I hope this blog scares you… In a good way!

Think about if you were given a jar full of pebbles. Imagine the guessing game that they play at parties and fairs. It’s pretty much impossible to guess how many are in there without some luck, right? In the one you are given some are big some are small making it nearly impossible to guess. The number of pebbles inside are the exact amount of days you have on this earth.

Imagine that you are given the opportunity to remove one pebble for each day you’ve been alive and then you would remove one each day from now on. Would you do it? Would you want to know? Think about that for a second…. Would you live differently if you removed the pebbles of your past and saw that the jar was getting closer to being empty? Would it scare you? Does even thinking about this scare you? I kinda feel bad if it does but I kinda don’t at the same time. If it scares you then I’m making a difference in how the rest of your pebbles (your life) will be spent. You see when you remove the pebble at the beginning of the day you have a choice to consciously acknowledge the gift that it is and make it more beautiful… I personally would paint each of mine gold to make them prettier. Everything’s prettier in gold right?!!

Now seriously, what would you do to make your pebble more beautiful… more meaningful? You see when you are gone your pebbles will remain behind as your legacy… it’s how people remember you.

If you knew how many pebbles remained in your jar right now how would your life look? How would it change?
Would you do things you’ve always wanted to do? Would you forgive anyone? Would you say sorry or I love you more? Or better yet, would you treat people differently if you could see just how many pebbles they have left? Stop here and let that sink in for a moment…

Would this new found knowledge cause you to stay inside fearful to leave in hopes you could outsmart the pebbles… knowing that isn’t how life works?
Would you let the fear of your pebbles running out stop you from actually enjoying each and every one of them?

Or would you LIVE???

Would you wake up each morning to kiss that tiny little unique pebble of the day with excitement of whats to come? Reminding yourself what a gift it is, savoring it, knowing when you laid your head down at night that single pebble of the day would be put aside only to be remembered. Would you have a new found attitude? Would you not give a shit what people thought about you any longer?
Would you stop working at a job you didn’t like or one that keeps you from your family and start following your passion that you’ve put off on all those days you just removed from that jar?
Would you stop stressing about your kids less than perfect test scores?
Would you pause on a “busy day” and smell that rose that you’ve never actually noticed before? Would you spend one of your pebbles on gossip like you’ve done in the past because it made you feel connected to the person who you were talking to? Or would you realize what a waste of precious time that was?
Would you go somewhere new? Would you help out someone in need? Would you say thank you more?
Would you put your phone down and get on the floor with that sweet child of yours who wants nothing more than YOU just how you are?
Would you play music loud and dance without a care in the world of how silly you look?
Would you start a business you’ve dreamed of for years but were too scared you’d fail that you never tried?
Would you make new friends? Would you save more money? Would you spend the money you’ve saved?

What if you could add some extra pebbles to your jar? What would you be willing to do for that? What would that be worth to you? Those pebbles would be literally be like gold!!!

Would you exercise for extra pebbles? What a relief it would be to see your jar filling back up a bit!

Would you quit smoking for some pebbles?

Would you eat more fruits and vegetables if you could be guaranteed even 10 more pebbles??

Some of you, like me, may have already been smacked with the reality that our time is actually limited here on earth by the loss of someone close to you or by a terminal diagnosis. If so, I hope you are coping through the grieving process but no matter how many pebbles we each have left I hope you are kissing your pebble every single day even when its tough to do! I know it can be tough.

I think if we actually could see the jar it would be easier to live a fuller life but I cannot say that that’s what I would choose. Here’s what I’m doing…

I’m enjoying the pebble I’ve been given today. And I’m taking that wet rained upon little pebble and I’m painting it gold in gratitude. My late husband Ryan was given the gift of 14,230 pebbles and I am grateful for the 3,000 or so we were able to share together and I’m especially grateful for the 487 we shared together with our sweet Winston boy.

My Pebble of the day!

Today I’m going to be the best mother I can to our boy. I’m playing hard. I’m riding our new silly looking bike while basking in his laughter and answering his never ending questions about everything he sees on our journey.

Our fun family bike! The dog can even go for a ride. My sister says I’ll never date again! HA!

I’m sketching and designing… I am taking risks and starting my own jewelry line, something I’ve dreamed of for years. I hoping it allows me to earn a living for my son and myself and to raise money for some very important cancer initiatives.

I’ve just started to eat more fruits and vegetables. Letting Winston help pick out the produce has been a fun way to get him interested in veggies too. My go to easy way to get more nutrition has been smoothies! Please share with me if you have some things you enjoy or any good tips. I’ve also started exercising daily and trying to incorporate Winston into whatever I’m doing when possible!

