What does your story look like?

Write your own story

I was listening to a podcast recently and the guest speaker, Lori Gottlieb, said this, “Part of getting to know yourself is to unknow yourself. To let go of those limiting stories that you’ve been telling yourself about yourself so you can live your life and not the story you’ve been telling yourself about your life.”

I feel this quote in my soul. This process of getting to unknow myself began the day Nikolai died. When your child takes his own life, you can’t help but to evaluate your own story. What kind of parent was I? Was I the kind of person I really want to be? Could I have acted or done something different? What if I had just done this or just been this kind of parent/person, maybe things would have turned out differently. This is guilt talk telling me that I wasn’t good enough.

Over the course of several months after Nikolai’s death I felt more and more broken. Broken to my very core and guilt ravished my brain. And then I just started to get mad.

When I began the work with onadragonflyswings community, it quite literally stemmed from a guilt complex I just couldn’t let go of – that feeling of I was not enough for Nikolai and so I owe it to him to do this thing, to put myself out there and become very uncomfortable. Insert therapist here and I began the hard work of letting go of this self-loathing that was devouring me. At the same time, I started to really research, read and listen to everything I could get my hands on about mental health and suicide. I participated and spoke at several suicide prevention trainings. This is when I discovered that it wasn’t that I wasn’t enough, it was that I didn’t know enough. And, that my friends, is the shift in my story.

Stories are the way we make sense of our lives. The guilt I felt then is something I will continue to feel, possibly for the rest of my life; however, the heaviness of it is so much less now. This isn’t the story I want for my life and I’m sure that it isn’t the story that Nikolai would want for my life either.

Before Nikolai died, I set the first meeting for a book club called Girl Stop Apologizing (The GSA Club). This book club was made up of myself and six other women who all shared a passion for Rachel Hollis and her new book “Girl Stop Apologizing.” That first meeting was delayed for a couple of months until I felt the timing was right to get back to living. I wrote these six women into the first chapter of my healing and my transformation. And there isn’t a chapter in my story since that doesn’t include them and the power they have wielded to help me change who I am and realize who I want to be. They have shown me that I can choose to play the hero or the victim in my story. I will choose hero every day.

I am a changed person and I don’t mean that subtlety – I mean like a whole 365-degree change. I question everything. I try to view every person and situation with compassion and kindness. I thrive on my faith and my God. I have tightened my circle, yet at the same time completely opened it up. There is movement in my soul, and I love this person I am evolving into. This is my real story. This is the story I want to tell.

You choose your narrative. Make sure it’s the story you want to live.

Why are we so impatient with grief?

Why are we so impatient with grief?

I often hear the phrases “grief is different for everyone”, “grief is not something you get over” and my personal favorite “there is no time frame for grief”. Yet, the same people that say these things really do just want you to move on and get over the grieving already. When you are not in the season of grieving the death of someone close to you, it is difficult to understand or even be around someone who is sad. I get it. I really, really do. Yet, if you are going to be an active participant in someone’s life and grief just happens to be a part of their season, then freaking show up for them!

When you ask how they are doing – make sure that when they say “I’m sad”, “I feel broken”, “my heart hurts today”, make sure you are ready to sit back and listen. And for those of you sitting in the back row seats, here it is again: STOP GIVING ADVICE!!!!! I don’t want your advice. I don’t want you to tell me that maybe I’m sad because I feel like I should be. What? I don’t want you to try and explain it to me or offer an empty gesture about the future state of my grief. STOP IT! Just please stop it. I know it’s awkward for you to sit in silence, to not be a helper, but guess what? It’s not about you.

I read something recently that summed this up nicely for me:

“The world is impatient with grief — married to the narrative of “getting over it,” enamored with the idea that grief can be sliced up into five stages that always ends with acceptance and “moving on.”

So I guess once you are through those five stages you are good to go then, huh? What if a person doesn’t go through all five stages? Then what? What if they skip around in the five stages? This is not conventional grieving. Gasp. Now what do you do as a helper?

Let’s go back to that statement, “grief is different for everyone.” Let’s sit on this for a hot minute. So if grief is different for everyone then that means some people may go through the five stages and others might not. It also means that some people sink so low into their grief they become depressed and sometimes suicidally so. It also means that some people are able to focus on the deceased person’s life more than death and find joy easier than others.

