Happy third birthday in Heaven

Today’s post will be a quick post.  I just wanted to share a few photos on how we celebrated Bryon’s birthday.

His birthday is exactly one week after his deathaversary but I try not to dwell too much on his deathaversary.  I prefer to celebrate the fact that he had lived.

My daughter and some friends released balloons at the cemetery.

“Table Top” in the grass.  Nice to see gymnastics class pay off.

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Balloon-Release!

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UP…

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…UP…

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…And AWAY!!!!

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I am sure he enjoyed them. Especially when I got in the car and one of his favorite songs came on.  He saves this one for birthdays and happy occasions.

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After the cemetery, we had dinner at one of Bryon’s favorite restaurants, Swifty’s.

I enjoyed my first Sam oktoberfest.

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I don’t care if it’s still August.  It’s been a hot summer and the humidity has been wicked.  I am so over it.

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I love these people.  They have stayed with me through thick and thin.  Of course, a few were unable to attend and we missed them.

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I feel like I should write something more profound but between the fact that last week was Bryon’s deathaversary and this week is his birthday and my birthday tomorrow, my head kind of feels like it is going to explode.  I have been emotional and cried a lot but I am okay.

The good news is that I am leaving on a birthday girls trip tomorrow but I have a lot of things to do between now and then.

So this post is going to have to be enough.

Thanks for reading along.

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Choices

Here it today’s bit of Kerry McKim Wisdom-

Your life is the aftereffect of all the choices you have made.

Boom.

The first major decision in my life was in the Spring of 1993.

It was a period of high fashion consisting of blazers, floral dresses, choker necklaces, boots and scrunchies.

(Okay, that kind of sounds like right now.)

An era was ending as Cheers had their last call.

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And Zack and the gang graduated from Bayside High.

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I was finishing up my eight grade year at Cyril D. Locke Middle School in Billerica, MA and I was preparing to begin my freshman year at Billerica Memorial High School.

My father had worked for the U.S. Postal Service since 1977, the year before I was born.  He had worked in Suburban Boston and he had been promoted to the position of Postmaster.

But there was a catch.

He would be the Postmaster of Little Deer Isle, ME.

So we were going to be moving five hours away to coastal Maine.

I would not be going to high school at Billerica Memorial High School.

I had been bullied in middle school so I wasn’t particularly sad about leaving.  But it was still a period of uncertainty.

The population of Billerica, MA in 1990 was 37,609 and the population of Little Deer Isle, ME in 2000 (couldn’t locate the number for 1990) was 251.

My father had to start his new position immediately so he would work in Maine during the week and come back to Massachusetts on the weekends to see us and to pack up and sell our house.

My father went to the local high school which was on the larger neighboring island of Deer Isle (connected to Little Deer Isle by a causeway) and the school was grades 7-12 with a school population of  about 150.  The guidance counselor of the school was up front with my father and said that there was a high chance that the students wouldn’t accept me because I was not a native of this island.  The guidance counselor recommended that he send me to a larger high school on the mainland because I would have a better chance of fitting in.  She gave my father the course catalogs for her high school as well as the three closest high schools on the mainland.

My father took my guidance counselors concerns seriously. He brought home those course catalogs and told me to look them over which I did.  Then I made my decision.  I told my father I wanted to go to Ellsworth High School.

My decision was based partly on intuition and partly because Ellsworth High School had the better catalog.  (Take away- listen to your gut and marketing matters).

The high school I chose was the furthest away geographically from Little Deer Isle but my mother also wanted to live closer to Ellsworth because there were more stores (i.e. civilization).

As my high school years passed, it was clear that I had made the right decision.  Each school had a reputation and I knew I wouldn’t have fit into schools labeled “crunchy” and “granola”.  (Not that there is anything wrong with that.  It just wasn’t me.)   I fit in the best at my high school, which had the reputation of being a “jock” school. I fit in, even though my classmates teased me (good-naturedly) for having a Boston accent.

My choice of high school affected the friends I made, some of which I am still friends with to this day.  My choice in high school affected my studies because I had some great teachers who exposed me to Broadway musicals, the French language and the concept that the world was a very large and fascinating place.  I also had some not so great teachers that turned me off to math and science.  (I don’t know what high school Kerry would think if she knew that in her 30s, she would go back to school for a degree that required Anatomy and Physiology.  I wish I could tell my younger self that she was smarter than she thought she was and capable of much more than she thought).

My choice in high school affected my social life.  I had to chose between staying busy with sports and work or hanging out in the Burger King parking lot.  Or partying in a gravel pit.  Though I wasn’t cool enough to party in a gravel pit.  I made the choice to run cross country and track, tutor students and participate in French Club.  I also made the choice to participate in class activities like prom committee and I raised money for the Chem-Free party on graduation night.  I also made the choice to work part-time at Shop N Save (now Hannaford).

