Friday, September 28, 2007

A Letter at Two Years

My friend Tanja recently wrote a letter to her husband on her blog-I found such solace in reading it that I decided to steal the idea to commemorate the two year mark since my husband’s passing. Please indulge me this one time:

Today marks two years since I last kissed you, hugged you or told you I loved you. I am terribly grateful that I was able to do that one last time. I am thankful that our relationship allowed for constant affirmation of love. You have been missed so much these past two years, yet your legacy has remain a constant reminder of your life and what it stood for.

You wouldn’t recognize the boys at this point. Our oldest son is in college and thriving. He has a lovely girlfriend and I find that he loves her as he saw you love me. There is adoration and pride whenever he speaks of her and they seem to be the very best of friends. He reflects so much of your spirit. He has taken the responsibility of “head of the house” yet still allowed himself the luxury of being a young man. He has bought a new car—which I find to be quite ugly, but is his pride and joy. We tease him that his new car is a toaster on wheels and that parking it in the garage is a problem because when the “Pop Tarts” pop from the top, they will hit the roof of the garage. You would not have liked the vehicle either, but would have understood his feelings toward the car because you felt the same way about that ’79 Camero (which, by the way, was MUCH cooler). He plays your Martin guitar often even though he doesn’t play with ‘the band’ anymore. He loves that guitar and takes special care of it. You would be proud.

Our youngest has had trouble adjusting to middle school. We have been racking our brains trying to figure it all out. I especially wish you were here to deal with the issues at school, so that I could continue my professional relationship there. You had the ability to make the rigid more open-minded and boy are we dealing with "rigid" right now. I would like to blame his non-conformity to the time of year or his aversion to adjusting to new situations, but I know what you would say. You would say, “Marsha, he is YOU---duh---this middle school stuff is not “fun” enough for him. Just relax, he will come around and hopefully school won’t ruin him” and of course, you would be right. He has become very sensitive to the spiritual aspects of his life. You would be proud of how he responds in church when he is moved. We sang together in church last month and it was a moment of great pride. He has an amazing voice and I think will discover this to be a talent to cultivate. In band, he is playing the drums, following in his brother’s footsteps. He still views life as “glass half-full” and remains true to his word no matter what.

Chelsie misses you. She did from the beginning. Even the vet told us that she was in mourning. We attempted to make her feel better by getting her a doggy companion who, in turn, bit Riley and….well---ended up in a new home. I don’t think Chelsie minded too much. She enjoys being “top dog”.

We moved to a new home not long after you left us. We live in the community we talked about moving to for years. My only real regret is that you didn’t get to live here. You would have loved the walking paths and the sporting opportunities so close to the house. We are enjoying riding our bicycles and walking to the baseball field. The house is a two-story structure which wouldn’t have thrilled you, but you would have liked the neighbors, as they are friends we have known for years. The ping-pong table is set up downstairs, but doesn’t get used as often as it should. We do think of you each time we play.

We are thankful of our memories, and strive to live for today and have hope for a future. The love legacy you left has allowed us to continue to grow through our grief. We miss you, but cherish the many wonderful memories that have allowed us to speak of you often in a loving manner. Your life has allowed us to continue ours. I get emails from Erica every once in a while. They always make me smile as she reminisces snapshots of memories from IP. Your mother is still a major part of our lives. We don’t get to see her as much as we would like, but that is because of our busy schedules. I know she misses you and your dad, but has become quite independent. She has even met some widow friends of her own. You would be proud of her, just as we are. She is a great source of comfort to the boys and to me.

Though there have been some disappointments in the male-role-model department and some promises that haven’t been fully fulfilled, I believe the boys have found their way. I have had to be enough at times and our oldest has assumed some responsibility. This is not a bad thing. It has made us all more self-sufficient.

We still laugh a lot, play games, root for the Cardinals and the Illini, watch old movies and allow music to continue to define our lives. We think and speak of you daily—always in the most fond and loving manner. We have hope for a future that will be filled with continued love and peace. More than anything, we acknowledge that God has been faithful. He has heard our cries for solace and answered—not always as we expected, but always fully and completely. So on this, our sadiversary, we honor you and the special place you reside in our hearts.

