Sunday, June 26, 2011


After my dad died in 2000, I remember my mom renovating her home.  She had new floors put in, purchased new bedding, repainted her kitchen, and even changed what was the living room (his favorite room and where he passed away) into a different dining space and made the formal living room her new regular space.  I remember her telling me then that she HAD to make this change.  She NEEDED these changes to remain in that house and move forward with her new life. 

I don't know that I fully understood her strong desire for these changes until recently.  Now that I am faced with 16 years of memories around every corner, I feel it.  While it is stressful that I'm in this big house (dear lord 3300 sq feet is A LOT of house for one person to keep up with, especially with Miss Destructive Baby), I'm starting to be a bit more grateful that he left me in the house we've only lived in for months and not years.  The other house was more manageable, yes, and cheaper, but it was also full of memories.  I brought all three of my babies home to that house.  We had it built, picking out every detail together and coming throughout the construction to see the progress.  We were so young when we built it and I worked a second job at Outback Steakhouse to help us with the cost.  I painted every room and he did a ton of handiwork, including all the tile and laminate flooring.  I don't have nine years of happiness living in that home staring at me daily.  I have a house he lived in from December--first of April.  It's a lot of work, but there are a lot less ghosts. 

However, I feel the need to make the changes.  With the exception of one picture of us with Allie and two of us with Maggie as a baby that Maggie has requested in her bedroom, all pictures that included Andrew have been put in a closet.  My wedding photos, our trips together (cruise picture, us in front of the Eiffel Tower), and ones of us as teenagers (prom, high school graduation, silly one of us peeking out through streamers) have all gone to the guestroom closet.  Any photo I thought he would want of the kids and him, his family, him as a child, etc I packed up for him and gave to him last week.  Packing up the things he didn't take when he moved could be an entirely different blog post--how I held it together sorting through most things but lost it when I found his favorite childhood costume, a NASA suite that was the source of many family jokes. 

Heroes for Children got me a beautiful gift of a large frame that people signed at my going away party with a collage of photos from the evening.  I lovingly took down the huge photo of us with Allie (me kissing the top of her head while he kissed the top of mine) and replaced it with this new photo.  With a large empty gameroom of missing furniture and his big TV, I turned it into a fun kids playroom for the girls.  They love it.  I miss having the second living room that I could retire to after the girls go to bed (living room is right off the bedroom hallway and when I try to watch TV there, Maggie sits on her bed and yells to me about things!), but I'm adjusting to having this fun new space for the girls to play.

My bedroom is currently undergoing the biggest transformation.  I purchased new bedding and pictures for above the bed.  I'm finishing painting the room today a pretty blue/grey color.  Tracey described it best as a pewter.  I'm making the room MINE.  The bedroom furniture is what we purchased together as a big Christmas/birthdays/Valentine's gift to ourselves I think back in 2005 or so, but everything else will be mine.  Picked out by me.  The bedding is beautiful (thank you, Target!), delicate, and slightly feminine.  My mom is helping me with painting and playing with kids while I do it.  Maggie has declared she and I a team and has even helped in the painting process too.  Read--more work but it makes her happy.  Read also--MOM GUILT in a major way and I will let her do most things to make her happy. 

The room will be completed tomorrow.  I've made friends with the young neighbors across the street--four roommates renting from a relative of one of theirs, two boys and two girls in their early twenties--and had the guys help me and mom move furniture yesterday.  They said they can come tomorrow morning and move it back in place for me.  Given that I can't do it myself, I will happily wait until tomorrow.  I can't wait for it to be finished.  I can't promise that I will post pictures of the room.  I may want to safeguard that and keep it private.  Who knows though.  I might be so damn excited that I post it and want to show off.  We'll see. 

Making these changes in the home and my life (separate blog post coming about my new size and new found confidence because of it) helps significantly as I navigate this transition.  This summer is all about transformation.  Everything is changing.  Some things are out of my control and some I can do something about.  Maybe that is why I love painting my room and redecorating it so much--it is completely within my control.  Maybe I needed to regain at least a little control to keep me pointed in the right direction. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

HFC Going Away Happy Hour

Cannot fully describe how much I love these photos and the people in them. This was my going away happy hour on June 9th. What a journey it's been with Heroes for Children.