I definitely left high school with a certain set of experiences that my eight grade self would never have foreseen me having.

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“Mormons or Lobster” A sign in Ellsworth, Maine.

My next major decision was college.  I actually felt like I had less of a choice in choosing a college due to financial constraints.  My older brother had attended college at University of Maine at Orono (UMO) which was a little over an hour away.  I knew if I attended UMO that I would live there for a semester or two and then move home to save money.  I did not want that.

I wanted to be in the city.  Any city.  And if I couldn’t be in Boston, Portland was going to do.  That is how I wound up at the University of Southern Maine.  (USM)

High school had been a learning experience and a culture shock as I adjusted from Suburban Boston to Rural Maine.  But college was definitely more of a shock as I was exposed to so many different ideologies and lifestyles that I had not been used to.  Like high school, I made friends.  Some of which I am still friends with.

I made the choice to study abroad in England the Fall of my junior year.  I almost didn’t apply because I had had a rough year my sophomore year.  I remember telling my father that I couldn’t keep it together here so going to England was probably a bad idea.  My father said that he thought that three months away from USM might be exactly what I needed.  I chose to listen to him and listening to him was one of the best decisions of my life.

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Canada looks really good.  A sign we saw on our way to Ottawa in 2011.

My life had became a series of choices, even if they didn’t feel like choices at the time.

The choice to finish college.

The choice to enter a romantic relationship.

The choice to not return to England after graduation because I had a new boyfriend. (Stupid, stupid, stupid!)

The choice of employment.

The choice of friends and associations.

The choice of my living situations and roommates.

The choice to end my romantic relationships.

The choice to move back home.

The choice to pursue a new career.

The choice to go back to college.

The choice to get involved in politics.

The choice to join the Young Republicans.

The choice to start dating that younger guy in New York even if it didn’t make sense.

The choice to move to New York.

The choice to accept a marriage proposal.

The choice to buy a house.

The choice to start a family.

Where we are in life is based on the results of choices we have made.

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Everything in your life is based on a decision you have made or haven’t made.

However, these decisions have no guarantees.  Good decisions don’t always yield good results.  A good decision may have catastrophic results while a bad decision may surprisingly yield a very positive result.

Sometimes shitty things happen to good people.  We can’t control external factors.

But you always have to make the choice as to how you react to the shitty situation.

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This realization is overwhelming to me.  I used to view life as a series of events that happened to me and that everything was left to chance.

(So I guess Green Day was wrong in Good Riddance when they say that time grabs you by the wrist and directs you where to go…)

I did not realize how much of a role I played in my own life.

This realization comes to be at a time when my life in a crossroads.

In some ways, this scares the shit out of me.

The stable life that I knew is gone.  I have spent the last two years of my life reeling from what happened and I have been struggling to make sense of it.  I have been trying to figure out this “new normal” even though I yearned for the “old normal”.

I had always been one of those people who always had a “two-year plan”, a “five-year plan”, a “ten year plan” and a “twenty-five year plan.”  Now I barely have a “two-week” plan.

My need to have plans was because I didn’t like living in the present so escaped to the future.  But when the future became the present, I would escape further into the future.  I learned the hard lesson that the I need to be in the present because the future that you look forward to may not be there.

I do notice a change in how I choose to live in my life.  I choose to spent less time worrying.  I choose to surround myself with good people and let go of those who treat me poorly.

I choose to try to experience as much as a I can because we aren’t all guaranteed to make it to old age.   Bryon didn’t even make it to middle age.

But I have spent the last two years existing, trying to live even if, at times, I was just going through the motions.  I can’t stay in this state forever.  I am going to need to choose how I am going to live the remainder of my years.

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And I have no clue what the future is going to bring.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #29

It’s Friday and it is time for some Good Vibrations Gratitudes.  And usually, this is a fun post giving thanks to all the good things that happened to me during the week.

But this weeks post is going to be a little different.  I hope you “bear” with me.  (See what I did there?)

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The truth is that my heart has been pretty heavy this week.

On Monday morning I heard the song Fire and Rain by James Taylor.  Obviously, I had heard the song many times before but for some reason, the song stuck out to me.

I had arrived home and saw that I had a message from my friend Charlotte.

(You met her here).  Charlotte is an old friend from high and Charlotte is not her real name.   I try not to use the names of the living in my blog so my friends get blog names.  Her name is Charlotte because that was her French Class name and we sat next to each other in French class and she got stuck with me as a friend.

The text from Charlotte had devastating news.  She had heard that a high school friend Allison had passed away.  Being the detectives that we are, we looked for clues on social media.  We had nothing definite but I felt it in the pit of my stomach.

Finally, in the evening, we saw a post from her brother confirming the news we were fearing, that she had passed away.

