Buon Compleanno Rigatoni!

Buon Compleanno, Happy Birthday to my best buddy! Two years old today. He has been an absolute joy in my life. So sweet, smart and very affectionate. I am looking forward to many more years with my fellow.

I realized today that I have never put his story down in my memoirs. So here is the short version!

I started duckhunting in 2009. I got married in Italy, to my late wife, in 2010. In late 2009 my wife, then girlfriend, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, given 6 months. She/we didn’t agree with that outcome, but we splurged and got married in Cernobbio Italy, on Lake Como. The day after we got married, I saw this beautiful dog across the park from our patio. I went over to see him and played with him for 15-20 minutes. Fell in LOVE with him! Told my wife, I am getting this breed when we get home. She said “there is no way in hell we were getting a 90 pound hound dog in our home!” Welcome to marriage, I thought! Next day, on a boat ride across the lake, she said, “I have the perfect name for our dog. We will name him Rigatoni and call him Rig”. She had looked the breed up online the night before and realized that he would be a great addition to our family, and a great hunting companion for my me. Got home and started searching for a breeder. By the time we found one, she declined. Had to put it off   until she got better. After she passed, a lady that Was helping me find a Bracco, called and turned me on to a breeder in Telluride, Co. Got on her waitlist and drove to Colorado and got Rig. He is super special to me for very obvious reasons. He is the dog she named.

He will see his first duck hunt, as an observer, at the end of this year. He is very affectionate, super smart and very very loyal. Great companion and friend and his hunting instincts are ingrained.

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The Art of Learning to Live in Contentment: A Reflection of the Last Two Years

In trying to find the words for how I feel, I am drawn to the word “content.” For the first time in two years, I feel satisfied with who I am and what I have; and I don’t want anything more or less. I have never felt this way before. I have been blessed recently with joy, and maybe I will take a little more of that.

Today marks the two-year anniversary of my beautiful wife’s death. Reflecting over the last two years, I remember all the trials and pains of her being gone. I think about the really dark moments. I briefly smile about the small burst of happiness that came out of nowhere at times. Thinking about the past good times we had, like funny moments, or the pure bliss we sometimes felt with each other will never get old! I reminisce over the really sad conversations I have had (and still have) with her in my dreams; they seem all too real. I experienced sudden moments of terror when a rogue thought reminded me that I will never see her again. It often paralyzed me. My heart often beat with the reminder that she is gone, never to be seen by my eyes on this earth again. That often made me want to disappear into oblivion. I nested sometimes on the fact that I have joined a group of other widow(ers) who hold a love connection with someone who isn’t here anymore. It feels like a really long-distance relationship! I know she awaits me, and that connection of anticipation, while trying to live out the rest of my life, confuses me.

However these things were, are and will always be true, that’s not what I want to write about. I want to write today about being content. I want to look back in a year, two years, five years and see, right now, as the day it all changed. Not wanting any more than what I have right now is a welcome newcomer to my personality; my character. Lindy helped put this into my life, and by default, she put joy back into my life. For about the past two weeks, I have been continuously happy, full of joy. I just realized this a few days ago. You see, Lindy introduced something into my life that I’ve never had. I just now realized that I never appreciated it before. I now embrace what she tried to show me all the years before her death. Lindy was the most practical person I’ve ever met. I am not. She derived her joy and contentment from every-day practical tasks – tasks that make life easier and with more joy as a result of putting them into practice.

She was extremely organized. It was innate in her. It wasn’t in me! So I never got her obsession with it. Never really paid attention to being organized in my own life, even after marrying her. The only time I paid attention to it was to poke fun at her and her coveted label maker! Now, I am extremely organized, and it just happened one day without me realizing it. I woke up one day and my closet, her former closet, was as organized as hers ever was. Shoes are neatly put up in the order they should be. Dirty clothes basket sits next to the dry cleaning hamper. Belts are on the hanging hook she bought me. Clothes are put in classifications and organized by color. Socks are also neatly put up by color and style! Everything has its place, and I take great pride in keeping it that way. She has finally gotten through to me!

