Saturday, January 31, 2009

He called me...whaaaat???

So I didn't take down my dating profile...I decided to keep it up and while I have not been focusing at all on dating I thought I'd just keep the tip of my toe in the water juuuust in case. I may yet rethink that.

This guy emailed me and asked if I could overlook the fact that he smoked. When I listed my preferences I had said no smokers. I told him that everything is negotiable and as long as he didn't smoke in my face I didn't really care. So we started texting back and forth and then he asked me to call him during my lunch hour. I don't really take a lunch hour but I grabbed a few minutes from my day to chat. It was a quick conversation and I was in a groove so I was pretty high energy. It was a good little convo and when I told him I had to run and he asked if he could call me that night, of course you can.

Here is what I learned about him: 36, on the portly side of things (not judging of course), has a 12 year old daughter, lives with his mom and sister with his kid. He is unemployed and divorced and stated (and I quote) "has dated HUNDREDS of women in the last 4 years".

I clearly am running to pick out china at this point- wouldn't you??

Anyways, after our convo he sends me a text and says he feels "totally lucky" and was blown away by our convo. Cool right? So I couldn't reply other than a quick "thx, ttyl"

I get home and do my normal routine and he texts to ask if he can call at 9pm. Points for manners and politeness, yay! I say sure and right on the dot he calls. We chat for a bit and he is turning out to be less savvy business guy (my type) and more Larry the Cable guy (very NOT my type) but I am happy to roll along and give it a chance.

and then.....

I asked him about the being "lucky" comment and he said he just couldn't believe how well spoken and sexy and confident I sounded. I asked why he was so shocked and he said that based on my picture he expected something else. I asked him to clarify and he said.......

(wait for it)

He said he couldn't believe it because I look HOMELY based on my pic....

ummmmm, excuse me??

I asked him what that meant exactly and he said "oh you know, quiet, bookish, know homely".

OK, I don't know about you but that is NOT what that word means to me and is for sure NOT something any man should ever ever EVER call a woman. I was rather stunned and kinda just wrapped things up and said good night.

:::points to me for not freaking out right then and there::::

So the next day he texts me and I ignore because despite my "cool chick" vibe and I utterly, totally OBSESSED with that word. runs over and over again in my head on a loop. Now I know I am many things and the list of adjectives is long to describe me fairly. I even know (well aware actually) that I am not everyone's cup of tea, and I am OK with that. But never, in all my life have I ever been so low as to think that I fall into the HOMELY bucket! E V E R!!

So I call him....

Actually I leave a message and say "Hey there, its me and I wanted to give you another shot at explaining that word to me because if that is really what you think I am not sure why you would want to go any further and we can just say g'bye now. If that is not what you meant here is a chance to clear the air and move ahead".

Good right? Mature, calm and very nice of me to even give him a chance to 'splain- if I do say so myself.

He calls back "Why are you tripping?"

?????? ME??? wtf.....

Ok, I am not tripping but this is your chance to strike that awful word from the record. He then launches into another explanation of how is HIS world that word means "professional, boring, quiet" and he thinks I am very cute but still kinda homely looking. I explain AGAIN how bad that word is and tell him to take a poll of his female friends and get back to me. He agreed and wrapped up that convo.

Then he starts texting me all these FREAKY you like this, would you do that, have you ever considered "x".....fill in the blanks with the weirdest shite ever and you still won't be close.

I pretty much ignore all these and move on.....clearly this guy is NOT prince charming and I have almost forgotten him until......

Today. I get a text "letting me down" because he feels I am not a good match for him. He really really wants a 3some and he just didn't feel like I was into that idea enough to move forward and until he has one that is all he is focused on....

Good luck with that dude.....I am OUT!!!

(deep sigh)

Couldn't make it up if I tried......

After the Storm

This must be what it feels like out in the middle of the ocean right after a huge storm has passed.

The violent, blood thirsty 12 foot killers waves that ripped and tore eveything it came into contact with- crushing all in its path and leaving nothing to tell the tale of what one was......have been quieted. The gale force winds that tirelessly attacked the few left out in the storm, left to fend for themselves yet unable to change or stop anything that was happening....are calm now.

The sun has come out and is gentle and caressing your skin, warming you from the inside out. The breeze kisses your nose and holds with it the promise of everything being fresh and new and wonderful. In the blue of the sky and the playful clouds chasing each other across the sky you can see...and alllllmost touch.....every dream you ever had coming true.

This is where I feel I am right now. And it is good.

Don't get me wrong- there are battles yet to be fought and the war is not over yet but just like every other muscle you have I believe my "getting through shit" muscle has gotten strong enough that I KNOW I can handle anything that gets thrown my way from now on.

The end is in sight and there is no stopping me now.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I feel like I am in a really good place right now. Nothing is exactly where it is going to be but all the ground work has been laid down for what I will accomplish this year. It is the beginning of week 5 of "the break" so just 2 weeks until I got back on the full diet and start sprinting towards my goal. Just 100 left to go....which is alot more than most people will lose in a lifetime but compared to where I started it is a small number and one I know I can know off in just a few months.

Work is super intense right now. I got a promotion and started a new division of my office, I have a great team assembled and now its just time to execute everything we have planned. I have a couple of secret weapons up my sleeve to get us where we need to be sooner than later and we -will- get there. All we need is time to get it launched and up and off the ground.

Personally I still need to work on getting out there and being more social. Not dating, not for now anyways...its just too much to throw into a first date and there is no way to have a "get to know you" conversation without bringing up the recent major events. It's not fair to anyone to get involved with me right now. You kinda already have to know the backstory to hang with me at this point. Updating people is exhausting!

But all in all I am feeling very peaceful and centered right now.

That is such a change from even a few weeks ago I can't even tell you. I know there are still mountains to climb and challenges to meet but good god, if I have done all of this I can figure out a way to conquer anything new that is in my path ahead.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

New World

I was just looking over what I have posted so far this year That is just a whole bunch 'o deep, gutwrenching stuff to absorb in just a few weeks. It makes me feel kinda bad for throwin it all on the table in one big, messy, throbbing gob like that....

on the upside -I- feel better, so there is that!

I really do feel like I have crossed over into a new level and am busy making camp in a slightly new world. Things are pretty much the same but some small yet spectacular differences have occured.

Things like- being able to smile when I think about Troy and not feel that hot knife cutting into my heart. There are still tears and sadness but I am starting to think more about the joy and good times now.

Things like shoe shopping!! With the lymphodema my feet swelled to about 3 times the size they are now so the only shoes I could wear were my Crocs and my velcro flip flops -which I had to get in a man's size to be able to fit my swollen foot. But NOW I just got 3 new pairs of shoes- 2 pairs have 2 inch heels!! Trust me, heels were NOT an option before and I always told myself I did not like heels or "girly" shoes but the truth is I couldn't fit into them so why long for something I couldn't have....until NOW!! What has changed though is the shape of my foot...due to all the wrapping I now have EE (extra wide) feet. No worries, zappos'com has a GREAT selection in my size. Love love love zappos!!

Things like working out. It is a bit mind blowing to think that I now do 30 mins on a treadmill everyday. I have only missed one day since I began "the break" and that was because I took a day trip to San Diego (and probably walked more than a mile at the airport). I even find myself looking forward to it. The Tracey of this time last year was so deep into grief she couldn't get off the couch let alone think about going hiking in the park or on the treadmill! Even without the grief I would go whole weekends without even leaving my condo. I might have to cut down on the exercise once I am back on the full diet but it will only be for a short while then it will be something I do everyday- forever. That's a pretty crazy thought.

Things like not having to size everything up to see if I will "fit". When you are a big person there are certain hazards you have to watch out for...stairs is a huge one. Especially in public. The last thing you want to do is strggle up a flight of stairs and try to pull off not looking winded as you huff and puff and try to look all casual like it was no problem. That is why I would walk an extra block to take an elevator or escalator any chance I could. Chairs are another big one, especially chairs with arms. It is just not fun to have to wedge yourself into a chair where your lovehandles leak out the sides of the chairs. It often looks like your ass is trying to eat the damn chair! Ugh.

I already talked about seatbelts on planes but another big one is getting into someone's car and clicking their seatbelts. Again, not a place where you want to look like an idiot trying to extend it alllll the way to the end and then still struggle to make it ::click:: So you don't wear it and essentially risk your life (or a ticket) because that is better than looking like a fat ass in front of whoever you are driving with.

