Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Life is Good

As I reflect on life one thought comes to mind.... LIFE IS GOOD!

Austin's last Christmas with us (December 2009)
Life is full. It's full of experiences, full of changes, full of hurt, and full of laughter. I look around and see that, despite the pain we sometimes experience, life is good...

Life is good. As I look at my boys I am reminded of this. Even though there are moments when they frustrate the living daylights out of me, they are a beautiful gift to me. As I watched Austin, and am now watching his brothers grow into young men, I am filled with awe that I have been blessed with three beautiful sons. Lately, I keep thinking how Austin would get a chuckle out of his two brothers if he could see them now.

Life is busy and moves fast. My family is on the go most of the time, enjoying the time we have before the boys are off to college and I am left trying to fill my time with other things. Today Austin would be 26 years old. In 1-1/2 years my middle son will graduate high school, the youngest will graduate in 3-1/2 years. It's hard to believe!

Life is good. Although it's filled with bumps and bruises, it's filled with love and laughter. This Christmas, as I watched my other two sons opening gifts, which each had "prank-wrapped" for the other, laughing and enjoying the time with together, I was reminded how blessed I am. As I listened to them, I thought of how much Austin would have been part of all the shenanigans and would have loved it. While my heart ached for what was missing it was also filled with joy for what was present.

Austin's brothers enjoying life on Christmas morning (2014)
Life is a blur and continuously changing. When I think of the first couple years of each of the boys lives, all I can think of is it was a big blur. Sleep deprivation and the demands of newborns and toddlers is exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. I don't remember much of those years - it all blends into one big blob. Then I think of the first couple years after Austin died. Life was a blur. I don't remember much - I think I missed out on parts of my other two sons' lives. I was there physically, but my mind was not always. Sometimes I wonder how things would be if Austin was still here, accident not happened. but I don't dwell on it because that is life - we are thrown things that change our life in an instant - filled with disruptions that change our course. Life continues to change, so if we dwell too long on "what-ifs" we'll miss the here and now.

Life is good. As I watched my younger two boys walking into church the other day my heart warmed. Here were two six-feet tall "boys" laughing and pushing each other, enjoying life. I took a moment to take it all in, take a mental picture, savor the view. It's hard to believe how much they have grown. Part of me still thinks of them as little boys, but reality is they're growing up. My mind flashes back to May 2010, when I caught myself doing the same thing while watching Austin. Life doesn't stop, but we can slow down for even a minute to savor these times, to breathe in a absorb life.

Life is full of "life". Life brings us good and bad. It brings people in and out of our lives just when we need them (sometimes when we don't). Life speeds up, then slows down, then picks up pace again. Life makes us cry and makes us laugh. Life lets us grow and change. It takes experiences and molds us, sometimes for the better others for worse, depending on how we let it. That is why, as I look around I think...

Life is a camera. Each moment we have is a snap shot that makes up our life photo album. The memories we make along the way should be savored - both the good and the bad, because they ultimatly make us who we are. I found this quote and felt it sums life up: "Life is like a camera...Focus on what's important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don't work out, take another shot." Then remember...

LIFE IS GOOD...keep snapping those pictures!

The date on this photo is wrong.
I believe this was Christmas 2008,
based off of Austin's scruffy beard!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Something's Missing

"Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it." ~ L.M. Montgomery

There are certain things that when I don't have them I feel as if I'm forgetting something. When I leave my house without my purse, I have a constant unsettled feeling; something is missing. If I don't have my phone, I almost feel naked. When we go somewhere as a family and one of my sons is not with us I am constantly doing a double check trying to figure out who or what we forgot. I even do it when my pseudo son from next door isn't with us. We didn't forget anyone, it's simply that we're short a person who is usually with us because they are somewhere else for the day.

Suddenly it hit me the other day, when I was driving. I almost always have a bit unsettling of a feeling, as if I am leaving something behind, as if something is missing. Then I realized, it's Austin.

Life is moving on. Changes are happening all around, everyone is growing up. Everyone but Austin. In my mind he's still the same as he was four and half years ago and it seems unnatural. As I watch others grow and mature, even my other two boys, Austin never ages. As memories are made with my friends and family, my Austin's memories will always be the same. There will never be any more or any less than the ones I had when he died at the age of 21.

