Sunday, November 25, 2012

16 Things for 16 Years

I surrender. I'm going to do "the list". Here are my ground rules. I will list things I am thankful for as I reflect on this moment in my life. I will not list family, friends, health, or my job as one of my items. It's not that I am not thankful for those things. I just feel as if I should challenge myself a bit. I'm sure there will be places where those things will intersect with items on my list, but I will avoid listing them outright. I have chosen the number 16 to represent the 16 years that Joe and I knew each other. While we were only married for 3 years when he passed our friendship spanned back to my freshman year of college when we dated for the first time.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my 16 things for which I am very thankful.

#1. The World Champion NY Giants - When the Giants face the Packers in tonight's Sunday Night Football game, it will be an emotion-filled one for me. When they faced each other this time last year (once again for SNF), it was Joe's last night. I, along with others, sat at his bedside in our room watching the game and talking to him. By that point in the evening he was not verbally responsive, but he still responded to touch and I still felt strongly that he could hear us. I remember massaging his feet and talking to him about what was going on in the game. I'll never know how much of that game he was able to soak in, but the Giants gave those undefeated Packers a real run for their money. It was the last game I would watch with my Joe and in my mind it was also a turning point in our team's lackluster season. The team that we watched in the games after Joe's passing was a world champion team and there is no doubt that it helped my grief to have hope, even if it was in the Cinderella story of a sports team. With win after win after win, I felt Joe's presence with us and when it was finally clear they had done it, I was filled with every emotion in the book. No matter what happens with tonight's game, I will always be thankful for the Superbowl XLVI Champion NY Giants. They gave me hope at a time when hope was hard to imagine.

Cheering for the Giants in the Superbowl

#2. Electricity - If there is one thing I learned from my experience during Hurricane Sandy, it is how reliant I am on electricity. During the 9 days when my power was out, I spent varying lengths of time in my own darkened home and found myself hopelessly flicking light switches, washing dishes by hand, staring at a mound of laundry, wondering how to make a cup of coffee or charge my electronics, throwing out every last piece of food in my refrigerator and freezer, and generally freezing my butt off. Compared to what others faced (and continue to face), it was an inconvenience, but it made me realize how blessed I am to enjoy something as simple as a light switch that works and a dishwasher that turns on when I want it to clean my dishes on command.

#3. Photos & Videos - One of the things that my son and I both love to do is flip through the photos and videos on my iPhone. I certainly didn't think about it as I was taking them, but now that Joe is gone and that I am witnessing how darn quickly my baby boy is growing up, I am so thankful for the thousands of photos and videos that I have stored in various places. They are a unique tool for us to remember and laugh and even sometimes cry together. This video, taken in July 2011, helped me make sense of Domani's current obsession with wanting to "DRIVE" the car. He learned it very early on...from his dad. And for the ability to re-live that, I couldn't be more thankful.

#4. Running - Since I took up running in the late spring it has been the exact outlet I have needed for both my grief and the stresses of work & motherhood. Once I was physically active again I also realized how much my body had been craving the conditioning and challenge. I started with a goal of completing a 5k race and did that easily in April. My next goal was to improve my time and raise some money for the Colon Cancer Alliance in memory of Joe. In September, I ran the Undy 5000 in Philadelphia, beating my first time by almost 5 minutes and raising over $1,200. On Thanksgiving, upon the urging of a friend in Florida my goal was to run a sub-10 minute mile, which seemed like a stretch for me. I ran that Turkey Trot 5k with one of Joe's best friends and a friend of mine from church and came in with a 9'30" pace and a 29:29 time. Every time I achieve a new goal I am full of joy and thanks (and I'm usually pretty darn tired). In March, I will run my first ever HALF MARATHON and I couldn't be more excited. I'm thankful for the physical ability to run, for the people who watch my son so I can do it, and for the amazing community of runners I have met along the way.

