His stuff

It’s amazing how after so much time… To me, things are still “Alex’s camera bag” or “Alex’s bin of randomness.” I’m leaving for vacation in two days and have spent most of today packing. I’m sick so it’s going a little slow. Leave it to me to be sick right before (hopefully not during) vacation. I have an old portable DVD player that I wanted to bring. I admit, I can’t remember the last time I used it. I can’t find the charger, so I started going through some things… Including “Alex’s random box of cords and wires.” Wow! What a mess! I have no idea what this stuff is and even after picking all though it… I didn’t find what I need. I found his old work bag and looked there too… I’m not even sure what the stuff is in there or why it’s still sitting in a closet with stuff in it.
I gave up on that and went through the “junk drawer” (everyone has one of those, right?) looking for some other random items I needed for vacation and found his old car keys… With a coach keychain with photos of us. I even found his passport, birth certificate and social security card.
I packed my camera and still, to this day, that camera bag feels like “his.” Strange…
What do I even do with all of this stuff?

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Strange how your mind works

I drive past the funeral home from
Alex’s funeral often… Most of the time I hardly notice and if I do, I don’t really think much of it. Other days are different. I drive past and see myself laying on the ground of the parking lot, like I did that day. I see the fountain and am reminded of staring into it in such a haze. I remember the stairs so well… Dragging myself up them the night of the private viewing. A lot of those days are a blur. Truly some of the worst days of my life, yet I struggle to remember the details. Though the ins and outs of the place I have been to all of 4 times in my life stick out in my mind the most.

It’s October again!

Which means…. HALLOWEEN! Everyone knows that Halloween was our favorite holiday… Well it is still mine. Our first date was on Halloween (8 years ago!!) and we loved scary movies, dressing up, handing out candy, haunted houses… You name it. We were the cheesy couple that did couples costumes including, lady gaga and paparazzi, doctor and (as he called it) “stereotypical Filipino nurse,”) and even medical examiner and “patient.” I know.. That one seems highly inappropriate looking back…
So… What to be for Halloween this year is a question that has been plaguing me…. I can’t help but notice the further inappropriateness of costumes I am finding. I love the look of these two but really, considering my situation, it can be considered offensive if I do it. I think Alex would really get a kick out of it, and I don’t normally care what others think, but in this case, I would hate to offend.

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Oh well.. Guess I’ll be a cat or something.

Here are some past photos… I admit I find them embarrassing now… Oddly enough, I could not find a photo of the medical examiner Halloween and didn’t find one of us together as doctor and nurse… Still… These are some great memories…

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Suicide prevention month

September is Suicide Prevention and awareness month. It is a tough month for survivors but also brings out the best. It is a time of remembrance. For me, it is a reminder to keep fighting for awareness and push to save lives. It helps me to tell my story in hopes it will help someone else. This month brought a lot of people out of their shells to tell me their stories and how I have inspired/helped them. This means more to me than I can ever put into words. I am your average survivor, who chose to speak out and make my struggle public. It means the world that my story can make a difference in someone’s life.
First was the one day where all over the country, people light candles to honor and remember their loved ones. I was at work (but still lit a candle) and asked my friends and family to do the same. My Facebook was hopping with tags of people lighting a candle for Alex. It was such a mixup of happy and sad at the same time. We were all virtually together honoring someone we loved. I felt so supported and that together, we were making a difference.

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Next up was the AFSP Out of the Darkness walk. This was my second year walking with my team “Mow’s Memory.” We had a great day for a walk. I talked with other survivors and met up with others I had met along the way before. We raised more money this year and had a great walk! It is a wonderful, yet emotional experience. I did much better this year and it was happier this year. I’m happy to work toward making a difference. I’m so grateful to everyone who donated in Alex’s name. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

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Just when I thought the month of “suicide being everywhere” was over… This happened… I was getting ready for bed when I heard my phone go off…. And this is what I saw…

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Wow… I got all the information and called 911. The police informed me that they already had police on the scene. The experience left me freaked out and shaking. Though I was not technically the one that did it, a life was saved… And for that I am thankful.
I will end by saying that no matter what… Life is worth living. Suicide does not make things better, it ends the chance of anything getting better. Reach out and get help! You will be thankful you did…

The grass is always greener…

I may have used that title before but it fits…

I don’t think it would be entirely appropriate for me to hijack someone else’s words for my blog, but I would like to summarize something I found on a “Young Widows & Widowers” page that I felt compelled to respond to.