I will hold tight to those beautiful memories and realize he is always with me, even when I feel as if I'm leaving something behind. Austin is missing, but his love is all around!

Austin looking at a photo album I gave him Christmas 2009 (the last Christmas he shared with us). He had several undeveloped rolls of film from a couple years priors (pre-digital camera days). I developed them and created a photo album for him. Every time I look at this picture I smile remembering that day. (His 16 year-old brother is now wearing the sweater he has on in this photo - which warms my heart every time I see him wearing it.)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Don't Ask Me Why

The other day I was calling my stepmom on my cell phone and an ironic realization hit me. When I enter her home phone number the name tied to that number shows on my phone contacts as "Dad." What's so ironic about that? It's the fact that I kept "Dad" as the contact name after he died....

The day after Austin died my phone rang, I looked at the caller ID. It showed "Austin" was calling. My mind became instantly confused. How could Austin be calling me? Was Austin really alive? Was the whole accident a mix up? Would Austin be on the other end if I answered?

No. Austin was no longer with us. He wasn't calling me. It was actually my middle son calling. I had let my middle son have Austin's phone, since he didn't have one of his own. But I never thought about how it would show up on my caller ID, and it freaked me out.

After a couple of days of receiving calls or texts from "Austin" I knew I had change that number listing, but  I didn't have it in me to have a different person's name. I can't explain it, it just didn't feel right, as if if I was cutting Austin off. (Which is silly, I know, but it was what it was.) So I changed the listing to "The Boys." Problem solved. "The Boys" could include Austin, right? Since both my middle and youngest son were using the phone at the time, "The Boys" covered both of them, and kept Austin connected to that number.

Eventually, my middle son became the sole user of that phone (and phone number), and asked me to have just his name appear on my caller id. I obliged. It didn't make sense to keep it as "The Boys," when it was only my middle son using that number.

Fast forward three years from that incident. After my father passed away it didn't bother me that "Dad" still showed up on the caller ID. In fact, it gave me comfort. Now when I call my stepmom, and the caller id shows I'm dialing "Dad," it brings me comfort. So I keep it as-is. Which brings me back to what I was thinking about the other day when I called "Dad...."

Isn't it ironic two very similar two similar situations have me reacting in two very different ways? That they evoke two different feeling? I don't know it is. So I simply sum it up as, "It is what it just is."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Grief - Does it change you or reveal you?

"Grief does not change you,... It reveals you." ~ John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Ever since losing Austin I've heard (and even said) "grief changes you" or "I'm different since losing Austin." Then the other day I stumbled upon the above quote and it got me thinking. Did it truly change the core of who I am, or simply peel away some layers to reveal a deeper look at who I am?

I started reflecting on other life events that "changed" me. For example, the birth of my first child (Austin), "changed" me, or did it? It changed what my priorities were, what my focus was. It changed how I made decisions, since now I had a little one to take into consideration. But, did it change the core of who I am?

As I ponder this question as it pertains to who I am since Austin left us, I am inclined to say, "No, I am still the same at the very core, but I see life through different eyes. Just like I saw life through different eyes after he was born." I had choices as to how I could let it change my view of life. I could have become a very negative, bitter person. I could have seen life as horrible....  I could have, but I chose not to.

Life is life. It has some awesome, wonderful moments - witnessed when you hear the first cry of your baby when he enters this world. And it has some very, very awful moments.... ones we don't want to experience, but we have no choice. It is what it is.

I find myself often saying, "That is  part of life. It is what it is. What are you going to do?" when I've just shared with someone that I have three boys, one who is no longer with us. I'm sure it sounds a little odd when I say this, but it is what it is, and I don't know how else to explain it. I had no choice  when Austin died. I couldn't say, "Um, yeah, I don't think I want to have this part of my life." That wasn't an option.

What I did have a choice in was who I let the loss make me be. Or, maybe I should say I had a choice of what part of me I let it reveal a little more of.

"Difficult times always create opportunities for you to experience more love in your life." ~ Barbara de Angelis

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Look...

I see a motorcyclist riding down the road. Sometimes I simply hope they stay safe, reminded how unprotected a cyclist is. Other times a "vision" of Austin comes to mind. It's as though I can see him on that bike, enjoying the ride.