Allison and I were friends in high school.  I always wondered why a girl who was so cool would want to be friends with the socially awkward, hyperverbal girl with a Boston accent (I had moved from the Boston area to Maine the summer before high school).

Obviously, we graduated from high school and lost touch in college.  It was an era before Facebook.

I saw her once in the mid 2000’s.  I was at Mass at our towns Catholic Church, St. Joe’s and she was there with her father.  We ran up to each other after Mass and hugged.

And I hadn’t seen her since.  We lost contact again.

I reconnected with her on Facebook shortly after Bryon died.  She came back into my life during my darkest days and she was my biggest cheerleaders when I was trying to pick up the pieces of my life.  I could always count on her to like all my lame pictures on Instagram.  I don’t know if she realized how much her kindness affected me.

I know I was just a drop in a bucket of all the people she touched and helped but I am really going to miss her.

It just doesn’t seem fair.  A group of us high school friends started talking about taking a trip to Quebec City to recreate the shenanigans from our French IV trip in 1996.  Now when we go, she won’t be there.

I was hoping to meet up with her.  I was in her area this spring and I thought about seeing if she was around but it was a bachelorette weekend.  It was busy and I was there for my friend who was getting married.  I decided I would try to meet up with her next time.

This is a harsh reminder that we don’t always get a next time.

Today is her funeral and I am sad that I won’t be able to attend to say good-bye.  I thought about it.  It would be doable if I dropped my daughter off at daycare when they open.  But being her only parent, I get nervous traveling three hours away.  What if something happened?

I thought about taking my daughter out of school that day and bringing her.  I asked her if she wanted to go to Pennsylvania for a funeral and or stay here and go to school.  She chose to go to school.  I can’t blame her.  She’s a few months short of 4 and has already been to more than her fair share of wakes and funerals.

I asked again, this time changing the inflection and tone of my voice to be all excited and I asked her if she wanted to go to Pennsylvania for a funeral and then I changed my tone to boring and asked if she wanted to stay here and go to school.  She still chose to go to school.  I can’t fool that girl.  She is so smart.

As one last Hail Mary, I looked at the map to see how close Bethlehem, PA was to Sesame Place.  Surely she would want to go to a funeral if we could do a side trip to Sesame Place but it was too far out of the way.

I wanted to go to support her family.  They are good people.  Her father had been our high school principal and her mother was a nurse.  Her siblings are great too.  I know they are going to have some dark days ahead.  Though I know that my presence wouldn’t lessen their pain. Not at all.

I admit, after my grandmother died, I thought I was unable to feel grief because I survived Bryon’s death.  But Allison’s death has hit me harder than I thought it would.

I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s because I am close to two years out from Bryon’s death and some of that numbness is going away.  I am starting to feel again.

Maybe it’s because with Bryon’s death, I was so involved that I didn’t get the opportunity to sit back and reflect about my own mortality at a young age.  I was too busy surviving and existing.  But with Allison’s death, I am removed enough to reflect on the fact that she is my age and she’s gone and people aren’t supposed to die this young.

I have been lucky that I have been able to lean on Charlotte and another friend.  We have all been leaning on each other.

But it leads me to another question- why does it take someone’s death to bring people closer together?  Why can’t it just be normal human behavior to appreciate people as a baseline? Why do we need to wait until a death and trauma to realize we care about people?

Then I started to wonder why the people with the brightest lights seem to get extinguished early.  Like Allison.  And Bryon.

At least I know that Heaven (or the Fifth Dimension, or the other side or wherever spirits go when they leave this world) must be a beautiful place.  Because people like Allison and Bryon are there.

(I did ask Bryon to give her a hug. So when a tall, handsome, smart and hysterically funny man from Upstate New York gives her hug, I hope she is not alarmed.)

So why am I writing this in my Gratitude Friday post?

I am writing about this because my heart feels heavy and I just don’t feel like writing and posting pictures of the scrunchies I saw in Wal-Mart even if I am grateful and excited that 90’s fashion has made a comeback.

When someone dies too soon, it is easy to dwell on the loss, but I am choosing to be grateful.

I am writing this post because I am truly grateful that Allison was in my life.

For befriending the socially awkward girl with the Boston accent and making her feel cool.

For the memories.

For sharing all her adventures on Instagram and letting us follow her along.

For being a light.

For filling the world with love.

For being an inspiration.

For sharing the struggles she overcame with honesty and grace.

For being a good example on how to live.

I am also grateful for this reminder to appreciate those in my life.

I am going to end this with the Prayer of St. Francis.  It feels fitting because she lived the message.  And because she loved animals and St. Francis was the Patron Saint of Animals.

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Allison’s obituary

Why this widow donated her wedding dress.