Another one of Lindy Lou’s strengths was her financial savvy and her system of how all things got paid and investments were made. She was very prudent and wise in her (and our) financial outlook. Always planning for the future and putting away for rainy days. I never embraced her ideology. I was a live-for-the-minute financial planner. Worry later! (This drove her bonkers)! The bills were also paid by a bill pay system. I never did this! I do now. I am also getting back to work and have a very strict plan to budget my future, my adventures, and my retirement. These were all things of no concern to me during my 40 years! I feel like I have grown up! (She was always the grown-up for me.)

She kept an impeccably, clean, meticulous home. Her motto to me, when I wouldn’t put things back where they belonged, was, “Listen hubby! Everything has its place. Make sure whatever you pick up gets back there”. I learned this lesson one time the hard way. I used to pick up the long lighter that was on the counter-catch-all organizer to light the grill, and never put it back. The power went out during a storm one night while I was still at work. She couldn’t find the lighter. And guess what? It wasn’t where it was supposed to be! She stubbed her big toe looking around the house for it! Yep. I never heard the end of that one! She would be proud of how decently I have maintained our home. I hope to channel her gardening brilliance in the spring too! Now, I go out of my way to put things up in “THEIR RIGHT PLACES”. I find it really makes life simpler when I can find things!

She was assertive; black and white in her opinions. I’m passive; a get-along kinda guy; wishy-washy. I am now more like her, and it wasn’t intentional. Something has happened to me that zapped my argumentativeness and need to be right. I just don’t put any stock in it anymore. I have also taken on her “let your yes be yes and your no be no” character trait. Life is too short to do things that don’t align with your goals, priorities or standards. She used to softly drill this into me. I get it now. Anxiety has slowly left the building!

She was a live-in-the moment, very content girl. She used to snap her figures at me at dinner and say, “where are you, because you’re not here! I’m here, right now. Engage with me or take a hike!” She would be happy to know that now I fixate on every word of the person I am talking with like they are the only person that exists.

This is probably the biggest change for me. I hated buying gifts. I never knew what to get someone. Plus, I just hated shopping. She was a methodical, incredible gift-giver. I have found her secret. Hint. It involves the prior comment. It’s amazing what you can learn about someone if you just listen! She used to also go out of her way to make people’s day with a random, not-for-any-reason card, note, or gift.

I could go on with a laundry list of things she has taught me. It took me coming out of my deep, dark moments to see these things. Some may call this commonsense stuff, but for me it was not. I was too busy being selfish, self-centered and flying-by-the-seat of my pants kind of guy. I now look to be content and find the joy in the little things, the way she did. She has finally taught me that routine is good, and that contentment is even better. Lindy arranged my fragmented sentence into a proper one.

I still shed tears at least once a day over her. Most of those tears are the joy of having been married to her, and for the things that she taught me that have made me a more well-rounded person. (She used to tease me that she was going to make me the perfect husband to my next wife)! All kidding aside, I realize there’s no such thing as love without suffering. I also know that grief is the last true act of love. I’ve come to realize that I’m going to have moments of sadness, and I’m going to shed tears often over her, and us, for the rest of my life. I pray she can see me grieve her. Not because I want her to know how sad I am. I want her to know how much she was loved in this life (and in death) by me. I pray that only adds to her joy she is already experiencing where she is.

Jeremiah 31:13 ….I will turn your mourning into gladness; I will give comfort and joy instead of sadness.

Lindy you are missed, appreciated and loved more today than yesterday by me.

Till then, the journey continues….

Balance Restored

Balance Restored

Unwrapping Grief at Christmas

I find myself bursting into tears at random times during the day. A memory of her, us will pour through me like a dam breaking at inopportune times. It happened at 1/2 Price books yesterday when I was standing in line behind a lady buying the book, Marley and Me. I immediately burst into tears as I thought about the Christmas we spent in Washington D.C. We started our tradition that year of being out of town every other Christmas. This year we went to see Marley and Me in a deserted theater. We both left crying our eyes out and being thankful no was there to witness this spectacle. For the next 2 days we toured DC like a couple Japanese tourist on crack! We made it through every major spot in record time! We stayed at Hotel Monaco in the middle of K Street. When I asked why she chose this hotel, she said, “Guppy-Love”! “hUh?” She said its because we get a pet guppy for our stay”! She was quirky that one! She bought me my first bomber jacket that year.

