for that is clear. I never was meant to be dancing alone.

Sometimes I have to step back and look at the bigger picture. I have to remind myself that I really am not doing this alone. When life gets busy and crazy and I don't have a minute to myself ... that simple fact gets harder to remember. It gets harder to feel my sweet dance partner.

I love this quote.  I love the twist of perspective. I had never thought to look at never being the same again after this loss as "the good news".  

But it really is the good news.  I will never be the same again. And my dancing will never be as smooth and graceful.  But my sweet husband reminds me everyday in little ways that he is still here. 

So I'll just hold on tight. 

I love you my boy. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Five years

Today marks five years since Brad's death. That is crazy to me. Five years sounds like a long time. And it's weird because it seems like a lifetime ago and also just yesterday all at the same time.

I remember very vividly walking in my bed room to get Addie who was six months old at the time of Brad's death. Probably a day or so after. (those days are all kind of a blur,  they all run together)
I remember saying to myself - "my life is over." Just matter of fact. Not trying to be overly dramatic, but stating what was obvious.  Not only did I not want to be here without Brad, but I really didn't believe that I would be able to exist without him. I felt like half of me was literally missing and I didn't see how I could possible survive that way for long.

Now that I am looking back on the last five years instead of living it I've noticed a few things. It is interesting to see the progression.   All the different phases that you go through. I think I was in shock for about 2 years. Just attempting to function and not much else. I remember feeling like an actor in a movie. Pretending everything is fine because that was the only way I could function.  

I think in those five years I went through every phase multiple times. Feeling like I was finally getting a handle on this grief, only to be swallowed up by it the next day.  

Grief , I've found, is frustrating like that. Good one minute, total nut job the next.

I remember thinking, "I will never be happy again." Sure I would smile and laugh occasionally, but I would never really be happy. Not until I am with Brad again.   And that's not a very fun thought. Spending your life, just hoping time passes quickly so we could be together again... not much comfort in that for me. Not really a life, to be honest.

Well, one thing that has been a pleasant little surprise - is that I've been feeling happy lately.  It was honestly something I didn't expect.  And it's not really something I can explain. It's not that the pain of losing Brad is gone... or even bearable on hard days... And I still don't know that I will ever have a "fullness of Joy" without Brad physically by my side. But somehow, there is a calm, peaceful power that comes from being loved by my sweet husband. Somehow, knowing that he is there; and not just on the hard days or the special occasions, but Always.  That knowledge and what it means is finally sinking in. And it's changing me. Empowering me.  And I don't feel alone. Because I'm not alone.  And with that knowledge,  I can be happy here and now.

I am also learning that the powers of heaven are not bound by human logic. 

Elder Wirthlin gave a talk in the first General Conference after Brad’s death. In it he speaks about The principle of compensation: 

“That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude."
I had never heard of (or payed attention too) the principle of compensation. It hit me like a ton of bricks while listening to this talk - that it was true. That the things our family would miss because Brad was taken would be made up for. I initially thought that meant it would be made up for in heaven - when we were all together again... but I have seen over the years the blessings pouring out upon us.
 The  powers of heaven are not bound by human logic.  If you are in a situation where it doesn't make logical sense for you to EVER be happy, or even be ok. Where it doesn't make sense for you to be able to heal- 
That doesn't matter. 
Because the Lords power is not bound by what our human mind can comprehend. 
Many times I've felt the spirit whisper that everything will be ok. And many times I've felt my sweet husbands presence and he has said that it will be ok- and not just ok, but good . And that someday I will understand. And I used to argue - I'd say - well I don't see how that can ever really be true. I don't see how it will be ok for our kids to grow up without their wonderful daddy, and for my littlest girls to not even have an earthly memory of their father . I don't see how that can ever be ok- and how they won't get gipped.  and I don’t see how I will ever be ok - being here without you...
One of my biggest sadnesses was having my children grow up without the influence of their amazing father - but that is already being  compensated for. Somehow, miraculously, my little girls have memories of their daddy. They know him and have a relationship with him. All my girls recognize when he is near.  They are influenced by him and he teaches them. I know he protects us . Somehow Brad is able to provide for, comfort, teach and bless his family - from the other side of the veil.
I know we will all still continue to have things we miss out on by not having Brad physically here with us - and those things are difficult and heartbreaking at times... but I have seen a little glimpse of the way Heavenly father is miraculously compensating for this already -  and it teaches me to not despair about those sad things - but to have faith that the Lord will do what He says He can do.
 I don’t pretend to understand how it works , but I have complete faith that my girls will not be gipped out of having a daddy.  I may not see the interaction, but he influences them, protects them and helps them in many ways I can not. 
I know my Savior is there, and that I can call on him. I feel like he has been lifting me up and carrying me around and steadying me every day for the past five years. And the power you get from the atonement - it’s not just a nice idea. it’s not just a warm ,fuzzy, happy thought, that you think about . You have the ability to tap into a literal power that nothing in the universe is stronger than. Every person on this earth has the ability to use that gift - even if we don't understand how it happens.