Here is what it doesn’t mean – you just stop grieving. I believe (at least in my own experience) that I will always grieve the lost life of Nikolai. I will grieve the person he could have been, the family he might have created, and I will mourn forever that he is not a physical part of our life. However, I also believe that life is more full of joy than grief. Life does move on and those of us grieving will find a way to move through the grief to also experience the joys of life. It does not mean that I won’t suddenly have a moment or day or week of utter sadness. It’s okay that I do. And, luckily I have a husband and an intimate group of friends who allow me that sadness yet also won’t let me unpack in that space.

It’s really quite simple: we love deeply, therefore we grieve deeply.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You do you and turn a deaf ear to the ignorant who simply cannot sit in the awkward silence with you. It’s hard to do and even though I’ve had a year to practice, it’s still hard to tune it out sometimes. Just remember… other people’s opinions or thoughts about how you feel are none of your business.  

The godwink

Divine alignment and godwinks

I have been reading “Divine Alignment: How Godwink Moments Guide Your Journey” from Squire Rushnell, and this book literally is what’s happening in my life right now. It hit me on the very first page when he says, “Each of us is born with a built-in GPS. God’s Positioning System. Right from birth, we come equipped with a highly sophisticated navigational package that  – through an internal voice of intuition and godwinks – divinely aligns us with people, as well as events, who assist us in reaching our destiny and keep us from losing our way.”

This whole life, I’ve had my own personal Navigator in God. So have you. However, it’s up to us whether we listen to the GPS and follow the journey. For years I’ve been asking myself “what is my purpose in life?” I think we all ask ourselves that at some point in life. I’ve always felt like I was meant to do something bigger yet didn’t know what that was.

And then Nikolai died.

Instead of running from God, I ran to Him full tilt. My heart was broken. I was broken. I didn’t know where to turn to make sense of what happened, except to God. The immediate weeks after Nikolai took his life, I started to feel peace, but not in the sense you think. It was more like someone putting their hand on my shoulder and telling me it was going to be okay, and it was a constant. And because I had decided therapy wasn’t for me, God was the only one I was talking to. All the raw emotions I was feeling – the guilt, the sadness, He got it all. Through that process of grieving with Him, I came to slowly realize my journey had just begun.

My first godwink was when a colleague of mine called me up one day and asked to go to lunch. Julie and I had talked to each other many times at Chamber of Commerce events; however, we weren’t on a level of hey, let’s have lunch, outside of business. Something in my gut told me to go to lunch with her.

That lunch has changed my life. Julie proceeded to tell me that day that she felt I had something to share with the world and she wanted to help me do it. Would I be open to putting myself out there in a blog to help others cope with their grief? I said yes. In a few whirlwind weeks, Julie not only set up a blog platform for me, secured a domain and built a website and social media platforms for me, she also found businesses to sponsor my blog to help with the costs of all that was about to occur. Divine alignment happened and thankfully we both acted upon the godwinks that were presented to us.

My second huge godwink came at a networking event for the Waterford Area Chamber of Commerce. I had been thinking for weeks prior to that event that there was something even bigger than my blog, bigger than all things onadragonflyswings that I needed to be doing to really make a difference. The minute State Representative Andrea Schroeder stepped foot through the door, I knew I had to connect with her. I was drawn to her for some reason and decided to just go for it. We exchanged contact information, but honestly, I really didn’t expect a call back.

In less than a week, Andrea reached back out to me. She had talked to people in both school districts and was ready to move forward with my idea to put the suicide crisis hotline numbers on the back of 6-12th grade student ID cards. Not only that, her and her husband paid for all the stickers and got them to the right people in the two school districts to make sure conversations were being held around them. I then told her I wanted this to be required of all school districts. Guess what… she’s making that happen. We are only a Senate vote away from making the Save Our Students Bill a law. Did you also know that Andrea shares her birthday with Nikolai? Did you also know that her daughter’s birthday is on Nikolai’s death date? These are not coincidences… these are godwinks. This is Divine Alignment.