And finally I’m writing from my heart unedited (clearly with my grammatical errors and all) with no real understanding of where this blog is taking me but knowing it feels good to write and connect with others.

Tell me… Would you want to know how many pebbles you have left? What would you do if you knew? How would you make those pebbles the most beautiful rocks the world has ever seen? Would you try to earn more if you could? Please comment below… I really want to know.

On a side note: I never know where my blog is taking me as I write it… It went in a whole other direction today than where it began and I love it! It has inspired me to create a “gold pebble” pendant as my daily reminder of the “gift of today!” More to come about that or message me for more info!!

Cheers to your pebble of the day!

Joy Shared is Multiplied; Grief shared is halved

The last month and a half have been quite eventful for Winston and I. It included potty training, moving back into our renovated house, a couple of viruses (one we are currently nursing), weeks of vertigo (no fun!), Winston having his front tooth removed… and of course Thanksgiving, Christmas and now New Years. I’m actually sitting here writing this blog as I listen to the snap, crackle and pops of people ringing in the 2018 New Year. I love the sight of fireworks. It reminds me of sparkling melee, which are tiny little diamonds, thrown up into the sky like confetti. Winston is tucked snuggly in his bed after seemingly endless reassurance that it’s just fireworks he’s hearing. You think I’d be disappointed to have no real plans tonight but I’m not in the least. There is nowhere on earth I’d rather be then warm, safe and sound with my sweet boy in our own home.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been wanting to write another blog but fear get in the way to be honest. I was overwhelmed with the amount of people who actually read the last blog and I started to get nervous about what everyone may think. I was worried people may think I should be over the death of my husband by now and may think it’s weird that I want to talk about him or blog about the realities of grief. The truth is Winston and I live a great life but our reality is a bit unique. It helps me to share and I’m hoping in some way it helps you too. I wrote several drafts and never felt right about them until tonight. So here goes:

I have to say that 2017 has been a pretty tough year for me but I cannot confidently say I’m ready to move into 2018. You see in 2017 when I spoke about Ryan I would say he passed away last year. It didn’t seem so long ago that I saw his smile or heard his voice. Now just thinking about the fact that I will have to say he passed away in 2016 seems so hard and sad. The new year adds another layer of reality that he is really gone and it reiterates the permanence of death. A similar feeling came over me when Winston turned 32 months old last September… I know you usually stop referencing months when your child hits two but this was significant to me. Winston was 16 months old when Ryan passed away so the thought of him being old enough that the majority of his life was not with his dad hit me hard. It just doesn’t seem right or fair but it’s real. I feel like the memories he has of Ryan are starting to fade and that really pulls on my heart. We talk about Ryan every single day but there is no way to explain every facet of such an amazing person to a child and him really get to know his daddy the way I knew him. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had Ryan in my life for 8+ years and I wish Winston could have had more. I often think about what he would being doing now with Winston. I can almost hear him laughing along with me as Winston says “Hey you silly goose!” I can only imagine how proud he would be of our intelligent, thoughtful, silly, energetic, inquisitive, superhero-loving Winston Boy. I wonder if he would notice the subtle traits that so often remind me of him… like the way he lines up all of his toys in a row like Ryan used to line up his crawfish heads when we’d eat them, or his fascination of hunting for and collecting the perfect rock on the playground for himself and of course one for Mommy just like his dad’s fascination with finding the perfect diamond, or his incredible retention of information or his love for books. I just know he would be in awe just as I am.

They say time heals but I’m not sure about that… Time is a funny complicated gift we are given. I don’t know if my heart will ever actually “heal” no matter how much time I’m given on earth. I think with losing a spouse it just takes a long time to process such a tremendous loss and as the reality of living without your best friend starts to set in so do the realities of life in general. This was the person who you did everything with which means everything is different and the void is unavoidable. I say unavoidable because I know that Winston and I’s presence can sometimes remind people that Ryan is gone. They can visually see the void. We’ve experienced being avoided because of this and I get it. I don’t blame anyone for it being too hard to see us sometimes. When I find a little pocket of avoidance of the void I embrace it too.

Think about it. When something awesome happens in your life who is the first person you want to tell… and when something really bad happens, or you need help making a decision, or you need back up with disciplining your kid, or you can’t quite unzip your dress, or your back really hurt and you need a massage, or your really sick and can’t even get up to get a drink of water, or you just want to yell at somebody, or you need a shoulder to cry on, or a breaker trips, or your grass needs to be cut, or your just need a moment of peace away from your child to collect your thoughts, or you just need a hug, or a high five, or a pat on the back… who’s your person?

