Monday, December 20, 2010

December and What I Don’t Miss

The Hours…
Jen was an up and coming Senior Associate attorney in her firm. She was well liked, respected and worked extremely hard. One thing that I will not miss is the extreme stress that December brought to our household. As an up and coming attorney she had to make her billing hours quota and December is an extremely busy time for a law firm. It’s all about hours billed…and her firm was no different.

In no way am I slamming her firm…the truth of the matter is that ALL law firms are like that…it’s all about Billable Hours. Starting in mid-November we (the girls and I) wouldn’t see much of her. She worked very long hours and the weekend. She routinely got home after I went to bed at 11:00pm. She missed out on the chaos of making dinner, feeding the girls, giving baths and the bed time routine. It was hard and put a LOT of stress on our marriage.

At one point I actually suspected she might be having an affair because she was never home before midnight. Sometimes it would be 1:00am, 2:00am, I just couldn’t imagine anyone wanting or putting up with working that much, but she did. We would call her at 8:00pm when the girls were going to bed and I would call her at 11:00pm or whatever time I went to bed and she was always there working. I dismissed the affair theory when I went to my first Holiday dinner party given by the Firm and quickly found out that this was common practice for ALL the attorneys in the firm regardless of the age, status, title, they all worked these insane hours...ALL of them and came to accept it.

I do not and would not advise anyone to become a lawyer unless they intend to never marry and certainly not if they intend to have children. The stress that the profession puts on a marriage is flat out awful. When the girls talk about when they want to be when they grow up they always say they want to be a lawyer like Mom, for now I just let it go.

Later On

Later on after Jen was diagnosed; we talked about it (her and I) and how much she regretted missing out on things with the girls. How she would give anything to have that time back. Kids grow so fast…you blink and they have grown two inches and are an entire different size bigger in clothes. Their likes and dislikes change. Their looks, mannerisms and vocabulary…they are only little once.

I’m not trying to be a “downer” I’m not. I just want people to realize that December is friggin nuts. The Holiday season is crazy…we ALL get caught up in it…ALL OF US…take a minute to stop and slow down. Don’t forget the little things and the little ones… those smiling little faces get big quick and soon enough they have their own busy social calendars and schedules…

I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday season

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Total Slacker

I have been totally slacking in my updates…blame it on the craziness of the holidays, the cold that has sucked all the energy from me over the last two weeks or the lack of inspiration to sit at a computer while at home…pick one…in any event…here is a quick one.

So I did what so many of us do over the Thanksgiving holiday break…I gathered up the kids and went back home…well, where I grew up, where I was raised, where a majority of my family still lives…I will attempt to explain my hesitation to say “home”.

The Burgh is my “home” now. It’s where I choose to come and it’s where I wanted to raise a family. It’s funny for me to say because I did NOT want to move to Pittsburgh. I said I would go anywhere OTHER then the town of rusted out steel mills and abandoned factories and now I love it here. It truly is an awesome place to raise and family and the people are just…nicer and friendlier.

It’s always great to go back where you grew up, but this (the Burgh) is my home now and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. My friends attempt to sway me back to NJ…but I can’t leave. In some ways it’s very tempting…but I can’t leave, I have roots here now and…honestly the thought has crossed my mind, but I don’t want to leave.

Going Back
It’s always nice to go back where you grew up and see family and friends. Some friends you haven’t seen in years simply because as you get older and kids school, schedules and activities dictate your world. It just always feels awesome when you get together for that few hours and it’s like you never left. You may talk about the same things but the conversation never gets old and doesn’t skip a beat.

Last year it was really hard to go back and see people. I didn’t want people feeling bad or sorry for me but I wear my heart on my sleeve and it was pretty apparent. This year was different. I was happy and it was pretty obvious to see.

New Beginnings and Guilty Feelings
The person that I have been spending a lot of time with, along with her daughter came with us to NJ for the holiday. It was nice…sort of refreshing to have someone else come along. People focused on them and not so much me…and they also picked up on the fact that I seemed much more calm, relaxed…happy. It was nice.

I still catch myself thinking about how different my life is now. How different the girls lives are and how things might have been turned out, but sitting around and dwelling on that sort of stuff…is well….dangerous…at least for me. I am NOT the rah-rah cheerleader type of person, and everyone now and then I catch myself having to kick myself in the butt and say “stop dwelling, move on, it’s going to be okay”. Our lives (me and the girls) are forever changed, but life goes on. I fully intend to make the best out of it.

I find myself feeling really happy and then feeling a little guilty…it’s hard to explain. What I went through changes your view and perspective on many things. I need to go on, but wish I didn’t feel guilty at times about feeling good…about feeling happy. I’m genuinely excited how things are going - it seems to be working out really, really well. I feel very fortunate to have met someone who truly cares for me and the girls.

I have no questions for this entry. No lectures, no big speeches or points of view. I’m not pondering anything super important, no major decisions or thinking about life altering events…I’m…well…just feeling…..happy.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving…

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Children’s Grief Awareness Day - Thursday November 18

A real short post today...reminder for tomorrow....

Tomorrow is Children’s Grief Awareness Day – wear something BLUE to show your support.

From the Caring Place Webpage

Children's Grief Awareness Day
About the DayChildren's Grief Awareness Day

Children's Grief Awareness Day is observed every year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. This time of year is a particularly appropriate time to support grieving children because the holiday season is often an especially difficult time after a death. Children’s Grief Awareness Day seeks to bring attention to the fact that often support can make all the difference in the life of a grieving child.

This year Children's Grief Awareness Day is November 18.

Children's Grief Awareness Day provides an opportunity for all of us to raise awareness of the painful impact that the death of a loved one has in the life of a child, an opportunity for all of us to recognize and support the millions of grieving children across the nation—the thousands of grieving children right in our own communities—and the grieving children we know and see in our daily lives, an opportunity to make sure that these children receive the support they need.
Children and Grief

Before they graduate from high school, one child out of every 20 will have a parent die—and that number doesn't include those who experience the death of a brother or sister, a close grandparent, aunt or uncle, or friend.

Children who have had someone die—especially a close family member — can feel the loss forever. They eventually go back to school. They might pick some activities back up. They certainly look "normal." And yet there's still that hole inside.