With Eternal Love,

Monday, September 24, 2007


The Don Cuttill Memorial Golf Tournament was held this weekend. I don’t know what I expected it to be or how I expected to feel or what the emotions leading up to it meant, but it was a beautiful and memorable day. Don’s mother, brother, sister-in-law, and niece were able to attend. David, Don’s younger brother, played on a team with my oldest son and my youngest son, father, brother and nephew also were among the participants (over 40 in all). When I watched the teams drive down the cart path after the first tee, I found it difficult to contain my tears. Later, upon reflection, I was able to grasp and fully understand what I was feeling.

These tears were different. They weren’t for loss, but for the way a legacy can continue long after the temporal. True legacy embraces the past as well as invites the future. Players in this tournament integrated family (those who knew and loved Don the most), friends (golfing buddies and church connections) and then those who never even knew Don, but whom his life and death have touched in some way over the past two years. I found that we were NOT commemorating a memory, but honoring how heritage affects the present. Don was not a memory on Saturday. He ordained the day. He was alive in each one of us. Perhaps in different forms, but he couldn’t have been more “amongst us” if he had been there in the flesh.

For the amount of unrest I have had the past week amid some difficult transitions, this weekend provided the respite my soul longed for. I was energized seeing all the folks at the golf outing and then at the pig roast. I was thrilled that we doubled the amount raised to help those less fortunate in our community. I was humbled by the love. Those who missed the event missed the blessing that this special day brought to so many--and that is too bad. However, I have no doubt that those fortunate enough to have experienced life with Don Cuttill Jr. have been blessed beyond measure. That will never change.

This I know for sure…

Monday, September 17, 2007


Transitions are words I try to get my middle school writers to use correctly and appropriately within their writing. I hate the standard transition most 11-year-olds have been taught to use: first, next, and in conclusion. They don’t seem to give the transition the honor it deserves. In spite of their previous training, we are working on using more complex transitions to better justify our writing. This got me thinking about life and our life transitions. These pivotal points in life often take days, months or even years. When we go through life transitions they are far more memorable than a few words can justify.

My youngest son started middle school this year. It has NOT been an easy transition for him (or for me). He has always encompassed the term “free spirit”, but not in an obnoxious way—in a silly kind of whimsical-way. He is a “glass half full” kid and even with his difficulties at school and the obvious frustration of his mother, he still manages a smile and a big wave when I encounter him in the hallway at school. When talking about C, my husband and I used to always say, “I sure hope school doesn’t ruin him.” Here I am an educator and worried that some teacher will crush his spirit. I don’t think it is possible. He won’t allow it. He will be happy no matter what. WOW---I hope that is genetic.

The transitions in my life recently have been multifaceted. They seem to be personal, professional and spiritual in nature. Teaching at the same school, in the same grade as my child has been a huge transition. It is difficult to separate the “mommy” hat from the “educator” one especially with a child who seems to be struggling a bit. I have found myself biting my tongue, not only where my son is concern, but where my colleagues are concerned as well. Transitioning into the role of single parent has been a bit rockier. This is one I have made “kicking and screaming”. I don’t like it—and there is nothing more I can say. I imagine this transition will be one I am continuously making

My oldest son is transitioning into adulthood. Having graduated from high school and starting college, he has so many life lessons ahead of him. He wears the hat of “head of household” a bit reluctantly and I often lean more heavily on him than perhaps I should. Yet, he rises to the occasion. He takes care of household tasks without my prompting—not the ones he is assigned to of course, but other ones, like calling the internet company to come change and replace the wiring to our house or organizing his dad’s tools in the garage (at 3:00 in the morning). Nevertheless, I am watching him transform in front of my eyes into an adult any parent would be proud of.

As a family, transitioning since Don died has been most difficult. We have all had to find new roles and paths to travel. I hope this transition will become a bridge to what lies ahead for each of us instead of an excuse to stagnate where we reside. The only thing constant is change. Transitioning is inevitable if you have the desire to continue to grow and live.

This I Know For Sure…

Sunday, September 09, 2007

When Life Becomes Surreal???

Sometimes I look at my life like it really isn’t my own—like I am looking at a painting created by someone else. Who finds the love of their life at 18 and then loses him to death and has a chance again via technology to experience love again? Please allow me explain…

I met and fell in love with my husband when I was 17. We had 24 years as husband and wife and I treasure each and every one of them. Then, my worst nightmare became a reality when he passed away in 2005. We had talked many times about the life we wanted for the other if death were to visit. Thank goodness we had those discussions. They went something like this; “I want you to move on, to be happy and make solid decisions for your future and that of the children---more than anything—love and live again.” We would follow such discussions with “isn’t this talk silly—it isn’t going to happen to us”, but it did. I watched the past two years as if my life were some Lifetime movie.