And THAT gift is what makes us happy...

Thursday, March 7, 2013


We sang while making dinner the other day. 
And I missed you. 
But it wasn't the aching, lump in my throat missing you that I usually feel when a wave of missing you comes on.... 
It was just missing you, because I know you would have been singing right along with us and having a great time. 
And we would have laughed at your falsetto. 
It was almost a happy missing - if there can be such a thing. 
Wishing you were here but knowing that you were. 
And being happy that we were singing again. 
And knowing that makes you happy.  

Brad was a fantastic cook. He didn't have a lot of time to cook, but we sure loved when he did. For birthday's in our house you get to have your favorite dinner. That meant Brad was cooking for every birthday. (except his own...but I'm sure if he was honest he probably would have preferred to make that meal as well. ) 
 I remember his first birthday after we were married. He was so cute - he requested an easy meal that we had often....and I still managed to mess it up. But he just said it was great and ate it anyway.

Brad and I would make Sunday dinner together.  He was seriously the sexiest thing ever in his church shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his "manly" apron. (I would tease him about wearing an apron. He would point to the fighter pilot patches on it and declare it to be manly and ignore anything else I said.)

We would turn on some music, cook together and sing at the top of our lungs. (and if you knew Brad you know that means that the neighbors could probably hear him)  Our kids would laugh at us and look at us like we were crazy, but soon they would be singing as well. 

On regular days (when the sub par cook made the meal) he would always make a big deal about how great everything was and he was always so grateful for whatever effort I had gone too.  

Those dinner memories make me happy. But they also make it hard for me to cook dinner now. 
After we moved to Utah I don't think I cooked dinner in my home for about 5 months. It was always something I did specifically for Brad.  I just couldn't bring myself to set the table and make dinner knowing he wouldn't be coming home to eat. Every part of it made me miss my husband so much that I couldn't breathe.  
So I just didn't do it.  

It's almost been 5 years and I still can't say I like making dinner. It's a lot of work for people who would rather have cold cereal :)  but I know it's important for my kids and I to sit down together so I try to make myself do it more.  And I'm trying to remember that just because I'm not making it for Brad, that doesn't mean he's not coming to dinner. 

So singing while making dinner is kind of a big deal at our house. 
It felt good to do that again. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013


After Brad died I used to have the most horrible, crushingly sad dream. 

In the dream I had just lost Brad again.  
Throughout the whole dream I was running all over looking for him and I could never find him. 
People I would pass would say, "he just went that way." "he just passed by." "he's just around the corner up ahead."   
and I would follow the trail but he was always just out of sight up ahead. 

I would wake up sobbing. Never having found him. 

I am so grateful I no longer have that dream.
And I think I know why I don't. 

Because I have finally learned how to find him again.

and he is right here with us. 


He is with us everyday.
I can feel him laughing with us and crying with us. 
I can feel him holding me up and steadying me and helping me to do this.

I am still missing him every minute. 

But I am no longer searching for him

Because he is here.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fancy Valentines

So it's safe to say that Valentines day is no longer one of my favorite holidays. to be honest, it pretty much blows now. And each year it is a hard day and it seems like I miss Brad more on that day than others....(didn't think that was possible, but I guess it is.)  

so this year I definitely wasn't excited about valentines day approaching, but - I don't know, I just didn't want to hate it this year. I didn't want to be sad and eat chocolate and buy crap I don't need. (those are all things I have participated in QUITE A BIT on previous Valentine's days)

So this year I decided that I would not be sad.  I really didn't know if I could just DECIDE that, but I was going to give it the old college try.  (now, I'm not saying I can just decide not to be sad everyday - so please don't expect that from me ;), but I just don't want to be sad on THIS day anymore.  - tomorrow I may not get out of bed....I  still reserve that right.