The dress came into my life on October 28, 2011.  Bryon and I had been engaged since Sept 6, 2011, and had set our wedding date for Sept 29, 2012.  We had our venue and wedding planning was in full swing. I needed a dress.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

I can’t say that I was looking forward to picking out a wedding dress.  5 out of 6 of my bridesmaids lived out of state so I was pretty much alone in the process.  I wasn’t going to be sitting with a group telling Randy that I was saying yes to the dress. (Yes, that is a TLC reference)

I have also struggled with my weight throughout my life so that also left me apprehensive about the whole wedding dress shopping process.

I had looked through some wedding magazines and I had an idea what I wanted.  I wanted a princess gown with sparkle but I didn’t want anything too crazy.

At that point in my life, I was working in a clerical position at a local emergency room and my schedule ran from Sunday to Thursday.  Bryon and I decided that we would go to Boston because Filene’s was going one of their “Running of the Brides” events on Friday, October 28, 2011.  It ended up being the last time Filene’s did the “Running of the Brides.”

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

These events were known to open at 4 am and be full of brides and their teams running around grabbing whatever they could find.  Bryon and I decided that we would aim for a ten a.m. shopping time after things settled down and we left Albany for Boston around 6 am.

Bryon was not going to go shopping with me. We were old-fashioned about many things and seeing my wedding dress was one of them.  Luckily, one of my bridesmaids who lived in Maine made the trip down to Boston to help me shop. Bryon decided that he was going to take a tour of Fenway Park while we were dress shopping.

I told my friend my vision and my size range.  I looked at a few racks and found exactly what I was looking for but it was a size too small. Yes, I planned to exercise and lose weight and all that but I didn’t feel comfortable relying on my plans.  I knew it was safer to err on a larger sized dress and have it altered own.

Luckily this dress was a mass-produced Alfred Angelo dress and I quickly located the same dress in my size.  I quickly located my friend who has a few dresses she found for me to try on. Then I stripped down in a busy store and put on the dress.  Normally that might seem bizarre, but that morning, everyone was doing it.

 

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Buying my dress at Filene’s “Running of the Brides in Boston, 2011.  (Cellphone picture)


I knew the moment I put on that dress that this was it. This was my dress. It was love at first sight.   It was a princess gown but not too poofy and just the right amount of sparkle.

There was what looked like a few black grease stains on the bottom but I figured they would come out with dry cleaning. (Spoiler alert- they did!)

I didn’t even try on the dresses my friend picked out. We both knew there was no point.

I called Bryon to tell him the news. He couldn’t believe that I picked out a dress so quickly as his tour of Fenway Park hadn’t started yet.  I told him how much the dress cost ($500) so he could input the data into his Google spreadsheet. He loved Google spreadsheets.

While Bryon took his Fenway tour, my friend and I took the subway out to where Bryon and I had parked our car and I locked my dress in the car.  We went back into the city and we met Bryon for lunch at Boston Beer Works right outside of Fenway Park.

Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

I don’t remember much more from that afternoon. I had my dress and I was happy. Bryon was happy that I was happy. We walked around the city. We went to Cheers (it will always be the Bull ‘n Finch to me) and Bryon got annoyed by some tourists that were blocking the door.  We had dinner at an Italian Restaurant in the North End that Bryon had seen featured in Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Bryon had a bit of a man-crush on Gordon Ramsay and gushed after a trip to the men’s room saying he went in the same urinal that Gordon Ramsay must have used.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography



Our wedding came and went.  It was my day. It was everything I dreamed it would be and I felt like a real princess.

Now it is five and a half years later.  My husband is dead and I have no use for this dress.

I am never going to wear the dress again.  I mean, even if I get married again, I am not going to wear it again. For one, it’s the dress I wore to marry my first husband who is now dead. Secondly, even if it wouldn’t be weird to wear the dress again, my tastes have changed. It was the perfect dress for me in 2011-2012 but now it wouldn’t suit my style in 2018.

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I can remember telling Bryon I wasn’t walking down the steps in the heels I was wearing. He obliged. Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography



The dress has sat in the back of the closet in my spare bedroom.  I never had it cleaned after the wedding and the bottom of the dress is dirty from being dragged on the floor all night.

When Bryon was alive, he encouraged me to get the dress cleaned and then sell the dress but I just couldn’t bring myself to part with the dress I wore on one of the happiest days of my life.

Now, this dress, which is a symbol of my happiness is also a symbol of my sadness.

EQ4C1830-334And I began to wonder what I should do with this dress.

The first thing people usually suggest to me is that I should save the dress for my daughter.

While I think it is touching when someone wears their mothers’ wedding dress, I felt like I would be burdening my daughter.  I didn’t want her to feel like she had to wear my dress.

Styles change.  Yes, she could change the style but the dress was strapless, to begin with. Also, the dress was made out of polyester, not some fancy fabric. Lastly, I hope my daughter doesn’t struggle with her weight like I do and the dress size may not be easy to work with.

