My life changed dramatically and forever when I lost TJ.

I welcome you to follow along as I adjust to my "new normal".

It is not all puppies and ice cream but it is my life....real and honest.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wedding Anniversay

TJ and I were together for 16 years, but we were only married for the last 5 months of his life.  I never saw a reason for us to marry.  We were committed to each other and a piece of paper wasn't going to make a difference.  But, when we were faced with his mortality all that changed.  TJ in no way wanted his family to be able to take anything from me.  He knew his family, including his kids, would be a problem and he wanted to ensure that they could not touch a thing we had spent so many years working for.  He had wanted to marry for years and I didn't, but when he said to me, "Please marry me before I die." I just could not say no any longer.

Our friends put together a beautiful wedding for us at a friend's house with the Superstition Mountains in the background and provided all the food, table decorations and a wedding cake.  My brother paid for the minister and my sister paid for a photographer.  Since TJ wasn't working and going through cancer treatments we were broke, but thanks to our friends and my family we were able to have a wedding we were proud of.  We were married on May 30, 2009.

This is a link to the wedding video our photographer put together for us:

Neither TJ nor I are religious so we opted for a non traditional "minister" as well as a non traditional ceremony.  Most importatly, we did not want to say "until death do we part".  We already knew that was going to happen.

Happy Anniversary TJ.  I will always love you and will forever carry you in my heart.

Wedding Ceremony:

On behalf of Sandy and TJ, I'd like to welcome you all and thank you for being here to share in this happy occasion.

A wedding ceremony is an outward form. To be true, it must be a symbol of something inner and real: a sacred personal union which nature might mirror, a church can solemnize, or a state may declare legal for some, but which only love can create and mutual loyalty fulfill.

To last, a marriage should be a consecration of each person to the other, and of both to the wider community of which they are a part. Because TJ and Sandy feel a great closeness and respect for all of you here, they chose each of you to witness their vows today. Marriage is an intensely personal act, but, in order for the couple's marriage to gain strength to last throughout the years, their union must be supported by their greater society of family and friends.

In this spirit, Sandy and TJ ask all of you now: do you support their marriage and accept the new partner into your life as family and a friend of your own?

Guests: We do.

Thank you all. Now, TJ and Sandy, marriage is a serious and lifelong commitment. The vows you make today should not be made lightly or without forethought. Are you prepared to enter into this solemn covenant?

Sandy and TJ: We are.

Minister: The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote of marriage extensively in his letters. His words fit here:

For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.

Marriage naturally combines the strengths and wills of two people so that, together they seem to reach farther into the future than they did before. Above all, marriage is a new task and a new seriousness -- a new demand on the strength and generosity of each partner.

Love is an opportunity for the individual to ripen, to become something in yourself, to become world, to become world in yourself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on a person, something that chooses you and you are blessed by being a part of it.


TJ and Sandy, as you exchange vows today; you are declaring your intent to live together in love for all your days. With this in mind,

I take you Sandy to be my wife, lover and best friend and these things I promise to you:

I will be faithful to you and honest with you,

I will respect, trust, help and care for you,

I will share my life with you

I will share with you everything that is to come throughout the rest of our lives together.

I take you TJ to be my husband, lover and best friend and these things I promise to you:

I will be faithful to you and honest with you

I will respect, trust, help and care for you

I will share my life with you

I will share with you everything that is to come throughout the rest of our lives together.

As Sandy and TJ have exchanged vows, they are not only joining together as partners, but also creating a new family, of which they will be the heart.


May I have the rings? These rings are circles, unbroken, just as your love is unbroken and complete for each other. May the love between you grow and strengthen through all the years it would take to travel around your rings and come to their ends.

TJ: With this ring, I give you the promise that from this day forward you shall never walk alone. My heart will be your shelter; my arms will be your home. We will walk together through life as partners and best friends.
Sandy: With this ring, I give you the promise that from this day forward you shall never walk alone. My heart will be your shelter; my arms will be your home. We will walk together through life as partners and best friends.

Sandy and TJ, having witnessed your vows for marriage, and by the authority vested in me, I announce with great joy that you are husband and wife.
You may kiss your bride.
Apache Marriage Blessing:

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be the shelter for each other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be the warmth for the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before. Go now to your dwelling place to enter into the days of your life together. And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Moving Forward or Letting Go

I had a conversation late last night with a widower friend of mine on twitter.  We started out by talking about the insomnia that so many of us have, but it quickly turned to a discussion of moving on.  What he said to me has stuck in my head and I wanted to share.  I have chosen to keep him anomyous as I do not know if he would want me to reveal his identity.  His series of tweets was as follows:

It changed for me, when I changed my thinking from the "moving forward" to the ability "letting go".  I know it sounds strange, but inside of me I always had a dislike for "moving forward". It was like betrayal for me. Then I realized, that I was afraid to let her go, because I thought I would loose her. I was so wrong, because one never looses the loved one in memories and heart. That started the change.

All day I thought about the difference between moving forward and letting go.  I, like my friend, am afraid to let TJ go.  He was a part of my life for 16 years and I am not willing to let him go.  Moving forward though, to me, means leaving TJ behind.  I can't do that either, he will always be in my heart.  So, instead of always thinking I need to move forward/on I am going to try to change my thinking to letting go.