I decided to try to make it all about the girls. We planned a Fancy Nancy Valentines dinner (I totally ripped that idea off from my cute sister)  We dressed up and ate all the favorites. (mac and cheese, stovetop stuffing (Addie's favorite - she snuck half the bowl before dinner ever started :) some heart pizza and about 4 desserts.   And it was crazy fun. We laughed and acted all fancy. Got out the stem glasses that I don't believe I have used since Brad died. Grandma joined us, and that was so fun. The little girls loved it, and Ty, ever the good sport, pulled out one of her dance dresses and took dress up to a whole new level.

and sitting here tonight , it's kindof surprising me - because I really didn't have a harder day than normal.  It may sound dumb, but other Valentines days I have not even wanted to get out of bed, or function - so that is a big deal for me.

I'm not sure what is different this year. But I do know that I am learning a little secret. Brad is always close. He is always close when I need him. When I have rough night, or day, or month. But he is also always close when we are happy. And I know that seeing us happy makes him happy. and sometimes I can just FEEL that - him being happy.  It's one of the greatest gifts he can give me. Today was one of those days.  I love that our little party made him happy.  And I love that I'm still learning about how much he influences us and how often he is here -  that he can be physically gone - but oh, so close at the same time. It's kindof a miracle.

Monday, January 7, 2013


Brad -
Do you remember when Ty was trying out for soccer at Burkburnett Middle School? And, you must have been flying lates that day because you were home and I was telling you how nervous I was for her and how much I hoped she would make it... on and on. etc etc.

And you just laughed and told me to calm down.  I was starting to explain how hard Ty had worked and that I hoped she remembered everything she had learned from you.

again, you laughed a bit. and said

"Have you met our daughter? She is easily the most talented, smartest girl I know. She is good at everything she tries. No kidding, EVERYTHING."

And then you smiled and said - "It's actually pretty annoying. "  

I'm sure she will make the team. and everything will be fine.

Well, Ty made that team, and everything was fine.

And years passed. And lots of things weren't fine.

But one thing never changed.    Ty is still

"easily the most talented and smartest girl I know."

She has taken that little bit of determination she had at that young age and changed it into something that would shape her very world. Something that would help her to rise up when she was facing really hard things instead of sinking.

I have watched this beautiful little girl go through things that many people, years older than her, haven't had to endure.  I have watched her do this with grace and courage. Always doing her best and giving it her all, even when much less would have been ok and even expected.

I was telling her the other day how proud I was of her.  For always doing her best. In school. In our family. In everything that matters.  
I kindof just want to shout it from the rooftops. 

So that's what I'm going to do for a minute. shout from the rooftops about Ty. 

She is my best friend. 
She is the reason I am sane. literally. 
She is such an amazing sister to these two little girls who copy EVERY SINGLE THING she does. (and that does not worry me one bit)  
She is strong in her faith and brave in the way she lives it. 
She is brilliant - in school and in music.  she has known for years that because Brad was killed in the line of duty, she would have help with school. That she could go to any State school for free. Most kids might think this means they can take it easy in high school and just get by and still be on a "full ride" essentially when it came time for college. (I will admit, I would have done that)  but not Ty. She took some of the hardest classes they offer at her school. AP classes and college classes. Every year. She works her butt off and gets straight A's.  

She fills our house with beautiful music night and day. She really is a total choir geek. She makes me listen to her new favorite composer. And did I notice the 15 part harmony in this song? She can rattle off classical composers that Brad introduced her too and more that she has discovered without him. She lights up when she is doing anything musical. She's either at the piano, on her guitar or singing her heart out just about any moment that she is home.  A few weeks ago Ty was getting ready to audition for music Sterling Scholar at Fremont. And I spent that day feeling that same feeling I had when she tried out for soccer so long ago.   And I got to remember my sweet husbands advice and laugh at how "annoyingly talented" our beautiful daughter is.   And I knew it would be OK even if she didn't get it. I really was just so proud of her for even going to all the work to apply. She spent hours and hours getting her application ready. (and it makes me laugh to say that her resume is probably more impressive than mine:)  

The night before auditions she was saying that she didn't really think she would get it. But that it has been really good for her to just try. And she knew she would regret not trying and she has learned a lot from applying. So she would try not to be nervous during her performance and interview. She would just talk about how much she loves music and how much it has helped her in her life.

Well, she must have let some of that light out during auditions because the music sterling scholar is currently residing at my house :)   And, of course that's really not the neatest thing about her. It's just the most recent cool thing. 

I want to tell Ty how much I love her and what a privilege it is to be her mother. She really is an extraordinary girl. One of the greatest blessings in my life. It was a life changing thing for me to know that my Heavenly Father had entrusted this amazing little girl to me. She amazes me with her strength and the grace that she has dealt with her trials. I learn so much from her every day.