Announcing our giveaway winner

I put all the entries into my super sophisticated, high tech random number generator…
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And the winner is….
Autumn Molnar says:

We are heading to the family cottage for the 4th. So excited to relax on the beach, celebrate the holiday, ride the boat and do water activities with my beautiful 4yr old daughter and her extended family.

Congratulations Autumn!  Sounds like you and the other entrants have some great summer plans.

Please send your contact information to Kerryannmckim at gmail dot com so I can send you your prize.

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My Kimmy Gibbler

Yesterday Facebook let me know that Kimmy Gibbler and I became friends 8 years ago.

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We actually became friends earlier than that.  In September 2008.  Bryon and I had been dating for 6 weeks.  I came out to Albany and it was the weekend of LarkFest.  I was impressed (and intimidated) by her Chanel eyeliner and her fancy sunglasses.  Bryon and I had not had that awkward “what are we” conversation yet and she referred to me as Bryon’s girlfriend.  From that point on, Bryon referred to me as his girlfriend.  She saved us from having to have that conversation.  

Through the years, we were friendly.  We’d see each other at various parties and sporting events.  But she was closer to Bryon, but most people were.

17903440_10155479994597841_7088198661435851561_n We had our kids 18 months apart.  She was at my daughter’s Christening.  

She was at Bryon’s 30th birthday party.  It was a fun night with hibachi.  We did not know that it would end up being his last.

Then Bryon got sick.  She came by the hospital.  She made Bryon laugh and she brought me coffee.

Then Bryon died.  I forgot to wear my pearls that Bryon got me on our honeymoon in St. Thomas.  She offered me hers.  I didn’t take them, but I told her that she reminded me of Robin Scherbatsky and how she was Vice-Girl at Marshall’s father’s funeral.

She was there for me through those rough early weeks.  She stayed with me when I started crying after having too much wine.  She never once told me how to grieve or how to feel.  She just listened.  And she listens to hear what you have to say, not just to respond.

The Sunday before Christmas I woke up feeling sick.  I couldn’t get myself off the couch.  Not the best position to be in when you have a two-year-old.  But she came over and made me drink apple cider vinegar tea.  She swears by apple cider vinegar.  It didn’t taste good, but it made me feel better.  It is now my go-to when sick.  That and coconut oil.  Kimmy Gibbler loves coconut oil. 

People may see our banter back and forth on Facebook, but people don’t realize that that is actually a small amount of our interaction.  One time we had three different conversations at once, one on Facebook, one on Facebook messenger and one via text.  And it wasn’t on purpose.  

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I can message her whenever.  It can be when grief is hitting me hard or if I just want to randomly (but passionately) say that I don’t like the Uncle Jesse/Aunt Becky storyline on Fuller House.  And she will respond thoughtfully in each scenario.

She understands my humor, which is some weird combination of cheesiness, sarcasm, and being wildly inappropriate.  I have never once shocked her.

We know to adult and be good moms.  But at times we act like two teenage girls.  We might be known to giggle and tee-hee at times. Especially when we hear Bryan Adams.

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We work well as a pair.  I am the visionary and come up with the crazy ideas.  She is the planner and executes them.

She is always up for an adventure, even with the kids.  We are both history geeks and we took the kids to Philadelphia (I will write about that trip soon, I promise).  

I found out that there was an Amato’s in Ticonderoga and she was crazy enough to take a road trip with me.  With our two kids.  I was so scared that the Italians were not going to be as good as I remembered them but they were.  We then drove through Washington County (I think) and then over to Vermont to look for a cheese shop and a chocolate museum that I remembered visiting with Bryon.  We found a cheese shop, but it was closed and we couldn’t find the chocolate museum.  Luckily we found a chocolate shop in Bennington.  The kids seemed just as excited.

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Sometimes I curl my hair like DJ on Fuller House.  I don’t do it every day like DJ because I am a real person, not a TV character and I do not have daily access to make up artists and hairstylists.  I told her that I am like DJ because we are both widows, except DJ has amazing hair and a hot boyfriend while I have neither.  I told my friend that would make her my Kimmy Gibbler.  She accepted her new role (as if she had a choice!)