I feel I need to make room in my life for the new and let go of the old.  I believe that if I stay open to new experiences and relationships I have much to gain after my loss.  Happiness turned to sadness, but sadness will turn to happiness again. Every day I become more and more optimistic about my future and I can't let what has happened in the past close my mind to the possibilities of the new.  I will not move forward, leaving TJ behind, instead, I will try to begin to let go of the past and carry him with me, in my heart, as I experience the many good things that are still to come in my life.

Letting go isn't the end of the world; it is the beginning of a new life. ~ Unknown

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bloggers, Win a Scholarship to Camp Widow!

In August, Camp Widow, the premier event for connecting widows and widowers, will be held for the THIRD YEAR. Please visit the website for location, list of speakers and workshops, registration, and Frequently Asked Questions. This is the only event run by a non profit organization BY widowed people and it's an exceptional weekend of support, new friends, and the freedom to "come as you are" -- where EVERYONE "gets it." The event is inclusive (men, women, LGBT, all ages, all parenting statuses) with content and social events to meet all needs and interests.

I strongly encourage widowed folks to attend. To make it easier, I am helping to fund this blogging contest, along with a group of friends.

Widowed Bloggers -- win a ticket to Camp Widow!

Write a post sharing WHY you want to attend Camp Widow 2011. Notify us that you posted by leaving a comment on this post (below) to make sure we see it (you can also send us a note.)

Camp Widow is a exceptional weekend for widowed people of all ages. We will choose one (possibly two) bloggers to receive a PARTIAL scholarship that covers Camp registration and some incidental expenses. NO ACTUAL CAMPING IS INVOLVED. Learn more about this event, which is in its third year, at

How do I enter?

Please write and publish a blog post telling the world WHY you wish to attend. You can include topics such as how you expect to benefit, or share about some of the widowed people you've already met. You do not need to demonstrate financial need though if you wish to write a separate note discussing your financial circumstances, you may do so.

Who is eligible to compete?

Widows and widowers of all ages who started blogging before 4/1/11 and who are interested in attending Camp Widow 2011. Please note: you should be prepared to pay for and arrange your travel to and from, and your lodging in San Diego. (We can help you find a roommate to reduce costs). If our generous donors can pay more, they will, but please don't apply unless you are prepared to make the trip (including arranging child care, taking time off work, etc.).

Summary and dates

You must publish your blog post AND notify us by midnight EST, Tuesday, May 31.

We will notify the winner(s) within 2 weeks.

Camp Widow will be held August 12 to 14. Details are at

Winner(s) MUST arrange and purchase their own travel and hotel reservations. Scholarship covers Camp Widow registration fee plus some incidentals.

Questions? Want to help fund this scholarship? We want to hear from you.

(Disclosure: This competition is hosted, managed, and funded by an independent group of widowed bloggers. We're not being compensated for creating this competition and those judging entries are not eligible to win.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop

TJ died 7 months after his diagnosis.  My Mother died 9 months after TJ.  It has now been about 10 months since losing my Mother and I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I knew I had these feelings in the back of my mind but I didn't realize how strong they were until last week.

My sister is retired and spends her summers back home in Indiana and her winters out here in Arizona.  I enjoy it because we get to spend time together during the winter.  My sister is 12 years older than me, and between her and my brother they are the only family I have left.  I find it hard to believe that at the age of 45 I find myself at that point in my life that more of those that I love are dead than alive.  I thought I would be elderly before reaching this point.

One evening last week I was at home playing with the dogs when my cell rang.  The number showed up on the screen, but did not have a name associated with it.  When I saw the area code my heart sank, it was an Indiana area code.  I just knew it was one of my sister's friends calling to tell me my sister was sick or injured.  I ran the dates in my head...TJ only lived 7 months after his diagnosis, Mom died 9 months later and it has been 10 months since Mom.  Yes, it is time for my world to fall apart again.  I sat with the phone in my hand just staring at it.  I could not answer it.  I thought that if I let it go to voicemail the bad news would be easier to handle.  I was completely paralyzed, fixated on the area code.  I then thought, what if they don't leave a message because it is too horrible to hear by voicemail. The fear of the person not leaving a message hit me like a semi truck.  I immediately answered the phone.



"It's Judy"

I knew it was bad for sure.  Judy has been a family friend for years and is the kind of person to speak up and volunteer to call me and let me know what has happened to my sister.  I could feel the lump developing in my throat.  The tears were beginning to form in my eyes.  I was not sure I was even going to be able to speak. The fear had gripped me like the claws of a vulture snatching its latest victim.  Judy then said to me:

"How do I heat up these tamales?"

"Excuse me?!!??!!?"

"How do I heat up these tamales? I don't want to ruin them."

I know my voice cracked as I was explaining how to heat up frozen tamales.  An intense feeling of relief washed over my entire body.  The vulture had released his hold on me, the lump in my throat was beginning to diminish and the tears were receding.

Looking back on this, I laugh that I got that worked up over tamales, but I also wonder when this feeling of impending doom is going to leave me.  Will it ever leave me?  Will the passage of time reduce the intensity?  A widow friend of mine posted a blog about this same feeling a few months ago.  You can read her blog here.  Meanwhile, I will be right here waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I have accepted fear as a part of life - specifically the fear of change.... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says:  turn back.  ~Erica Jong