Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hi my name is Jen- I'm addicted to Hallmark cards

I went into the Hallmark store to buy one card a few days ago, sounds simple right? I wish, not really!

Talk about choices, and that was just for the type of card I was interested in buying- Thinking of You-Just To Say Hello. Frankly, both would have been appropriate but I was finding it difficult to locate one that said something close to what I wanted to express, nothing quite did it for me. So I kept on looking for the perfect card scanning section after section aisle after aisle, my Hallmark moment turned into a Hallmark hour- well almost!

Have you ever gambled, gone to a casino, put those coins in a slot machine? My husband and I went on a cruise with about thirteen family members a few years ago, it was my first time doing slot machine gambling. Your always thinking that next spin on the slot machine is gonna get you that winner, it's rather exciting- that next one will surely be the one won't it?

Now back to The Hallmark Store, I found its like being in the casino, there are hundreds of cards on the shelves, when you don't find what you want you just keep on looking - just one more card- just one more card-  I kept on saying, hoping that the next one will be "the one" that will express the perfect sentiment- say the right words.

I did find a card in amongst all those aisles and aisles of cards, with a few simple words written in it. For all the searching for the perfect sentiment, I found it was best expressed with my own hand in my own words, so I included a personal note.

Call me crazy, but I bet I'm not the only one who does this am I?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

- post card- the letter said "please forgive me"

It came in a plain white envelope on what would have been Eric's 23rd birthday it said, "please forgive me"- he was responsible for the deaths of my children, it was an accident. Of course there was more, but that was what counted all that really needs to be shared.

I always know eventually I'm going to be writing something more about my experience with the loss of the kids, although I'm never sure exactly what I'll write about on this blog or when. However sometimes my mind is made up for me, by circumstances beyond my control.

The state police said the truck driver was distraught was beside himself with grief. Even though I was in complete and utter turmoil  over the death of my children I couldn't help but wonder how he must be feeling? I couldn't stop thinking that his life would change forever that day as surely as ours would.

For some reason I couldn't get another image out of my head. What would happen if my oldest daughter was driving with the boys in her mini van and got distracted - hit someone by accident- killed them, how would I want her to be treated? With malice and vengeance or with compassion?
Then I knew I would forgive him, I had to- wanted to.

I've struggled for the past few weeks listening to the gospels while in church, the beatitudes, blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted, blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, I have an entirely new understanding of these words the things Christ said on the mountain side thousands of years ago.

Ordinary time when we hear many of the Gospels of Matthew.  I've always thought that was such a funny name for this time of year as we prepare for the Easter season since the messages are far from ordinary for me- since their deaths.

Then I was reading another blog a few days ago, it was just heart wrenching- a loving mother reflecting about her child's birthday- the first after his loss. For us mothers I'm afraid its like we're in this club that nobody wants to belong to. I hear another mothers story and my heart breaks, I relate.  But for me something  happens that I can't help, I guess I should be used to it by now. When I hear of another's loss I go right back to "that place" and for me my thoughts turned to those first birthdays after my kids deaths as I read that mothers words.

It should be said that truck driver never responded to our letter giving him the forgiveness he asked for, part of me knew he wouldn't. However his sister was leaving court on the day he was sentenced, looked me straight in the face bowed her head as if showing a sign of respect. I think of him from time to time, its my hope he's found some measure of peace. 

It is freeing to become aware that we do not have to be victims of our past and can learn new ways of responding. But there is a step beyond  this recognition... It is the step of forgiveness. Forgiveness is love  practiced among people who love poorly. It sets us free without wanting anything in return.   
 Henri Nouwen


Monday, February 21, 2011

how does your garden grow?

big boys
All over the news stations and the on line news they are predicting the price of fruits, vegetables, basically food in general are going up. I can't see having to pay a premium at the store for it when I can just as easily grow it in my yard. I'm actually looking forward to it.  Have I mentioned I have a big yard- 26.5 acres to be honest. Its just the two of us so we have to keep the size of what we plant manageable, and it is for our pleasure, not a job after all.

