Thursday, December 30, 2010

Walk Good

Love the life you live, live the life you love.  –Bob Marley

Recently I’ve been faced with writer’s block.  The emotions of the holidays took me by surprise, hit me hard and left me tired and restless.   Facing the New Year is the last of my daunting celebratory challenges.  Many of my close friends and family have commented that they are happy to see 2010 come to an end.  They’ve described this year as the worst of their life.  You’d think that of anyone, I would agree with this sentiment, but I think it’s imperative to remember that 2010 was simply fantastic right up until it wasn’t.  Many amazing things have come out of this year and like everything else Ryan and I shared, I don’t want to overlook or lose any of it.  Through reflection I’ve recounted my year and remembered that in 2010 Ryan and I:
Dug our toes in the sands of Negril
Drank yard bongs in Las Vegas
Celebrated our five year anniversary
Spent a week in Galena, IL loving each other and discovering our new favorite town
Adopted a clumsy, hungry kitten
Finished redoing the exterior of our house - a 2 year project
Built our dream country kitchen
Cooked live lobsters
Camped with friends
Camped with family
Shared our Galena with both sets of parents
Had a very successful driveway sale
Spent countless evenings sipping wine on our front porch
Spent a fun filled week chasing each other around the house trying to get pregnant
Got pregnant!
Kept pregnancy a secret for exactly 15 hours
Ryan was promoted to ICU
Ryan won a national award of nursing excellence
I discovered I LOVE teaching older kids
Played on a volleyball team that actually won sometimes
Ryan invented and perfected his Bear Claw Volleyball hit
Bought a new couch, rug, entertainment center and secretary
Bought the mission style bedroom furniture we’d been dreaming about
Took our dogs for countless walks through 4 unique and beautiful seasons
Enjoyed a very warm spring
Took naps in the sunny and warm backyard
Built a snowman
Laughed while shoveling Thunder Snow
Saw two dear friends get married
Welcomed 3 new babies into our lives…

This is only a taste of the happiness 2010 brought to us; the list could go on forever.  Every day was littered with happy nuances, small moments of light that shined through our hearts.  I wouldn’t trade these memories for anything and I do not wish 2010 a negative adieu nor do I perceive it as a year I’d rather forget.  Instead, I recognize it as the last year I spent with the man of my dreams, the husband I adored.  I see it as a piece of Ryan and I’s puzzle, a piece that although important, was not extraordinary, but instead just a happy, genuine piece of a happy, genuine life.  If we can learn anything from this tragedy, let’s remember this:  Love the life you live, live the life you love.  Don’t wait for tomorrow, do it now, walk good.
Our House

Nutrition Break in Galena

Bear Claw!

Country Kitchen


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Silent Night

It is silent tonight as I reflect on something a friend recently said.  She described the look in my eyes as empty and I was surprised.  As time passes, I’m starting to see more clearly what she was referring to.  Life without Ryan is absent of light.  It never stops, never goes away, this feeling of emptiness.  The questions I relentlessly ask are how can he not be here?  How can the one person I counted on to be here, go missing?  I am hurting inside so deeply and I need him with me, to hold me, to dry my tears and to help me through this.  I do feel empty inside.  There is so much I want to say on this silent night, so much I need him to hear…
Dear Ryan,
          Only a short time ago you were here and could completely turn my world around.  I told you things that I’ve never shared with another soul and you absorbed everything I had to say and actually wanted to hear more.  We shared hopes for the future, dreams, goals, triumphs and even life’s disappointments.  When something wonderful happened, I couldn’t wait to tell you because I knew you would be just as excited as I.  You were never embarrassed to cry with me when I was hurting and we were always able to laugh with each other when one of us made a fool of ourselves.  You had a way of building me up and showing me things about myself that made me special and even beautiful and I can only hope I was able to do the same for you.  There was never any pressure, jealousy or competition between us, just a quiet calmness and a feeling of happy satisfaction.   I could be myself with you because you loved me for who I am.  Laughter was a part of our daily life and never did a day go by where we didn’t talk on the phone at least two or three times, each conversation bringing a smile to my face.  In your presence, there was never a need for continuous conversation; I was content just having you nearby.  I think of you on every occasion and in everything I do, but especially now, as I’m hurting so deeply inside and needing you to fix things like you always did, take care of me forever like you promised.  Every minute of every day I have to remind myself that you are not here, not coming back and each time this happens, I break.  I need you, you are my one.
I dropped a tear in the ocean and then it started to rain.  The day you find it is the day I will stop missing you. 