It often gets worse during the holiday season when the already hard feelings of longing and pain become intensified and when memories of past holidays contrast sharply with the loss of the present holiday.

This is a time of year when the grieving child can feel even more set apart, different from their peers, more alone than ever.

Every school and every community has children who have experienced some type of loss. Even if they keep their loss and experience to themselves, there are many children who are grieving among us.

These children can be helped to not feel so alone. Children and adults together can show their support for grieving children and show their awareness of what grieving children might be going through by participating in Children's Grief Awareness Day.
A Special Day to Remember—How It Began

Children's Grief Awareness Day began in Pennsylvania, growing out of the partnership of the Highmark Caring Place with hundreds of schools across the state — the Caring Team for Children—and the desire of the students to do more to bring attention to what their classmates were dealing with for the most part in silence.

After touring the Caring Place and learning about how alone and misunderstood their peers often felt after a death, Caring Place staff and Caring Team students worked together to inaugurate the first Children's Grief Awareness Day in 2008. Since 2009, businesses and corporations have also become involved.

In just two years, hundreds of schools from across Pennsylvania, reaching nearly 150,000 students, have worked in many ways to raise awareness of grieving children from having all the students wear blue on that day to holding assemblies and bake sales, sponsoring Silly Hat Days, and having students make presentations to all the Social Studies classes in the high school.

The most basic way to participate is having as many as possible—children and adults—wear blue that day. Publicity about the reason for wearing blue—to show awareness of grieving children—allows the entire community to know what Children's Grief Awareness Day is about.

Another easy way to show support to grieving children is to visit the Children’s Grief Awareness Day Facebook page and, if you like what you see, you can officially "Like" the page. As grieving children see more and more people supporting this page, they can have a greater sense that they are not so alone in their grief—that others do care about what they are facing day after day.

Of course, many schools, companies, and organizations go beyond wearing blue and liking the Facebook page in planning activities for Children's Grief Awareness Day. See how others have taken things to the next step in observing Children’s Grief Awareness Day.

No matter the level of support, being involved shows people's awareness of what grieving children might be going through and demonstrates solidarity with the children. With so many taking part, "Children's Grief Awareness Day" is like a huge shout saying "We care!" to those who have felt so alone in their grief.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My View...

Thank you to those who sent emails and left comments. It’s nice to read different views and perspectives.

Someone asked me what my thoughts were and honestly…I just don’t know quite yet. There are things I so desperately want to believe, but I’m attempting to be logical and differentiate between wanting to believe and desperately seeking a conclusion.

I truly hope there is something out there other then mankind, because I would like to think there is more than just us, but if that’s the case I have many, many questions. Some of those questions actually make me quite angry and then I question everything all over again.

I am fully aware that I am not the first person to suffer such a close loss and go through something like this, but I think for those who have…to experience it first hand, your thoughts would / might be a little different in all frankness.

Some of the folks at the Caring Place have talked about it open and honestly. Some are….were very religious, but since their loved one was taken away, they feel very different and angry about God and what’s next. Going through this experience changes you…it makes you look at things in a way and manner that other people don’t get and most likely never will.

I am doing my best to remain neutral on the subject matter of God and religion. My oldest daughter really enjoys going to church with some close friends on Sunday mornings. I do not discourage her to attend nor do I encourage her…it’s her decision…her choice. She has asked me why I don’t go, or want to go to church and I tell her that we will have that discussion someday when she’s older. She looks at me in such a manner that I think she knows why and just smiles and says okay.

I’m still formulating my opinion…I’m still on this journey we call “life” and don’t know how to answer yet. I appreciate the views and perspectives…I do…as for now I’m just going to keep my most inner thoughts to myself…for now that is where they belong.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What Happens???

I have a question for my fellow bloggers...followers...random folks who find this...

What do you think happens when you die?

I have read multiple books on the subject.

I have my own own theories but want to hear what others think...


Do you simply turn to dust...

Do you go to heaven...or hell...

Do you linger somewhere in between...paradise... purgatory...or hell

Are you reincarnated... soul...

Is your purpose here to teach or pass along a lesson...

Are we supposed to teach / help others...

What is the purpose...the meaning...

Where do we go...

What happens...

Yes, I am being very nondescript and vague because I don't want to influence what
others might think or have to say...I'm curious to hear what people think...

I need some input here...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

So check this out… a few weeks ago I wrote an entry on the Blog about how “Darkness on the Edge of Town” was not only my favorite Springsteen album, but also my favorite album of all time. Right after I posted that entry, I received an email from Lawrence Kirsch who happened to stumble across my Blog.

Lawrence is the author of the book “The Light in Darkness” which is all about Springsteen’s ‘Darkness” album and tour. Lawrence wrote to me to tell me about a loss in his family and that he enjoyed reading my blog and the words that I wrote regarding “Darkness”. It was nice and it really made me feel good. Then he sent me a signed copy of the book (see below).

So I just thought this was the coolest thing…here is a link to the book for any Springsteen fans who follows my Blog.

A New Bruce Springsteen Book by Lawrence Kirsch

It’s a good book filled with some awesome pictures and first hand views and perspective on what this album (Darkness) meant to them personally. It also contains a recap of the "Darkness on the Edge of Town" tour that took place over May 1978 and January 1979. It contains first person summaries from various everyday people who attended the shows on that tour. It's candid and raw - I can very much appreciate the views and perspectives on the Darkness album and tour. I would not classify this as a nice to have book...I put this in the 'must have' category for any Springsteen fan.

It was just really cool to have someone stumble upon the Blog…tell me that they enjoyed reading what I wrote and it helped them and then in return have it help me as well. It’s weird how things work sometimes. I write an entry about my favorite album of all time and it turns out in me meeting (via email) a very cool individual who made me feel good…thank you Lawrence…thank you I sincerely appreciate it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Caring Place -- The Memory Quilt

The Memory Quilt

We had Caring Place tonight and in all honesty, I was really dreading it. I knew it was going to be a tough night...this was the first time that the memory quilts would be hanging on the wall. For those of you that don't know - the Caring Place asks each family to make a square that will be sewn together into a big memory quilt. It's a great idea and there are many quilts hanging on the wall throughout the Caring Place facility.