I feel that my daughter deserves her own “say yes to the dress moment”.  A moment that, God willing, I will be there to witness.

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Flower Girl Dress Shopping, 2018  (Cell phone photo)


The second reason I don’t want my daughter to wear my wedding dress is a bit selfish.

I have attended two weddings since Bryon passed and my daughter and I will be in a party wedding very soon.

And at each moment I am always taken aback at the father-daughter moments. Because Bryon won’t be there to walk her down the aisle. He won’t dance with her.  (Which he once mentioned he wanted to dance to Sitting at the Dock of the Bay because it was in his favorite movie, Top Gun. I told him it would be our daughter’s decision, not his.) He won’t be beaming with pride. He won’t be making jokes, pretending to be annoyed at how much the wedding cost.

Now I don’t know who is going to walk my daughter down the aisle.

Maybe she will have a stepfather. I am optimistic that I will fall in love again. And he will be a wonderful man because I wouldn’t settle for anything less.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

Or maybe my daughter will have her grandfather walk her down the aisle. Or maybe her Godfather will walk her down the aisle. Or maybe one of the many uncles she has, the men who were Bryon’s closest friends.  She has lots of great men in her life to choose from.

But the only thing that is certain is that Bryon won’t be walking her down the aisle and that moment is going to take me aback.  Even if that moment is brief, that moment will be there. I will feel my breath being taken away. I will feel like I am being punched in the stomach.  It will sting. There is a good chance I will tear up. Because even though so many people love my daughter, the man who gave her life and loved her so much won’t be there to walk her down the aisle.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography


And if she were in my wedding dress, it would be too hard for me.

So this brings me to this wedding dress from one of the happiest days in my life that was a symbol of all my sadness.

I am in the process of clearing Bryon’s belongings out of the house. Letting go of each item is a process, no matter how small.  First I have to decide if an item holds a practical use for me  If not, does someone I know have a practical use for the item?  Is the item broken? Those questions are usually easy to answer.  It’s the sentimental items that are tough.

Sometimes I break down and cry. Sometimes I get angry because he is dead and all I have is…stuff.  Sometimes I feel empty. Sometimes I feel nothing at all.

My wedding dress was definitely a sentimental item.

EQ4C2025-437I felt like my wedding dress wasn’t done yet.  My dress had done what it was meant to do.  It had served its purpose.   It made me feel beautiful on one of the happiest days of my life.  I felt like my dress wasn’t mean to just sit in my closet and remain a symbol of my sadness.

One day I felt like it was time to let go of my dress.

I remembered hearing about charities that take donated wedding gowns and making gowns for babies who have passed away.

Just like I knew right away that my wedding dress was the one, I knew immediately that this was what I was meant to do with my wedding dress.

The families of those babies are in a deep and profound grief and while I don’t know the pain of losing a child, I do know deep and profound grief. I felt like I needed to whatever I could to help.

EQ4C2130-494I couldn’t think of a more dignified second life for a dress that made me so happy. That dress didn’t deserve to sit in a closet, avoided.  That dress would go on for a deeper purpose.

It brings me a sense of healing to donate that dress will, in some form, bring comfort to a grieving family.  My wedding dress made me look beautiful at my wedding and lives on in my memories and these angel gowns may be the last (and maybe the only) chance for these grieving parents have to see their child dressed in something beautiful.

I went to google and saw that most of the charities that made angel gowns weren’t taking wedding dress donations.  I looked through my google results and saw that there were many other worthy organizations that accept weddings dresses for various uses.  But I felt drawn to this particular purpose.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

After searching, I found the Facebook page of a charity made angel gowns and it was local.  I sent the charity a message over Facebook messenger to inquire if they were currently accepting and they responded within the hour.  They were accepting wedding dresses and I could drop it off at a Ford dealership on the other side of town.

I also learned that they were looking for shipping sponsors to purchase VISA gift cards as these gowns sometimes have to be overnighted free of charge to the recipients.  Gift cards to Wal-Mart and Jo-Ann’s were also appreciated as these seamstresses were volunteers and can always use donations for materials to decorate these gowns. I did decide to be a shipping sponsor and a donated a VISA gift card along with my dress.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

It was also requested that the crinoline be removed.  Crinoline is that netting-like material that makes up petticoat.  My dress had a lot of it.

I took the dress out of the closet.  Then I took it out of the garment bag.  I looked at the dress one last time. I contemplated trying it on the dress on but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.  As requested by the charity, I removed the crinoline. Then I removed the sparkly band that sat just under the bust of the dress.  I decided that I would set it aside for my daughter. She can incorporate it into her wedding, should she choose to do so.

Then I cried.  I bawled.

I hadn’t bawled like that in many months.  Sure my eyes tear up a little but I couldn’t remember the last time I bawled like this.