So what happens when suddenly they aren’t there anymore? Here comes the void. The great exciting news that you want to share suddenly tastes a little bitter when you can’t pick up the phone. And life keeps moving. Bad things still happen, decisions still have to be made, you’re on your own with disciplining your kid and you are praying you’re getting it right, you get stuck in a dress and you have to sleep in it until you learn you can use a hanger to catch a zipper (true story), your back still hurts, you go to sleep with a dry throat because there is no one to get that water for you, you cry instead of yell, yell instead of cry, you figure out how to work everything in your house or you call your dad, you hire help, your moments of peace are in the car where you break down and hope your child doesn’t notice the tears coming from your sunglasses, you hug your child, you give him a high five, and you pat him on the back… because… you recognized that you are his person… you hang in there. I’m hanging in there. You just live with the void and remember that if the love wasn’t so tremendous the void wouldn’t be either. I’ll take the love… and live with the void.

Often people tell me how strong I am but so many things almost broke me in the last 365 days. I’ve never had to be so determined in my life to push through. I’ve seen things in people that I never knew existed. I questioned everything. I stood my ground. I dug deep for strength. I allowed others to help me more than I felt comfortable with. I sadly witnessed the wrath of cancer take several beautiful women from this earth and wreak havoc on families in the way of grief and despair. At the same time, I was dealing with the aftermath of losing Ryan to cancer and reevaluating how to actually start over. Meanwhile, I’ve started to have to explain to Winston more and more what heaven is, where it is, why we cannot go there right now to visit Daddy when he asks for him. I’ve had to fight back the tears and the lump in my throat when people ask me if my husband and I plan to have more children or when they talk to Winston about his daddy not realizing he’s passed away. Or when Winston asks if his daddy can come when he sees his friends with theirs. I try so hard to keep it together for everyone and for Winston but it’s so tough. What makes it easier is that this year I’ve also witnessed cancer survivors and families turn their despair into powerful monumental breakthroughs and triumphs. I’ve seen people give so much to strangers. I’ve experienced forgiveness and togetherness like never before. I’ve been a witness to Ryan’s undeniable presence. I’ve renovated our home to be a safe, comfortable and beautiful space for Winston and I. I’ve laughed harder than I have in three years with my silly boy. One thing I know is that I couldn’t be as “strong” as everyone says I am without all of you.

A few months ago Winston handed me a fortune cookie that read, “Joy shared is multiplied; grief shared is halved.” When I read this phrase I immediately put it down and said “Yeah right!” I was kinda pissed to be honest. My mind focused on “grief being halved” and I thought to myself “sharing your grief doesn’t take half of it away…” about a half hour later it dawned on me… If it weren’t for all of the support from my friends and family this grief could be twice as bad… WOW! It was then that I fully recognized the impact of all of my support. Thank God for each and Every One of you. Thanks for allowing me to share.

Moving into 2018 I’ll do it like I do everything now. I’ll embrace the “Bitter Sweet” and I’ll live with the void because I know it was created out of love and I’ll enjoy the gift of today. Cheers to all the Joy 2018 shall bring!

Carry Me

As Winston and I took a short cut through Lafreniere Park last week I noticed that an event was being set up at the Al Copland Concert Meadow. Then I spotted an all too familiar logo, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a great organization making a difference in the world of blood cancers. I was aware of the upcoming Light The Night event since my friend Hillary works for the organization and puts the event on. However, I must have forgot to mark it on my calendar. Hillary happens to be one of my “silver linings friends.” If you don’t know what that means to me let me explain… You see over the last few years I have met some of the most amazing people that share one not so amazing familiar experience… cancer. Through Ryan’s cancer experience and heartbreaking death I have found myself making some of the most meaningful connections. Connections that would have never been if we didn’t experience the journey exactly as we did. Now don’t get me wrong, while I love my “silver lining friends” they all know if I could chose another path for Ryan and I, I would do it in a heartbeat. Through my blog you will for sure hear of these friends that have created a bright light for me in such a dark time.

