Friday, November 19, 2010

A renewed hope

I did everything right (or at least I tried to). I never did drugs or stayed out past curfew. I got good grades. I went to a great college and got an amazing degree. I fell in love with my high school sweetheart. I got married. I had a good job. I gave birth to a beautiful boy...


my world still came crumbling down.

But, no matter what I did to try to make my life perfect... to try to make my life normal... it still disintegrated right in front of me on September 3, 2009 at roughly 3pm.

I wake up every morning thinking that each day is going to be better than the last. Most days... I can make it through my day okay. But, lately it seems like I am constantly reminded about how tough my life really is. Every time I go to my mailbox I am terrified to open my mail. I have health insurance... I don't have health insurance. I will receive social security... I won't receive social security. I get a workmen's comp check... I don't get a workmen's comp check.

This past week, when I got my mail... I found out that I had lost my health insurance and most of my monthly income. Let's just say I have had a few meltdowns.


Why is it that even though I did everything right... I feel like the scum of the Earth... the lowest of the lows.

Why is it that I cannot make it work?

Why is it that I feel like such a failure?

Why did I try so hard if I was just going to end up struggling and being so stuck?

Why me... I did not want to raise my son this way?

Amidst my breakdown and my loss of self-worth... something happened this week that made me feel like everything was going to be okay... Like someone was looking out for us. It is on days like today that I am reminded... no matter how tough your situation is... you will make it through... you will survive.

On Thursday morning... the same day that I had just finished draining out my savings account... I received a letter from the Liz Logelin Foundation. I thought that it was going to be a simple thank you letter for attending their event this past September... but when I opened the envelope, I was brought to tears. Enclosed was a beautiful letter and a $3,000 check. The Liz Logelin Foundation decided to sponsor Owen and I for the month of November 2010.



Because of generous gifts from multiple donors and the amazing Liz Logelin Organization, Owen and I are going to be financially ok again for a little while. I went from not knowing how I was going to pay rent in December ... to having enough money for the next few months. All of my prayers were answered at the most opportune time.

I feel like it is during times like these that we realize the importance of hope. Although I have had a really rough year and a half I know that someone is looking out for Owen and me. I know that we are going to make it... that we are going to be ok.

Through the struggle we learn to appreciate the things that we DO have. I have an amazing family, a wonderful son, amazing friends, and fabulous memories. Thank you Matt Logelin and the Liz Logelin Foundation for giving me that renewed hope... for making me see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My source of survival... Family

Family has always been very important to me. Ever since I was a small child I have looked forward to spending time and making memories with my family.

I eat... sleep... breathe them.

I was lucky to grow up with the two most amazing parents any child could ever ask for. At 20 years old, my father was left to raise me on his own while attending college and working multiple jobs. His amazing personality, sense of humor, advice and intelligence never ceases to amaze me. I know that without him, I would not be the person that I am today. After all, I owe my life to him. Not very many people can say that their father is their best friend... but I can.

My mom Brenda entered my life when I was just six years old. At 26 years old she took on the brave challenge of being a step mother to two small children... and she succeeded in giving Andrew and I an amazing mother. Not only is she caring and kind... but she listens. I have always known that if I ever want to talk or need a day away... she will be there for me. My mom is my best friend... my rock... and my inspiration.

I have always been a person that expresses myself through my words. I grew up telling my family how much they meant to me and how lucky I was to have them in my life. I was lucky to have to opportunity to show my parents how special they are/were... Now I would like to tell my second family how much they mean to me... something that I should have been done a long time ago.

Bryan expressed to me, a few years ago, that he always felt so guilty about growing up in such an amazing family. He thought that he had the most amazing mother and father and felt like he was given the best life any child could ever ask for. His mom was the super mom. She made all of his Halloween costumes, drove him to all of his sports, made him amazing home cooked meals and loved him more than life itself. His father was his idol. He was all that Bryan aspired to be when he grew up... he was smart, caring, patient, an outdoors man and the best father any young boy could ask for. They were the "perfect" parents.