Needless to say we will be expanding this year, planting more, canning more, milling, sharing more with those in need and with our neighbors. My husband has several friends who show up regularly with bags in their pocket for their weekly tomato fix, they are pretty funny guys- here ya think they're here for a visit and they whip out their bags!

last years tomato garden

cheetah & tarzan
The beginning of  the growing season for us here in the south central part of Virginia is March when we put in our potatoes first since this is zone 7. We've found that the best schedule for us is to always plant on or about St Patty's day and we harvest the potatoes usually on or about July 4th.

last years spuds
So I'm thinking about all of this and then it hit me; crap our friends who are teachers and who also own the local hardware where we always buy our seed potatoes the ones that grew those orbs of goodness (I'm Irish) closed their business so they  had time to enjoy their grandchild.

We live in a pretty rural area, the local hardware is a wonderful place where you can buy just about anything. Although I am thrilled they are taking it easy after many years of working their backsides off, you might have heard me grumble when we have to drive twenty or more miles to another store.

pay dirt!
Thank goodness my daughter is a planting and gardening freak herself- always buying this and that for her own yard and she found me a source for several different varieties that was pretty local- twenty mile drive.
beets, shallots, eggplants, basil

There is a ton of tilling to do and seeds to start, choices to make about what we'll grow, where to put it all.
It's going to be fun. I can't promise however that there won't be a post or two about the weeds and the hot southern sun- did I mention those pesky mayflies?

So tell me if there's interested gardeners or would be gardeners out there reading this blog and you feel like sharing, how does your garden grow? What are you  planning on doing this season in your garden, anything new or interesting?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting to know me- ten random things

I've been blogging for less than a month now, and I enjoy it very much. I know there are tons of things I don't know- stuff I need to learn about how to be a better more well rounded blogger, how to get people to read my blog,  about comments, become followers all that stuff. I thought if those of you who actually do read so far might like to get to know me a little better. And I hope for those of you that have come and visited from time to time, you might consider following  or leaving a comment so that I can visit you as well. Anyway, here some random stuff about me that came to mind this morning so you can get a better idea of the kind of person I am- with a few pictures added.

1)  I was born in New York City.


2) I love to cook but rarely use recipes when doing so. Boy does this cause a problem for me when someone asks how I made something- I can tell them all the ingredients but never exact measurements. I'll usually have to make what ever it is just to provide an exact recipe.

3)  I cry at parades - can't help it- dumb huh?

4) My favorite t.v. shows are Bones, Criminal Minds, Lie to Me and The Closer. I also love the show on the history channel called American Pickers, have you seen it? These guys go around and buy peoples old stuff, which amounts to valuable junk- very good show.

5) I'm a morning person now. I used to be able to stay up late and sleep in; I swear you hit 50 and  bedtime becomes a big thing again- boy I need to get a life!!

6)  I never skimp on good linens for the beds in my house, there is nothing better than a great nights sleep in a comfy bed with great sheets- soft comforter or quilt.

7) This is my #1 favorite group picture of my kids.

 they're having so much fun!

8) I have four grandchildren 3 boys and 1 girl

9) Given the choice I will always pick salty over sweet. I'm a chips gal, cookies and cake are o.k but chips and pretzels are my preference.

10) My favorite food is Italian -  give me a bowl of any pasta and I'm in heaven.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

- post card- Death of a child- guilt and marriage

It has been said that the death of a child can put a strain on a marriage.

When our son Eric was in high school, a team-mate on his baseball team died in an accident, that boys parents didn't make it. Now I can't say what caused the break up, or how their marriage was before the boy died. What I can tell you is the strain is terrible, parents grieve differently, communicate differently have different needs that the other spouse has to try to understand and respect. Then there are the added pressures too of -caring for siblings, jobs, court, criminal proceedings, financial concerns, our children's death was very public, some parents blame each other; the list is endless.