In the book, Rushnell is talking about the death of a young filmmaker, Zaki Gordon. He states, “You are still struggling with the tragic loss of Zaki’s life, asking yourself why a loving God would allow such a bright light to be extinguished so horribly. But we can make some suppositions. Suppose God sees things from a wider perspective than you and I. Imagine that we are like ants at the bottom of a giant redwood tree in the midst of a great forest while God, from above, can see everything with great clarity. If that’s the case, would it not stand to reason that something that doesn’t make sense to us, way down here in the weeds, actually makes perfect sense to God, as He sees it, as part of His perfect plan?”

Through the inner compass of Zaki’s dad, God was able to implant ideas, allowing his spirit to prevail, while touching the lives of thousands. Look up the Zaki Gordon Institute if you want to more about this particular story. However, my point is, without my Navigator (God) and my willingness to put on my bravery boots and act on some of the godwinks, we may not have We may not have a Save Our Students Bill. I’m listening all the time. I know there is so much more in store for me, all in God’s timing. I just have to be open to all the godwinks.

I could go back the last 12, even 24 months of my life and see all the godwinks placed in front of me. I am definitely on a guided journey constantly asking, now what? There is much work to be done in the world of suicide prevention and mental health awareness. My impact right now seems so insignificant some days. I’ve always said if I can help just one child, one family. I know I have at least done that, yet I want to save them all.

One baby step at a time, following my GPS.

Let me leave you with one final quote from Rushnell, “Day in and day out you nonchalantly encounter one person after another as you bound from one event to the next, casually accepting life as a series of accidents. Only when you stop to open your mind to the immense possibilities of Divine Alignment do you begin to see the marvelous connections and invisible threads that connect you from one person to another. You begin to understand that your life is not an accident at all.”

Photo by Ahmed Zayan on Unsplash

The last of the “firsts”

The last of the firsts

It’s here. The last of the “firsts”.

People keep telling me that the second year is actually the worst. Why they would tell me this I don’t know. I mean, I guess thank you for the head’s up?  It has something to do with the fact that you are mostly numb the first year – sort of in a state of disbelief, like your loved one just went on a vacation for a year and you suddenly realize they aren’t coming back. I’m sorry, but that’s just dumb. And don’t anyone say that to me. Ever.

We have been through all the holidays that start with “happy”, Memorial Day weekend, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day tomorrow, your birthday… yep, we’ve done them all, without you. We finished out last summer with hot baseball tournaments and mini vacations. We entered Fall and then winter. We did snow hiking and snowball fights with the dogs. We have been through the rainy spring, the blooming of new flowers and buds on the trees and a quarantine. And today, ironically, is the first day of summer. Another summer.

Throughout this past year it has become painfully clear to me that life moves on. We still have jobs we have to go to everyday, bills that still need to be paid, and other kids to parent. The world continues to move around us as if nothing has happened. Only something did happen. Some days I want to look at people and ask them, “don’t you know what has happened to me?” I still have this pent-up scream stuck inside of me that I swear someday I’m going to let loose and it will be unholy from the bottoms of my toes.

June 20, 2019 was a normal day. I came home from work and had to leave at 5:30 to volunteer at an event in the park near our home. You were hungry, so we had a quick dinner together, just you and me. You sat across from me. You had strawberries – those were your favorite. We talked about our days. You asked if you could have ice cream for dessert and I said how about you wait until I get home and we can have some together. You agreed without a single complaint. That should have been my first clue that things weren’t quite right. You had cleaned the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher before I got home from work that day. It’s my biggest pet peeve if that isn’t done, and it never is, and I always have to yell at you and Reilly to take care of it. This night it was all done before I got home from work that day. That was another sign. You did all the things to make me happy that night.

I wish I had known that was the last time I would see you alive. I wish that I would have hugged you tight instead of yelling out as I walked out the door for the two of you to be good, see you in a bit and I love you. At least I said the last part.

Your oldest brother stopped by the park that night to bring me a coffee because it was cold and rainy. I bought him some food. And I bought him an ice cream cookie sandwich to give to Reilly. I wish that I had bought you one too instead of deciding to wait and have ice cream with you at home like I had promised. You might still be alive if I had. The ice cream would have been melting and your brother would have given it to you right when he got home. If I had only bought you an ice cream.

Your brothers were amazing. They did all the right things that night. They can’t unsee that night and I can’t imagine the pain of what their vision of that night looks like. All I know is that the call I received and the urgency in which I drove home, and the remainder of that whole night was a parent’s worst nightmare.