The “rant,” as it was self-named began with frustration toward the term “single parent.” I have also had an issue with this term. The classification of “single parent” leaves you open to so many assumptions. Though I’m not sure I would like to walk saying “widowed parent.” Also, am I no longer a single parent because I am in a relationship? Really… all of this nomenclature confuses me and I would like to stick with “I’m a parent…” Anyway…

Here are the issues brought up by this fellow widow/parent…

1. She does not have the freedom other “single parents” have when their children are with the other parent. She would LOVE if she had that time.

2. Divorced parents acting like they “know what she goes through.” She feels that they are not single parents, but are “shared parenting” and do not deserve said title.

3. She did not choose to be a single parent as “the other kind of single parent” had.

Many comments followed with people agreeing and venting about how unfair it is and how much worse “we” have it than others etc. etc.

Here are my two cents….

“I agree… It is totally different and I did not sign up to do this alone. But… I did choose to have a child for better or for worse…. I wanted her no matter what life brought. And though I’m doing it alone, I’m thankful for every moment with her. It is difficult for all of us to deal with doing this on our own…. We don’t get a “break” when they go off to see their other parent like divorced parents. We have to make all decisions on our own and take on the role of both parents. Sometimes it sucks… But think about this, the divorced parent has to spend a portion of their time without their child. They CANNOT see their own child sometimes. That doesn’t happen to us. No one else has a say in what we do with our children, or how we raise them. Many of them did not choose that life either. The grass is always greener….”

In the past, someone commented on how lucky I was to not have to share my daughter. I was highly offended. However as time has passed, I realize that comment should not have been so offensive. What I have been through is terrible. I don’t wish it upon anyone. I would never choose to be widowed or wish death upon the parent of any child. However, if I can choose one major thing I am lucky for, it’s my daughter and yes, I’m lucky to not have to share her as many “single parents” do.

Time flies when you’re having….. fun??

Wow… It certainly is not like me not to have an update in a month. What has gone on in the past month? Well the biggest thing that I am sure many are interested in my opinion on is, of course, the death of Robin Williams. I have seen so much positivity, yet so much negativity discussed with it.
I was certainly saddened to hear that the world lost another brilliant and intelligent man to suicide. Someone else lost their husband and someone else lost their father. I have travelled that path and do not wish that upon anyone. I hope he found the peace he was looking for and that in time to come, his family will be able to forgive him, and make peace with it as well.
I always hoped that some good would come from Alex’s death and I hope the same comes from this loss. A good man lost his life to a tragic illness… that is how we should see suicide, and maybe this is shedding some light on mental illness. He “had it all.” Family, fortune, fame… and yet still succombed to the unbearable pain of depression.
All the publicity of this took its toll on me for sure. It reminded me of the past tragedy I lived through. It opened up more and more thoughts about mental illness and suicide. It was all over Facebook, the radio, the tv. I could not escape it…. But in the end, I think we can all learn something from this. No one is exempt… Mental illness can affect anyone.
As usual, people had the typical “selfish” opinion.. I was thrilled to see some incredible articles disproving that “theory.”
Where is my life at? Well.. In the same place it has been. I am happy and continuing to move forward each day. I admit willingly (and without shame) that I am still in therapy and still medicated and it makes a world of difference. I am a happier person and a better mom admitting that I still need these things to be mentally healthy since his death. I’ve said before and I will say again.. I will never be the same but I know that I am meant to go on and will be okay. I guess I should say that I AM ok. I’ve never really considered myself a sensitive person, or really an anxious person.. But tragedy has changed me…. For the good and the not so good alike.
I’m greatly enjoying summer! I have written in the past about how I have a hard time with winter, and I do. I have the opposite thoughts on summer. Its brigher out longer. It’s warmer. I go to the beach and the park and just play in the backyard. I’ve spent a lot of time with friends and family just enjoying this season. I hate to see it leave, but am hopeful for a better winter this year. (Last year was certainly better than the one before!)
So yes… Overall.. Time flies when you’re having fun!

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How to save a life

I keep hearing this song…. Brings back such haunting memories.