#5. Child Care - Having family members as the primary child care providers for my son is a unique blessing that I don't take for granted. It allows me to work the odd hours required by my job without having to turn cartwheels to get it done. My sister has done an amazing job teaching Domani all sorts of things and after spending many Mondays with my Dad, Domani has a special bond with him. He and his cousin have developed some of the most adorable routines including the latest where they say "hug" and then hug and then say "kiss" and then kiss. He knows how to charm Grandma just so in order to get his brownie with whipped cream for dessert, but he has also learned from her about limits and how to make good decisions about his behavior. I am thankful for all of the people who help with taking care of Domani, including those who I haven't mentioned specifically. Each of them play a special role in his life and allow me to flourish as a single mom physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

#6. Travel - My son and I have been blessed with many adventures this year. Together we have traveled to Idaho, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Walt Disney World, Virginia Beach, Southern Florida, and Niagara Falls. We've seen amazing things and spent time with friends and family throughout the country. I've written separately about many of these adventures so I won't elaborate here except to say that I am so thankful. This year, I have also had the chance to travel on some short trips without my son - to New Orleans, North Carolina, Toronto, and Cincinnati - and those trips have been good for my body, mind, and soul in ways that I could never fully convey. For that travel too (and for those who cared for my son while I was gone) I am so thankful.

At the aquarium in Virginia Beach in August
Touring Yellowstone National Park in June with Aunt Naomi
Meeting Mickey Mouse for the 1st time in November

#7. Random Shuffle - Whether it's on my iPhone or Joe's thumb drive of music, the random shuffle gods always seem to have a way of meeting me where I'm at. Sometimes it's a good cry. Sometimes it's a laugh. Sometimes it's a sing-at-the-top-of-my-lungs moment. Always it's like clockwork and I appreciate that.

#8. Go On - I discovered this show in October even though it had already been airing for several weeks. (I am, by the way, mad at all of you who knew about and didn't tell me right away.) I immediately connected with Ryan King, the main character in the show and how he deals with the sudden loss of his wife in a car accident. It helps that I have a sweet spot for Matthew Perry, but I enjoy the whole cast and most importantly for me, I feel it is a funny and sometimes sad dose of REAL LIFE. The first night I watched the show I used On Demand to speed through a bunch of episodes and, as is becoming my way these days, I wrote a blog post about it. The post became my most-visited ever (by far). A retweet from Matthew Perry will do that I guess.

This week's Go On episode was about starting to date again, a topic I've been mulling over in my own life since July or so in one way or another. Ryan's monologue at the end captured my current conclusion perfectly. I still don't understand how this show ALWAYS does that (and with sports imagery to boot), but I'm thankful it does.

Here's the monologue: "This has been a great Thanksgiving for half of us - the half whose team won. For the other half it's time for some brutal honesty. There are six weeks left in the NFL season. Physicists tell us that objects that suck for 11 weeks tend to remain sucking so it's time to think about rebuilding and you never know how long that's going to take. The right player could come along tomorrow and change everything. In the meantime, you gotta take care of the people you've got...they may not be the ones you choose, but they're your team.

Sometimes, especially recently, my church doesn't come from church. Amen, Ryan King. Amen.

#9. House Cleaning - Joe always did most of the cleaning in our home. I did my best to pick up the slack when he got really sick, but between caring for him, working full time, and caring for Domani, I just couldn't keep up. So, last year while Joe was sick a thoughtful group of my co-workers chipped in so we could bring in some help cleaning our house. Their generosity allowed me to continue the service for several months and I found it to be so helpful once it was just Domani and me that I made it a priority in our monthly budget. My spirits are lifted every time I come home to a clean house and it gives me a sense of peace knowing that Joe would be happy with our clean home.

#10. People Who Spur Me on to Greatness - I admit this sounds grandiose. But, I truly feel like this has been my life story, especially over the past year. Whether it is my running friends on Twitter, my spiritual director, or one of the many other people in my life who care for me and cheer me on, I can point to time after time when I have done what I thought I couldn't do or finally achieved what I always knew I could, because I have had the support of others. Two weeks after Joe passed away I found myself in spiritual direction talking about the practical support I had received while Joe was ill and the weeks following his death. 

In reflecting on it, I wrote the following in my journal (after listing the MANY people who had helped in just as many ways): "I really feel like those who are perceived as strong are really just those who have learned to be propped up by others. What is weak is going it alone. The support that I have received over the last two weeks is an indicator to me of what an incredible guy my husband was and how much his son will continue to be loved for years to come. In that I find great peace."

I have been told many times over the past year how "strong" I am and that it is "amazing" how well I am doing. Well, I can only attribute it to the hope I've found through my faith and the people who "prop me up". I achieve my racing goals, organize workers, kill the bugs in the house, care for my son, and get up every morning because of those two things.