Today I was thinking about guilt- I am a Catholic after all. It's been said we know all about guilt. But I was thinking about regular guilt not the Catholic kind (that comes from divorce or missing church, turning your back on Catholicism) I was thinking more the kind I felt after the kids died. For the first two years, my husband and I went to therapy together as a couple. I continued in therapy on my own for at least that much time after. But as a couple our marital strengths and attitudes towards each other before the accident vital to how we would weather the storm, my therapist hinted at this in the beginning. The night the kids died I remember laying in bed shaking in shock and I turned him and said, "this is the worst day of our lives, every day after this will be better". My therapist viewed us as solid enough as a couple- that statement as hopeful. Little did we know what hard days we had ahead and that the days getting better part would come with doses of guilt.

When the kids died my husband was just like me- devastated.  I just would have crawled under a rock and died if it wasn't for the fact that he didn't find me and pull me up every single day. He on the other hand would tell you the same thing about me, that I held him up. I know we were fortunate to have each other to lean on that we didn't have to do it alone.

We spent long hours talking, it was not uncommon for us to be up all hours of the night crying together always asking the question why them, why us? Endless mornings sitting in the den over coffee looking out the windows as the seasons changed figuring out how to move on with our lives. Always asking and never getting the answer we needed. How could one tractor-trailer in the middle of the night on an empty Interstate drift off the road and run over our kids at the exact minute they were walking from Eric's broken down Honda to his sisters SUV. What are the chances in this universe that that would happen? And why couldn't it have been us, we would have gladly traded places with them.

When you are in such pain, when you are stripped bare of all that you are you slowly but surly you crawl back out of your despair and then it hits "the guilt". I felt that since my kids death my marriage was better, stronger than it had been before. My kids were dead and I was reaping benefits as a result. I knew my husband felt the positive changes in our marriage too, the guilt however was mine alone. My marriage which was a good and loving one before the accident had transformed into a  much deeper more satisfying one. You learn a lot about making peace enough to end many wars. Since it seems that all I  did while grieving was to have little wars within myself,  I made peace with the guilt. I made a choice to look at the positive changes in my marriage as a gift. Was it a gift from God, from Gretchen and Eric or the gift of a talented therapist- maybe all four? Either way we happily received it and are the better for it.

How about you? Have you had any experiences with guilt? How did your experiences affect you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Come on take a peek- I know you want to!

I was rummaging thru the picture files today on my laptop and I found that I have tons of pictures that were taken with my digital camera either by me or my husband.  

Let it not be said that I am not sensitive to privacy issues of my family members especially (those with sensitive jobs and worries about exposing their children). I respect that they may not like to be splashed  all over this blog without checking with them first. I'll have to do some checking with my peeps to see where everyone stands  on the issue.

So I have selected some photos that I know I will not have a problem sharing with you now. If you've read this blog before, you know I love the beach- love to travel, there are several beaches depicted here- ones in NY, Virginia, St Maarten and Hawaii. Oh and the people, they're all my family members.

Mom's 80th, me and my bro's

little bro & godson napping

north shore, hawaii

my son & niece - pix taken by my sister in law

VA beach - son, godson and nieces

sister in law & neice

VA sunset

bro & my husband

paddle boarders ( non family members) 

my older brother wife- their kids- little bro and godson in NYC at dinner


nephew in NY

niece in NY

my husband in St Maarten

beach on St Maarten's French side

my  nephews wife wearing her Korean hanbok


Sunday, February 13, 2011

-post card- I am a grieving mother, what I am not is....

What I write on this blog will be about my experience from my perspective.

I will honestly share my personal experiences to the extent that I am comfortable disclosing them-  I was affected to one degree or another with grief, trauma, panic attacks,  adjustment problems and depression after the kids died in the accident. 

I'm not comfortable quoting nor will I ever show parts of the DSM-IV manual (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in this blog, you will never find me purporting to be an expert because I am not one.  I see this on some other blogs regarding all kinds of subjects and frankly it disturbs me. Anyone can Google anything and post it on their blog. I think this kind of information is good and powerful when it is presented in the proper way or by a person who is qualified.

My therapist never once whipped out that DSM-IV, I would have hit him with it. What I needed was to be guided thru my nightmare by a person qualified to do so, I needed reassurance that I'd make it thru to the other side. Did he use the DSM-IV? He's a PhD, I'm sure he did, that's why he got paid the big bucks!