The whole crowd with me and Larissa hugging in the middle
The Heroes for Children staff.  Some VERY hardworking women.  
Larissa and me.  

Sometimes the staff can be a little silly.  You should see how slap happy we get after events!
The very FIRST HFC volunteer and our Office Manager, Cheryl.  

My mom and me

Larissa begins to toast me.  I know I'm not going to make it without crying.  Her speech was wonderful

Like I said, wasn't going to make it through it.

Then they said I had to make a speech.  Cried through the whole thing and attempted to thank everyone as best as possible. 

"To Jenny" 

Me, Brooke, and her mom Jill.  Brooke is one of my favorite patients and her family is extremely special to me.  She made this painting of the two of us that now hangs in my playroom.  LOVE

Opening the gift from Brooke

Allie's beloved oncologist (heading straight to the Mavs game after) Dr. Stan Goldman and his wife Ellen

My partners in crime!  Well, our my Vice Chairman of the Board, Christie, and my Chairman of the Board Allan.  Best travel companions and terrific friends! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Leaving Heroes for Children

Tomorrow is the day.  June 17th is almost here.  My last day as the Executive Director is tomorrow.  I've packed up my office, changed my voicemail, and had my party (pictures coming).  I'm verklempt.  I cried as I removed the framed Dallas Morning News article about Allie's dying off my wall.  Larissa sadly had to leave town yesterday when her grandmother died, so we had to tearfully say our goodbye yesterday.  Of course, we're seeing each other next week, and we have a Board of Director's meeting the following week.  As her husband Kenny said, "for God's sake, she's not moving to Pennsylvania!  You'll see her all the time!"

Below is the email I just sent out.  Tomorrow will be an emotional day.  Larissa was going to take me to visit Allie and my father's grave tomorrow (you know how hard that is for me), but with her being gone, sweet Tracey has offered to take me.  I need to go.  I need to see my Allie and thank her for these past seven years.  I need to thank her for the blessing she has given me.  I don't know if I can do it alone.

I truly appreciate all your comments of support and love lately.  Please know I read EVERYTHING.  I'm holding up.  I'm doing ok.  I'm emotional but I laugh, smile, play with my girls, take deep breaths too.  I'm making some new friends, meeting our neighbors while we play in the yard with the girls, and finding new experiences (Maggie and I gardened the other day!  I've never gardened before!  I'm taking myself to a movie tonight.  Alone.  For the first time in my life).

I'm moving forward as best as I can.

Dear Board, Advisory Board, Staff, and Leadership,

I can’t believe the time is really here.  It seems like I was just announcing my news that I would be stepping down as the Executive Director in six months.  Now, my last day as an employee for Heroes for Children is tomorrow. 

It’s been an amazing journey with Heroes for Children.  From sitting around Larissa’s kitchen table and Randal Locke initiating a vote for me to join Taylor’s Angels to where we are today, I’ve enjoyed it all.  I’ve been challenged, encouraged, and supported throughout the years.  Each day, Taylor and Allie’s memories have been here with me. 

I want to sincerely thank you ALL for your involvement with Heroes for Children and your faith in our mission to serve the families.  I appreciate your support in this new journey in my life as well.  I have accepted a position as a French teacher for 7th and 8th grade.  I’m replacing my mentor teacher from when I taught in the district seven years ago.  I’m thrilled and very excited.  I get the best of both worlds—continued involvement with HFC as a volunteer and board member AND the career I once loved so much! 

You are all wonderful.  A few quick specific thank yous—

HFC Staff—WOW!!  You could not find a more dedicated group of women!  Thank you for the hours of work you have done, the laughter you provide, and the friendship I will take with me for years to come. 

To our original HFC board members Randal, Cheri, Allan, Cameron and Larissa—Can you believe where we are today?!?!  Gosh, I remember us thinking we were big time when we opened this office in 2005 or pulled off the luncheon at Cameron’s with success!  We would not be here today without you and the groundwork you laid down for this organization. 

