Monthly Archives: December 2014

Drill and Vise for dad tasks

Dad Stuff

Loved today! A full day of doing dad stuff. Got the tires rotated and oil changed on my daughter’s car. Then spent the afternoon assembling IKEA furniture for my boys’ room. Kristi never did these kind of tasks. There were exclusively my domain. It felt right. I wasn’t bumbling around, trying to figure stuff out (other than deciphering the IKEA pictographs…). I was in my element. Sweet!

As New Year’s comes and goes, I encourage you to find some time to do some stuff that’s in your domain. I know the stress that comes with all the other tasks you get to deal with now. Whether you’re good at them or not, they’re yours. So take some time to do your thing. Do Dad stuff!

PS I swam this morning too. 2000 yards. Was trying out my new swim paddles I got for Christmas.

Always Learning

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered in the last two and a half years of triathlon training, its this: You never know everything about your sport. Being a complete newbie to not only triathlon, but any sort of endurance sports training when I started, I asked a lot of questions and have done a lot of watching. You see some smart stuff and some practices I’m pretty sure I’ll never adopt.

Learning keeps me from growing stagnant in both sport and life. When you find yourself a widower, its mighty tempting to just pull everything close and quit moving forward in life. It feels like moving forward will bring further separation from your wife. She won’t be there to experience this new aspect of your life. Its weird. It hurts. Its scary. Its no wonder we shy away from forward momentum with all those negative connotations tied to it. But when we stop moving, we get stuck in an inward focused grief-spiral.

Training was an exception to the forward movement paralysis though. It seemed like an accessory to my life, not my main life, and it was an accessory I was OK with exploring. As I moved deeper into training for triathlon, I found I was learning and life was indeed moving forward and I was learning to be OK with it. Training moved me past the fear of new experiences without Kristi to share them. Training opened the door to a new life.

Sometimes Its the Little Things

that get you. You steel yourself against the expected onslaught of grief for major events: anniversary, birthdays, holidays. But for me, especially at the start, it was really simple things…like adding paper to the printer for the first time. Or changing the air filters in the house. I would find myself momentarily undone by everyday tasks and wonder, hmm, am I always going to be a basket case like this?

I think it was the fact that these little things marked the passage of time, marked time without Kristi. They were sign-posts I couldn’t avoid, from which there was no escape. Other times the tasks were ones that Kristi handled around the house. Now they fell to me. And in the doing, I was reminded of her absence and the void would reveal itself once more. That aching, empty void. That cold side of the bed.

But as those tasks repeated themselves, became my tasks and part of the new normal and the new me, the ache has lessened. The void isn’t as terrifying as it was at the start. Of course, just allowing myself to be ok with a new normal and new me was a battle too. You don’t want there to be a new normal. Or a new me. For a long while, you just want the old me back.

Dealing with Kristi’s cancer for fifteen months actually made the transition to widowerhood a little less traumatic in the sense that our old selves and relationship and identity disappeared the day we received Kristi’s diagnosis. We were fighting grief alongside cancer, right from the get go. So when I transitioned from care-giver to widower, grief wasn’t a new companion, just different and more intense.

Through it all, I trained. A blessed constant for me in a sea of change was Taking Time To Train. There’s that 4T principle. I wouldn’t have made the time though if I hadn’t been signed up for an event or a race. Once I was committed to a race, I found the time and motivation to train. And because endurance sports require some planning to make sure I was ready, I found myself setting and meeting goals in order to make it to race day. When life was spinning me around, and I was unable to muster the desire to move forward in my new life, I was still moving forward in my training. That was a slice of sanity. A small price for some peace and progress in my life.

If you find yourself put off kilter by the little things, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Let the grief come and then let it go. In the mean time, hit the road or the trail or the pool and train! At least three days per week, for a minimum of 45 minutes per training session. Trust me, it’ll help.

Sign-Up to Show Up!

Why train? I’ll put it simply: to compete. I was inspired to enter my first triathlon in October of 2012 while Kristi was going through chemo. I used it as a fundraising event to help offset the cost of her cancer care. I thought it would be one and done, an item to check off the bucket list. I had never ever competed in any type of endurance swimming or running event. I had done precisely one, endurance bike ride for a fund-raiser back in 1993.

But once I signed up for the triathlon, I didn’t want to barely finish, I wanted to be able to give it a solid effort. When I paid cash on the barrel head and my registration was confirmed, I was determined to show up and compete. Suddenly I found motivation to get out and ride, to run and keep running, and even to go to the rec center and swim.

And in the swimming, biking and running I found solace…a release from the stress of being a care-giver. I found space to process the grief that was already part of my life as cancer warped our experience. I found energy to handle the increased responsibilities.

I placed third in my age group that day (that’s a picture at the awards ceremony, above) and was hooked. Not just for the race, but the help that the regular training was providing. I wanted to keep training through the winter so I found and signed up for another, longer triathlon in April of 2013. Again, once I was committed for that race, the motivation to train was easy to find.