Tonight was the first night that our quilt would be hanging and I have very conflicted feelings about it. Please don't misinterpret what I'm trying to say here. It's a great honor and the quilt came out great (see the image below)

But it's just makes me feel a little strange to walk around the Caring Place and see all the reminders of the people that have passed. It's a great way to honor someone, but at the same time it makes me very sad for all the families as's just hard to capture in words.

The Session

The group session was also a little hard to digest. For those who have been following the blog, remember that I wasn't totally bought into the CP the first time around. The first few sessions anyway, but then something just clicked and it turned into a very good overall experience for ALL of us. It just doesn't seem to be having the same impact this time around. I go because the girls like to go and if it makes them happy, I will suck it up and go. But, and this will sound a little harsh and I don't intend for it to come across that way, I am attempting to go on with my life and every time I go to the CP now it seems to drag me back to a place where I am trying to move away from.

The first time around at CP, it did wonders for me. It felt good to go and talk to others who were experiencing the pain, frustration, anger, the void that I felt. We would talk about it; I would leave there and genuinely feel better. Many of the people in this session are still very sad and have NOT gotten on with their lives, again, I'm not trying to sound harsh or mean, but some of the comments made make me...well somewhat angry. I want to say something like, what would your husband or wife think about what you're doing or not doing. I know that Jen would be totally pissed at me if I were sitting around feeling sorry for myself and not attempting to move on.

Grieving's so uncontrollable and unpredictable. If I have taken away anything from this "experience", it's this. Life is short short. Don't sit around waiting for things to happen...if you want something then it's up to YOU to make it happen. Me...I am determined to go on...for my girls sake...for MY sake...I am determined to live a productive live a fulfilling live a happy life. I owe that my Jen...and to myself.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why I hate the last week of October

The Fall

I love the Fall season. I do, the leaves change color, the temperature is perfect for wearing sweatshirts the air just feels fresh and crisp, the Fall is an awesome season. All except for the last week of October…I do not like the last week of October…

October 29, 2007

After waiting for hours in a small room at UPMC-Presby the doctors finally made their way in to speak to us. It was the day we first heard with certainty that Jen indeed had a brain tumor. It was the beginning of the day when I actually realized that life would never be the same ever again.

I can remember feeling disbelief…like their had a to be a mistake. Their was no way this is happening to us…it can’t be happening to us…it can’t. The doctor said that we needed to get a biopsy of the tumor to determine the exact type. I can remember trying to be strong but my face said it all. My thoughts went to the girls…what would happen, how would we, who would they, how could we…it was just so surreal. Jen asked the hard question that I could not “how long do I have”. The reply was cold and direct – “you’re looking at two to five years depending on how aggressive it grows”.

One thing I will never forget is the coldness in the doctor’s voice and how it all seemed so matter of fact to him…I will carry that with me forever. I needed to get Jen out of there…we drove to a park near our house and walked. We couldn’t believe what we just heard…our lives and the lives of our family were never the same after that day.

October 31, 2008

We spent a couple of grueling days at the hospital…Jen was subjected to a series of long tests for a very new experimental treatment. In a nutshell the treatment involved using your own bodies DNA to help combat the tumor…very different and very radical from the conventional treatments. We both let ourselves get somewhat optimistic…after all from a logical view this made sense, use your own bodies DNA to fight the foreign body (the tumor) inside your body.

We didn’t get home until 4:00pm after a long couple of days. The phone rang at 4:45pm…it was the doctor in charge of the new study. He was informing us that he did not think we were a good candidate for the study since the MRI done earlier that morning showed growth of the tumor. We were crushed! I can remember putting on a good tough show for Jen but inside I was just crushed.

Trick or Treating was starting at 5:30. The girls were so excited to go around the neighborhood and collect candy…and here are Jen and I sobbing together and trying desperately to hold it together. It was one of the worst moments of my life at that point. Again a moment I will never forget.

October 2009

I don’t’ have anything in particular for October 2009…honestly I was just sort of numb at that point. The first few months after Jen’s passing I was going through the motions…I honestly don’t recall that much from last year. The one thing I do remember is that I didn’t take the girls to the pumpkin patch where we use to go as a family…I just couldn’t.

October 2010

I still love the Fall…but I can’t wait for Halloween to be done and over with…I will make new memories…I will, but for now until then it’s going to be a hard few weeks. The girls wanted to go to the pumpkin patch last Sunday and I still can’t do it…I’m just not ready…

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Classic -- Darkness on the Edge of Town

Darkness on the Edge of Town

Okay so my hockey team lost today (the Flyers) then the Phillies also were defeated...but I take solace in this. I just watched the HBO documentary "The Promise: the making of Darkness on the Edge of Town". What an awesome and inspiring hour of television. So if you are NOT a Springsteen fan...please stop reading now...

I made a list of my top 25 albums a couple of years ago and Darkness on the Edge of Town was number 1. Here is what I wrote back then...

My Personal Number One

No 1. Bruce Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town (vinyl – cassette – CD)
– This album is dark and I spent countless hours of my youth, adolescence and adulthood life listening over and over. Songs about letting go, busting out and yearning for more just hit to close to home at various points in my life – “Something in Night”, “Streets of Fire”, “Racing in the Street”, “Candy’s Room”, “The Promised Land” all classic Springsteen.

It's an album that I owned as a true vinyl a cassette tape and as a CD. I wasted countless hours of my youth, adolescence and even my adulthood years listening to it. It's a very dark album. Many of the songs are about coming of age, the struggles we go through and wanting to break out for "something more"'s an awesome collection of songs.

I can't tell you how many nights me and my buddies wasted listening to that album...over and over...and how many beers we drank but it was many...and it's funny there was always one rule - NO SINGING during the playing of Darkness. It was like we just wanted to listen to the words...what was being said...if you got caught singing you were punched and were told to "shut up". Not many albums had that effect on me, but to me Darkness was like a piece of art for me and for my friends. Listening to it, as silly and ridiculous as it sounds gave me inspiration. I just knew deep down inside that I was going to break away from where I grew up and get out...and I did.