This got me thinking about the two other times we went out of town for Christmas. In 2007 we went to Miami and stayed at the Vanderbilt in Coral Gables. She said she chose this place because it was on a golf course, (we never played golf), it had the biggest pool in Miami (she never got in), and that each person gets their own personal trainer in the gym (we never went to the gym). It was nice though to just sit by the pool all day. Thats when I learned that Lindy likes to go to a city on a beach, but prefers just to lounge at the pool and dislikes the beach altogether. Lindy bought me my first Hawaiian shirt for Christmas that year. http://www.biltmorehotel.com/?NCK=8554540196&kw=hotel%20biltmore%20coral%20gables&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=Adwords&utm_campaign=Brand_Tier_1&gclid=CM22q-G_38ICFeY-MgodZ1AAGw

In 2009, we went to New Orleans. I chose this place because we could take our kiddos. The company I worked for had a nice condo in the French Quarter that we stayed in with Ollie and Sassy. We had a blast. We ate at the Rib Room Christmas day, http://ribroomneworleans.com while a small barbershop quartet sang Christmas carols. The day after Christmas I proposed to Lindy. I got up early and set it up. I went down early in the morning and placed a pink rose in a bush behind the park bench we would sit at. I was going to propose when the church bells struck noon in Jackson Square. What I didn’t plan for was the two homeless guys that would Occupy Bench and ruin my plan. I just chose a different bench, and after she said yes, I walked over and pulled the rose out from between them. It worked out! We went to the Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone right after for champagne. http://hotelmonteleone.com/entertainment/carousel-bar/?gclid=CNHW8I7C38ICFataMgodnAcAbw That night I had a horse drawn carriage take us to dinner to another incredible  NOLA restaurant, Antoine’s http://www.antoines.com

That year she gave me the best gift ever by saying YES!

With tears in my eyes and a smile in my heart,  I just sat down at a local coffee shop for a few hours and went through everything we did on our out-of-town Christmas trips. This was my gift this year to  myself: precious memories that  make me smile though my grief. Her not being here with me at Christmas is painful. I am happy that I will always have our memories. I will  carry on our tradition of being out of town on Christmas day. This year it is on the slopes of Vail.

Merry Christmas to everyone. Cherish the memories and make new ones!

Carousel BarAndrew_Jackson_monument,_New_Orleans,_USA44570652

How I Will Remember Her…

Dallas-Fort Worth Brain Tumor Walk will fall on the 21 month anniversary of Lindy’s death. I regretfully announce that I will not be walking this year. Last year was a phenomenal year. I want to remember Lindy going out on top with her efforts. She was very dedicated for 5 years and was the number one fundraiser every year. With $30k+ being raised in the year of her passing, I know Lindy was proud and honored by her friends last year. I have set up the Team Lindy Lou page and would be honored if you did donate this year. It is a great cause and they are making huge strides in the way they are researching a cure that will be the benchmark of the way other diseases will eventually research their cures. However, it’s for personal reasons that I don’t want to do the walk this year. In a short explanation, Lindy wanted me to move on with my life. I honor her in so many other ways that aren’t a reminder of how she died. I am choosing to remember her other qualities. Yes, her courage and strength are what will get me through my challenges with my disease, but her numerous other qualities go beyond how she faced her eventual demise.