Things like walking by a mirror. Frankly I am sick of checking myself out but I can't stop. It's not vanity, quite the opposite actually. It is a critical evaluation of myself from every angle. You may see the progress but I see the work that yet needs to be done.....and yet.......sometimes.....I can catch a glimpse and think "wow, I am soooo much smaller that I was" and THAT my a fucking cool thought to think.

Things like purging my closet. I am getting rid of things as fast as I can, even some favorite and beloved pieces (like the sweater my stepmom made for me- giving it away was like handing over my mother's hug). BUT I don't want a safety net. I want to burn the bridge behind me with every step I take so there is no place to go back to because this journey is a ONE WAY ticket. You can believe that!

So yeah, my world looks and sounds alot the same but it is a little bit lighter, both emotionally and physically. It is a little bit brighter. It is a little bit prettier and there is a beacon juuuust off in the distance witha HUGE finish line just waiting for me and I can't wait to get there!!

See you at the end!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Daddy thinks I'm pretty

Ok, feeling more than a little exposed and vunerable right now. Just a little akward, kinda like running into the guy at the party you had the one night stand with...I heard (not that I would know anything about what that is like).

I had to break down and share at some point. I mean, you guys can all do math and since someone can't weigh a negative amount at some point you would have put it together anyways. Still, its tough puting that out there.

So to recap....I started at 418 and have lost 163 (as of this morning's scale) which means for you math wiz's out there that I am currently at 255 (and wearing size 14/16 I might add) so I am 110lbs away from my goal weight. It took me 4 months to lose the first 100 and I am under no illusions that the last 100 will fly right off but I am still on target to hit 145 by the end of June. If I do hit that target it will mean I will have lost 273lbs in 14 months.

I am anxious to hit 250, somehow that number seems in the "not so incredibly bad" range, especially when you consider where I was. Then the next hurdle will be to get a "1" in front of my weight. THAT will be cool.

When you are overweight (and forgive my generalizations, I don't presume to speak for anyone else) you often find yourself in a bit of a limbo state of existence. On the one hand you feel invisible, like no one sees you or wants to look at you. I have seen people glance at me and quickly look away before and I can't help think its that whole "try not to stare" impulse we all have when we see someone who is outside of whatever we deem to be to the "norm". So you walk around feeling like no one ever looks at you.

It is interesting some of the comments people have been making to me recently though...for instance the other day I had lunch with a friend I hadn't seen since I began the diet and as we were walking out to the parking lot she was like "wow T, I remember walking with you before and you'd be out of breath by now." I was stunned she had noticed that, I always thought I pulled off the "I can do it as good as you" stunt pretty well. I guess people saw me more than I realized.

Then there are the random strangers.

I obviously can't know what any random person saw/thought about me before. Sometime after grade school I stopped hearing those life scarring comments- you know the ones I mean. Adults are much more polite, kinda...

What I CAN report is some of the recent comments I have gotten. The other day I was in the post office and after the dude asked for my ID he glanced and did a double take and said "wow, you have lost a ton of weight". Of course I was thrilled. I told him no one had commented before and he said "did anyone else look at that picture?" My comment was there is a difference between looking and seeing but it was nice to get the random endorsement. As much as the comments and support from you guys is great it all kinda falls into the "daddy thinks I the prettiest girl in the world" bucket. The guy at the post office was a nice random validation.

Then there is the grocery store....

I fully admit to being someone who peeks in other people carts and judges them by what they buy. You can tell if someone is single, having a party or just a binge eater all with a quick glance into their cart. I used to want to hide my own purchases when I bought junk cuz if I did it (judged people) I assume others do as well. No one ever said anything but they wouldn't now would they...

Well today I went to the store and as I was having the thoughts I just layed out as I set my items on the conveyer belt. The cashier was scanning away then she looked up at me and said "boy, someone is eating healthy". First time anyone ever said THAT to me! I was thrilled!! I told her about the diet and she had lost 23 lbs from doing "Biggest Loser" stuff (good for her I said). I told her my thoughts about judging people on their purchases and she agreed it is interesting what you can know about a person from their carts....blah blah.

Anyway the point is that tangible progress is being made to the point that strangers are noticing and that is just fucking cool.

You Can't Handle the Truth

....or so I have been telling myself. In reality I just have not been able to bring myself to be fully truthful with you. You think I have been open and have exposed myself to the bone? Ohhhhhh no, you are so wrong. See I have been keeping a HUGE (literally) secret tucked away from everyone. Ok, I have let a very select few know this top secret info but after I told them I had to kill them so it doesn't seem like they should count...(heh).

Even now, sitting here typing away, having every intention of finally throwing this info out there so I can finally stop being afraid of being "found out" or, my greatest fear, being judged by everyone once they know the truth I am afraid and want to delete this whole entry. I want to hide away and never have to share this info. It's the last big secret I have and as much as it tortures me it also protects me in a sad, dark way. If you don't know this you can never really know the whole big picture so I still have control- see?

You may think it is huge thing sharing the experience and emotions that I have but the thing is, I control that. I conrol what I share so that control somehow makes it ok to put it out there and serve it up in a way that hopefully lets you see my point of view and stops you from judging me.

Sharing this means giving up that control. It is setting a truth into the world and the truth just sits there, cold and unblinking and there is no way to spin or control it. This little bit of info is just a cold hard fact. It is a concrete "what is" that in a million years I will never be able to erase or escape the reality of it and what it says about me.

:::deep breath, shake out the hands:::::

Here we go....

On my first day of the diet I weighed in at 418 pounds.

:::::staring at that number and thinking about all it means::::

Yup, that is it. That is the awful, embarrasing, humiliating truth that I will never be able to escape. I am a person who weighed 418 lbs.

Now just to be clear and to honor what I have said in past posts- this does not mean I think I am/was a bad person with no will power. I said it before and I hold to this...I will NEVER diminish the person I was. I have always been a good person and I don't hate who I was. Period.


There is a unescapable reality to that number, you don't get to that number without letting a whole bunch of things get waaaay out of control and the truth is, I let it. I LET IT. Can never change the fact that I chose to put myself in such a bad place. That is the hardest part of accepting the truth of that number. I have to look myself in the mirror everyday and look into my own eyes and aknowledge what damage I did to myself and my body.

One of the things that hit me hard about yoga is the notion of honoring your body. It really is your temple and the home and vessel for you soul. You need to work very hard to honor and care for this vessel you have been given everyday.

Yeah.....I must have missed the day in grade school that they gave that talk. Talk to us about tampons but never mention that you should honor your body...makes sense to me.

So now I am trying to undo 30+ years of NOT honoring my body and the scars of the damage are going to take some drastic measure to erase. Even then I will always have not only the scars, literal and emotional, but also the fun little side effects like the lymphondema as a life long reminders of a lifetime of bad choices.


If I ever turn this into a book that will probably be the title. Just to get it all out there and share it, hopefully take away its power over me. My hope is by throwing this into the universe like chucking a big rock into a lake, its power will dissolve into the water and become something that stops weighing me down but becomes part of the foundation of the lake and helps to build it and make it more strong and stable for everyone. Maybe my rock can even be a diving board that others can jump off into that big, cool, blue, expanse of water and begin the process of healing and letting go of whatever is holding them back and weighing them down.

It's just a number right? Just 3 little digits on the scale....what matters most is what you do after you step off that scale.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who Needs a Magic Feather?

So I am about to head into week 3 of "the break" and the results so far are OK. I had my weigh in on Friday and I gained 2 lbs. However I weigh myself everyday and these mysterious 2 lbs decided to appear literally overnight. Thursday when I weighed myself I was flat (no gain) as were the proceeding 7 days. Friday *boom* 2 new lbs spring up but now this morning (sat.) they are gone again. If you find these missing 2 lbs please do NOT return them to me....

I do think I know what happened. I think it was a combo of just plain old PMS water retention (hate being a girl somedays) PLUS I need to make a slight adjustment to my workout routine. What I have been doing is getting home, changing into workout stuff then heading straight over to the gym cuz let's face it, if I sit down for 5 mins I am done for the day.

So I hit the treadmill for 30 mins (love my ipod) and then come home, wrap up my bandages (yes I still have to wrap up my legs in the 5 layers of bandages everynight) then make and eat dinner about 7:30ish (then wrap my legs for the night- the fun never ends with lymphodema).

The problem with this is I need to have some more protein to burn before I work out. In other words, I need to fill up before I hit the road for a roadtrip.