I know it can help you too. It can help you handle everything that being a widower throws at you. Here’s what I want you to do between now and New Year’s: decide what type of event you’d like to do and sign up for it.

Were you on swim team as a kid? There are Master’s swimming programs everywhere. It’ll come right back to you. Like to mountain bike? Look up a cyclocross race or mtn bike ride. Obstacle races like Tough Mudder and Spartan series are hugely popular. Biker? Find a group ride or local shop ride and go! And running…well running events are everywhere, all year round, even in winter. Search for a local 5K and I bet you’ll find one close by. Even if its not until April when the weather starts to improve, sign up now. The price will be cheaper and you’ll find motivation to start training for it.

Me? I’ve already signed up for my big event in 2015. I’m focused toward my first full Ironman race at the Ironman Chattanooga on Sept 27th. But my immediate goal is my second go at the 3M Half-Marathon next month in Austin. Tomorrow morning I’ll be out on the roads for 15-18 miles. Why? Because I want to show up next month and beat my time from last year. And because I’ll feel awesome after I’ve bagged that run tomorrow.

Take the first step toward training…sign up for an event!

God In Diapers

That’s what we are celebrating today. God arrived on the scene, as a helpless baby. He put a lot of trust in a young couple to make a lot of tough decisions in difficult circumstances.

But he didn’t leave them alone and without resources. Some two years after Jesus was born, the wise men showed up with a load of gold, incense and herbs. The young family was about to have to make a quick move to Egypt and their Heavenly Father funded the trip in advance. Nice!

I don’t know where your faith is. I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I have come to trust the heart of my Father in heaven. I know he’s good. I know that he’s not pissed with me. I know that losing Kristi was not an act of divine retribution or callousness. In fact the message of the Christmas angel to the shepherds in the field was in effect this: “God has come to earth, walking as one of you. He trusts you. He’s at peace with you and his favor rests on humankind.”

I don’t know why Kristi died. I’m not going to wrap it up in spiritual language and call it good. It sucked. Still does. I don’t have an answer from God as to why. I’m not really asking that question. It happened. The question I have asked is, “Can I trust God?” In the midst of mind-altering pain, can I trust him? When just willing myself to take a deep breath so I don’t scream seems like a monumental achievement, does He care? Am I alone and without resources?

On the anniversary of Kristi’s death, He brought me back to that place of trust in his character, his heart for me, his trust in me to make tough decisions in difficult circumstances. You can read about it here.

On this Christmas night, my prayer for you is that you would also find Him trustworthy. That you would discover that he is good and he is pleased with you. That’s why Jesus came. To open up access to his Father’s heart so we could all share in that same presence. I hope you find it.

Training is awesome. Jesus is better.

Merry Christmas!

I Yelled Into the Phone Today

“Christmas Eve gift!”, but my aunt didn’t hear me. She was yelling back the same thing. Yep. Its a weird family tradition. We stalk each other on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, trying to be the first to holler out “Christmas Eve gift” or “Christmas Gift” depending on which day it is. There’s no payoff. No gift. Just the satisfaction of knowing you beat the other person to the punchline.

I recently upgraded to iOS 8 and discovered I can send voice memos as a text. The recipient has no idea what you’re going to say. Guess what my entire family received this morning? “Christmas Eve gift” voice memos from yours truly. Years ago, we agreed that texting doesn’t count; its got to be audible. But now I can send my voice? Boom! My uncle, realizing that a voice memo from me on Christmas eve morning could only contain one message, didn’t listen to it. He called to tell me…and “get” me.

We’re a bit mental, I know. No one knows where it started. You can’t resist it, your only choices are to participate or stand there and get blasted with the greeting. The “winner” usually prances off like they just scored on a keeper from the 2-yard line. I remember our first Christmas when I told Kristi about it. She looked at me blankly. She finally came around, often leaning over in bed at 12:01AM and whispering “Christmas Eve gift”.

I miss those moments. Like everything else that happens during this season, each little thing contains some memory of how we did it when Kristi was with us. I never know when a moment will reach out and get me. Most go by with a mild tug at the heart strings. But then one will just grab me and my throat closes and I’m blinking back tears. Grief can be so surprising that way. You go from zero to 60 instantly.

I’ve learned to be ready for the unexpected. Its like our weird tradition. Either I roll with it, and let it come when it wants to. Or I could try to resist it. But resistance is futile. So I embrace it and then just keep on going. Its another reason I train. Triathlon requires me to just keep going. When my legs are tired or my lungs are burning, I just keep going. Even if I have to walk or coast or float, I keep going. And I find that as I keep going in sport, I can keep going in life.

You can do it. Get out there and train!

That’s a good word right there; its fit for a widower!

Every. Single. Day.

My plan has been paying dividends. We are immersed in the Christmas season. And I have to say, it has been merry. If you’ve been reading long, you know that last year we got the heck out of Dodge and went to the other side of the world. I couldn’t bear the thought of six weeks of weepy looks, sad glances, and sympathetic mutterings as we navigated the holidays without Kristi for the first time. So we celebrated as a family, making new memories and putting a positive end on 2013 and great start to 2014.