I can still recall some of the deep and meaningful conversations that were discussed and the locations while listening to that album. Hearing those songs always brings me back to a time and place from long ago. A time when things were simpler and less complex yet more confusing if that makes any sense. Even now those songs ring true for's sort of like an old friend who you haven't spoke to in years and when you see each other time hasn't missed a beat. What sucks is I have some old friends that I do miss...they don't read this blog...they won't ever know...and I won't call them, but I have to believe that when they hear those songs...they have the same feelings...
Of all the songs on the album..."Something in the Night" was always my personal favorite...

Something in the Night

I'm riding down Kingsley,
figuring I'll get a drink
Turn the radio up loud,
so I don't have to think,
I take her to the floor,
looking for a moment when the world seems right,
And I tear into the guts,
of something in the night.

You're born with nothing,
and better off that way,
Soon as you've got something they send
someone to try and take it away,
You can ride this road 'till dawn,
without another human being in sight,
Just kids wasted on
something in the night.

Nothing is forgotten or forgiven,
when it's your last time around,
I got stuff running 'round my head
That I just can't live down.

When we found the things we loved,
They were crushed and dying in the dirt.
We tried to pick up the pieces,
And get away without getting hurt,
But they caught us at the state line,
And burned our cars in one last fight,
And left us running burned and blind,
Chasing something in the night.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Unsettling Dream

So I had an interesting dream the other night and I have been thinking as to whether or not to write about it…so here it goes.

I was in a dimly lit room and Jen was there. She didn’t seem her usual self. I could tell that something was bothering her. We talked for a few minutes about nothing in particular, I don’t even remember really, then out of the blue said to me “that it should have been me that died and not her”.

Her comment threw me for a loop…just hearing her say that. Then I remember seeing a door in the room and it had a bright light coming from underneath it. She told me to follow her into the other room, through the door. We walked into the room and it was even darker then the room that we were just in.

The room had a small wooden square table and two wooden chairs in it. I sat down in one of the chairs and Jen handed me a cup and a pill and told me to take it. By taking the pill we would switch places and she would come back and I would be dead.

I remember being confused and surprised and said “no, that I would not take the pill”. She became agitated and started getting very upset. I could hear voices in the room but couldn’t see anyone else. She demanded that I take the pill and again I said “no”. I could see the fury and anger in her face…the blackness of the room…the voice were coming from all directions, I got up from the chair but the door to the room was gone.

I turned around and Jen was standing right next to me and she was very upset and said “TAKE IT”…then I woke up.

It was a vivid, unsettling dream. I woke up at 2:37am. I had beads of sweat on my forehead, my heart was pounding. I got up and went and checked on the girls, they were both fast asleep. I don’t know what in the hell that was all about…maybe watching the movie “the Fourth Kind” on HBO before bed didn’t help.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recent Conversations

I haven’t done this in a long time…don’t anyone be offended, it’s all good harmless humor

The Setup -- Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is playing on the radio.

Abbie – What’s a virgin?
Me – Uh, someone who is very pure
Abbie – Oh, then I’m a virgin because I’m pure.
Me – Right…uh yes you are
Allie – Well I’m pure so I guess I’m a virgin
Abbie – Well, you’re a virgin too Dad because you are pure
Me – Well…sure…uh….

And with that I turned the radio station to a different song. I went upstairs for a minute and don’t you know what songs comes on next – “I want your sex” by George Michael.

Abbie – Hey dad what does
Me – DON”T WORRY about it.
Allie was just looking confused…

AND WITH THAT…I turned the radio to Radio Disney…

The Setup – Watching the Steelers / Ravens game last Sunday

The show a picture of Ray Lewis yelling and screaming on the field

Abbie – Dad that man looks crazy
Allie – Yeah, he looks like a bad guy alright
Me – Yep, he is a bad guy
Abbie – I like the purple uniforms though
Allie – Yeah, purple is cool

Just funny how kids see and what they find so innocent and fun

The Setup – Eating dinner and discussing the day

Me – So Kiddos how was your day?
Allie – Good
Abbie – Good
Me – Well what did you learn in school today?
Allie – Nothing
Abbie – Well {name of boy} can’t fit his knees or legs under his desk because he’s too fat
Me – Hey, don’t say he’s fat, some folks are big and besides would you like someone calling you fat.
Abbie – Sorry Dad he {name of boy} is just really um, really…well he’s really
Abbie – Yeah, good one Allie, he’s overfed
Me – (me trying not to crack up) okay, he’s overfed just don’t say fat okay
Allie – Okay Dad
Abbie – Got it

And with that every time the girls see a “big” person on TV they say “hey, look how overfed that person is”.

Breakfast for Dinner

I have instituted a new thing in the house – once every two or three weeks we have pancakes for dinner.

Abbie – Alright, pancakes for dinner
Allie – You’re the best Dad ever
Abbie – Yeah, You’re the best Dad
Allie – Hey, since we are having breakfast for dinner tonight, can we have chicken nuggets for breakfast tomorrow morning.
Abbie – Yeah Dad can we?
Me – Uh, no…but nice try
Allie – Oh man, you’re so unfair
Me – WHAT, I thought I was the best Dad ever?
Abbie – Oh that’s old news now

WHERE do these kids get this quick wit from?

By far the best…at least for me but a little sappy…

After we attended Open House at the school – I was tucking them in for bed

Me – that was cool girls, I love your classrooms
Abbie – Thanks Dad
Allie – Thanks, oh and Dad
Me – Yeah, what’s up Kiddo
Allie – I’m glad you’re my Dad
Abbie – Me too Dad…you’re a cool Dad

Just melts my heart…

Random Comments

Abbie, on her hair
– “Does my hair look fierce? I just don’t think my hair looks fierce enough”.

Allie, on responding to me, Abbie or basically anyone else
– “Oh, you don’t know what I got”.