#11. The Afghan Whigs Live - If you have spent any time reading my blog over the past 7 months then you know how important this year's Afghan Whigs reunion tour has been to me. I'm thankful for the incredible moments I've experienced, the places I've traveled and most of all the people I've met along the way. My support network has grown exponentially throughout this tour and that is the most valuable part for me. On New Years Eve I will enjoy one last show with many of the wonderful people I have met along with way and I'll be bringing along a new face - my sister Naomi who will be seeing the band for the first time. It will be a fabulous way to ring in the New Year and I can't wait. And, of course, those of us in The Congregation can only hope that on my thankful list next year will be some new Afghan Whigs tunes...

The Afghan Whigs - May 23 at The Bowery Ballroom, NYC

#12. GriefShare - I started attending a GriefShare support group earlier this year and it had a major impact on my ability to make sense of my own personal journey through grief. It had such an impact in fact that I helped to bring the support group to my own church this fall. I am thankful for the Cranford Alliance Church and the faithfulness of the GriefShare leaders there who comforted me, cared for me, and prayed for me. I have formed lasting friendships out of that group and for that I am thankful. (To find a GriefShare group near you, visit

#13. Good Food with Good Friends - I don't do it as often now, but I love eating out. My friend Erin is a favorite partner in checking out new restaurants and this year I will especially remember an excellent Thai dinner with her in Toronto and a fabulous experience at Lilette in New Orleans. I've also enjoyed meals at Makeda, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, on several occasions this year, and while it's not high class dining, the meals I have shared at T.G.I.Friday's in Flemington with my friends Heather and Sara have been particularly special. I love how friends and food always fit together so easily.

#14. Twitter - My go to source for news, laughs, and support. It's an important social network to me and I'm especially thankful for the role it plays in my grief journey, in my spiritual growth, and in my fitness challenges. If you are just getting started on Twitter, here are a few of my favorite follows: @UnvirtuousAbbey @oldmansearch @pourmecoffeee @MalindaAnnHill @fitsngiggles @theafghanwhigs @breyeschow @Swimmunity @grammercie @AntDeRosa @MomsGottaRun @amypinardphoto @ANNELAMOTT @BrianMerritt @denisleary @KBurkhardtSNY @helenabrit72 @CCAlliance @WillMcAvoyACN @NickWithMS @FauxCowherd @metsgrrl @derricklweston @megateer @tawndawn @asiansplenda @karenror @bethscib @MRScrashmattb @BobGoff @lgibbeadle @RADickey43 --- Oh, just go check me out @MamaDeak and see who I follow!

With #MotherRunners and #AfghanWhigs Fans
 @MalindaAnnHill & @fitsngiggles at AW Soundcheck Party!

#15. Laughing - Whether it's a corny joke, some sharp wit, physical comedy, or that offbeat humor Joe had, I am thankful for the chance to laugh every time I get it. Domani will laugh uncontrollably after scaring you by saying "BOO!" and I can't resist laughing along with him. Recently, he has taken to saying random words in a deep, raspy voice and it is absolutely hilarious. As a way to remember Joe this weekend I've been sharing with family and friends a short note he sent me "anonymously" while we were in college during a time when we were passing a dollar bill back and forth as a joke. 
The Joe Note
The text of his note reads: This dollar is from some anonymous sender. It's definitely not from Joe, so don't send it back to him. Thanks for your cooperation. Joe...I mean, some anonymous guy.

This note (and plenty others like it) still make me laugh and I'm thankful for that.

#16. Mets Tickets - We were fortunate to have a 15 game pack of tickets to the Mets this past season and will enjoy another 15 game pack next season. Domani and I went to games with many family members and an assortment of friends, sitting just in front of the SNY broadcast booth. We saw some exciting wins (like R.A. Dickey's 20th!) and some miserable losses, but we always had a special time. We also went with a group to the ballpark's Stand Up To Cancer Star Wars Night and even though the Mets lost (in typical Mets dramatic fashion), it was a powerful moment when that whole stadium stood up. I was so very thankful to be there. At a Mets game (any Mets game), Joe feels close and we can allow all of our other cares to fall away for at least 9 innings. The best part about our tickets in 2013? They will include our first ever All Star Game which I'm sure will be on my "thankful" list for next year.
Opening Day 2012


  1. Anne,
    I've enjoyed reading your posts ever since we first met on Twitter before our 1st Afghan Whigs show at the Bowery. Thank you so much for sharing your list and I'm so honored to be included.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.