I see a construction worker walking by. Sometimes I simply think about the hard work they do, in the freezing snow, cold rain, or blustering heat, and am thankful for their work. Other times an Austin image comes to mind. I can visualize Austin walking with the workers, chatting it up and laughing.

I see young men, in their early to mid twenty's, relaxing, hanging out. Sometimes I smile, thinking about the adult life they're beginning, just starting to figure out what it means to be an adult. Other times Austin comes to mind, so vividly that I can hear his voice as I eavesdrop on the conversation - not to hear what they're saying, but more to hear their voices, ones that remind me of Austin.

Why is it that at times something reminds me so clearly of Austin, while other times it's just a fleeting thought?

It's "THE LOOK" that gets me. There are just some times when a person's looks, mannerisms, voice, and style say "Austin". If you're with me when I see it, you'll know it. I can't stop watching the person. You'll see a warm smile on my lips and distant look in my eyes. If you could see inside me, you'd observe my throat tighten slightly and hear the quiet sigh inside my chest.

This happened yesterday, while waiting in line for a Starbuck's coffee at the NYS Thruway stop. There were two young men, a little over 6-feet tall, in line in front of me, dressed in work jeans, boots, and t-shirts the bright color construction workers sometimes wear. They kept waiting and waiting for one of the guy's coffees. He finally quietly said something to the employee, who kindly stated she was waiting for him to pay. He chuckled when he realized his error, paid for and picked up the coffee, then proceeded over to his buddy laughing about what he had done. Everything about him reminded me of Austin - the joking-good-naturedness, the walk, the construction attire, the chuckle.

As they walked away I wanted to say, "Wait, can you stay just a little longer. I enjoy watching you." But if I had said that they would have thought I was a crazy lady. So I just quietly watched them leave and thought of Austin.

If you knew Austin, you know "the look" I'm talking about. The "Austin Look!" If you didn't, I'm sorry you missed the opportunity, but you can catch a glimpse from the pictures, which capture a small part of "The Look!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

300 Feet

Did you know...
300 feet = 100 yards = 91.44 meters = 0.09144 kilometers = 0.0568182 miles?
If you're traveling at a speed of 60-70 mph it would take you a minimum of 3 seconds to stop?

Every time my GPS shows 300 feet to my exit or turn I begin counting, trying to figure out if I'm traveling 60-70 mph how long it would take me to stop if something came to an abrupt stop just 300 feet ahead of me. If my calculations are correct, based on statistics below, I would have 3-4 seconds to stop.

Why this obsession with 300 feet?

Because the maximum distance Austin had to stop between the time the truck he hit came into his sight range and the point of impact was 300 feet. Therefore he had 3 seconds or less to avoid collision, assuming he saw the truck the second he crested the hill, that he wasn't looking down for a second or off to the side. 

So, just like I will never look at a picture of Austin in the shirt from my last posting the same, I will never look at 300 feet on my GPS the same way again either.

And now, you will never look signs for 300 feet the same way again either...

What are your triggers for Austin memories?

And in case you're wondering how do I know this information...I looked it up:

SpeedDistance to StopFeet per SecondCar lengths
20 mph12m 40ft29.4 ft/sec4
30 mph23m 75ft44.1 ft/sec6
40 mph36m 120ft58.8 ft/sec10
50 mph53m 175ft73.5 ft/sec14
60 mph73m 240ft88.2 ft/sec20
70 mph96m 315ft102.9 ft/sec26
Table from

The average reaction time from seeing an emergency situation to actually placing your foot on the brake pedal is 0.7 seconds At 30mph, 44 feet per second, you will have travelled 30 feet before you even take action, and a further 45 feet before the brakes bring the car to a halt.  (According to

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Austin Shirt

Austin at his uncle's wedding
Austin was a very easy kid when he was younger when it came to wearing clothes. He pretty much wore what ever I pulled out for him. Then came the teen years where it was jeans, wind pants, and t-shirts. Trying to get him to wear anything "dressed up" was like pulling teeth. He liked his comfort clothes!