Me after they get done taking a shower and/or bath
– “Girls, for the tenth time will you please put some clothes on”

Never a dull moment raising two little crazy girls...but they are awesome kids...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Okay so here is Part Two

Part Two

As I said, the summer was good, very good. We all kept busy and it was filled with non-stop activities. Well, a funny and very unexpected thing also happened over the summer…I started spending a lot of time with a certain someone special. Now, understand that this was unplanned and unexpected. Yeah, I went out on a few dates with people and let’s just say the results were very mixed. Then I started spending a lot of time with this certain someone special and things just sort of went from there.

It’s weird, those who know me well, know that I am never at a loss for words, but I am struggling with what and how much to say here. The girls have been very receptive because they already knew this person and her kids. They have played together in the past, gone to movies and have had sleepovers so things have been easy from that viewpoint. We have been taking things slow and are attempting to be as smart as possible about all of this.

A couple of things

I am NOT “naming” this person…some of you already know anyway…and some will be totally surprised. I am not naming her out of respect for her. She is also going through a divorce, which many folks don’t know about.

Here is the deal…I am happy…for the first time in a long time I feel good, I feel happy and for lack of better words I feel “alive”. I haven’t been able to say that for a while. Through the illness, the aftermath, it’s just been a while and it takes its toll on you, mentally and emotionally. I feel good about myself, about the future, about this new relationship.

This is a person that I have known for years. I will completely open an honest here…it feels good to be wanted…needed…to be happy. This past summer could have gone a number of different ways. I didn’t plan or intend for things to happen the way they did, but sometimes even, I have to forgo the plan and just wing it. I am happy people…very happy and it has everything to do with this person.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Been a While

I haven’t blogged in a while…I have a few different reasons why.

Part One

Where to Begin…

First of all I have just been extremely busy. The end of August included a trip back to New Jersey to see some of my family and some old friends, my oldest daughter’s birthday party, the beginning of school and also the start of soccer season. It also marked one year since Jen’s passing. The good news is that everything seemed to work out well. Sometimes the crazier things are…the easier things get…if that makes any sense.

The trip back to NJ was great. We spent a day at the beach, went into historical Philadelphia to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the US Mint, the Second Bank, Betsy Ross’s House, Christ Church and took a horse drawn carriage ride through Society Hill, everyone really enjoyed the day. Abbie’s birthday party was really nice and luckily for us the weather cooperated and it was a beautiful sunny day. It was a busy, busy summer and a very good summer.

On a Different Note

A couple of months ago I threw my hat in the ring for the position of Software Director of Core Products at the company that I have worked for the past 7.5 years. I submitted my resume, interviewed, gave a presentation to upper management and was then offered the job. This is a crowning moment in my professional career.

It’s something that I wanted to accomplish by the time I was 45, so I exceeded my goal. It’s something that yes, I planned for in my early 30’s and did it! It’s no big secret that Jen and I were big “planners” and always discussed things, made lists and planned for the future…or at least the best we could. I think it’s important to have goals and a plan on how to accomplish them.

I do NOT intend for this to sound arrogant or cocky at all but considering my very humble upbringing I am very proud of myself for accomplishing this goal. The only thing is that it sort of feels…empty.

I can still vividly remember the conversation that I had with Jen when I set my goal to become a director by the time I was 45. It was on the roof of Six Penn Kitchen, a restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh. We were enjoying a kid-free night out on the town and sat at a table on the roof on roof of this restaurant and we were discussing the next 5-10 years of our’s funny how much things have changed.

School Starts

As good as the summer was, I was looking forward to the start of school. I like the routine…well; actually, I NEED the routine! Go to bed at a certain time, wake up at a certain time, I like and crave structure...big surprise I know. I still find it hard to believe at times that I have a daughter in first grade and a daughter in third grade. They both enjoy school which makes it all that much better. They are awesome kids!

Part Two

I will write Part Two tomorrow or over the weekend…since I have a worse attention span then my kids I don’t want to write paragraph after paragraph and go on and on. I will say that earlier this week I retuned from a trip to California, to see San Francisco. It was a great trip…more on that later.

I appreciate the emails that I received from people asking me how I was doing and why I wasn’t blogging. I didn’t realize how many people actually read this blog so that was pretty cool. We (the girls and I) are doing okay and I will make every attempt to not let weeks go by without writing an entry.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stupid FB

As stupid as it sounds...this is a very monumental milestone for me... I changed my FaceBook status tonight. It sounds so silly and minor yet I waited a year to do it.

Here are the messages you get when you change your status.

Status change to Widowed:
Your relationship with Jennifer Heid Applegate will be canceled upon saving.
Why...WHY does this bother me so much...I don't want to cancel my relationship...I just think it's a very poor choice of words. My "relationship" will never be cancelled...because I have two amazing children whom I wouldn't have if not for my wife.


You can change your status to Blank and here is the message:
We will request confirmation of this relationship change from Jennifer Heid Applegate upon saving.
Yeah, you can request all you wife won't be receiving a conformation request from her.

Again, very insensitive...and a little frustrating...whatever...maybe I'm reading way too much into's been a's been a year...

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Year

I have written and rewritten this entry multiple times. I have much to say but honestly, I’m struggling with how to express it.

One year ago today Jen passed away. I am NOT doing anything special today. I choose NOT to commemorate the day my wife died. I would prefer to remember her vibrant spirit, full of energy smile and the person that she was on a day like her birthday or Mother’s day…not the day she was taken away from us.

I think we are doing okay, the girls and me. Abbie knows that Jen passed away right after her birthday and we have talked about it. She even knows that today is the day Jen died. She’s such an amazing and mature little girl. Allie is what I would classify a typical carefree 6year old kid. She’s full of life and energy and seems to be doing well.

I was going to write all this profound stuff but honestly, I can't find the right words. We miss you Jen and we love you...we do. I hope that wherever you are...that you are at peace.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Busy Week, Busy Weekend

I had dinner last week with a couple of the people in my Caring Place session. It was nice to get out and see them in a social setting. We had dinner and talked about things…how things were going, the good, the bad and everything in between. The folks I met up with are also going back for another session at the Caring Place in the fall so it will be nice to have some familiar faces in the sessions.

It’s a different kind of club. People who have lost a spouse “get it” and understand “it”. It’s different from getting divorced or just having things not work out. It’s hard to explain but nice to know others are in your situation. My point being that it’s just nice to meet other folks who are like you and are doing okay.