So the "fix" is that I bought some of those tuna cups and that is now my late afternoon "snack" so I have protein right before I work out. I guess the "rule" is have 2 oz. of protein for every 100 calories you burn and I have been burning about 200-250 per workout session. The tuna cups are about 2.5 oz so its right where I should be. Hopefully that will help and I won't gain. I am fully prepared to not gain or loose this month (although they told me I should still drop some, just a much smaller amt- 5lbs) but I will NOT gain. Fuck no, no way!

I am not freaking out or anything and I also know that muscle weighs more than fat so if I did gain that would most likely be the reason since I am being very careful and have not gone over 1200 since I started the break. I have been keeping my food journal updated daily along with how much I worked out each day.

I will miss the treadmill when I go back on the diet for my final leg of the journey but that will only be for a few months then I will be back.

And speaking of working out....please, oh god please, remind me to never ever wear just a tank top to work out again. Last night when I went I had a tank with a sweater hoodie over it. I got hot so I peeled off the sweater and kept chugging along. That is, until I felt and extra breeze....

Seriously, it is getting so obvious that I have lost a boatload of weight because of all the sagging skin. It looks awful but the worst parts of it generally get hidden by my clothes and are covered away from the world and available only for my own viewing displeasure (for now). Seriously need to step up the find free surgery train....ick.

As I was working out I became totally distracted by watching my arms flap.

Really, there is no other way to describe it. If I was Dumbo I am sure I could fly with these things! They kept swinging to and fro and I would glance down to look at it swaying- one time I nearly got a black eye when I misjudged that velocity of the backswing.

THANK GOD no one came in while I was there. I peeled off my sweater OK while in motion but I don't think I could have put it back on while walking without seriously injuring myself.

I went today to get new workout gear. All the pants I have been working out in are waaaay to big and right now, too big means too much room for jiggling. My thighs are so droopy it is....gross if you ask me. It's the catch22 of the good news of the weight loss. Not that I am not, or have not been realistic about what will need to happen but until I get to the final part....which will be hitting weight goal AND getting a body lift I just won't be satisfied.

I started a countdown of when I can get back on the full diet. 24 days until I begin the last part of Phase 1. Phase 2 is getting the surgery done.

It will be very exciting to get back to the diet knowing its the beginning of the end but I haven't decided if this break is good or not. I know it's good in the sense that it is healthy for my body but I have really started to enjoy eating "real people" food again and have discovered a deep love for Boston Cream Pie Yogurt from Yoplait (110 calories of yumminess).

We shall see....


I officially call the first week of 2009 a success! Lord knows just that fact that we got through it with everyone more or less OK is success enough in and of itself.

Work this week was a whirlwind. I have a new employee and there was lots to do to get him set up and ready to roll this week. I had organized all the external files but this week I focused on getting the internal files set and a system organized so we can easily add people and expand in a way that is logical. Seems like a no brainer but I have discovered that most people do not really use much logic in the things they do. I don't get that -at all- and am not a fan sooooo now that I am boss it will be done "this" way mostly because it makes the best sense to do so but if that doesn't work for ya how about a bowl of "because I said so!"

Part of the chaos of this week was that I flew to San Diego on Tuesday for the day. It is about a 50 min flight from Phoenix so it can easily be done in a day. We flew out at 7:30 am and came back at 4pm.

I was very curious about this flight and I won't say I was dreading it but I did have some butterflies about it. Not because of flying, I love to travel and love to fly. I will do it any chance I get. What made this flight interesting was the seat belt factor.

(long deeeeeeep sigh)

Ok, time for another Confessions from a Fat Girl. I have been in the bucket of needing to use an extended seat belt for a long time now. You know ones they use to show you how to buckle your seat belt? (which I still say if you can't figure that part out get off the damn plane) Well they are also available for the people for whom the clicking part just ain't gonna happen without a bridge built between tab A and slot B. For the longest time after I was too big to not be able to click the belt I hid it. Coat in my lap, tuck the ends under my fat roll (sad but true) so it looked like it was fastened but wasn't. I did that until I hit a flight with some turbulence and was bounced around so much I no longer thought it was a good idea to fake it. Sometimes there are rules for a reason.
I remember seeing a woman on a flight I was on ask for an extended belt and that's what made it ok for me to ask. Guess I just needed to know I wasn't they only one.

Then there was the time I was forced to buy another seat on the plane.

Of all things it just HAD to be at a time when I was with 30 of my coworkers. We had just spent the weekend at a Leadership Retreat outside of Vegas (LB2) and the whole weekend was uplifting and empowering and I was feeling like I could do anything!

I was first in line at the Southwest Gate and apparently gave them way to much time to check me out and decide that I was too big for just one seat. They pulled me out of line as the plane was boarding and explained I needed to buy another ticket.

I was horrified. Beyond humiliated. Mortified. And I had all my coworkers as witnesses. Great, fucking great.

Thank god I did have enough room on my credit card to charge the ticket and there process is that you get a refund after the flight, or maybe that was just because I threw such a fit. Either way I had to put a card in the seat next to me on the plane explaining that it was reserved for the safety and comfort of all passengers. Like my fat ass was a menace to everyone on the plane.

They sat me way away from my coworkers which at that point was fine because I was so humiliated. To every one's credit the whole incident was never mentioned again. Except in my head every time I have flown since then.

The last time I flew I was down 50 lbs and still needed the extended belt soooooo I was very very curious what this flight would bring. I got on the plane, Southwest again, and sat in a window seat. I layed out the belt.... slung it across my lap....brought the tab end closer to the slot and!

For the first time in years it clicked! As awful and embarrassing an admission this is, and it is and I nearly did not even post this- trust me- it is part of this journey I am on and was another milestone for me. A awful, embarrassing, humiliating milestone but a milestone nonetheless.

Click.....I am now free to move about the country!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Life rolls on....

Deep breath.....shake it off. Gooood.

Sorry for taking it so deep and staying there for so long but that was a story I needed to tell. Thanks for indulging me.

Back in the present life does roll on....

Week 1 of the "break" from the diet went better than expected (doesn't it usually happen that way, the things you spend so much time worrying about end up fine). It was just adding lunch but after not eating lunch for 9 months it was a bit like traveling to a city you used to know but haven't been back to in a long time. You have a vague idea about what to expect but so much has changed and you aren't the same person that you were the last time you visited.

After my doctors appt on 12/27 I rushed out and got a food diary and book to count carbs, fat and calories and have faithfully been recording everything I have eaten every day since.

Calorie counting, weighing and measuring food, diet journals....all the things I swore I hated and would never do I am now doing. There is just no escape from it and what I have learned is that if you are one of the people who say you want to change but are unwilling to do any of these things, well aren't ready at all. You just have to decide what you are content with and embrace it. If you have an extra 30, 50 or 100 lbs and you want to change but aren't willing to measure, count and record then I submit to you that you need to just be happy with where you are. If you truly want to change you just have to, HAVE TO, suck it up and do what needs to be done.


I spent so much time wishing for change but never being willing to take those steps. That is what is sad, people lock themselves into years of misery because you get caught up in that limbo. I want to change but I won't do what I need to to make that change happen. Let yourself off the hook and commit to one path or the other. Be happy with your body or fight like hell for the body you want to have.

Today is day one of Week 2 of the "break" - I will go back onto the full version on Feb 8th. Today I added breakfast back into my life. Again, does not seem scary but part of this whole process is not just getting the weight off, in alot of ways that is the easy part. The hard part, and why I will NOT fail at this, is learning to eat and live healthy for the rest of your life. My god why did no one ever explain to us what an enormus amout of up keep our bodies require to be kept in good shape! Seriously, whoever was in charge of handing out that bit of info skipped my house entirely. Oh well, you can only move forward from where you are at...

I went to the store yesterday and got: bananas and apples (the first fruit I have had since March, and probably way before that truth be told), yogurt (many flavors to see which ones I will like), slimfast shakes (sub for the diet shakes), Kashi whole grain cereal and skim milk (skim never bothered me for cereal but 2% for lattes- yummmm god I miss them), whole wheat bread (oh bread, I have missed you most of all), deli turkey and lots of frozen Lean Cuisine meals (seriously, if you haven't tried the fish ones go get them now! I could literally live just on the parm fish with penne pasta alone and it's only 270 calories, yummy!) and string cheese!!

I didn't go too crazy as this is only for a few weeks but it is nice eating again. I know that sounds weird but I have been so removed from "real people" food for so long it's nice to meet some old friends.

:::deep sigh:::::

Confession time

I may have claimed in the past that I didn't like to walk on the treadmill because it was to "hamster running in a wheel" and while I hold to that -it may have not been the whole reason I wasn't using a treadmill.