Four years ago I once again had to pick out his clothes. This time for his funeral. My husband and I looked through his clothes and immediately picked out jeans, sandals and agreed on the same shirt. At the time I didn't know why we picked the shirt we did. It was simply Austin. One thing I did need to do was find a long sleeve shirt to go under his "dress shirt" because his arms were scraped up. Who ever knew it would be so difficult to find a blank long sleeve shirt. But eventually it was found.

Over the months after Austin died, as I was looking through pictures, a realization came to me. Almost every picture of Austin "dressed up" he was wearing the shirt we had buried him in. That's why the shirt screamed "Austin".

Austin at a friend's wedding

Now, all of a sudden, I had wished we had kept the shirt with the other items of Austin's I am saving. I wished I had it as a memory. But there was nothing I could do about it now.

Austin at his electrical trade awards ceremony (with his grandpa)

Last year, as I was going through some of Austin's things, I stumbled upon a little "pocket" that had a little bit of thread, a button, and a very small safety pin. It looked familiar. Why did it look so familiar? Then is occurred to me. It had come with the "Austin shirt," the one we had buried him in. I did, after all, have a little bit of the shirt. That's all I needed. I put it in a small snack-sized ziplock bag and placed it in the inside pocket of my purse. Every time I reach into that pocket for my lipstick I feel the bag and smile - it's a bit of Austin.

The Austin shirt "pocket"

A couple weeks ago I was getting ready for work. The shirt I put on was a v-neck created by the two pieces of fabric crossing over each other. It was early in the morning and I must have been a little sleepy still because I could have sworn there was a pin holding the fabric together. But, on my way to work I realized there was no pin. I searched through the car, through my purse, and inside my wallet for a small safety pin, only to find none. Ugh! I knew I was going to be self conscious all day. Then a light went on. The little "pocket" of Austin's that I carry around in my purse had a small safety pin. Austin saved the day!

It's in the little things that I find Austin's memories and smile!

Monday, June 2, 2014

It's Been A While...

It's been a while since I last posted. It's not that I have nothing to say. In fact, I have a lot to say. There's a lot going through my mind, many ideas and thoughts that I have wanted to sit down and put on "paper", but I haven't done it.

Sometimes I get an idea, a memory, an inspiration, and it flows out of my mind down to my fingers and onto the "page". Very little effort needs to be put into making it make sense. Then other times I have lots upstairs, but that's where it stays - in my head. That's where I have been lately.

Part of the "block" is that some of my thoughts have come around significant times of our nation remembering others we have lost as a country or city. I don't want to take away from those events and memories. When Memorial Day or the anniversaries of the Boston Bombings and 9/11 are remembered my mind does think about everyone who has been lost through these events (or those who have been injured and lives have been changed), but it also goes to personal events that occurred during these same times. But, I don't feel that is the time to write about them.

Another part is that I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. My life is full of life. I find myself laughing and smiling most of the time, all while my mind carries Austin with me. When I share these Austin moments and memories it's not to get sympathy, but rather to keep Austin alive through these memories. It's to let people know that life is good, in spite of missing pieces of the puzzle. It is to show others who are suffering their own loss at this time, who can't see any sun behind the stormy clouds, that "every storm runs out of rain." That even though right now it may seem impossible to imagine any brightness, it is there, waiting for them. It may take time, longer than desired, but light will peak out from behind the clouds. Sometimes for a split second, other times for much longer.

And still another reason is that I sometimes feel like a broken record, as if I have already shared the things that are churning in my mind.

I will try to post some of my thoughts soon, when I can get the ideas to come together in a sensible form. In the meantime, treasure the memories you have of your loved ones - after all, memories are priceless!

If you're going through a rough time right now, remember (as Gary Allan sings), "Every storm runs out of rain... Every dark night turns into day..."

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ants in My Pants

"The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone." ~Mitch Albom

Last June, while getting ready for the 3rd Annual Remembering Austin fundraiser, I was having a pity party. I was running around trying to pull everything together and feeling very alone. I was missing Austin and I was missing my dad.

It wasn't until then that I realized how much my dad had helped with the previous fundraisers. He had  a "slow and steady wins the race" kind of attitude. He'd be puttering in the barn, cleaning it up, humming away. I'd be running around like a crazy woman, irritated by that humming. Now I missed it. Now I was hearing it in my mind, smiling.