We held your hands when you slipped away at the hospital. I brushed your unruly hair out of your face and whispered I love you one more time. Your dad talked to you gently in your ear in a long-distance call from California. It’s surreal, even today, I cannot believe it. Yet, I can still relive every single minute of that night in my mind. The screaming when I got to the house, the tears, the doctors trying so hard in the ER to revive you, the look on your brother’s faces. Images I wish I didn’t have.

That was the worst night of my life. And every “first” we have hit since that night is so hard. Every 20th of the month is so hard.

I will live the rest of forever without you.

I will live the rest of forever wondering who you would have become.

There are a million things I would have done differently. But it’s too late and I can’t change anything. All I can do is live joyfully, as you would have. And I promise you that I will do what I can to make a positive impact on the lives of others. I will be kind and empathetic. I will listen and I will love. And I will be an instrument of change we so desperately need in this world.

A year. One full year without you.

We miss you.

God may have you in heaven, but I have you in my heart. Always.

Happy Birthday Nikolai

Happy birthday

Today is your birthday. Your sweet 16. Or for boys is it more like stud 16? I don’t know.

Remember that birthday when you begged for hot dogs for your birthday dinner and I decided to make it extra special and go to the A & W Rootbeer Stand in Ortonville for a coney dog and mug rootbeer? And then we get there and everyone orders coney dogs BUT you – lol! Seriously a burger? I couldn’t believe it. I think I brought this story up every birthday thereafter because I was so annoyed and you thought it was so hysterical. Guess what… today we are going to that same A & W Rootbeer Stand and I am getting a burger. Just for you.

Quarantine or no quarantine, we probably wouldn’t be going to Secretary of State today for a license. I know you were so mad at dad and I for not allowing you to start driver’s training when you turned 15. I needed you to show us more responsibility and maturity before I was ready to risk your life and those of other people on the road. I know you get it. I also know you were mad as a hornet about it.

I miss you.

I wonder what you would have wanted for your birthday gift this year. New bike maybe. You were really getting too big for the one you had, although I know you loved it. Maybe some new kicks for summer? I bought you a dragonfly for your grave. It’s really more for me than you, I admit.

Your favorite birthday treat always seemed to be a slushie, whether from Mr. C’s or Dairy Queen. You weren’t huge on ice cream, but an ice slushie was high on your love of yummy things. And the brighter the color the better so you could wear it as a mustache for days!

I miss you.

I wish we could take you to ride go carts and play mini-golf today. Or maybe a friendly family tennis match or bowling. These are all things you loved to do on your big day.

I love birthdays. I love celebrating people and the amazingness they bring to the world. You brought a lot of amazingness Nikolai. I wish you could have seen that. I wish I had told you that more often.

Thank you for letting me pick the movie on your 13th birthday. You wanted to go to the movies and that was the day that Wonder Woman came out – June 2, 2017. You knew how much I wanted to see it. I think you did too; however, I also know you let us see it because of me. You were selfless. Always wanted people around you to be happy.

I miss you.

I’m sorry.

When you turned 12 you had an orchestra concert on your birthday and your teacher called out your birthday on stage. It was awesome! You turned three shades of red but I know you secretly loved it.

Are there birthdays in heaven? Make sure you whoop it up no matter what. Make some noise, as only you can.

Happy birthday Beans.

We love you.

Don’t forget

Don’t forget him

I’ve been thinking about Beans a lot lately. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him a dozen times; however, the last few weeks have been consuming. I don’t know if it’s the season I’m in right now or if it’s because we are coming up on the milestones of all milestones… his birthday and his death date, all in the same month. All I know is that my heart seems to hurt a little bit more right now.

Did you know that Nikolai’s favorite color was red?

He loved tacos and donuts.

His favorite cake was white cake with white frosting.

His favorite author by far was Rick Riordan and he read every single book of his a million and a half times.

He doodled more in school than he did actual work.

He struggled his whole life with math and writing.

He had a frequent flyer card to the ER because he was so curious and literally fearless!

He loved riding his bike more than just about anything.

He could burp the entire alphabet.