The truth is, they scared me.

This may shock you just a little bit but I never have been on a treadmill before. Seen them, stood on them but never while it was operating. I have no clue how to work one and they also scare me a little bit the way escalators scare me. I know, just know that one day I am going to get sucked underneath one and the monsters that live under it and make it go round and round will get me. I am certain the same monsters live under treadmills as well. All of this (in my opinion) made for fine reasons to never get on one.

But it is cold outside -yes 50 is too cold to be walking outside in the dark! Plus I didn't have an ipod.

Ipods I think are the magical key to getting on and using a treadmill. I am still working on the source of the magic but the two are combined at the genetic level I am sure. That is why I told myself, until I had an ipod there was no reason to get on a treadmill. I mean really, what would the point be??

So I got the ipod (its pink! the Nano) and spent all day Friday loading my cd's into it. I must admit I was a big enough dork to have to watch the tutorials on how to use it- twice. God I am getting old...but I conquered the beast and now I have a fully functioning ipod and even downloaded some workout songs.

I was ready to face the treadmill.

Armed with my ipod and what I could only assume was the key to the fitness room in my condo's clubhouse....lived here 2 years, never been inside it, not even once. I walked over and opened the door (so that IS what that key is for, good to know) and walked inside. Thank god no one was there. If there was someone there I had planned to just peek them run away, well maybe not, but I am just glad I was there alone. I picked midafternoon as I figured that would be a quiet time of day.

In the fitness room there are 2 treadmills, 2 bikes and a big torture device looking thing that I am not going to concern myself with just yet. Baby steps...

I walked over to the furtherest (it is so a word) treadmill and stepped on. So far, so good. The conrol panel looked like something right off the bridge of the USS Enterprise, and the Data side, not the wimpy Will Crusher side! (yes I have an inner geek- sue me) I looked it over for a bit and decided to keep it on manual control. It asked for my weight...yeah right, like I am gonna tell some strange machine that info! I punched the start button and off we went. I played around with the speed and decided 3.0 was plenty speedy for me and a level 2 incline. While I had the magic ipod I decided I needed to focus this first time and didn't use it. I marched along and hit the mile mark and was done.

I have to admit that I was a bit wobbly after stepping off, all of the sudden the floor wasn't moving anymore. Once again I was glad I had to room to myself.

I have been back twice more (so a total of 3 sessions) and have made friends with the treadmill. I call her Bessy and we get along just fine. Today I went for 30 mins instead of stopping at a mile and felt pretty good afterwards and the ipod helps a ton- music IS the key, I knew it!!! Now the next hurdle will be working out with someone else in there...I dread going in and seeing someone on Bessy and I will have to figure out the other machine which looks cold and sinister compared to Bessy. Hmmm, perhaps I need to check it out next time I am alone there again.

Oh yeah, at my weigh in I was flat. No gain no loss- which I expected. The doctor said I should still lose during this month, maybe like 5 lbs total instead of 5 lbs a week. I am totally prepared to just maintain this month and if I lose anything it will be a bonus then on Feb 8th I will get back on the full diet and hit it hard until I reach my goal weight.

The end is in will be a good year!

Looking back from the Other Side

First I want to thank you for riding along on my very emotional visit to the past. I was compelled to write it all down for my own sake. It actually feels incredibly self indulgent to have taken all that time to go through it all and try to reach for those details, some of which I am sure will fade with time and others that are seared into my brain and in my heart forever.

A part of me broke that day, that week. A part of me died right along my brother but to honor him and to celebrate his life I will do whatever I can to remember him and keep him alive for his children.

I will honor his death by making the most of my life.

So when some of you wonder how it is I can stick to a diet this is where I draw my strength from, actually I borrow it from my brother. He wasn't strong enough to hold on and wait out his bad time but now as he has crossed over he sends me, and everyone who loves him, strength to get through each day....and I said in my header, some more successfully than others!

Yeah, I can stick to a diet or pound away at the treadmill or have difficult (yet honest) conversations with the people I love about things they would rather not talk about....I can do all those things because I am alive and my brother isn't. He will never be able to hug his kids again so I will hug them every chance I get. He won't be able to talk to my sister and let her know how much he loved her so I will love her for the both of us. He won't be able to see our accomplishments but I have faith that he knows....somehow he knows and is with us always.

It was a long road to get through the memories of that week. I am utterly exhausted having gone through it all- I can only imagine what it must be like reading it. It was the worst, darkest, most painful week of my life and the memory of it is beautiful and precious to me. If it had to happen (and since when did we ever get a choice in such things?) I am glad for every moment and would not trade it for the world.

It's done. The first anniversary has passed and I am still standing. I have given my memories a pasture to roam around in, safe and secure and cherished. I will never be ok with losing him but I can move on with my life and make my life a living tribute to him and all the wonderful things about him.

Here my memories can live on and through everyone who has read this my brother will live on with in each of you.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Story of Gary and Mary

Ok, I can't wrap this up without finally explaning the story of Gary and Mary.

Troy was a notoriously bad shopper. He would take forever to pick out anything and would frequently wander around and get lost- at least lost to whoever had the misfortune of going shopping with him.

Well one fine day he and Debbie were shopping and he predictably wandered off. When Debbie went looking for him she found him in the toy section looking at a plastic snail. Debbie asked what the hell he was doing and he picked up the snail and said "I like this snail, he is my friend and his name is Gary." Thus Gary the snail came to live with my brother.

Now Gary is not your average snail, he has his own house (suitable for the bottom of a fishtank but Gary is a land dweller now), his own myspace page (but don't expect him to reply to friend requests too quickly, typing is a bit hard for him what with having no fingers) and he is very social. Gary has gone hunting, fishing (which made him a bit nervous) on vacation to Jamacia and even to the firemans convention.

And then....

Nolan was out shopping one day and he found another snail! He showed his mom and they brought home Gary's new friend. Little did they know at the time but they found not only his friend but Gary's girlfriend and her name is Mary.

Mary moved into Gary's house with him and they have been together ever since and done everything the family has done including yes, being at their dear friend Troy's funeral.

Gary and Mary even came and got tattooed with the family although Gary whimped out midway through his tat (snails aren't known for their courage). Although Mary totally showed him up by not only getting tatted up but she also had an antena pierced. Mary is a bad ass snail.

Gary and Mary have been adopted by Troy's firefighter brothers and I am pleased to annouce at the last convention they were wed and are now Mr. and Mrs. Gary the Snail....or Gary and Mary Snail if you ask Mary.

Gary and Mary have several cousins in the Herrick family now. I own Barry the snail and his gnome friend Bobo. My dad has Harry the snail who is a racing snail. My dad will take walks and Harry will sit atop his walking stick and pass him up. I believe there is also a Karry snail that lives in my mother's garden and they all look at Gary as their leader and the one who ties us all together.

And the story of Gary the Snail.

The Bubble bursts

The bubble began to dissolve as people went back to their lives. Holli decided she would go back to college. Debbie and Nolan found a temporary house while they decided what to do next but living at the house was just too much right away. People went back to work and life picked up right where it left off.

It was time for me to leave and come back to my life as well.

I don't remember much about the days after the funeral and I am not even clear on what day it was that I came back. All I know is that the flight home was the cherry on top of the worst week of my life and I have never been in so much pain ever in my life.

My Dad and stepmom gave me a ride to the airport and the kids came along- Sierra, Nolan and Holli. The thought of leaving them, leaving home, leaving the bubble was overwhelming. I was sick with it. I was tired beyond belief. The emotional roller coaster took its toll mentally as well as physically and I felt my grief in every fiber of my body. I had said goodbye to my Grandma who, was beyond even being able to come close to understanding what happened. I said goodbye to Debbie and my sister and Dave. My mother is said goodbye to on the phone the night before.

I left for AZ again, only days later than I had left the last time. It was only a few short days yet everything about my life was now different and would be forever. Every day since has been colored with our loss and I don't expect that to change.

What made this flight so different from the one before is I wasn't rushing back to anyone. I have a very full life which I love in AZ but I am alone. I have no family here and there is only so much you can ask of even your closest of friends.I had been in this warm safe cocoon where everyone knew what happened, and more importantly knew my brother. In AZ no one knew him, I would not turn a corner or look up or down and see and feel him there. Feel his memory all around me which while painful, was a comfort. All I was coming home to was an empty world and one I was going to have to face alone.

