A New Beginning

February 11, 2020 in Brain Dumps,Writing | Comments (0)

It’s certainly been a long time since I’ve written anything here. It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything anywhere, for that matter. Little beyond a relatively long-winded Facebook post or a journal I started that has accumulated a total of two entries. I suppose I could glean a sense of calm and contentment in my life based on this, but I’m afraid that would be far from the truth. 

My life is as chaotic as it was years ago when I last published anything here, but from somewhat different sources. Grief from losing my first wife will never go away, but it has taken a backseat to the challenge of making a blended family work. Honestly, it’s more about finding my way in a blended family. Any contribution I have in making it work hasn’t made its way up the list as of yet. This is what I must figure out.

Intimate conversations have left me with a plea to begin therapy again, and it isn’t something I look forward to doing. I feel I’ve exhausted my time with my last therapist, whose guidance in moving forward from my wife’s death was life-saving. I don’t know if she’s right for me to become a better partner or parent, though. I feel like a fresh start might be the way to go. It’s a tab that has stayed open in my mind for several days.

A big part of all this is that my depression is at times debilitating again, and it is affecting those around me. It affects my work and family and my health, without doubt. Speaking of work, I have lofty goals for my office, but I’m scared to move forward with any of them. I never feel I have the financial security to do any of it, but all the numbers suggest otherwise. Slowly I’ve been reaching my less costly goals, and that is encouraging, but I need to do more. Anxiety and depression don’t allow it. 

One of the things I’d like to do is start a blog for my business. There are times when I feel I write well and there are many more times where I think I write terribly. I don’t read enough and I don’t write enough. Phenom’s World can help me with the writing part, with no niche or direction in mind. Just write — one sentence a day at a minimum. I can spend more time with a dedicated office blog on that site while I continue to try and get better here. 

Depression, work, family. That’s on my mind every day. Baseball season is near, and pitchers and catchers reported today. I’m trying to learn how to play the guitar, too. I imagine there will be plenty of topics to practice here. I have a lot off things to learn to do better.

Two years

April 2, 2015 in Cancer,Family,Finding my way,Living | Comments (0)

Seems longer than that. Seems like the months and years leading up to that last one were a blur, a speck in time. A fight that kept us swinging and one that never let us believe that we would lose. We knew the statistics and they kept us honest, but we never thought we’d end up anywhere but on the good side of those numbers.

Those last few weeks are still with me in surprising detail. The last few days and hours will never leave me. Not ever.

Last night I was reading through her Facebook account and some of the posts people made on their own sites about Dawn, and a common theme was the relative surprise with which she left us. People just didn’t realize how far along she was and how bad her health had gotten. She didn’t want people to feel bad for her. She wanted them to heed her words and remember her fight and she wanted her strength to be her legacy. She wanted her happiness and attitude about her life to be what she left with you when she passed.

The fact is, what she never said, what she never allowed to get her down, was that she felt cheated by life. Some days she would gather all her strength just to get down the stairs to the couch to be there with her boys. She’d push aside what ailed her in favor of sharing any happiness she could with anyone. She worried more about others’ bad days than she did about her own. She did whatever it took to keep her friends happy, her family optimistic, and her business open.

None of this was a burden on her. It was just her way.


I don’t look with sadness at the pictures that still decorate our house that show her smiling face. I don’t see a hospice bed in my living room anymore. I often think about the conversations we were lucky enough to have time for that made my new life so much easier to walk through. That being said, I will never forget how she breathed in those last few days.

I remember her smile. I remember asking her if she wanted everyone to leave that last weekend when all the cousins came over and she told me “I’d rather have them here than not here, no matter how I feel.” That statement alone changed my life. She couldn’t stay awake for more than an hour at a time, but her life was growing short and she wanted that time to be spent with those who mattered most to her.

There were probably times in the months that followed that people thought that the old me was lost forever. I struggled a lot in everything I did. I was suddenly a single father, I was suddenly a business owner, and I wanted nothing more than for everyone to leave me alone to find my way and anyone to come hold my hand and guide me through. At some point the tide turned and I took back my life and steered it in a direction I wanted it to go. I met a wonderful woman who has wonderful kids and I almost feel guilty for having this feeling a second time in my life. I’ve grown as a person, a father, a man. I’m still worried every second about my boys but they are doing well. We’ve found our way.

And we still miss her like crazy.