What a busy chronological order.

Helped a friend move on Friday (including packing and unpacking), Allie attended a birthday party on Saturday in the early afternoon, hosted a birthday party for thirteen people for the family patriarch (Jen’s Grandfather - was his 98th b-day), Abbie had a birthday party to attend on Sunday, squeezed in some quality pool time on Sunday afternoon, grilled up some dinner on Sunday night with good friends and wrapped up with the NFL pre-season kickoff in the evening to end a whirlwind weekend.

Okay, probably about 20 grammatical errors in that long winded sentence / paragraph but that was the weekend…And of course…I have to mention that the weekend is NOT successful without the help of my family and friends. Everyone pitched in to help with the organization, the setup, cleanup and everything else. It was truly an exercise in cross-dependency collaboration amongst family and friends.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Featured Dad

A couple of months ago I was contacted by the person who founded and runs a website for Single Dad’s.

The website is:

I was skeptical at first but after trading emails back and forth and browsing through the website I was impressed. It’s a great resource for Single Father’s. I was asked to consider being a “Featured Dad” and at first didn’t feel worthy of an honor like that. After talking about it with a good friend of mine I submitted my story to the editor of the site.

So, for the month of August 2010 - I am the Featured Dad of the Month on Single Super Dad’…check it out…the article is too long to post on the blog so you will have to follow the link to the site.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

July Recap

July was a very busy month…

Started with the Fourth, which turned out to be really nice and ended with an awesome trip up to Northern Michigan with some very special friends. In the middle, my cousin my cousin, his wife and their daughter came out for a long weekend and it was really nice. My cousin was like my little brother growing up so it was really cool to hang out for a long weekend and show him and his family a little bit of the Burgh even with every roadway in the ENTIRE eastern region of the Burgh under construction…thank you Pen Dot.

I also survived my birthday and what would have been our thirteenth wedding anniversary. I did good on both days. Birthdays get much less eventful as you get older although my girls made sure we had a cake and marked the occasion. The wedding anniversary was okay. Last year's was much tougher. Jen was restricted to a bed and wasn’t really talking so it was hard. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about what I’m going to say next. I will never forget the date, but I’m not sure I want to be reminded about it either.

It was one of the happiest days of my life when we got married. We were young, so full of life, confident about our future and obviously very much in love. I will never forget that…never. But what I think about now is the last anniversary we spent together. The one where Jen couldn’t even talk to me, where she was in bed looking up at me with glassy far away eyes and we both knew the end was inevitable.

Okay, okay…enough of the downer material…onto happier thoughts…as I said I survived July…now onto August. Abbie’s birthday is quickly approaching and I’m also determined to see to it that she has an awesome time. After that is the One-year, mark of Jen’s passing. I can’t write about it yet because I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. A good friend of mine asked what am I doing to commemorate the day - honestly, I don’t know. I may want to just be alone, I may want to be around family and friends, I may go to work just to occupy my mind and time…I just don’t know yet.

In any event, I know I will be okay. There are many reasons as to why, which I will share later in other posts. I have all sorts of very positive things going on in my life at the moment. August will be just as busy, if not busier then July, and school starts at the end of the month. Just the other day someone asked how I was doing and I said, “I’m doing okay, actually better then okay, I’m doing good”. To which they replied, “yeah, I believe you now, I didn’t before, but you seem much better now”. I am better folks…I’m actually starting to smile again and feel better about things,

Monday, July 26, 2010

Post It Tuesday

I have much to are some Post Its for now...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What Stage of Grief Are You In?

A good friend of mine asked me an excellent question - "what stage of grief are you in"? It really got me thinking...Their are varied definitions of the stages of Grief..Here are just a few:

The five stages of grief:

• Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
• Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
• Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
• Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
• Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

Some More:

• Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
• Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
• Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
• Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.
• Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.
• Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.
• Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward.

I'm an Engineer so I love this graph

1. Shock: Anesthetized against the overwhelming loss. Not comprehending and not able to face the full magnitude of it.
2. EMOTIONAL RELEASE: Beginning to realize how dreadful the loss is. Venting or releasing these feelings is better than trying to repress them.
3. DEPRESSION, LONELINESS AND UTTER ISOLATION: Feeling of “No help for me.” Down in the depths of despair. Should know this is a NORMAL feeling. Aided by EXPRESSED CONCERN.
4. PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF DISTRESS: “Ill” with symptoms related to the loss. Best help is to understand the grief process.
5. PANIC: Convinced “something is wrong with me” as a person, can concentrate on little else. May fear losing the mind.
6. GUILT FEELINGS: May recall own past neglect, mistreatment, or wrong to the deceased. Wrongs may be imaginary or exaggerated. But they may be REAL wrongs with REAL guilt. Confession and unburdening of real guilt gives best relief. “Forgiveness” of real wrongs, as if they were imaginary, is no adequate solution.
7. HOSTILITY: Feeling better leads to expressing self more actively. Hostile expressions toward those who “caused” the loss are common. Such hostility is normal but not to be encouraged.
8. INABILITY TO RENEW NORMAL ACTIVITIES: Cannot get back to “business as usual.” Must bear loss alone, since others are back to normal activities. Need encouragement to face new realities, not to be sheltered from them.
9. GRADUAL OVERCOMING OF GRIEF: Emotional balance returns little by little, like healing of a physical would. Rate varies with individuals.

This is one of the best descriptions that I have come across - it truly captures it...
Great Description
Grief is not an elevator ride. You cannot get on and off at the appropriate floor. Likewise, it is not a racetrack where you circle continually but never really get ahead. Grief is a spiral. It denotes movement and progress through a slow dance with repeated partners. Two steps forward, one step back. Until one day, you find the music has ended and you are free to carry on at a usual pace. But don’t be surprised if at some unexpected moment you hear an old tune and find yourself locking arms with sorrow for one last round; because a spiral also denotes cycles and repetition. And the process of grief, though it moves, moves in cycles.

A Few Things You Need to Know

Yes, the cycle of grief is a real thing. Pick a definition and cycle it doesn't really matter - bottom line it's real and yes it's out there...
Second, the cycle is totally, and I mean totally unpredictable. You never know when or how it will affect you at any given time.