My therapist and I spent long hours working on reducing my symptoms of trauma- difficulty coping with change both by talking thru it and by me writing my thoughts and feelings in a therapy journal.  I worked hard and created a personal awareness of my thinking patterns that were ultimately the cause of a few pretty dark depressive episodes which were keeping me stuck.

We worked on rebuilding my identity making sure that the mother I  am  now after the accident is balanced with who I am as a wife, daughter, sister and friend moving forward.

There were so many layers and  issues that we uncovered that needed to be addressed; my fear, sadness, guilt, anger, questions of faith and yes....... forgiveness for the truck driver that took the life of my children. 

If you'd like to read my story just because it interests you, if you feel you can learn something from it, if what I write helps you,  then I will be gratified. The writing of this blog is necessary part of my continuing healing process, but I am not an expert.
I am grieving mother.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sand in my shoes

Is there a place you want to be when you are bored; when your stressed- when you need to escape; that place when push comes to shove you alway go back to time and time again? Is it your favorite city, the mountains, the town you grew up in, grandma's? 
For me it's the beach. 

I love the beach, its no wonder- when I was a small child my parents and my Aunt Gen and Uncle Howard bought a house at the beach on Long Island's south shore. We spent every summer at that house both families, my cousins Pat, Genevieve, Mickey, my brothers Paul and Gerard and me;  boy did we have fun- we were fortunate children. I'd come home from school on the last day for summer vacation to the trunk of the car open and packed for our summer there. Four adults, six kids, and three very large shepherds-even the dogs got along!

The town had such character, there was Harry's Candy Store, when I was a child you could buy penny candy there. WOW how neat was that. And the bathing suit store up near our corner which was a seasonal store called Weinstein's, was stacked and packed with summer wear as high of the ceiling. You could go in there with very little money and come out with a bathing suit for every day of the week. And Lucky Twins that was a large vegetable/ fruit store where everyone did their shopping. Just about every block had a bar on the corner beach go-ers get thirsty after all. Shines was probably the oldest and most established, there was a lady who cooked there named Helen, she made the most heavenly chicken dinners. Bel-Air Pizza was the best, Vito had a place right on the beach by the board walk, my cousin Mickey was a driver-pizza maker there. There was The Butcher Shop, The Shoe Repair Shop, The Drug Store, The Surf Shop no chain stores or malls in the west end, just small neighborhood stores, some stayed open all year round, some were seasonal businesses.

There were families that came back summer after summer to “the block” Families from other towns on Long Island, upstate NY and NYC. We were small children and we grew up together summer after summer, writing letters over the winter to keep in touch. We played on the beach for hours and hours every day as children, surfed, sunned ourselves until golden brown. On the narrow streets and local boardwalk we rode bikes and made friends with the locals, boy and girl alike. We played tag, football, cards, we jogged, flew kites, we spoke to each other at night by cans attached to strings strung between our houses, had sleepover, scary movie night- we even went to church together.

We’re adults now, with kids of our own. One of our group died young of MS, her loss was tragic-sad. The rest of us- the kids from "the block" for the most part are still friends. We see each other are much as possible, and boy do we laugh; like a bunch of kids. There isn’t a beach that feels quite as good to me as this one; I guess it has to do with the memories- they are sweet.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

-post card- Grief- is like a sweater

The thing about  blogging is you get to invite  people into you life to whatever extent you feel comfortable; and  in return you get a peek into theirs. I guess it's human nature that we tend to seek out others with the same interests- hobbies, senses of humor, and people who have the endured the same trials in life.

I have read a few blogs since I have started this blog; blogs written by mothers whose children have died. For some their loss is new for others more time has passed. For all the grief unimaginable- unexplainable to those who have not endured it. We all travel this road differently, no two journeys are the same. We are as unique as were our children. But the longing that ache we feel for our children never goes away- this we all share.

Our sadness comes at us in waves like the ocean; our emotions can feel like the most horrible roller coaster ride that one never gets off. I can't help but remember on the day of my children's funeral I spoke to my Godmother, my Aunt Frances on the phone, she was in the hospital quite seriously ill and unable to attend the funeral.  What she said to me I will always remember...