Not to mention the guilt. How could I leave when everyone was in such pain? How could I leave when they still needed me. It was the first time since I packed my stuff and moved to Chicago (then moved to Phoenix) that I ever regretted leaving Iowa.

I hugged everyone goodbye at the airport and as soon as I touched the kids- the last living reminders of my brother- they are all I have left of him now- I started to cry. I walked in, checked my bags and walked up to my terminal. I never felt so alone.

The tears and sobs that I had shed before were nothing compared to the damn that burst inside me now. I was shaking as I clicked my seat belt and every mile was salt on a very raw wound. I changed planes twice and on one of the legs I remember being so dehydrated and hungry and some water and a box with crackers, peppercorn cream cheese and a bit of sausage was in it and in the slow, underwater type reaction I recall thinking "oh, this makes me happy." I was so damn grateful for that stupid box it might as well been made of gold. I landed in TX and shuffled to my gate. Looking back I am literally stunned that I made it at all I was so lost and dazed. By then it was getting late and it hurt to move- literally hurt. My friend Stephanie had offered to come pick me up and in my usual "I can do it on my own" fashion I turned her down. Well that was a far stronger version of the me that was sitting in Houston aching and throbbing with each breathe. I sent her a text but I got no reception in the airport and I couldn't tell if she got it or not. I prayed that she did cuz I couldn't bear the thought of no one meeting me when I got back. I was able to get a text through to my sister I don't recall what it said but I am sure she knew what I meant.

I don't have the words to describe how awful that flight home was, if I lived a thousand years and was tortured everyday I can't imagine it would even compare.

I got home and there was no one there, my text hadn't gone through so I caught a cab home. It was silent and dark and so utterly lonely in my house. It hurt to be there and not be in Iowa even though I know my life is here now but in that moment I would have gladly moved back in a heartbeat. Everyone I loved was hundreds of miles away and there was no one there for me.

I was exhausted but couldn't sleep so I logged onto myspace and the first thing I saw was Holli had changed her picture to her tattoo of her dad's brand and she had changed her name to Imissudaddy. That killed me and I broke down all over again.

I went back to work and somehow made it through those first few days. I lived for the weekends when I could just lie in bed or on my couch and cry shamelessly. The fog of sadness hung low and heavy for the first 2 months at least and that is when I wrote this and welcomed you all into my world....

Troy Harold Herrick 7/13/65-12/31/2007.

I love and miss you forever. You were the best big brother I could ever want. Thanks for teaching me to drive a car and for giving me great life advice (like "don't drink,cuz throwing not that much fun!") Thank you for giving me a beautiful niece and the coolest nephew ever who I will love fiercely with all my heart (especially the part you live in) for the rest of my life. Thank you for all the laughs we shared- and there were so so many. Thanks for your art- I don't think I ever told you how much I loved that you were an artist and how proud of you I was for that. Thanks for taking up archery and giving the animals a fighting chance when you went hunting. Thanks for all the torture you and Toni put me through- you were very mean but I have to admit you probably did teach me how to be tough for later in life when I'd need it.

Thanks for being part of our book club- I always was proud that a love of reading was something we all shared. Thanks for your random phone calls. As few and far between they may have been, I will treasure each one cuz I was so happy to get them and know you were thinking of me.Thank you for coming to AZ to see me- those are great memories and they bring you to my life here so I don't feel so bad not being back home in Iowa cuz you are here with me too. I am so proud of you for becoming a firefighter. I wonder if you ever even knew how that made you a hero- thanks for being my hero.

Thank you for letting me grow up in your eyes and not just be your little sister but to see me as an adult. Thanks for being my friend as an adult and for loving me as your sister and I know you did.

I will never be ok with loosing you just when it felt like we were making progress. You tried so hard to open up and reach out and you did really well and you have to know I am so proud of you and I know it wasn't easy and you were hurting so much. It was a bad choice and you were wrong but I understand why and all I can do is hope your mind and heart and quiet and at peace. You deserve peace.

Someone asked me if I feel you with me and I don't (I hope I do someday soon) but I know you are with your kids and I will never be far away from them. I swear that. They will always have me in their lives so don't worry about them too much. I can't replace you but I'll love them twice as much in your honor. I'll take care of Toni too, you know she is missing you too. I'll be sister enough for both of us to her and Cory.

I hope you knew most of this before. I think you did.

My last words to you in life were love you bye and I guess I need to say that again now. I love you so much, I miss you so much. Goodbye Troy...

From The Little Prince:

"All men have the stars but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman they were wealth. But all these stars are silent. You–you alone–will have the stars as no one else has them–"

"In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… You–only you–will have stars that can laugh!""And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, 'Yes, the stars always make me laugh!'"

Last Call for Fireman Troy Herrick

Troy's funeral was held in Madrid on Saturday, January 5th.

There were Fire and Rescue trucks parked outside in his honor. The same ones that were at his house the night he died.

We (the family) got there early to look at everything and get comfortable. Since he was cremated there was no body so we had a display set up with his artwork, his fireman's gear and (of course) Gary and Mary the snails were there. He had hand carved the Madrid fire department crest and that was sitting outside the church on the front steps. I had never seen it before and was struck once again at what a great artist he is (was). I was always annoyed with him that he didn't do more with his art so I especially enjoyed seeing some of his pieces on display.

There was also a TV set up playing the DVD that the funeral home had made from the pictures we gave them. The kids picked out the songs to go on it as well: Sweet Child O Mine (GNR), Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash), Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond) and one other that I don't know. For the music before and after the service we had Metallica's Unforgiven II and Freebird....and if those songs seem random, well you didn't know my brother.

It was a cold day but Toni and I stood outside while most of the people came in. Since we didn't live in Madrid most of the people had never seen or met us so there were lots of "Those are the sisters..." whispered as the crowd walked by us. Troy's best friend Mike was standing outside with us. It was very comforting to have him there. He has vowed to be our stand in brother for the rest of our lives. Anything we would want or need Troy to be a part of, Mike will be there in his place. He was so angry though. He is one of the people who I hope the most can let go of the hurt and anger and let him move on. In time...

Troy had just become certified as a Fireman in December. He was so proud and excited. When I was home and we had our hang out night at his house the second thing he showed me (the first being the picture of his polyp) was his certification. It meant so much to him and he was so proud. He was also in the National Guard so there was the military presence as well as the firemen.

My mom and stepdad sat with Debbie and the kids and across the pew I sat between Toni and Cory. My dad and stepmom sat behind us.

I must admit that we got a bit giddy at one point while people were filing in and we were seated. I remember breaking into a fit of giggles and Toni and I wondering if it was possible to get kicked out of your own brother's funeral for inappropriate behavior. We never found out -although I can confirm that it is OK to headbang to Metallica at your brother's funeral case anyone ever needs that bit of info.

The sermon began and it was nice. Carla had mentioned some of the stories we had given her (the polyp, Gary the snail, Troys thing for wearing Santa hats...). The fireman were very impressive looking in their dress uniforms and they sat right in front of us. Debbie was given a folded flag from the National Guardsmen which was cool and I think Troy would have dug.

Then, it was time for last call. For those of you who have never had Emergency Worker's in your life- all emergency workers have pagers that go off and will explain what event is happening where and who is being called out and who is responding to the emergency. As a show of deep honor and respect there is a last call sent out over the pagers for the fallen.

Troy's gear was sitting right in front of me- his coat, boots and radio...all ready to go for him to jump into and race off to whatever emergency needed him.

The sermon ended and Carla announced it was time for Troy's last call. There were dozens of radios on in the room and they all beeped at once and the voice over the airways announced that this was the last call for fallen Fireman Troy Herrick....every radio, including the one clipped to my brother's firecoat.

If there is one moment that I look back on and hold onto it is that moment. It was the single worst moment of my life, those words, that last call was a red hot knife being plunged into my soul, and yet I was so fucking proud of him all in the same few seconds. For some reason I hadn't even thought about his radio being on and when I saw the red light on his radio light up and heard his last call on his own radio it destroyed me. Any emotions I had been holding back, any thoughts of "I can get through this OK" were gone. In that single moment it was more true that ever that Troy was dead and this was goodbye. This was Last Call for him.

After the service there was a lunch downstairs. It was your typical church basement buffet. I saw so many people who offered their sympathies. My sisters friend Diane, Troy's friend Eric and his wife Shelly, some relatives who knew me but I had never met and my friends. Julie, Kim and Missy had come and got me the night before and we went out for dinner and drinks at that Mexican place. They are my oldest and dearest friends and I will never be able to thank them or tell them how much it meant to me that they were there. Missy, who is also fireman, wore her dress uniform and that just meant the world to me and was oddly important. I guess it was because I knew she understood what that meant on a whole other level. It was important to me that they were there and they were, as they always have been and I know always will be. Thank you guys, I love you more than you know.