Driving back from the stores I decided to take a detour and stop at the cemetery where both Austin's and my dad's grave sites were. When I visit the sites I usually stand there a few minutes, take in the view, shake my head, and leave. This day it was beautiful and sunny. I sat on the grass at their sites, which is the first time I've ever sat on the ground there. I began to relax, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, when suddenly I feel a bite on my leg. I look down to see a couple ants crawling on me. I jump up, shake off my leg, and think, "Well that moments gone."

I climb back in my car and drive to my mom's house, which is just a couple houses down from the cemetery. I enter the house, climb the stairs to the second floor and begin chatting with my brother. All of a sudden I feel a burning on my buttocks. I tear down the stairs, screaming "ouch!", fly into the bathroom, slam the door, and rip my pants off. Then I start laughing...

I had ants in my pants! Literally.

All I could think of was Austin. Here I was feeling sorry for myself. All it took was a couple of little ants to shake me out of my wallowing and give me a laugh. I could hear Austin laughing. He would have gotten a kick out of that story.

From now on when I visit I think I'll sit in the gazebo next to my dad's and Austin's grave sites. And when I hear the saying "ants in the pants" I will always have an interesting vision in my head.

"It's all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are finished." ~Debbie Macomber

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Triggers.... you never know

Is there a smell that immediately brings you back to a time or place?

For me, a certain smell of wood does it every time... There's a distinct woody smell that immediately conjures up memories of my grandmother's entryway, which we had to walk through when entering her home.

Without doing a thing, all of my senses (sounds, sights, tastes, touches, smells) can bring me back to earlier times. I'm going along, minding my own business, when WHAM! the smell (or sound or taste) comes out of nowhere, and my mind jumps, with no warning, to a memory. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good.

What about when something causes our minds to jump to a memory and that "something" isn't one of the five senses? Or, what if it's not a memory that's triggered, but rather a lost dream? You can't figure out what it is, can't put your finger on it. But there's a feeling you can't shake. If only you could figure out why, identify what's causing it.

It happened to me last June, and not for the reasons I would have thought. June is the anniversary month of Austin's passing,but that's not what triggered the emotions that came rolling through me. I found myself feeling anxious and sad, something was stirring in me - a feeling as if I was missing out on life events, and it all seemed to stem from watching my friends kids graduate high school, which made no sense to me. Austin had graduated high school six years earlier. We had had a wonderful graduation party. I hadn't missed out on that life event with Austin. And I had great memories of that time with him. I've been through two other graduation seasons since Austin's accident, and never felt anything like this.So what was it that evoked the unsettled feelings? Why this year? What was different?

I had been looking forward to watching my friends' sons and daughters finish one season of life and begin their next journey. I have watched these kids grow into beautiful and respectful young adults and couldn't wait to see them grow even more as they began their next phase of life.... And that's when it hit me!

It wasn't about their graduating, but rather what it represented.... they were moving on to the next natural phase of their lives - college. I had experienced that with Austin and loved watching him grow into a beautiful young man during those years. He had just completed his last courses, just received his associates degree, only a few weeks before he died. He was beginning his next journey in life - having a full-time job, renting his own apartment, becoming a full-fledged adult. A journey I will never get to watch him experience. I will never get to walk along with him on any of life's next stages. That's what was breaking my heart. Although the graduations were the trigger, it was the end of one season and the beginning of another that created the aching in me. It was a subconscious reminder of what will never be for Austin.

Job promotions, engagements, marriages, babies, home purchases.... all the things that Austin would possibly be doing if he was still here. All the things that I have been blessed to watch his friends experience. I have watched them grow and blossom over the past 3-1/2 years. As I've been thinking about it I realize that if Austin was still alive, he would be twenty-five years old. He would have learned so much about life, he would have discovered more of who he was and what he wanted. I will never experience him getting that first job promotion, becoming engaged, marrying, having children, or purchasing a home. I can only imagine what he would be doing, because the most recent memories are the last memories I have of him is at twenty-one, fresh out of college, finishing one journey and just at the very beginning of the next. That's why I felt as if I was missing out on life's events, because I was - the life events of Austin.

The good thing was that I had identified what the trigger was, acknowledged it and made peace with it. There will be a day very soon, when my next child moves to his new big stage of life (graduating high school and heading off to college) and I will celebrate it fully with him, even though there will always be a tug at my heart of what I will always miss with Austin, watching him take that next leg of the journey of life.