After meeting Bryan's parents ... anyone would agree with him right away. Bill and Lori are two of the most giving, loving, and phenomenal people I have ever met... and Bryan was right... he was so lucky to have them as his parents.

Ever since I can remember I have always felt the pressure to impress people and make them like me. I remember when I started dating Bryan, in 2002, I always felt so nervous and insecure around his family. They already had an amazing soon-to-be daughter in-law (Rachel) and a wonderful grandson (Brendan)... and I was dating their baby boy. That was a lot of pressure. I never thought that I would be good enough to be a part of their life... a part of their family... a part of their world.

What if they did not like me?

What if I did not fit in?

What if they did not think I was good enough for their amazing son?

When I pictured my life, I always knew that I wanted to have an amazing relationship someday with my husband's parents. That was always VERY important to me. Feeling the pressure to impress the Prairie's and make them like me put strain on Bryan and I's relationship at times. I knew that it was all in my head and I needed to just relax and be myself... but that was always easier said than done. I just had to listen to the quote by Dr. Seuss and do "me".

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." –Dr. Seuss

It was not until a few years into my relationship with Bryan that I decided to just be "me". I remember the night like it was yesterday (probably because I am still a little embarrassed). We were all playing a game that asked questions about how we thought the other person would respond. The question was... How funny do you think (Ashley) thinks she is on a scale of 1 (not funny) to 10 (really funny). Well, everyone read off their cards and said 2... 4... 2... 5... 3. Well this is when I said "Seriously, I gave myself a 10 guys... I am F***ing hilarious." Not only was this the first time that I swore in front of Bryan's parents... but it was the first time that I showed my sense of humor and personality. I was finally (somewhat) comfortable being me.

After Bryan passed away, Owen and I lived with Bill and Lori. I was so worried that because Bryan had passed away... my relationship with the Prairie's would slowly fade away. After all, they really did not need to hang out with me any longer or be there for me... I was "technically" not a member of their family any longer... I was not their daughter. That realization was very hard for me. I felt like not only had I lost Bryan... but I was about to lose his family as well. But, because they are the most amazing people in the world... they took me in with open arms and never let me fall. They literally held my hand and helped me grieve and raise my son.

Looking back at that time... that terrible terrible time... I am pretty sure that Bill and Lori are a huge reason why I was able to survive. Their incredible strength, compassion, love and support was so genuine and constant. Time and time again Bill and Lori come to my rescue and save me in one way or another. I know that some people may never understand the unique bond that I have with my in-laws but to me... they are not my in-laws... they are my parents.

So... because I know that they read my blog... I wanted to tell them how important that they are to me. Bryan gave me many gifts... he gave me unconditional love... he gave me a son... he gave me amazing memories... and he also gave me a fantastic family.

I now know what Bryan meant that day when he felt guilty for having such great parents... because I feel guilty for having such amazing in-laws. We cry together, we laugh together, we grieve together, we remember together and we live each and every day loving one another the way that Bryan loved all of us. We are all so very lucky to have such an amazing bond... such a powerful source of survival... FAMILY!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Who is Ashley?

Ever since I was 16 years old I have been Ashley/Bryan. During the years where most people form their identities and find out who they are, I was building a life with Bryan. Instead of becoming an individual, I became a couple.

Bryan was my first boyfriend. He was my first love. He was the first person that I lived on my own with. He was there the day my sister was born. He was there when my sister needed open heart surgery. He was there during finals week when I was 200 miles away from my parents and had to go in for surgery. He was always there... he was my everything.

I never really knew how much my life was based around Bryan until he passed away. Sure, I knew that I liked the same music as him... watched the same TV shows as him... and enjoyed the same food as him, but I never knew that my opinions and routines were all based off of the decisions that we made together as a couple.