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We sat at Bryon’s grave yesterday.  She brought him a Stewarts Mountain Brew Tall Boy (which still does not have rugby listed as one of the activities you can enjoy while drinking a Mountain Brew).  We talked about how it sometimes it feels like yesterday that he died and other times it feels like a lifetime ago.  We talked about much we miss him, but we know we wouldn’t be close friends If he were still alive.  She also told me how much I have changed since Bryon had died and how she never knew who I was before.

She was the one of the first people to help me embrace my new self and grow as a person.  We will never know why Bryon had to die, but I truly think that my friendship with Kimmy Gibbler is one of the biggest gifts that Bryon gave me.   I can’t imagine my life without my Kimmy Gibbler.

10 Months

I found this picture of us from our last cruise one month before you got sick.  It was still in the plastic wrapper.  It is likely the last picture taken of our family.  I can’t help but look at it and think of all our plans.  We had our whole lives ahead of us.

It’s hard to believe that you have been gone for 10 months.   That is almost a year.

I still have moments where it doesn’t seem real that you are gone.  Moments where the memories are so vivid that it feels like you are in the present.  That you aren’t gone.

And then I realize that you are gone.

Sometimes I can move on from those moments with simple acknowledgement of the memory.  Sometimes I might even smile.

Other times I get overwhelmed with emotion.  I feel the grief that goes down to my bones, albeit briefly.  I cry.

I ask myself why.  Why did this have to happen?  Why you? Why me? Why us? Stuff like this wasn’t supposed to happen to us.  Not that I would ever wish this on anyone.

I think about all the suffering you went through and tears well up in my eyes.

I think about how you will not see our daughter grow up.

We will not grow old together.

You will never be the old man that you looked forward to being.

Although you are on my mind constantly, there are times that I begin to think that I am getting used to you being gone.  I am starting to forget many of the aspects of our life together.  Sometimes I am scared that with every step forward I take, that is one step further away from our life and our dreams.   But I know I can’t live in the past forever.  It’s not healthy.  And I know you would not want that.

No matter what happens in my life, I will never forget you.  And I will always love you.

 

I am not marrying a Texas rancher.

Members of my Albany family often get together for dinner.  Witty banter is exchanged, like a real family.  My daughter fights with my best friend’s son as if they are siblings.  Last night dinner was at my house.  I made several dishes from The Homesick Texan’s cookbooks (yes, I have both.)  Anything I have ever made from her cookbooks is a hit.  I highly recommend them.  We started joking that my husband should be a Texas rancher.  Except I can’t move to Texas so he would have to set up a ranch in our suburban town.  

I may have posted a joke about this on social media as my sense of humor can be inappropriate at times.  Part of it is my personality.  If you follow the Meyers-Briggs philosophy, I am an INFJ.  My blog friend Jessica is an INFJ as well and she often writes about INFJ problems.  She so gets me.  One of her recent posts is about INFJ humor and our ability to tell jokes that make others uncomfortable.  The other part of my inappropriate sense of humor is dark humor, which is typical of widows.  The way I look at it is, if you have lived through dark times, then you can joke about it.

But I want to be clear,  I am not marrying a rancher from Texas.  

I am not marrying anyone.  

I am not dating anyone.  

I am not sleeping with anyone.  (Though it would not be anyone’s business if I was sleeping with anyone and no one’s place to judge.  I am just not interested.  Besides, I would probably start crying halfway through this activity and I am pretty sure that is not considered a turn-on. Though some people are into some weird stuff so you never know).

I am not marrying anyone.  I was married to a man who was the love of my life and my best friend.  I don’t know if there are even words to describe the love between us.  We were a team and we fit.  Sure, we had problems and arguments, but got through them.  We both had strong personalities and we had our groove.  We supported one another as individuals and as a part of our team.  Bryon was the first man I ever let my guard down too and he never let me down.  

My Grandma Sullivan was widowed when she was 76 and was never remarried before she died at the age of 90.  I remember her joking about two things with me.  One was that she was going to buy a pair of jeans (though she called them dungarees).  The second thing she joked about was getting a boyfriend.  I didn’t see a problem with it, but I remember my grandmother just saying that she could never find a man who would compare to my grandfather.  My grandmother was an Irish woman and she was not one to express emotions and my younger self didn’t detect any emotion in her comment but now I know that comment was full of emotion.  Now I totally understand exactly what she was saying.