I could be standing in line at Target, or grocery shopping at and you see a Mom with her kids, you hear a song on the radio, you see a stupid commercial on TV, I hope you get the picture. It's TOTALLY random, unpredictable, and uncontrollable, it's friggin nerve wracking and to a detailed planner / control freak like myself it's horrible.

I like to think I am doing better than most. I think I am ahead of the curve and capable of handling the situation for multiple reasons. I honestly do think I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I should be and I have said why on past blog entries.

Jen and I got to have the "hard and difficult" conversations that I hope YOU readers NEVER have to have with you loved one. But the fact that we did talk about it meant so, so both of us. I sincerely believe that it brought Jen some sort of inner peace in talking about it and deep down I think she knew that whenever I said that I did not and could not want to have the conversation - she looked at me and said "yes, we need to talk about this and we need to talk about it today".

I make no bones about wife was stronger, and more prepared than me, she was more in tuned to what was happening and she was not afraid of anything. SHE prepared ME and the girls for this journey after her departure and for that; I will always be thankful and grateful.

So now...back to the original question posed by my good friend..."what stage am I in"? My answer would be the following and here is why...

I'm the following stage:
Stage 9. GRADUAL OVERCOMING OF GRIEF: Emotional balance returns little by little, like healing of a physical would. Rate varies with individuals.


The ACCEPTANCE Stage: Finally finding the way forward

In my opinion, it would be a total disservice to the memory of my wife to sit around and be depressed for the rest of my life. AND I have these two amazing little girls that absolutely need a strong and positive influence in their lives. Please, PLEASE I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea on this - I will NEVER let my girls forget whom their Mother was. I can't and I won't...I loved Jen too much to let that ever happen...but flat out refuse to let this be the defining moment of their young lives...if I allowed that to happen...Jen would never forgive me.

Man...Such a rambling post...I hope this makes sense to those who read it...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Well it’s July

Well it’s July and that means multiple things…

First, it’s hot
I mean incredibly hot and humid. We seem to go from upper 70’s / low 80’s to mid 90’s as soon as the calendar hits July.

Second, Independence Day
It’s my next to favorite holiday behind Thanksgiving. Ever since I was a kid the Fourth of July always meant a big family picnic with burgers, hotdogs, volleyball, softball, horseshoes…all my cousins would be there and we would play all day and of course end the night with fireworks.

My entire family is still out in New Jersey and Jen doesn’t have a real big immediate family. When we bought our house six years ago we were both sold on the view from the backyard. It overlooks a valley and you can see multiple towns and locations below. On the Fourth of July when fireworks are going off at any given time there are 10-12 different sets going off at once. It’s very cool to just sit there and watch all the fireworks going off at one time. The girls love it as well and we invite family and friends over to watch them with us. I hope that it’s a special memory that the girls will have and they carry it with them and it makes Independence Day special for them as well.

Third, my birthday
Birthday’s become less important as you get older but it’s still a special day…after all it’s the day you were born. I was dreading my birthday this year, but it turned out to be a nice time with family and friends.

Fourth, wedding anniversary

What would have been our 13th wedding anniversary is next week. It’s funny because 13 years seems like a long time, but in reality it isn’t. For some reason anniversaries are always remembered in multiples of five. I can remember our 5th and 10th wedding anniversaries…and just assumed that when we hit 15, 20, 25 etc we would joke, laugh and celebrate. I don’t want this to sound all negative and like a downer…honestly I don’t, but I have this compelling, constant need to remind people to NOT take things for granted. Life is just too damn short and unpredictable. Celebrate your 13th wedding anniversary …your 21st….your 7th….what ever number…don’t wait for silly number because you might not get the opportunity.

State of Mind
I am doing okay. I am. I like to think I’m actually doing better then okay. I not only survived Allie’s birthday, the Fourth of July and my own birthday but I was actually able to let go and enjoy myself. The girls and I are doing well and every now and then I catch myself sort of looking around and saying to myself “they are okay, we are okay…I am okay”…I feel very fortunate to have so many people who truly care for me and my girls and the support of my family has been awesome.

I know there are many more challenges to come in the future. The fact that I don’t even know what many of the challenges are or will be bothers me, but I know that we (the girls and I) are going to be okay. I could NOT and would NOT say that a year ago…but now I can…we are going to be okay.

Finally, thank you to everyone who sent me an email over the past week…it was truly flattering and humbling to receive so many messages wishing us the best and offering messages of hope and support. Thank You so much…it means a lot…it does! I feel like I’m coming out of the fog and I’m definitely moving in the right direction – I just really wanted to say “thank you” to all my family and friends…without you all we wouldn’t be where we are now…thanks folks…you guys are okay…

Friday, June 25, 2010

A First, the Middle and Endings

A First

This was my first Father’s day since Jen died. It was a tough day but also a good day. My girls made me breakfast in bed…with a little help of course, but they were so damn excited to bring me breakfast in bed. It was very cool and the day started off good.

We went to a park out here in the Burgh where we have been going for the past 10 years. I had to think for a minute because it’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since we started going to the same park. So much has changed over the course of 10 years. We always go to the same pavilion at the park, it’s sort of off the beaten path and not real obvious to find.

When we arrived at the pavilion spot we had two surprises – first the pavilion was gone and second, people were already setup in the spot where it used to be. It only seemed kind of fitting to go to a different pavilion and have our picnic somewhere new.

The Middle

The “middle” is what it is…meaning no one ever gets to excited about the middle right? When something is new there is the all this excitement or anticipation. When something ends there is more of the same…sometimes it’s a sigh of relief, or maybe it’s a sadness to see it end…but the middle things just seem to keep chugging along. That is sort of how I feel…I’m chugging along in the middle.

I have some tough dates coming up in the next couple of months. Birthday’s for all three of us (both girls and myself), the Fourth of July, our wedding anniversary and of course the one year mark of Jen’s passing. It’s going to be a tough summer.

In many ways I wish I had a Delorean and Flux Capacitor or at least a Fast Forward button, but I don’t. Instead I will put on smiley face for my girls benefit and press on because that’s what you do when you’re in the middle…you keep pressing…chugging along.