She said "grief is like a sweater some days you wear it and it's so heavy that you can hardly stand it - other days you wear it and you hardly know you have it on". 

Aunt Frances knew loss, one can hardly reach well into their 80's and not be touched by it. She knew that day to lovingly tell me that sweater wasn't ever coming off, that I better make peace with wearing it- forever.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

-post card-Connecting with friends and family

Do you know which is the best part of life?? 
It's simple, when your family understands you 
as a friend and your friends support you as a family. unknown

When I was considering what I was going to write in this post I started to reflect about my group of friends.We have been meeting for years regularly every second Friday of every month for dinner as a group, this Friday will be our night together.

Of course we see each other at different times on other occasions but this is really a treat for us, a chance to catch up as a group. Most times it's in the local restaurant, but sometimes we'll have dinner at our homes. Christmastime at my house, dinners pool side at another gals home, and evenings like this Friday at different friends home,  sharing a meal, with people who you really enjoy being around.

They are a great bunch of  ladies my neighbors- did I mention there are husbands and a few ex's but these dinners are strictly ladies only? What we do varies however we have a few former stay at home mom's- turned empty nester's, teachers, business owners, nurses, women who run at home businesses, most with grown children or -pretty much grown, there are a few little ones too. We have single children, married children with or without their own children, college completed, graduate degree's in the process. Our children  male and female alike are either friends or friendly, many went to school together-passed thru those same halls just at different times, played the same sports, attend each others weddings, two are even room mates.

I think we have the same values, we share the same faith, and we truly enjoy each other- support each other- like a family.

As far as my real family, that would be the noisy mostly Irish might have drank an adult beverage did i say noisy people? We originated in the great state of NY, after three of my four grandparents emigrated to this country and finally settled there. Now we are stretched all over the country over so many states I've actually lost count, but primarily the east coast. I can't stress enough how amazing they are.

People think I'm exaggerating when I talk about the love and warm closeness I have with my brothers, sister-in-laws, their kids, my godchildren, my mom, aunts, uncles, cousins- not to mention my own husband, our children, son in law, and grandkids- who are adorable. Whether it be just those for "no reason times" when we visit each other or holiday's, birthday parties,vacations, christenings, an anniversary, weddings or even those unfortunate and sad times when the family gathers and we lose one or two of our own-  being with each other...I can think of nothing better.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

YOU STINK...and it's making me sick

Anyone who suffers from migraines as I do knows they are not regular headaches. They can and are devastating to your life. For me it took years and several doctors to find the right life style changes and medications to get them under control.

Everyone has different triggers and I have learned to not only identify mine but live with them too. It's a tricky balance, a dance if you will.

Here are my dance partners:

There's to much sleep, not enough sleep, broken sleep.
Trigger foods- to many to mention, alcohol, beer and wine.
Bright lights, flashing lights are not my friend.
Stress, good luck with that.
My charming personality type
Too much caffeine or to little depending- can either cause or stop a headache.
Skipping meals will cause them.
Changes in the weather can too.
Traveling may, especially since it may cause changes in weather, diet and sleeping habits.
and then there's......
Smells my personal favorite and pet peeve 

 If I am smelling the scent of your  perfume or fragrance in the meat dept of the grocery store and you are four aisles away in the frozen food section; your need to learn to  step away from the perfume bottle. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

-post card- FEELING THE PULL

I walked out of my church on the day of my kids funeral in 2006 and didn't go back until last month, couldn't get in the door. Life's journey brought me back to the place I considered my second home. And the wonderful thing about God is He waits patiently by your side when you forget to remember Him. My church family welcomed me back with open arms too; it was good to be back.

God spoke to me many times over those years, it never made it past my neck however so that I never heard what He was saying in my heart. The past few weeks  when I go to church- the announcements or in the church bulletin say they're looking for volunteers;  it seems that they're looking for several of the things I used to do before the accident in 2006. His message to me or just a coincidence- this I do not know-yet!