                                                          Merry Christmas, Baby, I love you.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Wagon Ride

Lately my mind has felt empty, making it incapable for me to freely express my feelings.  Emotions have been running a marathon through my mind, body and heart, but nothing stays long enough to reflect on.  I miss my husband intensely and every day the yearning swells.  I want so badly to see him, or feel him, to hear him, but most of all, I want him to make me laugh.  He must have heard this wish because a moment ago I thought of a story that literally made me laugh out loud.  I remembered a story that highlights exactly who Ryan was and why he will always be the absolute love of my life.
  Last summer Ryan and I were making our annual pilgrimage to the lakefront to enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks.  I remember him being very concerned about how we were going to get all of our snacks and liquid refreshments down the big hill from Brady Street to the park.  At first he wanted to buy a cooler with wheels, but I told him no way, we already had four coolers in the basement, two of which were large enough for me to fit in with the cover closed (this was a test Ryan and I used to see how big our stuff was.  I could also fit inside two pieces of luggage and the laundry hamper).  In the end, he settled for borrowing a friend’s wagon.  He packed it tight, making sure to throw in some Bob Marley and his Frisbee.  As an afterthought, he threw in an extra six pack and one more bottle of wine.  “It’s going to be a long night, Kris…”
Parking was a breeze because Ryan and I knew all the secret spots.  As we walked through our old neighborhood, we reminisced about the adventures we used to have:  Drinking at The Coin, walking Blotter through the park, dollar pitcher night…I remember we were smiling and laughing, holding hands and pulling our wagon full of delicious treats.  We crossed the Brady Street Bridge and were just starting to make our way down the large hill when Ryan got a mischievous twinkle in his eye.  Swiftly, he had rearranged the contents of the wagon and had created a type of makeshift vehicle.  Before I had a chance to ask questions, he had fitted himself into the wagon and was pushing fast with his feet.  Rapidly he started barreling down the hill, steering haphazardly with the wagon handle.   I started after him, eyes blurred with tears from laughing uncontrollably.  I watched as he dodged pedestrians, shifting his body weight to make sharp turns.  The ride lasted only a few seconds before he arrived at the bottom of the hill with a slow and easy crash landing.  This was followed by him jumping up, arms spread in victory as the crowd literally went wild, clapping for his crazy antics.  The cherry on top was the fact that he had somehow situated his landing directly in front of the friends we were meeting - they saw the whole thing.  I finally caught up to him, clutching my stomach with laughter.  We high fived, kissed and busted into the cooler for a celebratory Miller Lite.  At that moment, I remember thinking, “This is why I love this man, there is no one funnier or more able to make me laugh”.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Third Month

               I cried today, walking down Jefferson Street.  I cried again at Broadway Paper and once more outside of Swig.  I cried walking the streets of the Third Ward, trying to imagine a life for myself there.  The normally busy neighborhood felt stark, silent and forsaken which reflected perfectly my disposition.  I felt cold.  Stripped.  Lost.  I kept thinking that maybe this was the right place for me.  That the old buildings fit me well, stuck in another time, another place.  The long and narrow streets made me feel like I could walk forever and never look back.  The dull colors of winter in the city seemed to paint the backdrop for my current frame of mind.  I could live there, but I won’t.  It’s only the third month.

The third month is so much harder than the second.  The pain isn’t new or raw, but it’s fixed.  The loneliness is forefront now, a catch 22 as it is my constant companion.  I feel empty and numb.   I can’t concentrate, can’t commit and can’t decide.  I’m terrified that I’m changing, that my inner self is pouring out like a broken water valve.  I want to stand up and fight this, but collectively, the third month comes with the realization that this is not going to stop, not going to change and not going to get any better.  Ryan is not going to show up at my door.  Things are not going back to the way they were, ever.  It’s the third month and I’ve been alone now for longer than I ever have before.   How do I begin to take all of this in?  How do I begin to rebuild when I feel so weighed down?  Where do I go from here?
“Love would never leave us alone,
A-yin the darkness there must come out to light” –Bob Marley

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

He Made me Smile

Can't seem to stop listening to this song...