People began to leave and we went upstairs to sort out the flowers. My office had sent some very pretty flowers which was very nice considering again I had only worked there a few days at this point (have been there over a year now- in no small part because of the kindness and patience they showed me these few days and the weeks to follow). I gave those flowers to my Grandma which she liked. I took a single rose...hard to pack anything else.

After the funeral we went home and changed. Then we did what any other family does after they had a funeral for their brother...we went out and got tattoo's.

If you have seen my myspace pics then you have seen the pics of this day. My brother had designed his own tat and had it on his arm. It was his initials in a circle and he did it in all red so it looked like his arm was branded. Toni and Holli got his design tattooed on their wrists- Holli added "daddy" under hers and Toni added "brother" under hers. I changed mine up just a bit- I made the circle part of mine into a "C" - for Cory and had it colored in purple which is Toni and I's favorite color. So mine represents all my siblings. My cousin Wendi also got his TH symbol as did his friend Dennis. Mike got a gargoyle sitting on top of a stone TH- his first tattoo at age 43. Gary and Mary the snail also got tat's and Mary got pierced (I am so not kidding).

We went back to the hotel and there were a ton of people there but by now I was so drained all I wanted to do was sleep so I went back to my Dad's and passed out.

My brother wasn't perfect, he was no saint and there was so much he wanted to do with his life but he gave me a great niece and nephew and a lifetime of memories.

This is the Last Call for my brother...Troy Harold Herrick.

Rest in peace bro, loveyoubye.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Pieces of the Puzzle

The hardest thing there is about losing someone to suicide is the "trying to make sense of it all" part. Everyone struggles to come up with the "why" and searches for the clues that could have, if noticed, stopped this tragic event. Why did he do this, what drove him, what was going on right before. Re-trace his steps...who knew what? Why? whywhywhy.....the questions is for us and the answer. It just doesn't matter,

The search for answers is human, it is our instinct and nature to try to make sense of the world. The world is, after all, all about balance and if things don't happen for a reason what does it all mean? Things do happen for a reason. Expect when they don't. And no amount of detective work or coming up with that one shiny reason that you can point to and definitively say THIS is the reason -will change any little part of what happened.

My brother killed himself. He came up with a plan, had some comfort items in his truck with him (a blanket, pictures) and he did it. He made a decision. He turned the key. It was his decision alone. It was wrong and I believe with every fiber of my being that he regrets it. Suicide is a desperate act to try and take control of a world you feel is uncontrollable. And yes, I know this from firsthand experience. I have been to that brink before and considered that option but what always stopped me is the very thing that Troy did not take into account. How this would effect the lives of the people you leave behind.

I did some work for a suicide hotline (through the Red Cross) during college and the best description I ever heard about someone who is suicidal is that they have on blinders, the kind you put on horses so they don't get spooked. A person who is depressed to the point of being suicidal has tunnel vision and all they can see is the dark, bad, the pain. There is no way out and they think that the only solution is to remove themselves. They want to make every one's life better by not being around which is why they will tie up as many lose ends as possible. We were trained as crisis workers to get our callers (suicidal people) to just move those blinders just a little bit- just acknowledge for a second that there is a chance that things might change, that they might get better and that not all the lose ends are tied up. That is how you keep someone from pulling the trigger (sometimes literally) on their plan. I talked about this during our table chat when we planned the funeral and the pastor ended up using it in the sermon.

Troy, for whatever reason, could not see past his pain. I believe he was very depressed and had been for most of his (adult) life. This is the curse of our family and it affects the men more and we have it on both my mother's side (I have an uncle who killed himself when I was 18) and my father's side. I am sure that if he was ever truly diagnosed there would have been some side dishes to the depression entree but that was the main course. Troy was in pain and it hurt so bad he stopped it the only way he could. It was wrong but I forgive him. I love him enough to forgive him and I hope that everyone who ever loved him will come to a place of forgiveness is their own hearts- in time.

This was how we passed the time during the lull between the viewing and the funeral. Everyone was searching for the why and was spilling the bits they knew and comparing it the the bits others had and trying to make a complete picture out of all the pieces of the puzzle they had. It was my stepmom Pat who kept referring to it all as a puzzle.

I sat there and listened to them all compare notes and try to armchair diagnose Troy and what was his "problem". I heard every clinical term in the book tossed out: clinically depressed, manic depressive, went on and on. I hated it. I hated the whole discussion while understanding the need to talk about it. I just wanted to shake everyone until they understood that it just did NOT matter. It doesn't matter if we know or understand, in fact we never will! It will never make sense and putting a label on anyone without a clinical review is dangerous. Troy HAD gone to a therapist and was just put on anti-depressants but there was never a diagnosis confirmed and in my own opinion it was way to late, but he was trying, he was reaching out and he tried so hard to get help. I think it is so important that people know that. I had more deep, meaningful talks with my brother in the last months of his life than I ever had. He knew people loved him and wanted to help him and I have to think that he did get some comfort and strength from that. He was reaching out, he tried. He just couldn't hold on to the idea of tomorrow long enough for it to arrive, so his tomorrow never did. Now a piece of our family puzzle is missing and we will never be whole without it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Viewing

I have always hated the idea of a viewing. I hate funerals for that specific reason. It feels very disrespectful to be looking at someone's body, especially when they aren't in it anymore. It's just a shell and what made that person who they were is gone. Why then do we feel the need to put that shell on display for the whole world to see? It seems wrong to me and I hate it.

But that is what we were going to do....go and see my brother's body.

My parents (both sets) were going over earlier than the rest of us along with Debbie to have their own viewing first. This was part of what was decided during our table chat the day before. Dave came over and picked me up, we got into quite a routine of him being my personal driver shuffling me back and forth. Part of the bubble power I had.

We set out and drove to Madrid. I just had a feeling of utter dread because as much as I hated it and did not want to look I was going to have to make a choice. Would I look at my brother one last time or not? The majority of my family has some kind of medical related occupation so I knew none of them had any qualms what so ever about viewing him. But I had no idea what I was going to do.

We pulled up and walked towards the funeral home. Toni grabbed my hand and I broke down. We were both melting down and we hadn't even hit the first step yet. We walked up the stairs hand in hand to look at our dead brother. It was the strangest feeling I have ever had.

We opened the door and Debbie was right there. I clung to her and she whispered to me that I shouldn't look, that it wasn't him. I guess the fact that he had died of carbon monoxide inhalation had discolored his skin and he was a grayish color. Debbie knew I was on the fence about looking so she was giving me permission to not look. Carla, the pastor was there to provide support and answer any questions.

Then I saw my Mom. She was wearing all white and had on the necklace I had gotten her for Christmas just a week before. I hugged her and sobbed all I could do was burst out an apology for having been the one who told her that her son was dead. I said I was sorry over and over again. I don't know how long I cried in my Mom's arms but I could not let go or stop saying I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry and I still am sorry.

My Dad was sitting down around the corner looking tired and weak. My aunt and uncle were there and so was my stepsister Laura and her husband Brett. My cousin Amy was there as well. At some point the kids showed up and we all just hung out, mostly getting comfortable with being in this new place. There was no rush, no schedule and everyone took their time and slowly wandered over to where Troy was laid out and had their moment to do whatever they needed to do.

Holli did not want to look either. I sat with her and we looked at these necklaces they make from the actual thumbprint of your loved one. Toni and Holli both got one, I still plan on getting one at some point. Troy has a scar on his thunb that makes his very unique.

I told her I didn't want to look either and we could just sit there together. No one pressured us, we just sat.

The time passed and I began to think about closure and how we would never get this moment back. What if I looked back and regretted not having that one last look. Carla explained they had set it up so we could peak around the corner and not have to get a full on view if we didn't want to, we could just take a glance if that's all we wanted. I asked Holli if that is what she wanted to do. I told her I felt the same way but I didn't want to regret not having that moment to say goodbye. I told her I would do it if she would.

She nodded yes.

We got up and I told everyone to back off. After making a big deal out of not wanting to look the last thing I wanted was a big audience when I did. I held Holli's hand on one side and felt her shaking. Debbie held her hand on the other side. We walked into this room which was decorated all Victorian like. Why do funeral homes always look like they are from another century? We walked and at some point Holli let go of my hand and her mother held her up. I took a few more steps. My sister and aunt were standing right next to him talking. I could never do that, I could never just have a normal conversation next to any body, let alone my brother's body.