There have over the course of my absence been many changes there, a new pastor, new parishioners but most prominent- the closing of our Convent after 120 years. Our sisters are some of the kindest, gentlest hearted women I have ever met. The are Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul , many of which are teachers who filled various functions in our parish school and social workers who oversaw the parish outreach. I spent many hours in that parish outreach with the poor and needy of the community listening and I hope helping. Getting so much more then I ever gave from people who had little reason for hope but always seemed to have an abundance of it.

The question now is if I go back to helping with the less fortunate in our community-how will my experience with the death of my children affect my interaction with my clients? Will I be more compassionate, more empathetic?

My fear is-  that their circumstances and distress might overwhelm me and it will be to much.

But I'm feeling the pull.

Friday, February 4, 2011


I am reminded  multiple times daily by little pop ups on my computer that it is time to update my computer virus protection. All I have is four more days of protection left- not only on my laptop but for my husbands desktop too.

Last year at this time I had to file a complaint with one of the popular companies for renewing my subscription multiple weeks early and charging my credit card, thus cheating me out of weeks of protection, then taking my money weeks earlier than necessary.

Of course I finally was able to get a credit- cancel my subscription, after a very frustrating phone call which left me wondering;  how many people out there don't realize that these companies use these tactics as a matter of practice?

So I switched to a new anti-virus software program installed it by using the disk. They've been sending me e-mails daily with deals on downloading the 2011 version for 50% off $89.99- now the fabulously reduced price of $49.99. There isn't one chance in heck that I'll renew online ever again- even with this new company.

Once bitten!

I did a little search today and found the same version (2011-plus one computer), I can and will purchase it at my local Sam's club for $19.88 plus tax.
$49.99 they're kidding right?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


It was 71 degrees today here in Virginia, a freak day since most of the country is covered with the feet of snow. One day of nice weather and the daffodils are popping up out of the soil on the side of my garage, I can’t believe it. I have a touch of spring fever and it’s only February. For here it's even really unseasonably warm.

My baby brother is up in New York, part of his job is being “the plow guy” which translates into- not slept all winter!
It’s been a rough winter for all my northern family  Now that I'm in the south and I tend to forget how crappy it can be up there during the long snowy winters. I will however resist the urge to rub it in, simply because the next storm will probably drop 18 inches on my house if I do!

One day of decent sunshine and I’m thinking about beach vacations. That would be in the Outer Banks in April by the way... and gardening. Both things my husband and I are getting to be very good at as our nest is empty for the past few years. That is if you don't count the three cats.

It's still way too early to do anything yet outside. But we're planning, more tomatoes, the beets were great last year so we'll do much more this season. Plenty of cucumbers so I can make pickles, dill and sweet, and of course, the potatoes go in on St Patty's day provided the ground isn't too wet.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I'm going to write a regular post starting today , about things I think are important or interesting-something personal to me but not exactly private. 

Here's my first......

I thought I'd tell you about my big day. For me a bitter/sweet day; one that I have been both planning and dreading for a long time.  My therapist and I had our final session today.

Anyone familiar with the process of therapy knows you have goals that you hope to accomplish, and if you're lucky and you have a good working relationship with your doctor you have a better chance of achieving whatever they are. I was understandably a mess in 2006, we did a lot of work together. I can honestly say I worked my ass off, had more painful moments than I care to recall or admit.

And now, four + years have passed and  it was time for me to move forward, therapy freeI have regained my sense of self, I am a women with more balance in my life, I am back to most all  of the activities and relationships I enjoyed and was involved with before. That feels not quite like before, it's more like my "new normal". My life now is mostly without that fear and anxiety that had kept me from moving forward- letting go- that- my constant challenge since the accident that took the life of my son and daughter.

So I'm on my own for now, no more scheduled visits to the leather couch with the orange-ish pillow. He saved my life and then helped me put the pieces back together, make some sense of it all.  I have an attachment to this relationship, there is no doubt. What makes today a good day is the sure feeling- the knowledge that I don't need it anymore.

The good news is you get to symbolically take-em with you. Spend enough time in a room with a therapist, you hear him in your head after a while. The expression "it's all in your head", how true this is! That expression holds a new meaning for me now- and it's all good.