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First date. Engagement. Wedding Day. All at this bar. Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

I put the dress back in the garment back and brought the dress downstairs where it hung on a hook on the exterior door of my kitchen.

The dress sat there for 4 days because I did not have the time to bring the dress where my daughter would not have been present.  I was afraid that I was going to be an emotional mess and I did not want her to see that.  Though part of me dragged my feet because this would be final.

One morning after I dropped my daughter off at daycare,  I decided it was time. I put the dress into my car and drove to Latham Ford.

Dropping off the dress was an easy process.  The salesman held the door open for me and told me to go over the receptionist.  The receptionist took the dress and thanked me.

And then I left.

At that moment I felt nothing and everything all at once.

My dress was gone.

I couldn’t ask for it back.

I didn’t cry.

I know I made the right choice for me.

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All wedding day photos are courtesy of my wedding photographer, Heidi Benjamin.  Thank you for being so gracious.

http://www.heidibenjamin.com/

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #20

It’s Friday!

You know what means- time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

Here are the 5 things I am grateful for this week:

  1.  Seeing H-bomb 

    I don’t really remember life without my cousin H-bomb.  My earliest memory of her was in my Nana’s kitchen.  I had to have been around my daughter’s age (3 and a half.  Can’t forget that half.)  My Nana was feeding H-bomb, who was sitting in a high chair.  I want to say that the Price is Right was playing on a black and white TV but I could be wrong.  If it wasn’t on, it should have been.

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    Crowley Cousins- Easter 1982- Woburn, MA (H-bomb’s siblings would arrive in 1983 and 1985)

    H-bomb has pretty much seen me through all stages of life- hyper kid, awkward middle schooler, high schooler, college kid, singleton, politico, wife, mother, widow and…whatever weird stage I am in now.  And she has been my best friend through it all.

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    September 29, 2012- Albany, NY  Photo credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

     

  2. Going to the House of Seven Gables 

    As I said in my last post about my trip to Boston, I finally got to go to the House of Seven Gables.  I had wanted to go about 20 years ago but no one wanted to go with me.  I was excited that H-bomb and the gang were going.We kept joking that all my dreams from 20 year ago were finally coming true.   I don’t know if the spirit of my younger self comes alive more when I am around H-bomb or if I am more in touch with it due to all my self-reflection over the past year and a half.

    I am also thankful I am getting this period of time to examine and reflect on my life and choose to live my life more deliberately.

  3. My future son-in-law’s birthday 

    Okay, I don’t know if this boy will be my son-in-law someday.  It started as a joke.  This little boy is the son of Bryon’s best friend.  He is 5 months older than my daughter and it has always been the joke that they will get married someday.14224804_1469396146411319_7112937204134600051_n.jpgThe other day we (my daughter, my future son-in-law, his mom-and one of my besties, her younger son and I) were walking out of daycare.  My daughter and my future son-in-law are ahead of us and there is a random lady there.

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    April 2017

    Future son-in-law (to random lady):  I am going to marry her.
    His mom/my bestie, me, and everyone within earshot: Awwwwww!
    Random lady: Can I come?
    My daughter:  No.

    We need to work on being more gracious and tactful.

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    This past weekend was my future son-in-law’s 4th birthday and we went to his school party at the trampoline place.

    On Tuesday night (the night before his actual birthday) we all saw Disney Jr Dance Party at the historic Palace Theater.  Ironically I only got pics with my daughter and the birthday boys little brother.  Ooops.

    Whether the kids end up marrying each other or not, it is an amazing experience to watch them grow up together and see their friendship grow.

  4. Spending time with my friend Gentel/Corks and Forks Event 

    Last weekend I got to see my friend Gentel (she blogs here).   Gentel and her boyfriend were in Albany for the weekend and invited me to attend the Corks and Forks fundraiser to raise awareness for Huntington’s Disease.   I didn’t know much about Huntington’s Disease.  You can read more about the disease here.It was a great event.  And it was great to spend time with Gentel and her boyfriend.

    I hope to see them sometime soon.

  5. Everyone in my life 

    I know this is a broad one but I am thankful for everyone in my life.images (1)For everyone who is there for me and my daughter.

    For everyone who messages me and checks up on me if they think I am sad.

    For everyone who has offered to help me.

    For everyone who listens to me.  And for everyone that shares their stories with me.

    For everyone who encourages me.

    For everyone who sends me funny texts and SnapChats.

    For everyone who helps me create happy memories.

    I think about close friends, new friends, old friends, school friends, work friends, political friends, widow friends, internet friends, Maine friends, New York friends and former friends.

    I truly believe that everyone has been in my life for a reason.  I am thankful for all the love, light and laughter in my life.  I am also choosing to be thankful for all those who have caused pain.  Because that pain has helped shape my character and taught me the importance of treating people better.