I write these things out because I am afraid that we will forget who he was. I don’t want Nikolai to be forgotten. I have big memories and stories that I love to share. Yet some days I feel like the everyday “normal” moments that we often take for granted are starting to slip away – memories lost. Little things like how he used to meet me in the garage every single day when I got home from work to ask me how my day was. Seems ordinary, but to me, looking back, those were special moments that I can’t ever get back and I don’t want to ever forget.

The world around me has moved on from Nikolai’s death. I know this. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but he wasn’t part of your day-to-day so I get it. That’s why these memories have become so precious. Things I can share with the world so no one forgets him. Nikolai isn’t just another suicide statistic. He was a 15-year old kid who lived and loved. He was my kid.

And while I could live the rest of my life with what if’s and coulda, woulda, shoulda’s, I can’t change anything. So instead of focusing on the things I can’t change, I choose to focus on the memories of an amazing kid who lived with more joy in his heart than any single human I’ve ever met.

If you knew him, keep talking about him. Keep his light on for the world to see.

What is your new “normal”?

What’s your new “normal”

“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.” – Dave Hollis

Have you really given this any thought – this return to normal and what it looks like to you? Are you going to jump back into “normal” with two feet? Are there things about the stay at home lockdown that you enjoyed and if so how are you going to incorporate those things into your life moving forward?

I have discovered a lot about myself in this lockdown period. I have been working from home since March 13. I was just told this week that I will be required to come back into the office to work on Monday. I have spent the better part of two days now crying, worrying and becoming more bitter by the minute because I realized a lot of somethings over the last 63 days of being at home… there isn’t any place I’d rather be than home, other than missing my friends, these people I share my house with are the people I want to spend all my time with, this puppy we got is the exact therapy I needed, these daily walks and out loud prayer have lifted my soul, and  I’ve realized that my passion lies elsewhere. Going back to this daily office job is not my passion and I realized I’m dreading putting my all into something that doesn’t make my heart sing.

So today I have made the decision to quit crying and worrying and swallow the bitter pill. I have decided to take all that negative energy and turn it into a plan of action for my life and the things I am passionate about and the people that I love. What kind of impact do I want to have? What are my goals and dreams?

I don’t want to return to “normal”; although I would love to go to my local coffee shop on a Friday morning and hug all the people like the good ole days. I don’t want to return to the normal daily grind of working for someone else on their time and in their way, for their cause. My life was made for more. I think deep down, I knew that the day Nikolai died.

This quarantine has taught me quite a bit; however, what has really hit me square in the face is that the one thing that has affected ALL of us, yet been talked about the least, is mental health. I don’t think I am scientifically off when I say that more people have and will suffer from mental illness during this time than any physical ailment. I am not trying to be insensitive to those impacted by this virus (my husband had it), but at least we are talking about it. At least there are actions surrounding prevention, spread, cures. What about mental health? What have we put into place for those suffering from mental health?

This lockdown has brought most of us mentally to our knees at one point or another. Watching friends and even strangers struggle makes my heart hurt. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we are also on the brink of a mental health pandemic – neither of which we are equipped to handle.

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of U.S. adults said the pandemic has affected their mental health, with 19% saying it has had a major impact. A majority of Americans (57%) also said they were worried they could be exposed to COVID-19 since they couldn’t afford to miss work and therefore couldn’t stay home. (US News source)

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, roughly 1 in 5 Americans experienced a mental illness within a given year, with some 10 million adults having serious thoughts of suicide. And these are just the adult statistics. What about our kids and the affect this is having on them?

And while we are discounting and even eliminating insurance barriers and costs associated with physical health right now because of coronavirus, we aren’t making these same concessions for those suffering from mental health. Insurance coverage, or lack thereof, is the greatest barrier to most people seeking mental illness assistance. We need to take a hard look at providing lower cost options for people to find help and we must focus on both prevention and recovery, teaching people how to navigate through the different stages in their lives.

The teaching part is so important because it’s clear that we have all struggled this quarantine season. While we as humans are not equipped for lockdown or how to handle it – if we had the tools to navigate mentally through tough times, maybe, just maybe we could weather this storm better.

Because whether you are an essential worker, working from home, working from home and also teaching your kids, students, graduates, elderly, living home alone – whatever category you fall into, I see you. We have good days but we also have bad days. Those days when we feel like we just can’t do it anymore. We are at our wits end. We are lonely. We need human interaction. We need the world to not be so scary. We need empathy. We need kindness.