The past 19 months have been an incredible journey. Both incredibly hard and incredibly trying, sad, depressing, joyous and painful, all at the same time. I wouldn’t trade those seminal, personal experiences for anything, except the chance to have Lindy back. The moments I have had these past 19 months have made me feel closer to her than I have ever felt. I cherish them and always will. My travels, with her in spirit, to Spain and Paris twice to walk the several hundred miles on the Camino de Compostela, unknowingly completing her Walk for Jacque, were indispensable to my mental health. Not knowing until the end of the Camino that the route I took was also the name of Lindy’s original tumor (and also the one that ultimately robbed us of our future) was nothing short of a divine sign that God was bigger than our circumstance and was and is always in control. (Tears flood as I type this knowing this was the first thing I did shortly after her burial. What a surreal moment for me). I have also climbed the majestic, uber-challenging Mt Kilimanjaro alone to commemorate the first anniversary or her passing, and to mark my extremely hard, personal mountain to regain any sort of normalcy from losing my life, my love, my heart, my everything. Her not physically being around to share our lives together anymore brings me the most heartbreak. My journeys with her in spirit also pays tributes to her love of travel.

I have and am successfully honoring my wife’s memory by living outside myself. I will always continue to do this.

I don’t think there is anyway to top last years walk for the brain tumor society, nor do I have it in me to be the prodder for another drive. I learned today that my latest MRI shows several new lesions on my brain. My MS is progressing and I know Lindy would want me to focus on that. I have put my complete faith in Jesus and that journey, in and of itself, has been incredible, both in great ways and difficult ones. I have experienced personal miracles, breakthroughs and growth that can only be attributed to Him. I face the distressing journey of rebuilding a life, and I will do this with His help. In him, I truly have the joy that I will one day reconnect with her. I don’t know what that will look like, but that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that I do all I can to make sure I do get to join her.

Please donate to this cause. Lindy put so much effort in helping them get closer to a cure and advance treatment options. She was a recipient of several therapies that they championed. They allowed her to live beyond medical expectations . She truly helped because she believed they would find more breakthroughs that could save her life. She believed in them and now other believe in them. These newly diagnosed people are hoping for a cure. What the National Brain Tumor Society is doing is truly unprecedented in cancer research. It’s the most advanced research to date. Their goal is to double life expectancy for Glioblastoma patients within 5 years. This is the same tumor type that Lindy had. She was given 12 months and lived almost four productive years. The hope is that someone else will benefit from their research. Someones little person, wife, brother, mother, friend, or loved one.

In memory of our Lindy Lou, please give. Thank you.

I will be donating 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the CD that I recorded in memory of Lindy. (Just so you know, If you haven’t purchased the CD, it isn’t depressing. Sure there’s a couple of songs that are, but in large part it is upbeat)! 


To donate:

http://events.braintumor.org/events/dallas-ft-worth-brain-tumor-walk/donate/?kwoAdvocateId=FC7BKQ9

To purchase a CD:

http://www-michaelpaulcox-com.myshopify.com/products/l-by-michael-paul-cox

Buy on iTunes
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album//id867534856

Perception Lost

Today marks 18 months since Lindy’s life vanished before the dogs and my eyes. Time has all but frozen around me. Sure. I live day-to-day the best I can manage. I’m productive…somedays….somedays not. Who’s watching? I mostly just sit and think about where I am now and how I seem to have just jumped tracks. I now seem to live on a track parallel to reality. I sit and wish my life was still on the old track, a LOT! Grandpa used to tell me to wish in one hand and shit in the other. (Wonder if Lindy has met him yet? They share a similar sense of humor. Hope so. She would like him).

Told a friend today that it has been hard to move, or even touch anything in the house. I secretly fear that one day I will wake up and she will have come home. It wouldn’t be pretty! She would have my, you know whats!! I haven’t lost my mind, at’all….I know she isn’t coming back. Maybe it’s just me being respectful and just letting my mind unwind all I have been through in its own time; let the natural course of things take its course. When I’m ready, I will make a major move or changes. The first thing to go, I tell you, will be the old “tube tv” she hung onto for 20 years that stares at me in the family room like an angry old lady . Until then, I will just bask a little bit longer in who she was, is, and is in my spirit now. She is still the most special, remarkable person I have ever known. That deserves a little more time in and of itself.

