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.

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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

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #28

Today is Friday! You survived the week!

Do you know what this means?  It’s time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

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Here are 5 things that I am grateful for this week.

  1.  Friday means Chinese Food for lunch. 

    It’s my own weird tradition.  I must do it a lot because they know me at my local restaurant.  I used to be a strictly sweet and sour chicken combo person.  But I decided I needed to try new things so now I am strictly a pork lo mein and egg roll person.IMG_20180713_133921

  2. Movie Date
    My daughter went on a movie date with the boy she says she is going to marry.Since she is only 3 and her “fiance” is only 4, the date was chaperoned by the moms. Kind of like the Duggars except the kids are allowed to hold hands and they are allowed to hug to.  Not that weird, awkward side hugging that the Duggars do.

    Annnnnd…I think I just totally outed myself as someone who watches the Duggars.  Oh well.

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    Moving on-

    I am not going to lie.  Part of the reason I get the large popcorn is because the picture always makes me laugh.  We never finish it.  She usually spills it on the floor.  Along with the M&M’s.

    What can I say?  I am a sucker.

    We saw Incredibles 2.  My daughter refused to nap beforehand.  She had trouble focusing on this movie.  I think she was more excited about the idea of the movie than the actual movie.  Oh well.

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  3. The staff at the movie theater who have to clean up after my kid. 

    Most of us probably take for granted clean movie theaters.  So thank you!!!images

  4. Taco Tuesday with friends 

    A time to catch up with dear friends. and eat yummy tacos.No pics.  I am sorry.  What can I say?  I suck this week.

  5. Personal Growth 

    I value any time I get to read and write.  I am working on self love and feeding my soul.I saw on Facebook that my friend Roda at Growing Self Blog had bought The Untethered Soul.  That book has been sitting on my nightstand for a really long time.  (My “to read” pile is ridiculous).  So I decided that now would be the right time to start it.

    I mean, if all the cool kids are doing it…

    I decided to start it because Roda bought it.  And should and of the subject matter come up in her blog, I wanted to be prepared.  I didn’t want to feel like the blog reader equivalent of Elle Woods on her first day of law school.

    The book reminds me of The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle where you only need to read a little at a time because the information is a lot of digest.  A lot of “Wow” moments.  The good news is that the chapters in The Untethered Soul are short so you can read a chapter a day if that is your speed.  (It’s mine!)

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What are you grateful for this week?

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Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #27

Today is Friday!  Okay, it’s barely still Friday but I am going to work with it.

You survived the week!

Do you know what this means?  It’s time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

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Here are 5 things that I am grateful for this week.

  1.  Saturday at my bestie’s house.

    My bestie Kimmy moved away.  Luckily not too far.  My daughter and I took a drive up to the North Country to visit.  It was a day filled with fancy cheese, boxed wine (for the mommies), apple juice boxes for the littles, mac and cheese bake and buffalo chicken dip.  It was nice to spend time with Kimmy and see her new house!

  2. An evening with Robin Brillantes

    My daughter and I met up with our friend Robin Brillantes for dinner at Chipotle.  It was great to catch up.

    We then went to a local park so my daughter can burn off some energy.  She has been so hyper at bedtime and on this night, she went right to bed.  I guess we need to add in more activity.

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  3. Seeing the turtles

    I never knew there were turtles in our local park.  That was a pleasant surprise!

  4. Gymnastics and dance.

    Summer classes have started. I don’t have any pics but her dance pics came in so here it is.  Picture of a picture.

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  5.  All the positive energy the Universe has been sending me.

    The other morning, the Universe was sending me some happy music which put my in a high vibrational energy.  Thank you Universe.

What are you grateful for this week?

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Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #26

Today is Friday! You survived the week!

Do you know what this means?  It’s time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

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Here are 5 things that I am grateful for this week.

1.  Surviving the flash flood.

I was driving on a major road in Albany and out of nowhere, I massive thunderstorm hit.  This major road was flooding.  I have never seen anything like it.  I admit, I see the flash flood alerts on my phone but never knew they actually happened.  I have been driving since I was 16 (turning 40 later this summer) and have spent all my winters in Maine and Upstate New York.  I have driven through blizzards and ice storms and I had never been so scared.  For a minute, I thought my car was going to get stuck.

