All of a sudden he was gone. I was so scared. I was scared that we were going to grow apart. Scared that we wouldn’t be interested in each other when he got home. And if I am honest, I was scared to death that he would come back from his mission weird. I couldn’t blame him if he did but I was horrified of that, nonetheless. Read More
It was the fall of 2001. We had graduated, gone on our senior trips and were both now living in Logan, Utah. A small town an hour and a half north of our hometowns. We both decided to live in the dorms. Steve was living with two of his buddies from high school and I was living with 5 random girls that I had never met before. We lived a short walk away from each other and needless to say, we were making that short walk multiple times a day! Read More
The cruise was my first ever. Barcelona had been so amazing that I couldn’t imagine anything comparing. We took off and began our trip south. I immediately was taken aback by the rockiness of the boat. But even worse than the rockiness was that we were headed straight for an oncoming cold front. Little droplets of the ocean would hang onto the bitter cold wind and sting my face. Steve and I would have to gear up to cross the outdoor walkway to the restaurants. Every time was a bundle up, hunch down, run to the other side. It was SO cold. But the excitement was tangible. We were headed for the Strait of Gibraltar. Read More
“What? This old thing?” Steve has teased me many times that this is my answer to everything when it comes to new clothes. I guess I need to own my issues. So I am fessing up to an extreme part of my grieving process. I shop like crazy, to fill the void that grief has carved. Steve had a major “intervention” with me today. With an undeserved empathy that kind of surprised me, he explained that he understood what I was doing because he “fills the void” in his own way too. Although he was understanding, he explained that shopping is understandably not his preferred method of therapy for me. Because of this, something has to give, I guess. Read More
I had cried like I didn’t know was humanly possible. I had been sad before, but this was complete heart break, complete devastation, and complete darkness, with no hope. My sweet baby laid sedated in the crib next to the recliner we sat in. Peacefully sleeping the night away in bed #28, in the glass room we were closed away in. He slept more calmly than I had seen him do in months and ironically he was completely unaware of the horror that had been discovered in his teeny head just hours before. I laid in Steve’s lap and we held each other the whole night, freely crying and weeping in each other’s arms. We were in the PICU, surrounded by families and parents going through their own devastations. Read More
The cold hard truth about the fight against childhood cancer is that when a child gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer. Looking back, I can’t begin to explain how amazing it is that we made it through. We are wounded and heart broken, forever changed, but we have lived to tell our experiences. I am always told how strong I am, but honestly, I couldn’t have made it through without Steve. To so many of the dad’s fighting for their children, I know it feels like they have been forgotten. They don’t get enough support for the pain they also experience. Steve is a warrior and he experienced the cancer fight in a different way than I did. Here is Steve’s perspective….Hayes’ cancer journey through Steve’s eyes! I am so proud of him and forever honored he is mine.
A Dad’s job is to solve the issue, take away the pain. For the first time in my life I was unable to do that for one of my kids. In fact, for the first time in my life I was unable to just fix it. I feel like I have always been able to succeed at whatever I have put my mind to. Whether it was with sports, with my career, or parenting, I have had the ability to overcome any obstacle. But not cancer. I felt helpless when I sat with Hayes. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I would sit and watch him go through the pain of the side effects, with fevers of over 103 degrees and my hands were completely tied. I couldn’t just take it away. Hayes and I shared some incredible moments together, some of which I have never shared with any of my children. I think Hayes understood that I craved the need to help him, but he also sensed that I was doing everything in my power to help him.
Life was exhausting. I stayed home with the kids while Savanna stayed overnight at the hospital. Those were loneliest nights of my life sleeping in my bed by myself without my wife and one of my children. I usually couldn’t sleep until around 1:00 am. I had nobody to talk to or decompress with, so falling asleep was always so hard for me. I would wake up at 6:00 am so that I could shower and get dressed before the babies woke up. They typically woke up around 6:45. I would get them up, change their clothes and feed them while the older 3 kids got ready for school. I made sure the kids were ready, dressed and fed before 8:15 am. My Mom would come over to watch the babies at 8:30 while I left for the office. My drives consisted of a lot of tears during my 10 minute commute. They were tears of complete exhaustion, both physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion. I would then have appointments til around 3:45 and head straight to the hospital to be with Hayes. I craved those moments of hanging out with Hayes until around 10:00 at night. When I was in the room with Hayes nothing else mattered. It was my own little world with just me and him. This is where we bonded. We talked, we played, we laughed. We laughed a lot. I would feed him fries and roast beef sandwiches while we watched his favorite television shows on repeat. Despite barely being able to keep my eyes opened from my full schedule, these were the best days of my life and I miss them. I miss those days. I crave those days.