I was up at 3:30 A.M. the other morning restless. The steroids I was on for my MS episode didn’t leave a sliver of sleep for 3 days. I rummaged through some old journals wanting to find and reminisce on the first few months Lindy even became a thought to me. I flipped too far and went back to September of 2004. Tis the first month of my post break-up with the fraud that I had wasted 3 years of my life with. I thought I would marry this excuse-of-a-serpent woman. (God truly did have things in control at the time). My heartbreak at the time found me vagabonding in New Orleans at my now favorite daytime drinking spot, The Chart Room. (Side Note: 5 years later I would share a beer with Lindy at this bar right after I proposed to her in Jackson Square). It’s on the corner of Chartres and Bieneville in the French Quarter. It was here I decided to put my raw feelings into permanent written history in a journal, while drinking several fifths of Mr. Daniels. For 3 straight days I wrote [and drank] while staring at the passerby/drunkers through the open french doors that viewed a 300° angle of the corner of this intersection. On the 3rd day, I wrote about what I was yearning for in my next girlfriend-slash-companion. It was the exact opposite [plus] of the society-snob I just split up with. Without going into detail, I basically described Lindy down to her last quality. (Wow. Reading this again made me realize how spot on she was in what I was looking for. Eerily nice). Only I didn’t know Lindy existed, yet. I put this journal up when I got home from NOLA and didn’t pull it out again for years after I started seriously dating Lindy.

I met Lindy in September 2005 at a bar in Dallas- Adairs. I wanted nothing to do with her on a serious level at the time, as I was still on my single-datem-all rampage! I had finally embraced LSD, aka, Lead Singer Disease, for the first time in my life and there was no stopping this ride! I didn’t no have-a- the time for monogamy. As one of our band’s songs at the time correctly pointed out, “Short Fat Big and Tall, It Don’t Matter I Wantome ALL” was all I could seem to fixate on. That is, until the day I sobered up and realized Lindy was the perfect woman for me in every way. Now the chase was on and she was hard to get!

It wasn’t until after we got serious 2 years later that I pulled out that journal and happened to read what I wrote that day. I realized, subconsciously, I had wished the perfect woman into my world. Did I really? Or, was it just happenstance? Who knows. It’s all water near a bridge now.

It did get me thinking about what’s in store for the next 40 years. I feel like I am in the hanger waiting for the day I can hit the runway and fly again. While fueling up, I am trying to set the stage for a good take off and flight. Don’t get me wrong, I have really enjoyed the life experiences post and prior to Lindy, but the only thing that I feel I accomplished from all my wearisome efforts in 40 years is landing the woman of my dreams, and now she is gone. I have tasted tidbits of success in lots of other areas of my life I hold dear, but never have I accomplished the end goals of my dreams, except in love. Now that I know what real love feels like, I will patiently wait for it to surface again.

With this new knowledge, I am making every effort to create a life of fulfillment and significance. A life of the highest adventure and relative happiness. I will carry forward a piece of her in everything I do, because that’s the only way to keep her alive and with me. Some ask me when I will let her go, take down pictures, quit talking about us. The answer is never. Her love & loss will stay with me until the day I die. I need it to. I want it to. It makes me take a closer look at everything I do, say, and promise beforehand. This is something I have never done in 40 years. I am a pilot-my-plane-by-the-whims-of-my thoughts kinda guy. Not anymore. No more tuna on toast. It’s chicken salad on rye, untoasted for me!

Chartres Room

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Buy on iTunes
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album//id867534856

Hallelujah, The Only Cover on L

This is a tough song to cover because it has been covered by some great ones including the Beatles. How dare I! The day before Lindy passed I was looking on her Pandora channel list and she had a Hallelujah channel. I turned it on to Jeff Buckley’s version. It moved me. We put it into her video eulogy. I hadn’t listened to it that closely before but the way that John Pedigo put the video together, and him taking a black and white wedding picture of her and having it turn to color at the end of the song was very heart-stirring. I later downloaded while hiking in Spain. I didn’t realize that I had downloaded Leonard Cohen’s version. I loved it even more, and why shouldn’t I? He is the writer of the song. The more I listened to the lyrics, the more I felt each verse told Lindy and mine story. I then was told about a book written about the song called The Holy or Broken. After reading the book, I learned there was 90 verses written to this song. I picked out the 5 verses that I felt depicted us. I like my arrangement:)

Enjoy

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