This past Tuesday was the last Caring Place group session. I have to say that I will truly miss going there. It was good for the girls but it was also good for me…in many ways. The Caring Place starts back up again in the Fall and what’s cool is that at least one group session will be for families who have already gone through a group and want to come back.

Those coming back are placed in a group where only families who have already been through the program and no first-timers. Bottom line is that the girls have already made it very clear that they would like to go back and I totally agree.

They had a ceremony at the end of the night and their wasn’t a dry eye in the place. They handed out a little memorial plaque with the Caring Place logo (a broken heart with a butterfly at the top) to all the families to take home. When they asked the kids why the logo is what it is a couple of kids answered with some random stuff…then Abbie raised her hand and said “the heart is broken because that’s what happens when someone dies. The butterfly is there as a symbol of hope and that someday your heart will mend”. I just lost it when she said that…I’m tearing up now just typing it. All the adults started tearing up…Abbie leans over to me and puts her head on my shoulder and said “sorry Dad, I didn’t mean to make you upset”…then I started laughing and told her I wasn’t upset…I was happy…was a nice moment.

I would have never thought that after the first visit I would miss it. This is not a commercial for the Caring Place but I would very much recommend it for anyone who loses a family member. The volunteers are awesome and it does do a lot of good. So maybe it’s not an official “ending” since we will be going back, but it’s an ending for now.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father's Day

Father's Day 2010, it's a very bittersweet day for me. I take a huge amount of pride in being a good Father. I don't mean for that to sound arrogant in any way shape or form, but one of my life's missions is to be an awesome Dad for my girls.

Even before Jen got sick, I was determined to be a good Father. I didn't have the best Dad growing up (that is an entirely other entry) so I have always been determined to be a good Dad for my kids. I like to think I'm doing's certainly not easy, but at least for now I have a really good relationship with my girls and I'm a very actively involved participant in their lives.

Last year on Father's Day Jen was here, but not really. It was right after we got back from UVA and things were going downhill quickly. I often let my mind wonder and drift and think about what things would be like if she were still here. Not for too long because I just can't let myself drift for too long...I just can't.

My advice for all of you who read this is this - I hate to sound all preachy but...hug your kids, call your Dad today - even I will be calling my Dad...don't take life for granted...just don' never know what life may bring you, tell those close to you how you feel and remember their may not be a tomorrow so do it today. That's all I have...I warned any and all reader that this would be a tough summer for doesn't "officially" start until Monday and I'm already emotionally spent...happy Father's Day.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Weekly Recap


We went to the Caring Place on Tuesday. We did something unexpected - Abbie's age group room released balloons into the sky with a note attached to the person who died. Abbie wrote the note to Jen, when it came time to release it, Abbie held on saying "she didn't want to let go". It took everything I had to not lose it right there on the spot. She eventually let go and we watched it float away...

School is Out

School ended this week, but before it ended I had the distinct pleasure of being the last guest reader for Abbie's second grade class. It was so, so cool...I tried to pick a book that would be appeal to both second grade boys and girls - I ended up with "How I Became a Pirate". The class was really into it and the smile on Abbie's face was absolutely priceless.

Back to NJ

My Mom took the girls back to New Jersey, where I grew up to visit my family. The girls were so excited to go and they are having a great time. Visiting, swimming, playing it sounds like they are having an absolute blast, which makes me happy. So...being home a very different experience. The house is quiet, way to quiet without a couple goofballs running around.

My friends and neighbors know me pretty well...they have bombarded me with gracious invitations for dinner, activities you name it - if that sounds in any way mean I do NOT intend that. I am very lucky to have some awesome friends and some great neighbors who truly care for me. Between the "Pop-ins" the phone calls, the emails etc...everyone is making sure I'm doing okay and I do sincerely appreciate it.

This coming week should be interesting - I'm going to do my best to stay busy and get as much done as possible. I seem to be okay as long as I stay occupied...idle time just makes me think...and it's weird to say but too much thinking it a bad least for me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

In No Particular Order

Here are some ramblings in…no particular order…

Memory Quilt

We (the girls and I) made our piece of the memory quilt for the Caring Place last week. (See the photo below)

The girls picked out all the items to place around the picture. Each little thing represents something important about Jen, the girls and me. Jen always called Abbie her “rainbow” and Allie her “sunshine” so that was a no brainer. The folks at the Caring Place take all the different pieces and make one big quilt – we get to see it tomorrow night. We made it together, the three of us and it was nice to do...tough, but nice.


Soccer season has come to an end, both girls did awesome and I’m very proud of both of them. We had a pizza party and handed out the trophies - it was nice. I couldn't help to think back to a year ago, to last year's soccer pizza party. It was the last thing we did together as a family. Three weeks after soccer ended Jen lost the ability to speak and then walk. The next few months are going to be filled with these type of memories for's going to be a long summer.

Crazy Month

My crazy month of attempting to relive some of my younger days is over. I crossed that big pond called the Atlantic and went to Portugal - had an awesome trip. I turned around two days after getting back and drove out to my cousin's house in New Jersey and then we went to game five of the Eastern Conference Finals and saw the Flyers defeat Montreal. Awesome time, awesome game...was good to see my cousin again. Finally, I survived my buddy’s 40th birthday weekend of acting stupid, having some adult beverages and a couple rounds of golf. All and all quite a busy, exhausting but very fun filled last few weeks.

School is Out

School ends later this week so let the summer days begin…oh, to be a kid again and get to spend all summer at the pool, camp, hanging out...I WAS going to insert a teacher joke here...but since I have 8 different friends who are teachers or are married to a teacher...I decided against it.

That's it for now...I am trying hard to stay focus on the good times...and to not think to much...

Inside Bill's Head -- Previously Known as (Inside the Head of a Grieving Single Dad)

In August of 2009 my wife Jennifer passed away from an Anaplastic Astrocytoma Brain Tumor. She was only 38 years old. She left me and our two little girls Abbie and Allie to continue life’s journey.

I promised her that I would NOT become angry and bitter about what order to do that I am attempting to write to express my thoughts and feelings.

This site is a place where I can express my thoughts, feelings and rants...