You make me smile like the sun, fall out of bed
Sing like bird, dizzy in my head
Spin like a record, crazy on a Sunday night

You make me dance like a fool, forget how to breathe
Shine like gold, buzz like a bee
Just the thought of you can drive me wild
Oh, you make me smile

Even when you're gone,
Somehow you come along just like
A flower pokin' through the sidewalk crack
And just like that
You steal away the rain, and just like that..
                He made me smile.  Recently he bought an obnoxious garbage can shaped like a yellow duck.  The can cost something like $35 and quacked when you opened it.  One evening I came home from work and kept hearing this bizarre noise.  I followed my ear to the bathroom, where Ry was busy pretending to floss.  With a telling smirk and a twinkle in his eye, he bent down to throw his floss away.  It was at this moment that I noticed the giant quacking elephant in the room and immediately broke out in hysterical laughter.  Not just common laughter, but the kind of laughter that causes a person’s stomach to cramp with joy.  He knew I’d make him bring it back, knew the second he bought it that he’d be returning to the store.  This meant nothing to him however, because he was certain the whole situation would make me smile...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

To Look Within

“Open your eyes, look within.  Are you satisfied with the life your living?” 
                                                                 -Bob Marley
I recently read that when grieving the loss of someone you love, it’s common to have a consuming need to share their stories.  I know this to be true because I can’t stop talking about Ryan.  I want to run through the streets shouting his praise, sharing personal anecdotes so that everyone knows who he was and what we had.  I’ve been told often by both family and friends that they envy the love Ryan and I shared.  They feel this way because they’re not fortunate enough to have this passion in their own relationships.  I’ve always known this about myself and Ryan, always been satisfied with the life we lived.  Never look back, always walk good.  I’ve decided to share some of my favorite stories on this blog.  My goal is to wipe some of the fog off the window and let you peak at the warm life Ryan and I shared.  I hope it gives you insight and shows you where the smiles came from.
Story 1:  Date Night
          We adored Date Night and would strive to participate at least once a week.  I’d always hit the gym first, in hopes of making myself feel less guilty after eating the three course meal I knew Ryan would inevitably talk me into.  Afterwards, I’d take my time getting ready.  Usually about half way through my shower, Ryan would return from work and I’d hear a jovial, “Krissy, I’m home!”  I’d then hear each of our four pets welcome him home in their own distinct voice, reflecting each of their unique personalities.  Blotter, low and slow, would grumble about being hungry.  Brady, high and confused, would ask if Ryan had seen any butterflies.  Benny, smart and sassy, would complain about the noise and bother and finally, on every one's way up the stairs, Bugs, the only silent pet, would run ahead to show Ryan his food dish which was most certainly empty.  Always after these shenanigans, there would be two bright eyes peaking through my shower curtain, or maybe a hand darting through, causing trouble.  There’d be laughing, singing and smiling.  Ryan would want to know what he should wear and of course, what I was wearing.  This would lead to a bit of a fashion show, where he’d eagerly sit through numerous wardrobe changes, until we had both agreed on the best choice.  By now, we’d each be sipping on a glass of wine, the minutes ticking by, our stomachs beginning to growl, but neither of us in much of a hurry because with us, it was never about the destination, but always the journey.
An hour or so later, we’d be on our way to a restaurant which we’d have chosen based upon the expected wait time.  An hour was good, but 90 minutes was ideal.  This gave us time to linger over another glass of wine, catch up on our week and check in on our dreams.  When our table was ready, we’d sit across from one another, wrapped in conversation.  Ryan would order something extravagant such as the chef’s three course truffle special or maybe lobster stuffed tenderloin.  He would then shake his head and scold me for evening out the bill with my order of vegetable pasta.  “Geez Kris, live a little.”
          It was during these nights that I did live.  I lived to love, to eat, to drink and to dream.  I lived to be with the person I treasured most in the world, the person sitting next to me, the person listening to my every word, filling my wine glass, feeding me a truffle and making me smile.  It was these nights that we’d plan our future, relive our past and make promises that we were sure to keep.  It was these nights that we were us, Kris and Ry, two people leagues deep, submerged in love.  We’d open our eyes and look within, smile from assurance that we were deeply satisfied with the life we were living.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Our House, Our Home