Ryan and I met Hillary as we sat across from her and her husband at The Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center at Ochsner Hospital. The set up there is really nice for being a chemotherapy center. They have the chairs set up for the patient and a caregiver and then they have the same set up across from you. It almost makes for a living room type setting if you really stretch your imagination a bit. They offer snacks and drinks and our favorite part was the view of the Mississippi River. It really had a peaceful feel to the place and the nurses were great. One day as we sat down for Ryan’s chemo we noticed a smily young lady hooked up to an IV pole wearing a scarf on her head and her husband working on his computer sitting across from us. I was large and probably not as smily as I carried our soon to be Winston in my 9 month pregnant belly. I could barely think straight as my head was turning with fear and anxiety for my sweet husband who had been recently diagnosed with Peripheral T-cell Lymphoma but I was trying so hard to play it cool. There was something very comforting about our new neighbor’s smile and demeanor. I can’t remember how we started talking but we did… all four of us. She explained that she had Lymphoma and weirdly enough a little since of relief came over me. I even feel bad typing that. But she looked so good and she gave me so much hope. Obviously all cancers are different and even Lymphoma has several types but still she looked good and that was encouraging. As we chatted we learned that she and her husband had a 10 month old baby girl. My ears really perked up then. If they can do it we can do it… As you can imagine, or maybe you can’t, the fear of anticipating the birth of your first child on top of the fear of losing your husband can be quite overwhelming. So I was really reaching to feel connected to someone who could relate. Hillary told me about a calendar that she writes on everyday that says what they did that day and that her mom did that for her and how meaningful it was. I loved the idea. In fact, I kind of forgot about that until I started thinking of that day again… You see there was so much going on at the time and ever since that I feel like I was in a fog. That fog is slowly starting to lift. I’ll share more about that in a future post. As for the calendar I think I might start one for Winston!

I’m happy to say that Hillary is a survivor and is doing well. She has taken her experience and turned it into a career. As I was reminded of the Light The Night event I decided to go and with basically no notice I convinced my mom to come along (not really mentioning that it included a mile in a half walk – Haha!). Winston, my mom and myself got to the park, made a donation and then headed to the lawn toting our yellow lanterns on a stick in memory of Ryan. They kind of reminded me of hot air balloons. The survivors carried white and the supporters carried red. Hundreds of people were there for all sorts of reasons and after an emotional opening ceremony, where we all lit our lights, we started on a 1.5 mile walk following the uplifting sounds of a marching band. It was a beautiful sight. The conversations happening around us as we walked were touching. I had tears in my eyes as I remembered Ryan and how he used to walk 4 miles a day at that very same park during treatment. And couldn’t help but imagining his thoughts and fears on those long walks as he pushed himself hard, fighting to live. He was fighting for us. It wasn’t long into the walk that Winston started to get tired. I didn’t have his stroller in the car because I currently can’t get it to collapse (a daddy kind of fix right?). So as his little legs were getting tired I picked my sweet boy up. My mom asked if I thought we should turn around. I said “No it’s only a mile and a half, right?” She looked at me with that “ONLY!?” kind of look but kept trucking on in the caravan of red, white and yellow. A little bit later she does as the always does and she offered to help us by carrying our lanterns and bag. There she was walking right beside us, three bright yellow lanterns in the sky (I know her knee was hurting too) with tears in her eyes for Ryan. As we walk we notice a lady next to us with her white lantern attached to her walker. She was literally walking a mile and a half with her walker in the dark uneven path. We started talking to her… because that’s what we do, right!? She tells us that she’s had three cancers and that she doesn’t complain. She’s just grateful that God has given her another day to be alive. WOW! What an incredible woman. A short while later my mom offers to carry Winston and I assure her I’m ok. She never ceases to amaze me with her willingness to carry us through. About a mile in, my back was hurting and my sleepy boy’s grip started to loosen a bit (you know when they stop squeezing their legs on your hip and it seems like they weigh twice as much) but I couldn’t help to think of all the pain Ryan endured through his illness and his willingness to push through. He did it for us. I hiked Winston back up on my hip and hugged him tight. I wasn’t going to give up now. I told my mom that if Ryan could have endured all he did that I could carry our 35lbs son a mile and a half. And that’s just what I did. I’d carry that boy 100 miles if he needed me to.

That’s just it, I just have to carry on. There are some moments where I just want to crawl in my bed and cry for days but I can’t and I won’t. I must carry on. Winston needs me to carry on. Ryan needs me to carry on. And that’s what I choose. I choose to carry on with my old friends, my new “silver lining” friends, my family, my sweet boy and my memories. I’m going to carry on and embrace each day that I’m given. I’m going to enjoy the biggest gift Ryan has given me… our sweet “Winston Boy.” And I’ll carry him while he’s little and I’ll trust him when he says, “Mommy, one day I’ll get big and you’ll get little and I’ll carry you… OK Momma!?” And I reply “Ok baby.” He has no idea but the truth is… he’s already carrying me.