To Allan and Christie—I said it at my happy hour but I’ll say it again, there are no better travel companions than the two of you.  Thank you for what you do for HFC, but most importantly, thank you for your friendship.

And finally, to Larissa—I don’t even know where to begin.  You are my coworker, my friend, MY SISTER.  Taylor has changed my life forever and I thank you more than I can ever fully express for the gift of sharing her life and legacy with me and Allie.  I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished and will continue to do because of our little girls.  Thank you for everything.  I’m always here and always your sister and friend.  Love you so much, Lar!

Of course, as we all know, this is NOT a goodbye.  You’ll see me very soon! 

Love you all,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is it Friday yet?

Oh this week!  This week has been insane, painful, and full of big milestones.

This weekend was my first full weekend away from the girls.  I stayed at a friend's poolhouse and then one night in a hotel with a girlfriend.  I booked girls nights, lunches, brunch, and everything to keep my moving the whole time.  It was a fun weekend.  I missed the girls so much.  I went from Thursday morning to Sunday at 5pm.  I was able to see them on Saturday afternoon to get Maggie's hair and makeup ready for her ballet recital.  I sat with tears watching my precious girl dance, smile, and wave to me on stage.

Sunday was our 12th wedding anniversary.  Friends met me for a brunch and kept me laughing.  Twelve years.  Sixteen together.  Looking back, I have no regrets.  I am thankful for the years we had together and I will never wish we didn't have them.  It was painful.  I suppressed tears throughout the day.  Gave in to them in the quiet and privacy of my own bedroom late that night.

Monday, he moved into an apartment.  He's close by and has found a place that he feels will provide a good home for the girls when they are there.  The finality of that move hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was a wreck on Monday.

Tuesday morning, I appeared at the courthouse and filed the initial petition for divorce.   The chipper lady behind the counter happily helped me and hummed as she was stapling my paperwork and I had tears streaming down my face.  I want to be able to have this completed before the school year begins.  If it's time to move forward, then it is.  We have a sixty day waiting period.  Both of us are required to take a parenting class, and we will finalize the divorce decree.  Everything has been agreed upon respectfully with our children as number one priority.  He will continue a STRONG involvement in the lives of our daughters and we will coparent well.

Tuesday night was the girls' first overnight in the new apartment.  What I know I have that some other women have--no worry for my girls when they are with their father.  I have no doubt, hesitation, or concern that they are in the best care.  I used to joke that Andrew would be a better stay at home parent than me.  I went to dinner and a movie with a good friend of mine from cancer camp.  When I came home to that big empty house, I felt that pain in the pit of my stomach.  I know that eventually I will get more comfortable with my alone time.  I may even come to really love it and need it.  Right now, it scares the crud out of me and I try to stay busy instead.  I couldn't fall asleep.  Think I *maybe* got three hours of sleep and it was broken at best.  Thank goodness for music right now.  It's my lifeline.  I'm constantly listening to something and connecting with the lyrics.  Most listened to right now--Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You," Mumford and Sons "Little Lion Man" and "White Blank Page" (the whole CD really, I'm currently obsessed with them), U2 "Walk On," Michelle Branch "Breathe," and The Script "Break Even."

Yesterday was Maggie's second play therapy appointment.  It has been helping.  The play therapist is working with Maggie to learn how to express her emotions. She struggles with this.  She cries at the drop of a hat or screams out in frustration.  She's always been a little like this, but it's much more extreme these days.  My sweet love has her highs and lows.  Luckily, at five, she can at least snap out of it fairly quickly and be ready to play again.

Today, I have my going away party for Heroes for Children.  The two Houston staff members are flying in for the party and a staff meeting tomorrow.  We have about 50-60 people coming to the party. While I'm excited for the teaching, it doesn't come without emotion to leave HFC.  This has been a major, integral part of my life for the past seven years.  These people have become part of my family.  I cried this morning when I was grabbing my dress to change into tonight.  I know I will have more tears today.  Good tears, but tears nonetheless.  There is a champagne toast at 6:30 that I'm sure I won't make it through.