Luckily I made it to where I was supposed to be.  I was on that same stretch a few hours later and all that water was gone.  I will always heed those flash flood warnings from

2.  That the heatwave finally broke.

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3. 3rd/4th of July Fun

My daughter and I were lucky to spend the 3rd and 4th of July with close friends.

 

4.  Those who continue to help me.

Widowhood doesn’t go away after one year.  I am thankful for those who have stuck around and continue to help me whether it is putting in my A/C unit (I don’t know how I would have survived this week) to helping me sort out Bryon’s belongings and such.  Thank you!

5.  The spare key.

I locked myself out of the house but luckily there was a spare key.  And for that I am thankful.

What are you thankful for this week?

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Why does God hate me?

Like, seriously, what did I ever do to Him? Or Her?

(Sorry, that was the Catholic worldview I was raised with coming through).

Anyone who says, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” has lived an easy life.

Often, I wonder where I went wrong?  What did I do to piss off the big guy upstairs?

(Sorry, that Catholic worldview coming through again.  I don’t know the female equivalent to “big guy”.  “Big girl” seems rude.)

I was thinking about this and I posed the question to Kimmy Gibbler on a phone call.  She promptly told me it was because I did not like ketchup on my hot dogs.   I immediately corrected her and told her that that is disgusting.  Ketchup is the condiment of the devil.  Heck, it’s even red.  Isn’t the devil supposed to be red?

Kimmy said she appreciates the strength in my conviction.  I don’t back down.

Then she told me that God hates me because I root for the New England Patriots.

I told her that couldn’t be it because God must love them since they win so much.

Even SNL Jesus said that while he is the son of God, Tom Brady has got to be the nephew of God.

Is it because I roll my eyes when people tell me that God doesn’t hate me?

Is it because I secretly (or not so secretly) love 1990’s boy bands?

Is it because I watch too much trash TV on TLC?

Is it because I voted for George W. Bush not just once but twice?  (I am not sorry for that).

Is it because I was a smug Catholic all those years?

Is it because I don’t find Amy Schumer funny?

Is it because I am impatient AF?

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Is it because I am a cover hog in bed?

Is it because I drive a Subaru?

Is it because of that one time, in 2003 or 2004, that I forgot to leave a tip at the Steak and Shake in Florida?  I felt horrible when I realized…

Is it because of all those times I fought with my brother as to who gets the “gold spoon” whenever we ate ice cream at Nana and Papa’s house?

Is it because I am can be prideful and stand-offish?

Is it because I expect an apology whenever I am wronged?

Is it because I bite my nails when stressed out?

Is it because I cuss a lot?

Is it because my car is a mess? Because my house is a mess?  Because my life is a mess?

Is it because I got a D in Chemistry in high school?  I mean, I still got into college…

Is it because I like to be right and I have no problem saying “I told you so”?

Is it because I sometimes forget my reusable shopping bags?  Or that I forget to turn the lights off when I leave the room?

Is it because that one time when I was 14 and my friends and I went to see Aladdin the theater and the ticket guy charged me $2.50 because he thought I was under 12 instead of the $4.00 adult price?

I try to be a good person.  I vote and I like to think I am a productive member of American society.

I just don’t know what I deserved to have all this happen…

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #24

It’s Friday-

Time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

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I just want to note: It’s been a few weeks since I did a Gratitude post and I felt the need to start back up again. We all need some gratitude in our lives. Usually I focus on the previous week but honestly, this week hasn’t been the best. Nothing really bad has happened. No one died. No one has lost their limbs. (#perspective). There have been a few positives but there have been some negatives. Some drama that has taken up too much energy in my head space.

I hate even bringing up that it’s drama because I don’t want to even validate it. And while 90’s fashion has made a comeback (which I love) and I love reconnecting with old high school classmates, I have zero interest in actually reliving those years. I turn 40 this summer, FFS!