Always there

March 3, 2015 in Finding my way,Living | Comments (2)

Dawn’s been coming up a lot the last few days. I don’t know if she has something to say or if it’s just all coincidental, but it is nice to see. Not all of it is rosy, as those things that remind us of her inevitably make us sad and that’s really been no different this time. A few days ago I remarked online about how much the boys like dessert, which is something they got from their mom. She was always about dessert, probably because she was raised in a family who always made time for dessert, and it’s neat to see the boys ask almost every night if they can have dessert. I don’t let them have it every night, but I smile a bit every time they ask.

More than that, little things have come up that take a moment then go away. It’s a quick text with some mention of her or something she shared with a friend or a reminder of the scrapbooks she so meticulously created. I have none of her creativity and I miss the things she used to make, but it’s comforting to know that the memories she so beautifully recorded created memories just from the work she did.

I still find myself thinking how much she’d like some of the new things that show up every day. I think she’d be a fan of Sam Smith. I think she’d like the show House of Cards. I think she’d have been sad when Mrs. Wolowitz died on The Big Bang Theory. She’d be so sick of the snow right now and finding any way she could to get us away from it for a few days. She’d be nursing her dog along through the autoimmune disorder that the vet is powerless to cure.

She’d love the three new kids in my life at least as much as I do.

I even write this with sadness in my heart. I still miss her greatly but I’m such a better person because of the short time I spent with her. If there’s any silver lining from her passing for me specifically, it’s that it made me a better man and a better father. It made me more responsible and more tolerant of things I deal with every day. It made me realize that life is better than many people think it is.

I still have my hiccups and I put a lot of faith in the idea that her spirit follows us everywhere we go and in everything we do. I don’t write as much anymore but that’s probably because I started to get myself back. I’m grateful for what my life has become because it could’ve beaten me after that. It still hurts but I’m much better equipped to manage that pain and it comes much less frequently now. I want to live my life in a way that is respectful of her memory without being crippled by her loss.

I’m still learning.

And so we learn

October 28, 2014 in Finding my way | Comments (0)

I never thought that there would be much heartbreak in discovery. You get through your days, finding a little more of yourself with each passing one, and you generally accept that you’re only trying to learn about life. “Never let a win get to your or head or a loss to your heart,” as the saying goes, and you try not to give too much to anything.

But I got involved. I had a taste of what I thought I wanted and did all I could to keep it, or to make it flourish. I sacrificed a lot of myself in hopes that I found something that would keep me happy, but I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t strong enough to protect myself when I got too involved. I wasn’t prepared to not have my feelings mirrored back to me, but that’s how it went.

I like to think those things went wrong so I would find what is right, and what I have right now – the person I’m with right now, is very much the right person. We seem to click in an almost vomitous way (at least to those around us) and I hope to be with her for a long, long time. We laugh a lot, we love deeply, and we share the pain that we’ve endured. We also struggle with what we’ve been through in the past, almost expecting the other shoe to drop, as she so aptly puts it.

I know that I sometimes avoid confrontation because confrontation hasn’t worked out for me very well since Dawn passed. I didn’t want to endure anger or sadness due to something I did or said. I always thought, maybe unfairly, that I would be responsible for losing what made me happy, and that feeling scared me more than being alone. Thing is, as I was reminded today, if that tactic had worked as I hoped, I wouldn’t be here today with her. Avoiding something that didn’t work in favor of something else that ultimately didn’t work either never occurred to me, but that’s what I was doing.

I stumbled over my words as I fearfully tried to explain how I was feeling, and to her credit, she patiently waited me out. I still don’t feel I said what I wanted or explained it well enough, partly because I’m having sleep problems and I’m quite fatigued, but mostly because I was scared to death she’d run away. She didn’t run away. She stayed by in hopes of understanding, but more importantly, in the meantime, she reassured me that we’d figure it out and that we would get through it, and she wasn’t going anywhere. “All in,” she always says. All in, indeed.

I’m not faulting anyone I’ve spent time with before her for any of this, but it will take some getting used to – the idea that conflict does not mean an end to a relationship. I also wasn’t mentally in a position to be in this deep of a relationship. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time, though, and for many reasons, not the least of which is her patience and understanding.

And so we write

October 19, 2014 in Family,Finding my way,Living | Comments (0)

My fingertips were bleeding. It had been a while since I pulled the weeds that like to peek through my patio bricks, and my temper with the boys was short, so I spent a couple hours with that task. Earlier in the day I faced the relentless reminders that Sundays are falling out of sorts with me again, and that worries me a bit. For a long time Sundays were the worst, but they got better and more tolerable, until recently when they started to go downhill again. I don’t know why that is, but I do know that the boys and I haven’t seen eye to eye in a few weeks, and maybe by Sunday afternoon we’ve had just about enough of each other. I don’t know.