I still find myself finding things to do at home after work so that I can fill that void. It’s amazing how slow 4 hours goes by after I get home from the office. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I was up at the hospital with Hayes. I know that sounds weird, but I miss that daily grind. In some ways, that daily grind kept my mind occupied. It allowed me to concentrate and admittedly, even though I was in basic survival mode, it kept me fighting. It allowed me to feel as though I was “solving” the problem, despite not being able to take his cancer away. It was the only way I could feel “accomplished” as a Dad, because the guilt of not being able to solve the problem was extremely heavy.
I have now had to re-route my fight to keeping Hayes legacy alive and honoring him. I have also had to learn to occupy my mind and energy through the various kid’s activities, coaching football, writing my book, and running my usual 2 miles every morning.
One of my favorite things about celebrating Steve is being able to spoil him with gifts that I have thought through for months. If I am being honest, I dropped the ball for our anniversary. I was struggling a lot during May, I missed Hayes and frankly, shopping was of zero interest to me. I am sure this is something I will struggle with for years to come, but in order to avoid this “dropping the ball depression” in the gift department, I decided to plan way ahead for Father’s Day. Steve deserves to know how much we all adore him.
Is there anything more annoyingly stressful than choosing out outfits for a family photo shoot? It is so unimportant, but I care! I have been able to come up with a little system in picking family outfits. I usually have one person wear a busy, patterned outfit or stand out color, that is the first outfit I figure out. Then I highlight with other colors from the pattern or that subtlety compliment. I work around the pattern and do subtle textures and slight patterns from there. Sounds easy enough, but gees…it sucks!
I started out with my dress. I mentioned it before, but I love this Target find! It is so flattering on and I feel like it was the perfect springboard for the rest of the outfits.
I am so happy with these photos. I was so nervous to take pictures without Hayes, but no doubt I will find a way to incorporate him forever! The giant green balloon was the perfect representation of him for these pictures! While there were hard moments, I felt Hayes close. Plus, if you look closely, in some pictures his little orb is ever present! Here is to conquering fears and seeing the beauty in the outcome! Which one is your favorite?
After we had our first kiss, our relationship quickly morphed into one of those relationships that I had always made fun of. I was crazy about Steve. He made me laugh, he was confident, athletic and he was the best kisser! I couldn’t keep the butterflies at bay. Along with our love for making out was our equal love for the show Survivor. It all started 18 years ago when we would get together to watch our favorite reality TV show. Because of our friendship, we found excitement in the mundane and seemingly small things. At this time Steve was trying to decide where he wanted to go to college. He was an amazingly talented football player that had played quarterback and was being recruited to play safety. He had offers from a few universities and was trying to make his decision. I had already made mine. I was going to Utah State. A school 2 hours north, in Logan, Utah. Although Steve had a scholarship offer from Utah State, I assumed he would go to the University of Utah and that we would be going our separate ways for college. I stayed out of his decisions for where he would go because this was his future and his possible future career. I didn’t want to sway him one way or another so I mostly listened to him as he expressed the pros and cons of each opportunity. The idea of going our separate ways gave me a pit in my stomach. I had known for a long time that my feelings for him were deeper than a typical high school relationship but I had zero desire to freak him out with my expressions of love, so I kept them to myself. I had never seen a high school relationship work out long term so I braced myself for our inevitable goodbye.
I remember one night in January of 2001, I drove my little, red, Ford Festiva up the winding streets to Steve’s house less than a mile from my own. It was a cold winter night and I rushed to his house. I only had an hour to spend with him because it was a school night so my parents liked me home by 9:30. I parked on the street and walked up to Steve’s front door. He opened the door before I even had a chance to knock. He was excited to see me and clearly had something to tell me. He welcomed me with a hug and as he wrapped me in his arms he said, “Guess what?! I am going to Utah State!”