    I am thankful for all those who have played a role in my life.

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    What are you thankful for this week?

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Widowhood: The toughest pills to swallow

I just want to start this out by saying that I am not taking any pills.  Only the occasional Ibuprofen or antacid.  I am only using that term metaphorically.

But I decided to write about the hardest things that I have had to accept.

  1. Not having closure

    I just want to preface this part that there is no easy way to watch someone you love die.

    But I didn’t always think that.

    For a long time, I was jealous of almost every other widow. I was jealous of the widows who lost their spouses quickly because they didn’t have to watch them suffer.  I was jealous of the spouses who had a diagnosis and a life expectancy because they got to chance to say what needed to be said.

    I got neither.

    Bryon’s illness was unexpected.  And he was put on a breathing machine so he couldn’t talk.  And he was so weak that he couldn’t write.  He could mouth words but I couldn’t always read them correctly.

    I had so many things I wanted to tell him when he got better.  And I will never get to.

    During those months, I did not know if he was going to live or die.  Obviously I was hoping for the better outcome.  For five months, I lived day by day, desperately clinging to hope.

    A friend of mine referred to it as limbo but it was complete hell.

    After I was told there was nothing left that could be done, a part of me was relieved that the nightmare was going to be over soon.  It wasn’t going to end the way I wanted it to end, but at least it was going to end.

  2. Never getting to that sweet spot

    Anyone who has ever been married knows that marriage isn’t always easy.  Bryon and I loved each other fiercely but we both had strong personalities which presented it’s own set of challenges.  We both struggled with our own vulnerabilities.  We were also competitive.

    For many years, I was resentful that I had to leave Maine and relocate to New York.  And I made sure Bryon knew it.

    But we pushed through.  We became parents and we settled into our life as a family.  I truly believe our last year was our best.  We were just about to get to a really sweet spot in our marriage and it was all taken away.

  3. Letting go of the “what ifs” and the guilt

    In the early days of widowhood, I kept wondering what if?  I thought about all the “what ifs” that accompanied his illness and his death.

    I thought about all the “what ifs” that accompanied our relationship. What if I had been a better wife?  What if I hadn’t argued with him about XY and Z?

    This has been one of the hardest things to accept.  That I did everything I could do to and that it wasn’t my fault.  I needed to accept that sometimes horrible things just happen.  And this one happened to me.

  4. Even if he survived, things would never have been the same

    When Bryon first died, I would always think about how much better my life would be if Bryon hadn’t died.  Especially when things would go wrong around the house.

    I had a jolt of reality and this was a painful jolt.

    During those early months, whenever I would wish Bryon were still alive, I imagined him as he was before he got sick.  The strong and healthy Bryon I knew.  But over time, I began to admit to myself that had Bryon survived, he would have been a very sick and disabled man.

    Our life would have been very different.  I wouldn’t be living the comfortable married life I once knew.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed between working full time and being a single mother but had Bryon survived, I would still be working full time, taking care of my daughter and I would have had to take care of a very sick husband.

    Don’t get me wrong, I would have done it.  You know…in sickness and in health.  But I wouldn’t have had the life I knew before.  My life would have been much harder.

  5. Reconciling the past and the present

    One of the hardest things I have had to accept if that there is no reconciling my past and my present.

    During the early months of grief, I would have given anything to get Bryon back.

    But the further removed I become to my old life, the more I change.  And I have to admit to myself that I don’t want to be the person I was when Bryon was alive.

    I have memories that I treasure from our life together but I was such a different person back then.  And I don’t want to be that person.  She didn’t appreciate what she had.  She was ungrateful.  But I can’t hold it against my younger self.  She didn’t know how good of a life she had and how easily that life could change.  And there was no way she could know.

    I am a different person now.  The trauma of widowhood pushed me to re-examine my life and do some soul searching.  For the first time in my life, I actually like myself.  As time goes forward, the harder it becomes to imagine my old life.  Because if I had my old life, I wouldn’t have my new self.  But even if I could bring my new self into my old life, would Bryon even like my new self?

    I guess there is no point in dwelling on it.

Boundaries

My close friends and I were discussing the role that narcissists have played in our lives.

None of us have a Psych degree but we have all had issues with narcissists whether it was someone in our social circle, someone we dated, someone in our family or if they were in-laws.

Maybe you know a narcissists.  Narcissists do not know empathy to others, they think the world revolves around them and they will tell lies to people to turn them against each other.  If anyone makes them insecure, they try to change everyone’s opinion of the person that makes them insecure so people see them in a negative manner.

Research states that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is rare but it seems that our group of friends have encountered more than our fair share of narcissists.

I have a few theories.