He was lying on a hospital stretcher and covered with sheets. Someone had brought his Bubba Gump red hat and put it on him.

From when Cory was little he called Troy Bubba and it stuck.When I lived in Chicago Debbie came out to visit me and we went to Navy Pier where they have a Bubba Gump restaurant and that is where we bought him the hat. We gave it to him for Christmas that year along with an autographed copy of the "Duct Tape" book (101 uses). I have a picture of him wearing the hat and reading the book sitting by the fireplace at my Mom's house. That is the picture I have framed and sitting on my table and how I always picture him.

As I looked I hear Holli crying and her mother comforting her. I have no idea who was standing next to me but as I looked at Troy's blond hair and his red hat all I wanted was Cory. I needed my other brother because I was never gonna be able to hug Troy again. I turned around and grabbed Cory and cried into his shoulder. I didn't stay there long. I was very uncomfortable and didn't even want to be in the building anymore.

We walked back into the other room and milled around a bit more. We talked about getting together some pictures of Troy. I guess part of the package the funeral home had was to put pictures together with your choice of music on a dvd which we would play at the funeral. The kids would chose the music and everyone else was going to meet back at the hotel and look through and pick out pictures.

We left the funeral home and headed back to Boone.

That was the last time I ever saw my brother.


The next morning was the most painful yet. I was tired and the reality of what had happened was all around me. We got ready for the day and started calling people who needed to know what had happened, mainly Troy's friends. Toni and Troy are just a little more than a year apart in age so Toni knew all his friends very well and the benefit of living in a small town is everyone keeps track of everyone else. You only think you leave the small town you are from but they have a way of holding on to you no matter how far away you roam.

We made calls and cried and then it was time to go out to the hotel. Again Dave sprang into action and had the car warmed up and ready to go by the time we shuffled out the door. It hurt to move.

It was a bright, white, cold winter day. It felt so odd to be there, I had just left. Now I was back and it seemed so strange that people were going on with their days and living their lives when everything was different. Why didn't they know that everything was different? I don't know what I expected from them but it seemed like the world should somehow adjust to the incorporation of this new information and yet for everyone else, it was just Wednesday, Jan 2nd. It was my stepfather Larry's birthday, something that I don't think even one of us thought about or considered in any way and for that, I am very sorry.

Dave pulled up to the hotel and let us off at the door. We walked into the lobby and there is a breakfast room right off the front desk area. That is where we were all gathering to plan the funeral. It was already known and decided that he would be creamated, that was his wish (and would be mine as well) but a service of some sort needed to be planned.

I was first to walk into the room and my father was standing right there. I lost it. Totally lost it. No longer was I an adult living a whole grown up life. I was 5 years old and I wanted my Daddy to make it all better. My Dad is a big guy and when he hugged and held me it felt like I was stepping into a warm,cozy room. There is just something magical about hugs from daddies. But this hug didn't make it all better and when I looked at my Dad I was very worried. He looked 20 years older. He looked weak and pale and lost and you could just see pain, physical as well as emotional. I don't know how long I hugged my Dad but at some point I saw my stepmom Pat there as well. She was crying and trying to be both supportive of us and hold it together for herself. I took off my teddy bear coat (my winter jacket is a big fluffy,furry camel colored coat that makes me look like, well a big stuffed teddy bear) and saw a few other faces. My aunt and uncle (my dad's brother) were there as were Debbie's parents. I don't recall if my Mom and Larry were there already or when they arrived. I don't remember when Cory and Jess showed up either but I think they all came together and got there a bit later.

We milled around the room with the same "what do we do now" look in our eyes. Debbie had been on the phone making calls and planning. God, I give her so much credit for taking charge of what needed to be done. I have no idea what all she had to go through and how much information and research she had to do in those first few days and weeks. All I knew was we were there to plan because Debbie very much wanted everyone's input whish we all appreciated. She specifically wanted both my parents to be resposible for a few decisions so they were totally involved.

The pastor Debbie had chosen came. Her name is Carla and she was very nice. She has a very kind face and had obviously dealt with this situation before, she was the only one of us who knew what to do at that point I think. We sat around the I recall it went: Carla at the head of the table and going clockwise it was Nolan, Debbie, Holli, me, Sierra, Cory, Jess, Dad, Pat, Larry, Mom, Dave and Toni and in the background was Earl (my uncle) and Linda (my aunt). I don't think Debbie's family was there for this bit. I see that table in my head constantly and think of this day and time often. After being so alone and feeling "out of it" it was comforting to have so many people there, together all talking to each other (which does not happen often in my family).

I sat there and held onto Holli. She had dyed her hair jet black with the front section hot pink. She was in sweats and a ponytail. We talked about how we wanted to handle talking about how he died and we all agreed that we didn't want to hide the fact that he killed himself. Depression is a big issue, especially in my family so we thought it would be a good thing to bring it to the light and deal with it head on. Carla encouraged us to tell some stories about Troy and so we talked about who he was....using the past tense for the first time. Father, hunter, artist, how funny he was, some of his bigger adventures from when he was younger and more recent moments. We talked about how at xmas he greeted everyone he met with a picture of his anal polpys that he named "Polly" (yes, I said pictures- ewww). He wanted to make them into xmas cards that would read "Have a Holly, Polly Xmas." We talked about Gary the Snail and his girlfriend Mary. (**complete story to follow- Gary deserves his own entry).

Carla took notes and some of what we talked about she used in her eulogy. She asked if any of us wanted to speak and that was a big no from everyone. We had some good conversation and I felt like maybe this was a chance to heal some very old wounds. It was a huge event that would force us to talk about some things that had been locked away for a very long time. My parents, who divorced 28 years before were talking and being very kind to each other and everyone was trying very hard to just understand. We did air some things that were very important and I had a spark of hope that this was the meaning behind losing Troy, that by his death we could learn and be a better family for having gone through this.

We sat there and talked for a very long time, I have no clue how long it actually lasted but it felt like forever. It was the first time I saw Cory cry. I don't know what we were talking about but something hit Nolan and when he started to break down Cory went right with him. I was very relieved to see him release some emotion... both of them actually. I kept stroking Holli's hair and hugging her.

We wrapped up and made what plans we could. The service would be on Saturday and we would have a family only viewing the next day, Thursday, before he was creamated.

After that we went into the conference room and set up long tables and chairs. It was a free for all of hanging out and just talking. I think Mom, Larry. Cory and Jess left and I just lost track of who was where. I just remember feeling like I had no where to go. I didn't have any shreds of my life that I could escape to. I was in this haze and had no where to go and nothing to do but be there.

I think it was this day, once we were around some more people- mostly friends of Debbie and the kids (already leaving Troy out of the equation) that "The Bubble" solidified. There was this sheild, a force field, all around us- a bubble. We were "the ones" who needed taken care of and people were going above and beyond to get us anything we needed. I recall sitting and staring off into space and thinking I was thirsty and a bottle of water literally appeared out of nowhere in front of me. That was the power of the bubble, we had only to think about it or ask for it and it was there. I think it was the first inside joke we had and would laugh about from this whole bizarre situation. It was nice to be taken care of as we concentrated on those at the center of the bubble and the ones who needed us all the most- Debbie and most of all Holli and Nolan. Holli was 19 and Nolan was 15 and now they had no father.

The day passed and food appeared when we were hungry, people I didn't know but who seemed known to others (thereby family by proxy) showed up. As it got later someone brought some games and we played as the kids played Guitar Hero on the TV in the room. At some point we went back to my sisters house (and by we I mean Toni, Dave, Sierra and I) and then Dave took me over to my Dad's so I could sleep in "my room" at his house and not on the floor.

Tomorrow- the viewing.

Flying home

I did end up sleeping a bit, not sure how much but at some point the body takes control and forces you to give it what it needs. Besides, one of my favorite coping mechanisms is to sleep so as choppy and broken as it was I did get a bit of rest although I do remember thinking how odd it was that I was going to sleep but my brother is dead. How could those two things possible fit together. Something as ordinary as climbing into bed to go to sleep when my brother is dead. It was still impossible to process.