Late this evening I went to our house.  Like a river bursting through a dam, pulling into the driveway brought forth a rush of memories.  I sat for a while, just staring.  I imagined lights on in the windows, illuminating the warmth of a home.  I saw Blotter and Brady press their noses to the window; Ryan waiting inside, his face lit by the glow of the television, dinner warming on the stove.  I remembered summer, the feelings of normalcy that surrounded our everyday happenings.  We spent hours sitting on the porch, drinking wine, watching traffic and enjoying each other’s company.  Often we’d leave the dogs outside to enjoy the afternoon sun.  Upon returning home, their eager heads would pop over the fence, tails wagging, tongues out. I saw us smiling, living an easy life, going through the happy motions of a comfortable and content existence.  An existence that seems unreachable now, trapped inside our home.
This home is haunted with our life.  While I sat outside, my body was overwhelmed by images that my mind knew were not really there, no longer real.  I imagined that once inside, everything would look the same, smell the same, be the same.  Everything I knew was inside that home and I wanted it all back, would climb the highest mountain to get it back.  Then I remembered, I wasn't looking at our life or our home.  I was looking at an empty, cold house, curtains drawn and walls bare.  I thought to myself, this is not our home, this is not our life.  These things live in my memory and go with me wherever I am.  All I need to do is close my eyes and remember that smirk, those sideburns and feeling safe, loved and happy.  Then I heard a song, one we listened to often during our house’s transformation to a home…
Come to me now
And rest your head for just five minutes
Everything is good
Such a cozy room
The windows are illuminated
By the sunshine through them
Fiery gems for you
Only for you...

Sunday, December 5, 2010


“All I’ve got to do Today is Smile” –Paul Simon
Nothing feels better than smiling.  A smile can light up a room, warm a heart, change a face.  The life Ryan and I shared together was a flood of smiles.  I once heard him tell a friend that he liked me because I smiled at him and meant it.  When I called, his phone flashed “Kristin SMILE” and if you asked Ryan what he loved the most about his wife, he would tell you it was her smile.  Ironic really, because if you’d ask me what I loved most about my husband, I’d have told you it was his ability to make me smile.  This theme classified our relationship into a very special category – soulmates.  I don’t throw this word around often or with ease, but in this case, I mean it with every part of my being.  There are many people in this world that could fit as our soulmate, all we have to do is find them, respect them and love them.  It’s a mystery to me why more people can’t seem to achieve this, but I can confidently assert that Ryan and I had this simple puzzle figured out.
Ten years ago, Ryan found me and I never left his side.  We learned to respect our differences as well as our many similarities and very quickly, we learned how to love each other.  Throughout our relationship, we never left or hung up the phone without saying I love you.  Not out of habit, but because we meant it.  The last time I saw Ryan; I bent down, gave him a long kiss, touched his nose and told him I loved him.  Later that evening, we had what would be our last conversation.  Before we hung up, we admitted how much we missed each other and, as was our way, reminded ourselves that we loved each other more than pizza, beer, french-fries and wine.  Today I found a list I had recently slipped into Ryan’s backpack. 
          20 Things I Love
1.     You cook for me.
2.    Our Saturday morning showers.
3.    Resting my head on your chest.
4.    Our Blotter voice
5.    You can always talk me into taking a nap
6.    You sing silly made-up songs
7.    You make me laugh all the time.
8.    You’re always up for an adventure
9.    I’m the only one who knows you call it a blanky.
10. You enjoy all different kinds of food.
11. All of our silly memories.
12.  You listen to me whine and hardly ever get annoyed.
13. Your taste in music.
14. You’re always yourself, no matter what.
15. You take care of me.
16. Your long winded stories.
17. You hate coleslaw.
18. Our spontaneous trips.
19. That we have so much fun together no matter what.
20. I get to spend the rest of my life with you.
Reading this list made me remember something Ryan once wrote to me inside my travel journal.  It said:
      This is great.  I love the life I’m in.  I never thought I would feel this good next to one person.  We really know how to live, Kris.  This is a marriage that can conquer all!  I love you, Krissy so much!
                        “We’ll end up hand in hand, somewhere down on the sand
                        Just me and you
                        Just as free, free as we’ll ever be”
These words are powerful because they paint an accurate picture of the life Ryan and I shared; a life that centered on a very easy concept – smile.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Nightmare