The first theory consists on our influence of others.  I believe that we all vibrate at a certain level of energy.  It could be good energy or bad.  That energy ripples out and effects those around us.  People are affected whether we are spreading love, light and positivity or  if we are spreading selfishness, lies and negativity.

Our behavior affects others.  And other’s behavior effects us.

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Narcissists are confusing beings because they disguise their true selves and most people are fooled.  They pass as perfectly nice people. They are good at fooling people because that is their natural state.

When you are the victim of a narcissist, you feel alone because everyone else thinks that they narcissist is great.

Narcissists can cause a lot of damage in families and social circles.

One theory I have to the inflated perceived narcissistic population is that some people may grow up with a narcissist parent or grandparent and that a child may grow learning that manipulation is simply the natural way you treat people.  These people are probably not narcissists in their core but are merely using the “skills” that they learned from their narcissist parent grandparent.

This theory has a positive spin as a person may grow up with a narcissist parent or grandparent and learn that that is not how you treat people.

My second theory is that some social circles, including the one that I am belong to, are very inclusive and since narcissists are good at hiding their true colors which are not beautiful like a rainbow.  But my social circle does not want to be closed off so we will take the risk.

Widowhood has made me wiser.

When I became a widow, I began to examine every area of my life. Heck, I am still examining and learning.

I want to make sure I am living my life to it’s fullest potential and that I surround myself with love and not negativity.

I began to truly appreciate those who love me and my daughter.

But I also became really good at noticing people who are toxic, people who are phony and people who had an ulterior motive to our friendship.

Before widowhood, I would have brushed off those feelings and given the offenders the benefit of the doubt.

And on top of that, I would have gone out of my way to make sure they liked me because I was a people pleaser.

I ignored my intuition on so many accounts, despite the fact that my intuition is almost always right.

But now that I am a widow, I can spot a phony person right away.  I can tell when a person is trying to manipulate me.  I can see all the ulterior motives.

I have learned to listen to and trust my intuition.

I think it is a widow superpower.

So in the beginning of widowhood, I removed toxic people from my life.  Part of it was necessity.  But mostly because I didn’t have enough bandwidth to handle the drama.

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But then it became clear to me that I just didn’t want to deal with the drama.  I only have so many hours of the day and our lives only consist of so many days and I do not want to spend them with toxic people.

And while narcissists are toxic, there are other types of toxic people.  I just opened with narcissists because they were a clear example and my life had been affected by a narcissist for many years and I hold the greatest empathy for anyone dealing with a narcissist.

Some toxic people manipulate.  Some tear others down in order to make others look good.  Some argue constantly.  Some do whatever it takes to make you feel sh*tty about yourself.

So I took a stand.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Because I was never good at saying no to people.

I decided that I was going to say no to toxicity.

I had to cut some people out of my life.  I needed to keep positive people around me and my daughter and I needed to use what energy I had to focus on the important things.

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And toxic people don’t like being cut out.

They are persistent.

They will try to manipulate you and when they can’t manipulate you, they will try to manipulate those around you.  They will try to change other’s view of you to gain sympathy for themselves.

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Simply cutting toxic people out of your life isn’t enough.

I learned that you need to set firm boundaries.

I used to feel that boundaries were purely a physical matter like having people stay out of the master bedroom or deciding who has a spare key to your house.   Or when you are a kid and your sibling is annoying you and you say that there is an invisible wall that they can not cross.

But boundaries are also emotional, mental, and social.

How you let people treat you is a boundary.  Do you allow people to walk all over you?  Do you let people treat you poorly? Do you let people boss you around?  Do you let people make you feel small?

I used to have a friend in my younger days who would cancel plans with me on a moments notice because a guy asked her out.  I would be upset but I let her do it.  And she would do it again…and again…and again.  I did not have the self-esteem to realize that this behavior was not acceptable and I did not set any boundaries.

In case you are wondering, I have not spoken to that person since my wedding.  It all makes sense to me now.  Before I was with Bryon,  I was a people pleaser and not only did I let people treat me poorly, I would try to get those people to like me more.  But Bryon set the boundary for me.  He would tell me when my friendships were one sided and he would advise me not to put any effort into those friendships.  And this friend did not like that she could not push me around if Bryon was in the picture.

But Bryon isn’t here to help me set boundaries.  It is a skill that I have been learning to implement.

This is my life.

It is okay to stand up for myself.  You don’t deserve to be treated like a doormat.

It’s okay to choose not to hang out with someone because they make you feel poorly.  Your friendship is a privilege, not a right.

It’s okay to delete someone from social media.

Not everyone deserves an explanation about your life choices.

I write in this blog and will continue to do so.  But just because I am open about my grief does not mean that everyone is privy to my personal life.  I have had to exercise my boundaries and make it clear that I determine what I share.

Setting boundaries is about taking care of yourself and protecting yourself (and those you love) from negativity.

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