This may seem like a small thing, but it was a major turning point. We were going to college together. Our love story didn’t have to come to an unwanted end. All of a sudden a future with him was a real possibility and not only was I ecstatic but Steve was as well. We were falling, HARD, and I was letting myself embrace it. I had never planned on falling for someone while I was so young, but I couldn’t help it and I felt propelled toward my future with him. We went to dances, spent countless dates together and shared so much laughter. It really was sweet and beautiful and innocent. A relationship built on a solid friendship.
Oddly enough, I knew I loved him. I had loved him since we were juniors, but I never had the guts to tell him. I was so scared of losing our friendship so I quietly kept it to myself. The months went by and our friendship and relationship grew deeper with each passing day. Graduation was quickly approaching and I wanted to tell him before we graduated because now I knew I had to take the risk…he needed to know that I took him seriously.
I decided to be really mature and write him a long love note finally putting into words that I love him, in his yearbook. Yep, his yearbook. Because in high school, the yearbook is the ultimate sign of lasting love. As they say in the high school flick of our senior year, Can’t Hardly Wait, “The yearbook is memories frozen in time, people!”
Steve and I exchanged yearbooks and I got to work on revealing my actual feelings. Putting it into words wasn’t hard. My feelings flowed. I had so many emotions that had been building for years. I knew exactly how I felt, the fear I had was letting him in on my feelings. Tonight, as I reminisced, I found his yearbook buried away in an old dusty box. Reading what I wrote is actually super sweet. It stirs up those feelings of newness. I genuinely cared for him:
Well, there is no one place to begin. You are so amazing! I have so much appreciation for you and it grows every moment we spend together. There is not a second that passes by in the day that you aren’t foremost in my thoughts. Thinking about you helps me realize how worth the wait through our friendship was. I knew from the first time we talked that you were someone worth fighting for. I knew we had something special and the potential for an incredible friendship from the beginning. Our friendship has far surpassed my expectations. The thought of you in my future makes me happy and I can’t wait to see where Utah State takes us. The best is ahead of us, I am sure! There are times you look at me and I honestly melt. I know that sounds cliche, but you make me feel special without saying a word…it’s what you say in your eyes. You make me happy and because of that, I love to be around you! Thank you so much for your friendship. You have made high school the most memorable time of my life thus far. I know I am a wuss when it comes to telling you my feelings, but I am sure you know how I feel. I couldn’t hide it if I tried! I care for you more than I can put into words; I love you, I really do! Thank you for the memories, I can’t wait to experience life ahead with you.
Love you always,
Cheese ball central, but real. Love comes to anyone, at any age. That is the beautiful thing about love, it intertwines with everything we experience in life. It is the root of happiness, sadness, passion, and anger. Love is everywhere. What is amazing is that our love has grown exponentially with every moment and every experience we have had together. I believe that it is because of this base, this beginning, that we are where we are at now. He knows me at my best and he knows me at my worst. He accepts me and actually helps me feel appreciated through the weaknesses that I have. Can’t wait to see what is ahead! Here is to a lifetime of anniversaries ahead! I love you babe!
On a side note, for those interested in seeing the full story, KSL news did a story on us last night. Best surprise ever. I am thankful every moment for the love and support I get from Steve! Here is the link!
Junior High began and I was as awkward as ever. I had gone to a private school for elementary school so when 7th grade came around, every elementary school kid made the leap to Churchill Jr. High and I felt extra isolated because I only knew my 2 neighbor friends, Summer and Amanda. On top of that, I tried my hardest to fit in wardrobe wise, but my mom had an extremely deep rooted belief that I shouldn’t conform to social norms, so she never bought me the name brand “in” clothes. I remember in 7th grade, Calvin Klein CK graphic t-shirts were the must have shirts. I begged for one! All the pretty and popular girls were wearing them and I knew if I wanted to “get noticed” I had to have a CK shirt. Christmas rolled around and on Christmas morning I had my dreams met! There in my pile of presents was my long awaited shirt, but my mom had gotten what was on sale, a giant men’s gray CK shirt. Like, night gown sized! That wasn’t stopping me. I threw it on after Christmas break, tucked it into my jeans as it awkwardly overflowed over my waistband and I headed to school. I couldn’t wait for all the friends and boys to come rolling in. Needless to say, that didn’t happen! The shirt didn’t help me with the fact that I was still incredibly shy. Read More