I got up and got ready for the day right away. My flight didn't leave for hours and hours but there was still this sense of urgency to be ready. Even though the worst had already happened I was on high alert and felt like I needed to be ready for anything. I got ready, finished packing, then parked my suitcase by the door and sat down to wait. It was 8 am and I didn't need to be at the airport until 5pm. It seems like and impossibly long time to wait and and I had no idea what to do with myself. I called my sister and got an update and wished my niece a Happy Birthday. Not much of a 15th birthday for her and we all felt so bad for that.

I knew I needed a ride to the airport and knew there was someone who would be happy to run me out there. I waited until it was a decent time in the morning, assuming most people were in some level of post- new years recovery of some sort. I somehow forced the clock to keep moving until it was 10am and I called my friend Stephanie.

Stephanie and I were coworkers but didn't really get to be close friends until after I left our former employer. She had already been a confidant and trusted vault where I could spill all my secrets and know it would never go further than her. Not to mentions she is gorgeous, funny as hell and will do literally anything she can for a friend. I called her and left her a voicemail to let her know I needed to fly home because my brother had passed away. It was the first time I used that phrase, somehow it seems gentler and nicer than died.

While I waited for her to call back I started to make the first round of calls to let people know what was going on. I am very unclear on who I called when but the word started spreading as I tried to make it less true every time I uttered the phrase "my brother is dead".

The phone rang and it was Stephy, she asked what happened and when my flight was.I gave her the snapshot and she told me she would be right there. Didn't ask, just showed up. She came over in all her fresh-outta-bed, hung over glory just to sit with me. I have been blessed with having some great friends in my life but I have never experienced such a moment of true and utter love and compassion as when that girl dropped her entire life for a day just to come over and sit with me so I wasn't alone. That is the definition of friendship and I will be forever grateful to her for that day.

I opened the door when she arrived and was sobbing by the time I reached for the door handle. I had never thrown myself into someone's arms before but she was ready and held me while I cried. This was the first human contact I'd had since I found out and I didn't realize how much I needed to hug and to be held by someone who loved me.I was so broken I needed the love of others to be the glue that held the pieces together, at least until I could get home.

Stephy sat me on the couch and proceeded to turn every light in my house on. She told me she just knew I was sitting there in the dark. Now, to be condo faces north/south so I never get any direct sunlight so during the day it's always a bit dark (great for summer, keeps my air conditioning bills down). So the sitting in the dark wasn't a purposeful thing, I was just sitting.

I forget if she brought her own magazines or grabbed some of mine but she sat down on my couch and just started flipping through them. No need to talk. I don't recall if she actually said it or if I just knew that she wasn't there to entertain me or be entertained. She was just there so I wasn't sitting in the dark by myself. At some point she left to get a bite but I wasn't hungry. I did have something to eat later because I was aware that I did need to keep my own strength up so I had a Hot Pocket. I remember that because I totally remember cooking it, sitting down to eat it then it was just gone. It was so odd how I didn't recall taking one bite of it.

The hours creeped by,the clock and I have a battle. Time seemed to stop moving forward when all I wanted, needed, was to get home to my family. I don't know if it was even established of who was picking me up, all I knew is my family would be on the other end of that plane and that was the only thing I wanted.

At last it was time to leave.It was actually still way to early but I had to get there and I felt guilty for taking up so much of Stephanie's time. Not that there was anything that would have made her leave. She is just that kinda gal. I love you Steph....words can never repay the love you showed me that day.

Steph dropped me off at the terminal, the same one I had just arrived in a few days before. That struck me hard. I was a different person entirely from the one who had been there before and it had just been a few days. I was filled with relief that I was finally getting an inch or two closer to my goal. I was doubled over with powerlessness from being so far away. I felt like everything was happening without me and I was needed there so badly. I kicked myself for waiting to take a direct flight so late in the day.

I checked my bags and went to sit at my gate and do my dance with the clock again. Trying to use magic powers I didn't have to make the minutes fly by. I was crying a steady stream of tears now and I thought about how many people come to airports to make trips like this. How many thousands of people have sat in airports waiting to get home to their families because something horrible just happened. I sat there and tried to be invisible but I wondered if anyone saw me and knew immediately what I was doing there. If they did, no one bothered me.

I got a few calls while I was at the airport. I remember my friend Rob called. He was the one who took me to the airport in Des Moines just a few days ago because I had borrowed his car while I was home. He said something about trying to see me while I was back but I never heard from him. I just remember already feeling tired of dealing with telling people,wishing there was a way they could all just know and yet....feeling the compulsion to tell everyone I knew. Even people who might not be as relevant as others. There was just this need to inform. When one event changes everything about your world I guess you feel like everyone should know that while everything might seem the same, absolutely everything about you is different and they need to know that.

Finally my plane started boarding. I remember mentally apologizing to whoever I sat next to being such a sobby mess and wondering if the flight attendant would ask me if I was ok but somehow I mastered the art of invisibility because no one said anything to me and I don't remember anything about the flight other than using my full mental powers to push the plane there faster so I could GET HOME.

By the time we landed I was tired. A tired that soaks into your very bones and it was a tired that would not leave me for weeks. I moved in a fog. Everything was moving in slow motion. I felt like my legs weighed a thousand pounds (didn't know about the lymphodema yet and how true that actually was) as I tried to move forward.

The airport in Des Moines has an escalator you descend down from the gate area to the baggage claim area. I have been there and come down that escalator hundreds of times but never like this. Never had I been so weary and so glad to be where I belonged and yet wanting to be anywhere but there. Anywhere where it wasn't true that Troy was dead and that I was coming home because of it.

I saw the green of my sister's coat first. Then my eyes went right to my brother Cory. Toni was a mess and was crying but Cory was again stoic, he had a job to do and he was taking care of the family. He needed to keep it together. I looked at them both as I rode the escalator down and I remember thinking that they are all I have left. Now I just have one brother and one sister and all we have is each other.

I widened my gaze and saw that my brother in law Dave was there as was Cory's girlfriend Jessica. Then I saw my niece Sierra (again, not much of a 15th birthday for her) and Nolan. My brother's son Nolan. Seeing him shattered what was left of my ability to hold anything together and I jumped off the escalator and rushed towards them, them slow motion spell broken for the moment.

I got to Toni first and we just sobbed in each other's arms. I felt Cory's hand on my back and again thought about how we were all each other had now. Everyone had such pain in their eyes. I can't imagine what anyone else at the airport must have thought as such a scene and yet again thought about how often it must happen.

I made the round of hugging everyone else although it wasn't so much hugging as clinging. We had all been thrown into the deepest, darkest ocean and had only each other as life rafts.

We walked over to baggage claim to get my luggage and Dave jumped up to grab my suitcase the second it came out. I had my winter coat stuffed inside (when I left Phoenix it was 70, in Iowa it was 2!!) so I couldn't go out until I had it. In the meantime Cory and the kids went to pull the car around. I didn't realize it fully yet but this was the beginnings of what we called "The Bubble" being formed.

We all piled into the car and there was such a heavy silence. I was home, I had met my goal but now what? I had no idea what was going to come next. I had done my job and was giving myself over to whatever machine was in place to take care of the details.

Thank god for teenagers, and specifically Sierra. Sierra is my special girl who was such amazing intuition. She always knows when people are hurting and what they need to feel better. She became a fixture right next to Nolan and kept him talking and distracted and the rest of us entertained which is just what needed to happen.

We headed for the Amerihost Hotel (which is on the outskirts of my hometown of Boone) which would be "home base" for us all in the days to come. Debbie and the kids had checked in after driving back from Minneapolis along with her parents and sister. They were in this big room which was used as a conference/meeting room but also had a Murphy bed. Debbie and Holli were sharing the bed and Nolan had a cot.

We got to the hotel and had to bang the door down to get them up- it was 1am by this time. Debbie had taken a little something to help her sleep and Holli could sleep through a tornado so it was a task to roust them. I got my first chance to hug and be with them and I was just so relieved. After so many hours of feeling isolated and powerless I was finally somewhere that I could help and where I belonged. Although each hug and each look into some one's eyes kept making it more and more real. Troy was dead, he was really really dead.

We all needed to get some sleep so we left. I was going to be sleeping at my dad's but since it was so late I just crashed at my sister's. I started off sleeping with my niece but she is a bed hog, a little furnace and her bed is on the floor and it was just very uncomfortable for her rolly polly aunt on the floor. Again, not knowing about the lymphodema yet and my legs being in such bad shape I had no way of knowing why, just that is was uncomfortable. So I climbed down their stairs and ended up having a very short rest on their couch. I don't think I really slept much and was freezing but it didn't matter, nothing much mattered now.

I was home.