As dawn broke, my mind was troubled by a haunting dream that weighed me down with feelings of dread and danger.  There was an antagonist, although I was never able to see his face.  He was a dark figure, ominous and threatening.  His dwelling was large, homelike, but dark and full of unanswered questions.  I wasn’t supposed to be there, touching his things, looking through his personal belongings, yet I couldn’t get away even though I wanted to.  The dream made a foggy jump to another place, warmer, but unfamiliar.  Ryan was there, sick or tired, maybe both, and we both had an urgency to escape.  Something unknown was weighing on us, making our escape almost impossible, a fight for every move.  We slowly, painfully packed our bags and found our passports, but for some reason, couldn’t leave.  We were both quiet, but felt panicked, closed in and helpless.  Like dreams sometimes go, I’ve lost the rest.
I woke up with a heavy heart and a feeling of trepidation.  I didn’t want to get out of bed, didn’t want to begin living another day without Ryan.  My subconscious frightens me sometimes because it appears to know so much more than the rest of me.  I fight all day to keep my thoughts clear if not happy, but can’t control what comes to me when my mind is at rest.  This is not the first time I’ve dreamt of Ryan.  In each dream we are quiet, not silent, but hushed, almost calm.  I’m often left with a feeling of abandonment, which I recognize, but the feeling of rejection that follows leaves me bemused.  I am sometimes pleading with Ryan, always quietly, never angry or resentful.  For weeks I prayed for dreams, wished to feel Ryan again and now that I have them, I look for ways to escape.  I read once that dreams are like illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.  It seems my soul is trying to sort through feelings I have not yet allowed myself to feel.  These feelings are like a thick wool blanket, with the power to comfort or suffocate.  I'm at a loss for how to tolerate this and can only close my eyes and wait for what comes next.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

True Love

You think it’s the end, but it’s just the beginning.
-Bob Marley
                During Yoga, you are asked to pick a word or feeling to focus on.  This should be an extension of your day, something you’d like to work on, keep close or possibly discard. Today I chose “forward” in hopes of keeping feelings of warmth and love close to my heart.  Feelings I’ve been having all day, feelings that were given to me by the people I love.  Let me paint a picture.  Upon entering the building this morning, I was greeted by a throng of colleagues, all waiting to hear my news.  Each person had a look of genuine happiness on their face as I shared my photos and tales of Marley Ryan.  Before my eyes, the hallway filled with friends, men and women, oohing and aaahing, hugging, smiling and simply just caring.  This continued well after the bell rang and when I finally made my way to my classroom, I was welcomed by fresh flowers, gifts and cards, all shouting their congratulations, love and support.  This is my life.
                Sometimes it takes an end to show a beginning.  My loss has opened up something bigger than words could ever describe.  I am encircled by such love, such kindness, such true and genuine support.  This is my family, my friends, the wonderful people I work with, the families of my students; all of these people have opened their hearts and wrapped their arms around me in a tight, warm and comforting embrace.  It’s been almost two months and still these people have not let go, they continue to hold strong, lift me up and catch me when I fall.  I’ll never be able to show them what they truly mean to me, never will I find the words to describe my gratitude and awe.  This used to upset me, but now I realize what I can do.  I can smile.  I can laugh.  I can walk with a little bounce in my step because really, this is all these people want.  This is true love and I am surrounded by it.