This fall, with the children in a new school, the holidays have been exactly that: time off from school. They’ve enjoyed the breaks like never before. Being absent last year, we’ve all been eager to bust out the Christmas decorations and fix the house up pretty. I’ll admit, I’ve always been into Christmas…even more than Kristi. So, it was with great enthusiasm I untangled strings of lights and began draping garland around the house. And the plan…well, each and every day since November 23rd (the day we left in 2013) we’ve been talking about where we were last year at this time.

“Hey remember the glow worm cave?”

“Yeah! And what about that Archer fish? That was SO cool when it shot that cracker off the rope with a jet of water!”

“Today we were in Hobbiton! I wanna go back!”

And so forth. We’ve been reliving our tour through New Zealand and Australia this year. What a gift! Life is good. We are doing well.

And yet, its there. Even as the vise-like grip of immediate grief has softened over the last year and a half, the underlying reality of loss is always company. Just last week I actually waved at an oncoming car as I thought Kristi was driving. It was a reaction I hadn’t anticipated. A Honda Element, just like ours, was approaching with a slight, blond woman driving. My hand was up and waving before my brain had processed that it couldn’t be. I wasn’t derailed in despair or sobbing for the rest of the day. My throat simply constricted and I had to blink a few times. Yep, we’ve had a great loss.

Every time I stand at the stove, or shop for groceries or tuck the children to bed or go for a run, bike or swim, I realize its there. Its become kind of like the air. Most of the time you don’t think about it, but loss is always there. Actually, to be truthful, it comes to mind more than the air does. I don’t dwell on it but it consistently hangs around.

But, that’s OK. You can’t lose something as precious as life and love and have it just disappear as though it never was. So I keep moving forward. Little goals, daily steps to keep living life, to live fit, faithful and fulfilled. That’s what Kristi would have wanted. Its what the children need. Its what I need.

And so in this season, I’ve chosen to be merry. To celebrate with the children. Happiness is a choice, so is contentment. Do I wish Kristi was here to complete the family, to enjoy the season?

Every. Single. Day.

But I choose to live on, in spite of loss. I choose to honor the love and life that Kristi lived and embrace the merry moments, knowing that each day there will be other moments. Moments that make breathing difficult and blur the vision. But if there were no grief, I would question if there’d ever been love. So grief reminds me of love. Love that lives on in our family. And when I see their smiles and laughter, I choose to be merry.

Its also time to give back. Its time for me to help other men who find themselves in a similar situation. Check out the Facebook page (and like it please!), and I’m changing my blog around. I’ve begun writing to bring hope and encouragement to other widowers that they too can not only survive, but keep moving forward in life and live fit, faithful and fulfilled.

Fit: Endurance training for triathlon has helped me stay healthy, move forward and set and achieve goals and handle the myriad of responsibilities being a single parent brings. Other widowers need to be encouraged to take up some form of endurance training. (whether swim, bike, run, obstacle races or triathlon) I’ve never been in better shape and the long swims, runs and rides are cathartic on so many levels.

Faithful: Being physically fit and trained only gets you so far in dealing with life and grief. Moving forward with a real, consequential relationship with God is crucial to handling life and keeping your focus from being myopically centered on yourself.

Fulfilled: Its tempting, when you lose your wife, to just not care any more. Its tempting to withdraw and become hardened. But life is still worth living. Living Fit and Faithful will lead toward a life of Fulfillment, even though the future is going to be much different than I ever imagined.

So, here it is, Fit For A Widower. What it will ultimately become, I’m not sure. I just know that its time to jump off the dock and start swimming. There’s one of those endurance analogies creeping in again. Well, life and love are endurance sports. Might as well train to succeed in them…

Every. Single. Day.

Fit For A Widower

I stumbled across a sobering statistic a couple of weeks ago…520,000 women worldwide will die of breast cancer in the next year! After a few quick Google searches, I calculated that equates to roughly 24,000 women in the United States. As of 2010 (the last year that stats were available) slightly more than 50% of women are married. Guess what? That means there are roughly 1,000 new widowers every month in the United States, from breast cancer alone!

Enter Fit For A Widower. I’ve founded and launched Fit For A Widower to do three things:

1. Encourage widowers (and widows) to take up some form of endurance training as a positive, healthy means to living a fit, faithful and full life.

2. Provide encouragement from my own journey through grief. My faith and my training have been key components that have allowed me to not only survive these past two and half years, but start to live again, in spite of the loss that slaps me in the face countless times per day.

3. Create a community where widowers and widows can come together to train, to compete, to find encouragement and an understanding ear.

I’ve got big dreams, and it may take some time to get there, but if I’ve learned one thing in this journey through loss, its this: start now and go after your dreams. You never know how long you have.

I think that’s a good place to start. I think that’s fit for a widower to pursue! Follow me, here we go!