Although Austin's life ended way to soon, our lives continue to roll on, along all the twists and turns that make life exciting and exhausting all at the same time. Although Austin is not with us physically, he will always be in my heart and I will always wonder (as Kenny Chesney's song says) what he'd be today.

An' sometimes I wonder, Who'd you be today?
...Would you see the world? Would you chase your dreams?

Settle down with a family, I wonder what would you name your babies?
...It ain't fair: you died too young, Like the story that had just begun,
But death tore the pages all away. God knows how I miss you,
...An' sometimes I wonder, Who you'd be today?
(~ Lyrics from Kenny Chesney's "Who'd you be today)

PS: As with previous entries, I was hesitant to post this, because I don't ever want a friend of mine not to share their child's journey of life with me, and I never want Austin's friends not to share their next life changing experience with me, worried it will evoke "missing Austin" feelings. Because, even though I long to watch Austin, it warms my heart and brings me a smile to watch my friends and their family, and Austin's friends and their family, grow and live life. We are here to live life and share it with others, so thank you for doing that with me!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Greeting Cards - Get Me Every Time

It's Valentine's Day. A day when we are supposed to tell the ones we love how much we really do love them. It's just the American way.

Today as I was browsing the Valentine card section at the local CVS (yes, I left it to the last minute), I found the perfect card for my husband and then moved on to the "son" area, looking for cards for my two younger boys. I found it a little difficult to find the right card for two boys, as I didn't want to get them both the same card (how lame would that be). And I couldn't get a card for one boy that said how great he was, and then get a different card for the other one that didn't mention his awesomeness. So it took me a bit to find two cards for the boys. But eventually I succeeded.

As always happens, I find gazillion cards that seem just right for Austin, wishing he was here to send it to (or hand in person) - cards speaking of what a wonderful person he's turned out to be. With my other two boys still teenagers, the only person these cards would be perfect for is Austin....

As I often do, I bought the card. Not with the intention of trying to mail it up to Austin (wouldn't that be amazing if you could send a message to a loved one in heaven), but just because I liked the words it said, how it reminded me of the love I have for Austin, and because it brought me down memory lane, to a time when Austin was visiting us....We were at one of the other boy's football game. I stood back and watched Austin chatting and laughing it up with one of our friends, and I smiled, amazed at what a beautiful young man he was turning out to be....

Sometimes things work out well.
Sometimes life is good.
Like you're given a son to care of and love.
So you try to bring him up right,
to let him know how important he is to you.

And before you know it, he's an adult,
looking you in the eye and grinning
with a smile that comes straight from the heart.

And you think to yourself, "Hey, he turned out good."
And your heart fills up with love...again.

Happy Valentine's Day
to a good man...and a wonderful son.

Happy Valentine's Day Austin!

PS: Personally, I think every day should be Valentine's Day. We should show those we love how important they are to us, through our words and actions, on a daily basis.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Irritate - Irritating - Irritable

Warning: I have been tossing back and forth in my mind whether I should write this entry. It may really irritate some, even my closest friends. But then I thought about what the purpose of this blog is. It's to let others know they are not alone in their grieving process. It's been 3-1/2 years since Austin left us, and I often have to try and discern whether my feelings, emotions, and actions are still part of the grieving process or just a reflection of who I am as a person. Sometimes, as in this case, I think it's a combination of the two.

I started reflecting on this past year (2013), when deciding whether or not I should write this entry, and realized, "Wow! There's been a lot going on in my life, including a new grieving - for my dad. Most likely, I'm not the only one who's been going through rough times. In fact, I've read numerous Facebook postings from friends and acquaintances which indicate that 2013 was a tough year for many, and some may be reacting the same I have."