Will I ever remarry? Possibly.  I was good at being a wife.  I can cook.  I am not bothered if dinner is interrupted by a work call. I don’t mind sports being on the TV.  Oh, and I will stay by your side when you are sick.  But I really hope that Bryon’s situation doesn’t happen to anyone again, especially anyone I know.  But right now I struggle to think anyone could capture my heart like Bryon did.  There was only one of him and he was perfect.  I doubt there is anyone out there that would be perfect for my broken heart or could understand what a widow goes through.

Will I ever date?  Someday, maybe, but right now I feel “meh” about it.  I have never been good at dating and I just don’t have any desire to enter the meat market.  Plus, I know that even the best relationships are work and right now I am not ready for that kind of work.  Especially when most guys would probably be mediocre.  I have spent my life trying to do well in all my roles- the good wife, the good mother, the good daughter, the good friend.  Those roles are important, but there was one area I was never concerned about and that was being good to myself.  I need to sort out who I really am as opposed to who I have been expected to be.

So I am not marrying anyone and I am not dating anyone and I don’t plan on doing either anytime soon.  Oh, and I am not sleeping with anyone and I don’t plan on doing that anytime soon either.  Until I am ready for any of those things, I have so many things to do.  I have a story I need to write.  I need to figure out where I stand with God and I need to decide if there is any point to being religious. I have a nightstand with three ridiculously tall piles of books I need to read.  I have races to train for.  I have places to travel to and weddings to attend.  I have a stack of cookbooks full of recipes that I need to try.  I have crime TV shows to watch even if they scare me and then I can’t sleep.  I have a garden to tend to.  I have a house to redecorate.  And all of this gets worked around my daughter’s schedule and spending time with my friends.  And once I know what my daughters dreams are, then some of our adventures will revolve around that.  Right now I know she likes gymnastics and aquariums.

After I accomplish all of this, then we will see about the whole love bit.

My first giveaway!

Happy Monday!

A month or two ago when Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B came out, I bought a second copy with the intention of giving it away to a reader.  This book isn’t just for widows.  And then I put the book on my dining room table and forgot about it.

Recently my blog hit 20,000 pageviews and I have 100 WordPress followers.  So I thought what better way to celebrate than do that giveaway!

This book is applicable to anyone who has had any kind of loss whether it is a loss of a spouse, family member, a divorce or a loss of a job or career.

I am not one for rules so it will be pretty simple.

  1.  Contest is open to residents of U.S. and Canada (excluding Quebec).
  2. To enter, just comment on this blog post and tell me one fun thing you plan to do this summer.
  3. One entry per person.
  4. Any anonymous comments will be deleted.
  5. Family members are not eligible.
  6. Contest ends on Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 11:59 pm EST.
  7. Winner will be announced on the blog on Friday, June 23, 2017 st 8:00 am EST.
  8. Book will be mailed out once it is claimed.

So what fun thing do you plan to do this summer?

Father’s Day without you

Here we are.  Father’s Day.  The second to last first holiday without you.  Unlike all the other holidays, I couldn’t just go through the motions since this holiday is centered around you.  Each holiday was drastically different, but I still had events to distract me.  

On Halloween, our daughter and I were invited to go trick or treating with friends in a neighboring town.  Our daughter was a cheerleader. There were other kids who were our daughters age and she had a blast.  She totally understood the concept and would run up to each door and do a happy dance each time she received candy.

On Thanksgiving the family met at my brothers in New Hampshire and I cooked dinner.  I also ran a Turkey Trot and at one water station they were giving out beer.  I took one because I knew that you would been disappointed if did not.  I only managed a sip.  

On Christmas, our daughter and I continued to see our friends.  Instead of continuing Christmas Eve afternoon at the pub, some of us started the new tradition of Feliz Navidad Brunch.  We visited your grave.  We went to Mass even if I still think the whole religion and praying thing is pointless.  Santa may have gone overboard with Amazon Prime.