And so I ask again – what part of your new “normal” are you rushing back into? Has this quarantine changed you or the way you think? Has it given you a new perspective on life and who you want to be? I encourage you to take this time to find yourself. Find your passion. Be kind to yourself and to others.

And if you are struggling, please reach out for help.

Common Ground – 800-231-1127

National Suicide Hotline – 800-273-TALK

Stand up and sing for your life

I choose joy

I choose joy.




I choose joy has become my daily mantra. Do I wake up every day feeling joyful? No. That is a hard and fast no. However, I get up, get dressed, pour my coffee and make the choice to live joyfully each day.

I have a lot of things to be sad about right now – don’t we all? But what happens when you focus on all the sad? All those negative emotions spiral you into a black hole that is very difficult to escape. I’m not saying it’s not okay to be sad – it absolutely is; however, don’t unpack there. Cry for a minute. Grieve your losses. And, then choose joy. Because when we choose joy, when we choose to look at how blessed we are, it changes our outlook and allows us to be more content with our situation.

I have five days “off” from work. This wasn’t ideally how I wanted to use my PTO; however, I’ve decided to use it to further my dreams and goals. I’m choosing to refocus my energy these few days into projects that light my heart on fire. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I can’t think of anything more important to focus on right now than that. It has always been extremely important to educate about mental health; however, these days it has become even more important. People all around us are struggling with one thing or another and how they are able to handle those things will determine much in their lives.

I made it my mission the day Nikolai took his own life to do whatever I could to help educate our community on mental health and suicide. I decided that day to make sure that as many people as I can affect know that they are enough – they are strong and courageous and we need them and the impact they are going to make on this world. Nikolai’s death transformed me in a million different ways. I grieve the loss of my child, yet I have found my purpose at the same time.

Nikolai lived joyfully. I believe he struggled with mental health all his life; however, he always chose joy. The last few years of his life, he desperately fought for that joy. The week before he died I asked him ‘where his joy was’. He said he didn’t know. He couldn’t find it. That was hard to hear. This is when I knew things were bad, really bad. For someone who lived for joy, saying those words was his last ditch effort at this mental health battle. He lost the war.

So when I say I CHOOSE JOY. I choose it for me and for him and for all of you who are battling finding your joy every single day.

Use this time to find your joy – whatever that may look like to you.

It’s time to stand up and sing for your life.


Happy GOTCHA Day!

Gotcha Day

Today is Nikolai’s GOTCHA Day!

For those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s the day the court in Kemerovo, Siberia, Russia gave Joe and I full custody of Kola. We always knew adoption was part of our plan, yet it still amazes me that God knew that halfway around the world there was this little baby boy destined for our hearts and our family.

This wild, goofy, smart, funny, kind-hearted, frustrating, loveable, handsome, force of nature child that we so desperately needed in our lives. Nikolai was full of life.

The process of international adoption is often long and when you decide to adopt from a country like Russia, you are also dealing with massive expenses and a corrupt system. However, that being said, Kemerovo was surprisingly pro-American and truly wanted what was best for the orphans. And, considering I was also pregnant with Reilly, we needed a region like this to push the adoption through with some urgency.

We traveled for the second time to Russia in April of 2005. Armed with a few bribes and a great translator, we stood before a judge on April 7 and asked to formally adopt Nikolai. The judge approved and we drove straight to the orphanage to pick up our second son.

GOTCHA day! It’s incredibly special for adoptive parents and children. Every April 7 Joe would go to a local Russian market and pick up all the fixings for a Russian dinner, complete with candy specially from Russia. We always let Kola decide on a special dessert – usually yellow cake with white frosting and sprinkles.

This GOTCHA day is different.

We are still honoring you today with your special Russian dinner and your crazy sprinkle cake. But instead of spending the day doing fun things with you, we will visit your grave and pray. I will talk to you as I do every day. I will remind you how very special you are. I will tell you again the story of your GOTCHA day and how on that day you were not born from my body but from my heart. I will tell you how desperately we all still love you and how much we miss having you being a physical part of our lives.

There will be tears of sadness that you are gone yet tears of joy for having had you in our lives for 15 years.