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This post is going to cover some events that have happened over the past month.

I am sorry if the language in the memes offends you.

Actually I am not sorry. This is my blog and I made the decision that I will express myself how I wish on my platform. #unapollogeticallykerry

  1. Hard Lessons.

    I am going to choose to be grateful for the lessons that I have been learning this week. This week has been a trying week and it has caused me to do a lot of reevaluating, especially on the topic of boundaries. Just how much bullsh*t am I going to tolerate? My tolerance level for BS is pretty low, especially considering that two years ago, I was on a journey to Hell and Back. #perspective

    I don’t have the answers I need (yet!) but I am searching for clarity. I have been writing my feelings in my a journal and I have been sorting them out. Even though this has been a frustrating week, I am going to come out of this week with stronger character than when I started.

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    My mood this week
  2. Fenway Trip

    I am always grateful for a trip to Boston to see my Red Sox. I don’t care what people say-screw Disney because Fenway Park is the happiest place on Earth. And I am glad I got to share the trip with my daughter and my bestie.

  3. Def Leppard and Journey Concert with Kimmy Gibbler

    A month ago, Kimmy Gibbler and I got to see Def Leppard and Journey at the Times Union Center in Albany. The concert was awesome! I didn’t go to many concerts when I was younger. Partly because I lived in Maine and there weren’t as many but partly because 20 year old Kerry did not know how to live.

    I had so much fun. The music was so loud and my heart was pounding. Kimmy and I did observe some older people who don’t get out often and were having trouble handling their fun.

    At one point, Kimmy and I were in a line at the concession stand. Some drunk older woman gets behind us and starts to rub my back. I have personal space issues to begin with and I was way too sober to let a strange woman touching me go unnoticed. I finally say “Yeah…you can stop rubbing my back now.” Luckily she did.

    Best story of the stars aligning right. The only food line with a short line was the fried dough. I didn’t eat lunch or dinner and was so hungry I could eat my arm. So I got friend dough and some of the sugar spilled on me. Kimmy pointed it out and I smile and say “Pour some sugar on me.”

  4. Trip to Cedar Point in Ohio.

    Over Memorial Day weekend, my daughter and I drove 8 hour-ish to Ohio. We met up with my Michigan Bestie and my Chicago Bestie and rented an airbnb. Another old friend happened to be in Cleveland and came to stay on night. It was a great time and I will write more about this trip later.

    Funny anecdote. I went to the Def Leppard and Journey concert on a Wed and was driving out to Ohio on Fri. As I was driving through Cleveland and I heard a commercial on the radio for the Def Leppard and Journey concert coming up that Monday. I got excited. I hop everyone in Cleveland attended.

  5. Dance Recital.

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    I am grateful I got to see my daughter dance even if it was very sad for me because her father wasn’t sitting beside me.

    The reality is, I have pretty much gotten used Bryon being gone. At least day to day. Please don’t conclude that that means that I don’t feel a void. I feel a void every day. But I am used to feeling the void and the emptiness.

    But it’s moment like this that I truly miss Bryon because this was an event that we anticipated that we’d be sharing together. When our daughter was a baby, we talked about how we would enroll her in a dance class and she would have a dance recital. It’s the memories that we’d anticipated together where I feel the void the most. Because they weren’t just my dreams and plans. They were our dreams and plans.

    I has dawned on me that we didn’t anticipate too far into the future. Sure, we talked about doing dance classes. We talked about going to a Red Sox game and New York City at Christmastime. Then there are other milestones like graduations, college and Bryon looked forward to planning her wedding. (He liked to throw parties. I am probably the only bride who had her groom plan her wedding).

    We could only anticipate a few years into the future because our daughter was a baby. We did not know what her interests were going to be. That is another realization that makes me miss Bryon. Our daughter hasn’t yet grown into the person she is meant to be and he won’t see it when it happens.

    And that makes me sad. I guess I have to have hope that I won’t feel empty forever, right?

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    I am sorry that I ended this blog post on a heavy note.

    What are you grateful for this week?

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