Before I jump into the actual entry, I feel a background of the end of 2012 and most of 2013 is needed:
  • Mid 2012 - I embarked on a 9-month contract job that turned into more than I expected - more hours and a much longer commute. It was a wonderful experience, I learned a lot and grew from it - both personally and professionally - but it was a huge stressor.
  • Thanksgiving / Christmas 2012- Due to other commitments, we did not make it home to visit family for the holidays. Little did I know that I would never spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with my dad again.
  • Late 2012 to January 2013 - my grandfather-in-law (98 years old), whom my husband was very close to, was experiencing significant health problems.
  • December 2012 - my husband had surgery on his shoulder.
  • January 2013 - my middle son was diagnosed with Pars Defect (fractures in the L5 vertebrae), and battled this all year. (Severe pain in lower back.)
  • January 2013 - my grandfather-in-law passed away.
Austin with his great grandpa (my grandfather-in-law)
  • January 2013 -My mother-in-law tore her ligament in her shoulder (this occurred the day before my grandfather-in-law's funeral.)
  • April 2013 - my dad passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, from a massive heart attack.
Austin with his grandpa (my dad) at his technical school graduation
  • April 2013 (one week after my dad's funeral) - my mother-in-law was diagnosed with heart problems, and had heart surgery.
  • ~May 2013 - my mother-in-law had additional heart surgery.
  • July 2013 - my middle son broke his wrist
  • Fall 2013 - my youngest son had a concussion
  • ~Fall 2013 - my mother-in-law had additional heart surgery. (Dates for May and Fall are a little muddled in my mind, so these are approximations.)
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas 2013 - were very different. A huge hole was felt without my Dad and Austin. (This is for another blog entry, though.)
Whew! I didn't realize what a busy year I had, until I put it all on paper.

Pisspot: a mean, nasty person
Irritate: to make (someone) impatient, angry, or annoyed; to provoke impatience, anger, or displeasure it; to induce irritability in or of
Irritated: subjected to irritation; especially: roughened, reddened, or inflamed by an irritant
Synonyms of irritate: aggravate, annoy, bother, bug, exasperate, grate, irk, nettle, get on one's nerves, rub the wrong way.

Over the past year (possibly year-and-half) I found myself having a pisspot attitude, being irritated with everyone! Someone would call me with a simple question - I'd be irritated. Someone asked me to do something - I'd be irritated. Someone would offer to help me with something - I'd be irritated. Someone would call me to tell me something - I'd be irritated. Basically - I was irritated all the time. A true pisspot!

Before you get really irritated at me, let me assure you that nothing and no one was off-limits. It was nothing anyone had done. I was just irritable. Heck, I even irritated myself!

I have always held a philosophy, and often share it with my boys - there are times when someone is grumpy or curt with you, even though you have done nothing wrong. When this happens, you need to ask yourself, "Did I do something wrong or mean that would give this person 'permission' to be mad at me?" If the answer is "no", then you need to realize that it is the miserable person's problem, not yours.

All year long, the question I had to ask myself was, "Is this person irritating, am I irritated for a specific reason, or am I simply irritable?" I am ashamed to admit that ninety-five percent of the time, my answer was, "I am simply irritable." I had no specific reason, I was just irritated. This is probably part of the reason that, over the past year, I decided to stay more to myself than is normal, for me. (See previous posting.) After all, who would want to be around an irritable, pisspot person? Not me!

I knew there was something wrong. I knew I wasn't behaving like "myself", I love people! But here I was, always irritated. I can visualize clearly the day I realized I had to change. The day I did change.... I called the company that does maintenance on our heating system. I didn't like the answer the account representative gave me, so I was snippy - extremely snippy. I hung up the phone and thought to myself, "Wow! You were really a b%tch. What is wrong with you?"

A few minutes later I called back, profusely apologizing. It was freeing to apologize and admit I was a jerk. It was at this point I decided that enough was enough. Everyone has issues they're dealing with. What right do I have to treat people the way I have been over the past year (even if, at times, it was only in my mind).

From that day forward, I have found myself liking people. (The way I used to!) I have found a skip in my step and am enjoying life more than I have in a long time. The majority of individuals out there are good people and they deserve to be treated like it!

To all those I have been irritable to in the past, I am truly, truly sorry!

There are times in our lives that we start having a pisspot attitude. I truly believe that when we step back and realize it is our problem, not others, we can change. We can have the 'right' attitude, even in difficult times.

Don't be too hard on yourself, if you've found yourself irritable, but own that problem. When we are able to recognize this, we can then truly enjoy life, and bless those around us. Who knows, maybe they are going through a rough patch too. Why not add a little sunshine to their day?

We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them. -Epictetus