They really are wonderful kids. They don’t fight or argue with each other, and the closest they get to complaining is the pouty faces when I tell them we have to run to the grocery store. I’m bothered by the thought that they are reluctant to challenge me because I may be unpleasant to be with sometimes, and that’s all on me. I forget that they are probably too young to be able to adequately process the reasons for my frustrations with them, and I worry that I’m asking too much of them. I don’t imagine there’s a good age for your mom to die, but even if there is, I can pretty much guarantee that it isn’t when you’re 7 and 9. I don’t want to make them grow up any faster than they should, but I still have no idea where the line is between being a kid and helping me get through every day. I know there is more asked of them than any of their friends, and that has nothing to do with taking out the trash.

I was reminded a few days ago that they have their own life and challenges they struggle with every day. Learning new things at school and growing physically and socially, while still keeping one foot behind for fun things like playing with pillow pets and video games and reading Garfield comics. I never really thought how their everyday is probably, in its own way, just as stressful as my everyday. I forget that their everyday has that tinge of losing their mom, whether they realize it or not. I forget that they’re still just 9 and 11.

We sat down this evening and talked about taking a few steps back and regrouping. We discussed the things that were losing direction and tried to come up with ways to get the easy things back on track. We agreed to make some changes in hopes that we could make effective use of our time without leaving ourselves alone on an island, as it were.

Bear with me while I switch gears a bit to give some background to this.

I’ve recently found love and happiness with a wonderful woman who has three children of her own. She’s nearing the end of a rather difficult divorce, and she has absorbed a lot in hopes of protecting her children. “They never asked for this,” she’d say. “They don’t deserve this.” And no, they didn’t, and no, they don’t. She ran blocker all summer for her kids, and because of her nature, because she always looks and hopes for the best of everyone, she had to absorb a lot of abuse, for lack of a better word. Her optimism and joie de vivre are what attracted me to her initially, but it was her willingness to share her pain and weakness with me that made me fall in love with her and appreciate her that much more. She lives for her kids, but sometimes she needed to ball herself up in my arms and cry, and sometimes I think that’s what saved her and kept her at it. That and an occasional bout with brutal honesty I gave her. And now, I think, the sun is beginning to shine for her again.

I tell you this because I admire how much her life is about her children. She doesn’t get a lot of free time for herself, and when she gets some semblance of that, she’s wrestling the pile of laundry that buries her dining room table or building a pool in her back yard. She even became a runner, because even just sitting around for 40 minutes isn’t good enough. This is not a bad thing. I do not live my life like that with regard to my kids. If they are here and in the playroom, that’s always been good enough.

But it isn’t good enough. Sundays aren’t for laying on the couch and watching football all day. They visit their grandparents regularly but essentially, there is just me here for them. I’m running blocker for them every single day – not from a person recklessly finding their own way, but from me finding my own way, and life pushing them in all new directions. My time isn’t all mine, and the longer I ignore acceptance of that, the longer and more difficult my days will be with them.

And Sundays will never get better.

Choosing life, over life

August 21, 2014 in Cancer,Family | Comments (1)

I spent a lot of time today participating in a discussion about embryonic stem cells.

I spent a little time in my closet packing up Dawn’s clothes.

I won’t try to claim I’m an expert. I will freely admit that I probably portray a much greater knowledge of any subject than I really truly possess.

But I will gladly process 1000 unwanted embryos if it will keep one person and one person’s family from going through what Dawn went through, from what I went through.

Our son turned 11 today. He was nine when she died.

You’ll never convince me that embryonic stem cell research is a bad thing.

It took me 16 months to clean this closet.

Perpetual Healing

August 5, 2014 in Finding my way | Comments (1)

Almost every day I come home and I still don’t know what to do. I still don’t know how to relax. I sit and watch TV but I don’t want to watch TV. I make dinner but I don’t want to make dinner. I play with the boys, I read, I do things outside, but I don’t want to do any of that. I don’t find any satisfaction in activities that keep me occupied while I’m by myself. I wonder if I ever will.

I feel good. I’m still working on getting off the anti-depressants but it’s not my mental state that is keeping me on them. The physical withdrawal is still too much, but I’m slowly reducing my dosage. I’m happy. I’ve found someone who makes me very happy and walks with me through my ever-evolving life, all the while counting on me to do the same, which I’m happy to do. I’m sleeping better, I’m drinking less, and I’m overall in a monumentally better place than I’ve been in a long, long time.