Yeah, that's been my week.  It's only Thursday morning.  Thank goodness for a fun kid weekend ahead.  We have a sleepover planned for tomorrow night.  We only have Deanna or Tracey's kids for sleepovers.  Tomorrow is Tracey's kids.  I love when my home is filled with happy kids playing.  Nothing makes me happier than a house full of kids running and playing happily together.  Maggie, Lucy and I have decided that since the gameroom is one big empty room now (furniture went to him), we're having a big picnic on blankets for our dinner.  The girls were planning it all out.  I am hosting our monthly playgroup on Sunday.  This group has been together since our gymboree play days when the girls were 1.  Saturday is a day for just catching up, cleaning and relaxing with the girls.

It's been a week.  I'm still standing though and it's almost the end.  Next week may look entirely different.  We'll see

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Life in Transition

It's all changing.  My life is in transition.  Sometimes I'm ok with it and other times, well, notsomuch.  I'm both excited and terrified.  There are many changes on the horizon:

  1. We are divorcing.  It's official.  He says there is no love or hope.  Maggie was told last night.  I cannot ever describe the pain of telling my precious girl that her parents will no longer be married.  Watching her cry.  It was heartbreaking.  We framed it well.  All about our love for her and Katie and how she will have two homes.  That she will always have Mama and Daddy; we just won't be married anymore. I'm taking her to her first play therapy appointment at noon today.  Maggie is a very sensitive child and has been struggling with her emotions a lot since this all started.  I'm hoping the play therapist will be able to help her deal with these emotions without the big freakouts she has now. One thing I know without a doubt is that Andrew and I are good parents.  We both want the absolute best for our daughters and will both be very active parents.  He is leaving me, not our children.  He will continue to be the great father that he has been to those girls. 
  2. I accepted a job offer in Plano ISD teaching middle school French.  This position is terrific.  It's exactly what I did before.  I will be teaching 7th and 8th grade which I love.  My first day back is August 10th.  I'm excited to return to my original love and passion with teaching.  It's a great school and I really like the principal.  I was friends with one of the Spanish teacher so I won't be a complete stranger. 
  3. My last day at Heroes for Children is in two and a half weeks.  June 17th will be here before I know it.  I can't believe it's almost that time.  I love the organization so much and I'm incredibly proud of how I have built it along with so many other great people.  I'm proud that I am leaving the position in good standing.  I'm not leaving the organization entirely, of course.  As co-founder, I have a board position.  I will volunteer for various activities and still attend events.  I'll be at board meetings.  They have not yet hired an Executive Director, but the committee working on that is diligently looking.  Next Thursday night is a cocktail reception honoring me and my years at Heroes.  I'm very honored that they want to do this for me. 
  4. My new job plus the lack of a second income means that my bills are more than I can afford.  We just moved into this home and I don't know that I can financially afford to keep it.  And you know, still feed my children.  I need to figure it out.  I don't know what I'm going to do. 
  5. I'm learning to be on my own.  I mowed the grass myself and need to do it again tonight.  I am learning to be quiet in my own and enjoy the silence.  I'm reading books at night and watching movies if I have the time after laundry and cleaning.  I like having my own room without the snoring.  I don't miss the snoring!  I'm challenging myself to try new things when I can. 
  6. I'm giving up yoga.  It's a sacrifice I have to give up.  I have a treadmill, so I'm going to bust it out and start working out then.  My goal is to run the HFC 5K on September 24th since I've never been able to participate in it.  I'll try to hit a yoga class on occassion, but I can't afford the $100 a month for my membership after this month.  
  7. For the first time in my adult life, I'm going to be single.  On my own.  I married at 21.  We dated through college and started dating when I was 17.  I was a CHILD then.  I've never been an adult on my own.  I need to learn to do this.  
I'm taking each day one step at a time.  I don't always handle it well. I can become irrational and angry with Andrew when we're around each other.  I went a little crazy yesterday and I'm not proud of that.

I have my rough moments.  Unlike my grief with Allie, I'm allowing myself to feel the various emotions as they come.  I'm not shutting them out.  Means it hurts like hell at times.   But, unlike my grief with Allie, as I feel those emotions, I also forgive myself and move forward.  I pick myself up.

I will get through this.  It's just that right now, my life is in transition.