Our friends and I stayed up on New Years Eve.  Mariah Carey was so bad that it was epic.  I made poblano macaroni and cheese, which is a crowd favorite.  I learned to make it after you died so you have never tasted it, but you would have loved it.  We went to New Beginnings Brunch the next day.

Valentine’s Day was filled with love from our friends.  They didn’t forget about us.  Even Carter the dog thought to get us roses.

I made a ham on Easter.  We colored Easter eggs and we went out for ice cream.

Mother’s Day was spent at Baby Animal Day at Indian Ladder Farm.

But today I couldn’t avoid the fact that you were not here.  I kept thinking about how you were looking forward to our daughter being this age.  You were so excited for her to start talking.  You couldn’t wait to hear the funny things she was going to say.  I know you would have had some pretty ridiculous conversations with her.  

I just not fair that she is going to grow up without you.  All these other kids get their fathers and she doesn’t.  She doesn’t remember life with you so she seems content that it is just me and her.  But I always think about how life should have been.  If you were still alive, we would be planning on having a second kid soon.

One thing that struck me today is that our daughter is always asking why.  I always answer because I like to think she is trying to figure out how the world works.  But today when I told her you were in Heaven.  I braced for the “why?” but she didn’t ask why.  I know that question is coming.  Don’t worry, she will know all about you.  She will know you loved her very much and that you still do.

So today we visited your grave.  I cried because this isn’t how we were supposed to be celebrating Father’s Day.  We should have spent the day doing whatever you wanted to do.  But instead, I spent the day thinking about how you are not here.  There will be no pictures on Facebook of you spending time with our daughter.

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I did decide that we would go out for ice cream since you wouldn’t want us to spend the day being sad.  But please know that no matter what happens in life, you will always be missed.

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A conversation with NFL player and patient advocate Rolf Benirschke

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend an event with NFL player and patient advocate Rolf Benirschke.  This event took place at the New York State Capitol and was put on by GOBOLDLY and New York Health Works.  The event was attended by a diverse group of people including legislators, legislative staff, researchers, pharmaceutical company representatives, representatives from healthcare organizations and patient advocates.  I was excited to have the opportunity to attend this event.  I am trying to learn as much as I can about health care and patient advocacy.  I attended this event with one of my best friends, Jen.  She is the New York State and Vermont Advocacy Director for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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The event opened up with NY Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo).  She talked about her experience working with hospitals in Buffalo and how they collaborate with private companies who are working bringing the latest medical technology into Buffalo Hospitals. She also shared a personal experience about a friend with lung cancer who was receiving a cutting edge therapy in New York City that was developed in Buffalo at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.  

Rolf Benirschke was in his second season as a kicker for the San Diego Chargers when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.  In his third season, he collapsed on a cross country flight and had to have two surgeries and spent 5 weeks in the ICU.  Like Bryon, he lost part of his intestine and went into septic shock and had organs shut down.  He came close to dying.  Rolf states that he didn’t know why his life was spared, but he was given a second chance.  He got his position back with the San Diego Chargers and played for seven more seasons.  

Rolf also stated that while he was in the ICU, he received 80 units of blood.  This was in 1979 when blood screening wasn’t as safe as it is today.  Rolf contracted Hepatitis C.   Rolf was given therapies for Hepatitis C which worked.  He expressed gratitude because he knew that he was lucky.  He brought up how Arthur Ashe contracted HIV from a blood transfusion that he received while having heart surgery.

It was inspiring to see Rolf share his story because the only way we are going to make positive changes in our healthcare system and patient care is by education.

We are living in exciting times when it comes to medicine.  My job is in oncology data and I see it.  They can test some tumors for the specific markers within that tumor and a patient can get a treatment based on their specific tumor markers.  I truly hope that diseases with a grim prognosis will be curable in our lifetimes.  

Jen and I got a chance to speak to Rolf.  We discussed barriers to patient care and we discussed part of Bryon’s story.  I encourage everyone to get out there and learn about the healthcare system.  You don’t need to work in healthcare to learn about it.  You never know when you need to apply that information for your own care or that of a loved one.

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