We love you Kola!
Happy GOTCHA Day – celebrate huge in heaven with Jesus today.

Have Faith

Have faith in God

Friday was March 20. This date marks 9 months since Nikolai left this physical world. Every month when the 20th rolls around I brace myself for an emotionally draining day. You would think I could better prepare myself for it. I know it’s coming. The 20th happens every single month. For me it marks another month gone without our Beans. It’s the countdown to that dreaded year marker.

This month though everything was different. The past week has been the most mentally exhausting for me since the week of Nikolai’s funeral. I found myself bouncing between desperately trying to find moments of joy amid all the worry, anger, sadness and tears. Oh the tears this week.

My job is communications for a hospital. While I am able to work from home and not be on the frontline, it was a whole different level of Hell. I was scared for my family – would we have enough food, would our power stay on, would my oldest son and his pregnant girlfriend still have jobs, my parents who are two hours away (but thankfully near my sister), my friends, my co-workers who literally are on the front line every single minute trying to save others while trying to calm their own worries about their families.

Imagine all of this and then on top of that having to be the calm and comfort for not only your immediate work family but for the thousands of people in our communities who need information and comfort from the hospital.

When I was at my most vulnerable is when I had to step up the biggest for others. A friend told me that God put me in this exact place because He trusts that I could and would say just the right thing. Joe told me to simply write from my heart. Write what I need to hear. So, I did. I took a deep breathe and wrote exactly what I needed to hear. I can only hope that it was enough for others.

Before the 20th came, I was destroyed. Every night last week I spent falling asleep in Joe’s arms crying – no, sobbing.

This weekend, I have finally been able to decompress. Joe made sure that our house was filled with food as well as my oldest son’s refrigerator. We cleaned, did laundry, did a puzzle, read, took a 5-mile hike in the woods with our youngest and one of our dog’s. I have been able to really take a good hard look at this past week. Now that I am in a better place mentally, I can honestly say, the things I put into place in my life last week literally saved me from a total breakdown.

I kept to a pretty strict schedule every single day. I didn’t dare fall into any “traps” that didn’t seem part of my “normal”. So, every single day I got dressed first thing. And after I closed my laptop at the end of the day, I did what I always normally do – I worked out, made dinner, watched a little TV or read and went to bed at 9:30, my normal bedtime. These are all things within my control. I needed to keep things consistent to help me through my day.

It’s the little extra things I added into my day, that when it comes right down to it, really saved me. All of these were God things, or at least that’s what I like to call it. My friend Greg started a 7am prayer service every day. It was less than 15 minutes long and I never missed it. Not a single day. That afternoon walk I took with Daisy at lunchtime, was my time to cry and pray out loud about anything and everything. My sister sent me a playlist of comforting Christian music and I put it on loop in my headphones while I worked. God saved me this week. When I fell into the darkest of places, is when He lifted me up.

By the time I got to Friday, the 20th of the month, I actually was in the best place I’ve ever been on the 20th of any month. I woke up that morning and felt as if something very heavy was being lifted off of my chest. I could breathe a little bit better. And I don’t have to ask why, I know why – God was lifting some of that burden I was carrying. He had my back.

I don’t know if any of you have watched the Amazon Prime show “Hunters”. If you haven’t, it is a really good series (only one season out right now). Last night we binge watched the last four episodes. The second to last episode included a scene between two parents and their son who had died as a young child 30 years earlier. It was the absolute most beautiful creation of heaven. In this scene the son assures his parents that he is happy and doing well. This was absolutely what I needed to see. After a heartbreaking week and a 20th, this was the reassurance I needed for all things. I faithfully believe this scene we watched was God sending us a message.

Have faith, rise up, go hard and believe with all your being – God will not abandon us. God will save us. Do not be fearful. Let go and let God. He is talking to you. He is talking to me. Every single day He is speaking to us in so many different ways. Be still and listen.

I know this past week was one of the most trying for all of us. We each had our own struggles with moments of joy and heartache all mixed in. We have no idea what this next week will bring. We have no idea how long this quarantine will last. However, I do know one thing – my God, your God, He loves us and will help us through it. You just have to let Him in.

I wish all of you a blessed, joy-filled week. Spend it doing all the things that light your heart on fire and let God carry your fears.