But I still struggle with my direction regularly. It doesn’t show, it doesn’t slow me down, and my emotional state has probably long been forgotten by many, but I regularly feel I’m “missing” something, so to speak. Perhaps “missing” is the wrong word, but I’m still struggling to some degree. I still don’t know how to enjoy my alone time. I’m trying to be patient with it, but the hours and days disappearing behind me are discouraging. I’ve rarely had to find a way to spend alone time, and God knows I haven’t done well in that endeavor. I think I’ll figure it out, because despite the changes in my life recently, I still value the time I have by myself. I just need to learn how to enjoy it more.

Dear Dawn

May 9, 2014 in Family,Finding my way,Living | Comments (13)

Dear Dawn,

Another Mother’s Day without you is upon us, and even though I talk to you almost every day, I wanted you to know that Preston brought home a Mother’s Day craft for you. You’ll find it on your stand, but no peeking until Sunday. His and Matt’s teachers and schools have done a wonderful job with our boys during those hours when they can’t be in my care, and they’re growing to be intelligent, caring, loving boys who brighten every room they walk into. I still can’t get them to clean their playroom for anything, and now they leave socks in there every day. It’s maddening, really.

Since you’ve been away I’m sure you’ve seen the many changes we’ve gone through. It was a difficult year for me but I’ve met some wonderful people who have helped me through. I think you’d like every one of them, especially Marcia, even though she’s the kind of over-the-top person you always seemed to struggle relating to. But I’d bet she’d charm you into letting her in your corner, anyway. There’s always that one person. She makes me laugh when I’m down and she doesn’t let me tell her everything is fine. She comes over without asking and she comforts me when I need it but won’t ask for it. We are kindred spirits, Marcia and I, and one day we’ll be 80 and making jokes about the opposite sex and quietly knowing that this good that is our friendship came of the devastating loss of you and her husband. We sometimes talk about you and Len looking down on us, probably shaking your heads, but smiling because we found in each other a friendship that knows no bounds. We know that you are both happy for us.

I’m sure you’ve also seen my struggles as I try to find my way in this new life. I sometimes find myself feeling jealous of divorced couples because they can still see their former spouse, and their kids still have two parents with them as they grow. But I don’t dwell on that or let it get me down. The mothers have been tremendous in their support of me finding my way and absolutely love being with the boys, who have taken to spending the night at their houses. This probably surprises you, because you know how difficult it was to get them to leave the house at all, let alone overnight. They really enjoy being at grandma’s house, either one, and have a sleepover there almost every weekend.

You’ve also noticed that this has allowed me the opportunity to work on my social life every weekend. I’m sure you’ve been witness to the ups and downs of that.

You’ve surely watched me try and fill a romantic void in my life. I spun my wheels a lot on that, and am still finding my way, but I feel your guidance in that regard. Before you left we spoke of me finding happiness in any way I can and how you trusted me in that regard. I’ve searched for companionship in both short-term and long-term respects, and I’ve learned a lot on my way. I feel you’ve guided me all along, directing me away from what wasn’t going to work for whatever reason, respecting my needs in the moment, and channeling me to who is right for me. You’ve given me more latitude than I expected, and I feel your influence in my search. I want you to know that I’m doing well right now, in whatever relationship status you may see me in at this moment. I’m content with myself and what comes to me, and I’m confident I won’t be taken advantage of. You’ve seen my heart harden, and you’ve seen people soften those new dark spots. Nobody has ever tried to replace you, nor have they tried to change me. I think you’re happy with where I am. I am finally happy where I am, too.

This is a small look into what I run through my mind every day. The business is going well, the parents haven’t driven me nuts just yet, and I think we are finally on the right path. We still miss you every day and still love you as much as ever, but we’re getting through. You’ll always be in our hearts and nothing or nobody will ever change that. I have good people around me, people who love and respect me and allow me to stay with you.  I will always be with you.

With all my love,


The key to life

April 10, 2014 in Brain Dumps | Comments (0)

My high school baseball coach used to tell us “Balance is the key to life!” At the time we didn’t think much of it because he was surely instructing us on how to finish our swings, or square for a bunt, or position ourselves for a ground ball. Without balance, those things were going to fail. We were going to be out in front of a curveball, or pop up a bunt, or Buckner an easy play.

I suppose he was coaching us for life in those moments, as well, but when you’re 16 you don’t think about stuff like that. You think about girls, sports, girls, girls, parties, and girls. You don’t get deep with things like “balance is the key to life,” because it’s not the key to life at that age. It’s the key to baseball success.

Little did we know at that time that he may have been giving us the passport to happiness. Everybody wants to be happy, save for the occasional grumpy cat, but we don’t have much control over what makes us happy. We can’t just call it up any time we want and sustain that feeling, no matter how much we practice. At some point our happiness will fade. At some point our balance will be thrown off. We all want a satisfactory level of homeostasis (triple word score!) and that is when we can smile and feel at peace.