I am looking at my two year “sadiversary” since Don’s death. A golf tournament, created in his memory, is next weekend. It is a great honor and I look forward to the memories. YET, here I am—so very fortunate to be given a second chance at love in this life, but afraid somehow?

I met a wonderful widower who seems to be a perfect “fit” for me as a 46 year old woman. We have many of the same interests and “loves”—he sings, which has always been something I love, he travels, which has been my dream, he is outgoing; which is what I need in a companion at my age, he is an amazing Christian man and my family adores him, but most of all he seems to love me. Though I still look at my life as if it were some movie—widow finds widower who understands and loves completely—I am afraid to claim it??? Hmmmmmm….why is that????

I find myself once more viewing my life as if it were not my own and I wonder “what is my problem”??? Sometimes I feel as if my life is some kind of crazy reality show---but it isn’t---It is my life—it is the sum of choices that I have made to move forward and it is who I am today. SO—I am consciously moving forward. I am exploring what “chapter two” has for me. I honor the memory of my love with Don and am thankful to what the past has enabled me to bring to a new relationship.

Surreal may be where I began, but “real” is where I have landed. I choose to move forward—to find a new beginning for myself and for my children—I choose to LIVE. I choose K—I hope he chooses me…..there---it is now documented…

This I know for----yes, SURE…

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Pop Culture Defines Our Lives!!

I just finished watching the Saturday Night Live in the 80’s special on ABC. WOW—my life can be defined through a television program!! I graduated high school in 1980 and was married in 1981. I graduated college in 1984 and began teaching the same year. My first child was born in 1989. The milestones of my life can be easily measured by Saturday Night Life episodes in the 1980’s.

Saturday Night Live was one of Don’s favorite television programs. I found myself watching this special tonight laughing and crying at the same time. From Buckwheat to Hans and Frans to the Church Lady to the Blues Brothers, I can actually gage my life by SNL. Pop culture has a whole new meaning for me---I know what I was watching on television the night my children were born (Cardinal’s game for one and Illini game for the other—wonder who was watching??). I also know what I was watching the night my husband died (Jennifer Gardner in Alias).

I also connect popular songs with various events of my life. I know when I met Don the Doobie Brothers and Billy Joel defined our love. When my oldest son was born I can gage the time by Chicago (“Look Away”) and Janet Jackson (“Miss You Much”). When my youngest was born a whole new era had begun: Northern Exposure and Power Rangers muddied our television viewing and Phil Collins and Garth Brooks was in my cassette recorder.

I have always considered myself learned, educated and somewhat refined (for the mid-west anyway), but when it comes to what defines moments in my life---I find that pop culture more than any other “more sophisticated” means mark significant “life experiences”.

I am glad that I have these wonderful memories—these constant reminders of life gone by lived to its fullest….more to come…

This I know for sure…

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ready, Fire, Aim or Voice in Life!

I had a graduate professor who, when speaking of ineffective school districts, spoke of a “ready, fire, aim” mindset instead of a “ready, aim, fire” approach. I realize that I have been living my life in the “ready, fire, aim” mode for almost two years. I have given little thought to the future (which one could find amazingly ironic), I tend to put things off (some call this procrastination). I approach life with little to no forethought (ok that might not be too different than before). The result of such actions is that my life is in a bit of disarray. Nothing in my life is in an organized state and what’s more---I don’t know if I could identify how, or even want it to change. Dr. Phil says “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge”, but what if you don’t want to change it? Do you have to simply because it is the grown-up thing to do?

I spoke to my students this week about the important of “voice” in their writing: about how, what they write should contain enthusiasm and/or passion easily understood by the reader. I have been thinking about the aspect of “voice” in a different context—that of what is our life "voice". I wonder if we have different “voice” at different times along our journey. Right now my voice is one of disorganized contentment. I am not talking about my physical surroundings as they are somewhat tidy (minus a closet or two). I am referring to an inner clutter that has been a result of a personal “ready, fire, aim” mindset. I am not sure others “read” this voice when they view my life from the outside, but perhaps that is ok.

Do I think this will be my voice forever? Not likely. I imagine I will tire of this untidy state eventually and personally “clean house”. Do I long for a more structured life? Perhaps - but change starts with crafting a desire to compose a different life “voice”. For now, the “ready, fire, aim” mindset has gotten me through the past two years. I foresee “ready, aim, fire” to be just around the corner---

This I know for sure…