Step one, you say, We need to talk
He walks, you say, Sit down, it’s just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through

Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all, you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence

Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you’ve told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And pray to God he hears you

And where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you’ve followed

He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he’ll say he’s just not the same
And you’ll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life
How to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life
How to save a life

Happy birthday mow

Birthday week was rough. Alex would have turned 31 on the 6th. Fourth of July weekend was always about celebrating his birthday. My how things have changed. I really don’t have much to say except I did the best I could. Last year I made it huge and celebrated him. This year I hid from it and tried to have a normal day/weekend/week. The day passed and I did ok. I shed a few tears but nothing major. The days after I was in a funk. I can’t describe it other than I was mad, I missed him, and now feel guilty when I do. Life has changed so much and I’m so lucky to have found happiness again… But it doesn’t just make it go away. In some ways, it makes it more complicated. It feels weird to love someone here and miss someone on the other side at the same time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it all comes down to the fact that it is two totally separate things. This week, I thought over and over again how my daughter said “happy birthday daddy” to a grave. This haunts me. Were getting closer each day to a time when she will understand. It freaks me out to say the least.
I got through a few crappy, cranky days and I’m doing better. I’m looking forward to a great weekend.

Happy birthday to my angel on the other side <3

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Mental illness or not?

It should not be surprising that I am a member of many facebook groups related to widowhood, young widowhood, suicide survivors etc. A post caught my eye today as I was scrolling through my newsfeed. A woman was stating that she was leaving a suicide support group because she was tired of defending that her son was NOT mentally ill. She attributes his suicide to a medication he was taking and finds it insulting that people would say he was mentally ill. Clearly, I do not find it insulting to use the term “mentally ill” as I use it regularly. Statistics state that 90% of suicides are as a result of mental illness. Am I certain that Alex was within the 90%? No, probably not…
A while back I tried to convince myself that his suicide was caused by something else. I found many supplements / herbal products in his items. I knew he was taking “vitamins” but did not really know what. One of the ingredients had been linked to some suicides, I found after extensive research. Can I be certain that this was the cause? No.. I cannot. Would it make a difference if this was the cause?
I had been told by people in his life that before we had met, Alex was “suspected” bipolar. I have previously written how now, in hindsight, it would make a lot of sense. He fit the description and symptoms to a tee. If this were his diagnosis, it would certainly explain may other things in our life. But again, can I be certain that this is what was the cause? Nope… still can’t.
A few years before his death, Alex was convinced he had a head injury. He kept describing that “something was wrong with him.” Our family doctor stated he had depression.. he denied it and it was never mentioned again. Can I ascertain that the cause was depression? Beyond a reasonable doubt…. no.
My point… Does it really matter? If I knew the exact cause, would it change anything? No.. he would still be gone.
Suicide survivors join to support each other. We have all been affected by a similar tragedy. We all understand the negative stigma associated with suicide and do not want to see our loved ones thought of in that manner. To me, the term “mental illness” is not negative. People do not choose to be mentally ill as much as they do not choose to be ill in any other way. It is a disease… just like any other. It saddens me to hear someone find it offensive. It doesn’t make you any less of a smart, good person.
I’m starting to wonder if it is time for me to move on from these groups. It helped so much in the beginning, now I feel it brings me down. So many people feel they are defined by their loss. Though it is a big part of who I am, it is not everything.

The summer of George

(Please note the Seinfeld reference)
This is the summer of Heather and Alexa. Ok so I do have a job and responsibilities and I’m not single, but still… Last summer I just existed. I went through the motions and attempted to seemingly have fun. We went to the beach once or twice and swam a few times, but just like the rest of the months last year, I wished them away. This year is different. I swore that I learned to enjoy every moment and live life to the fullest. I said that I truly understood that life is short. And I do… And I will follow through. I’m taking every opportunity to enjoy this summer (and I’m tanner than I have been in 10 years!) I’m having fun, enjoying life and and enjoying every day with my little girl. I’m loving watching every new experience. I’ve never been to the beach so many times in a short period. Even growing up in NJ… It’s more fun now. So many moms tell me how tough it is to take a child to the beach… So much stuff to bring and not so relaxing. Well I think they are wrong. It is much more fun with a child! So what if my house isn’t perfectly clean and (even through there was none last week) the clean laundry is piling up again. We are enjoying the sun and having great new experiences together.
I previously wrote about creating a bucket list. Last weekend I got to cross something off. I performed my first wedding ceremony. I was so excited to be a part of this and think it went great. This was the second wedding I attended since losing Alex and I think I did really well. The only sadness I can speak of was watching the slideshow seeing the bride and groom with their daughter. The “daddy/daughter” photos started to get to me. I shed a few tears but still appreciated what it meant to them. It was a great day and I’m so honored to have been a part of it.

I know I’ve been slacking on writing and all and all… I’ve just been busy with my normal life, plus enjoying the crap out of the summer!

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