I’m not implying we can control the balance in our lives, either, but I think we have a greater influence over how smooth our lives can run day to day. I have friends whose calendars are full with soccer practice and drinks at Bill’s house and a doctor appointment at 4:45 on Thursday. Their lives are regimented and they’ll say that that’s the only way they can stay organized and accomplish everything they need to. I’m not arguing against that, but a hiccup throws it all off-kilter. There’s no room for something to go wrong.

On the other side of the spectrum are those people whose lives are taken as they come, which is essentially how I live. I live reactively and not proactively, and I use the feeling of being overwhelmed to justify it. I’ll deal with things when they get too big and not a moment before. I’ll run the dishwasher when the boys complain that there are no cups. I’ll vacuum when the dog hair starts to form into another mutt. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal way to live, because while I tend to have a fair amount of time for myself, I also tend to find myself lonely in a crowd, because I’ve not made plans, I’ve just hoped they would happen.

So what’s the answer? This is where I cop out on my post title. I’m not saying that balance isn’t what will bring happiness, but I am saying that I don’t know how to achieve it. It’s different for everyone. Balance will mean sometimes saying no to your kids so that sometimes you can say yes to your friends. It will mean losing some sleep so you can watch Game of Thrones. It will mean staying sober so you can enjoy the play the next morning.

We need to own our decisions. We need to call our choices good no matter how they turn out and not regret what we may miss because of it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because something has changed the way my mind has been working lately. I think I know what it may be, but I could be wrong, and I’m not going to share my theory on that. But things are different and unclear, and I feel almost carefree. Not carefree in a shitty, selfish way, but carefree in that the relatively minor issues that dominate my mind are easier to sweep off the plate. You could say that’s progress and I’m moving on, but I’m in a fog and insensitive to some of my actions. I’ll get my money’s worth in therapy tomorrow and hopefully start to understand it, but I think it’s all going to boil down to balance.

Give the little things the attention they deserve. Focus on myself and face my fears, especially as they relate to new things in life. Accept that which I cannot change, be there for my friends, and all the while relax and find the balance that brings me happiness. Everybody around me will be happier for it. And we heal.

One year plus five

April 7, 2014 in Finding my way | Comments (2)

Last Wednesday was easily the most difficult day that I can remember in the year since Dawn passed. I wasn’t necessarily surprised by my feelings that day, but I certainly didn’t expect my sadness to appear to that degree.

The tears came early as I started to read about Dawn from a friend of hers, and they pretty much didn’t stop all day. I planned on keeping to a schedule and staying busy to try and get the day to go by as quickly as possible, and as I loaded Preston in the car to go to school, I thought I’d get through the day with as little trouble as possible. However, when I left Preston at school, I knew I wasn’t going to stick to my schedule. The school felt somehow more comforting than other days, and I sat in the PTO office and talked to a few of the moms. I was there for probably 45 minutes before deciding to move forward, but the plans for the day were already shot.

I visited Marcia for a while because I knew I was going to need warmth all day long, and she’s always willing to give that to me. We talked for a bit before I continued on to work, eventually having lunch with Kim, who was Dawn’s best friend. We cried a lot at lunch, and again I was thankful for my friends, but also for the bar where I’ve become a regular customer, and the people who work there who understand what I’ve been through. After lunch I picked up Preston and went home, and the boys talked for a bit and cried for a bit, remembering Dawn for all she was.

But then something weird happened. I felt peace. I felt good, better than I had in a long time. This was the last “first” thing I had to tackle without her, at least as far as obvious things go – the first Christmas, the first birthdays, and other things like that, before the first anniversary came about. But we made it. We got through all those firsts and while we sometimes just barely got through, we still came out on the other side.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that good, and I started to realize that this first anniversary had been affecting me for a long time, weeks and probably months, and it only got worse the closer I got. It affected my attitude and my sleep and worst of all, friendships. I was a shell of myself for a long time, and I didn’t realize it until I was happy again.

I wish I could say that I had a breakthrough Wednesday evening, but I honestly can’t. I’m truly waiting for the other shoe to drop because that’s how flashes of happiness have ended all along. But these last five days have been awesome, even with the occasional emotional valleys I’ve been through. My therapist reminded me to use those good feelings and draw back on them when I’m feeling down, and that’s not been easy, but it has worked. I’m feeling my way through, and maybe even seeing some light at the end, all the while trying to be patient and hopeful that those who have been patient with me will keep me going and that I can keep using these last few days to keep getting better.

I’m cautiously optimistic with everything in my life right now, and that’s just fine.