I did not realize that I had became obsessed with cleaning the house because Bryan was allergic to dust. That I enjoyed fishing and watching the hunting channel because Bryan loved being outdoors. That I had become used to calling him every time I got in the car and planning out our dinner/night. Everything that I did and everything that I wanted to do was because Bryan and I had done them together.

He was my day... he was my plan... he was my life.

How was I supposed to go about my routine and daily activities without him? I wasn't.

After Bryan passed away... I felt lost. I did not know how to function or how to be me. I always thought that Bryan was perfection and that I was so lucky that he had picked me. I knew that I had struck gold with him. When I think back to our relationship I now know that Bryan made me feel like "someone" because he picked me. I knew that if I was able to win over such an amazing guy... I must have been worth it... I must have been special. When I lost Bryan, not only did I loose my identity but I lost my feeling of self worth. I went from cloud nine to feeling like a muddy slug that no one wanted to touch or see. I went from feeling special to feeling worthless.

When Bryan passed away, instead of becoming "Ashley" I became Ashley/Owen. I did not have a transitioning phase where I learned how to become an individual. Instead I jumped right into forming my identity with someone else. I never worked on figuring out what I liked or what I wanted to do with my life. Instead, I worked on doing things that made Owen happy. I was not able to take time and figure out who I was as a person without Bryan. I reverted right back to being semi-dependent on someone else. I never found me... I found Owen's mom.

Ashley was not an individual and had not been since she was 16 years old. Who is she? What is she like? When would she find herself? Would I like her?

When I take myself out of the situation and look at it from the outside in... I like to think that Ashley is a strong person (although I know I am not). I would like to think that she is a great mother and was a great wife. That she loves to write and take pictures and listen to music while she cleans. That she loves to help people and make people laugh. That she loves life...

But, on days like today, when I can't seem to figure out who I am or what I am here for... When I feel like I am not worthy...

I think back to those wonderful days in Sioux Falls. When I would wake up and roll over to Bryan's beautiful blue eyes staring into my soul. When he would tell me that he was madly in love with me and that he was so happy to be my husband.

When I go back to those days I feel worthy... I feel special... I feel wanted.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Never grow up

Owen and I have been dancing around our house to the new Taylor Swift CD all week. Although all of her songs seem to touch me in one way or another, this is my favorite song. Owen and I slow dance to it every time it comes on. When I listen to the lyrics, this song just seems to fit the way that I feel about Owen perfectly. I wish he would never grow up and have to be hurt or sad... if only he could stay this little and innocent... then no one would ever hurt him or ruin his amazing carefree personality.

Your little hands wrapped around my finger
And it's so quiet in the world tonight
Your little eyelids flutter cause you're dreaming
So I tuck you in and turn on your favorite nightlight

To you, everything's funny
You got nothing to regret
I'd give all I have honey
If you could stay like that

Oh darling don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh darling don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
It could stay this simple
I won't let nobody hurt you
Wont let no one break your heart
No one will desert you
Just try to never grow up
Never grow up

You're in the car on the way to the movies
And you're mortified your mama's dropping you off
At 14, there's just so much you can't do
And you can't wait to move out
Someday and call your own shots

But don't make her drop you off around the block
Remember that she's getting older too
And don't lose the way that you dance around in your PJs getting ready for school

Oh darling don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh darling don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
It could stay this simple
No one's ever burned
Nothing's ever left you scarred
Even though you want to, just try to never grow up

Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room
Memorize what is sounded like what your dad gets home
Remember the footsteps, remember the words said
And all your little brother's favorite songs
I just realized everything I had is someday gonna be gone

So here I am in my new apartment
In a big city, they just dropped me off
It's so much colder than I thought it would be
So I tuck myself in and turn my nightlight on

Wish I'd never grown up
I wish I'd never grown up
Oh I don't wanna grow up
Wish I'd never grown up
Could still be little
Oh I don't wanna grow up
It could still be simple

Oh darling don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh darling don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
It could stay this simple
Won't let nobody hurt you
Won't let no one break your heat
And even though you want to, please try to never grow up
Don't you ever grow up
Just never grow up