Choosing Joy

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A couple of years back my dad got diagnosed with cancer. I remember sitting listening to the news and feeling completely helpless. I had recently moved to Oregon and all I wanted to do was hug him and tell him I loved him face to face. My dad was going to have surgery to remove the cancer and our prayer was that it hadn’t metastasized or was worse than we thought. Fortunately they were able to remove all of it and he has been cancer free ever since.

Through this time my dad was so positive. Yes, I’m sure he had his moments and was scared, but outwardly he was positive. I asked him how he was doing during one of our phone conversations and I will never forget his response. He said that he couldn’t change the fact that he was diagnosed with cancer. Being sad, angry or even wishing it wasn’t true wasn’t going to change what was happening to him but he could control how he responded to this diagnosis. He could choose to have a  positive attitude and look to the future instead of thinking his life was over. My dad choose to be positive…he choose joy.

My dad is so wise.

I have thought of my dad’s response often these past 2 months. I cannot change what happened to my girls and a game of “what if” will never bring them back. I can though choose how I respond to my girls being Heaven. I can celebrate them, I can share pictures, I can sit in their rooms and quietly grieve a life too short, I can go to their schools and spend time with their friends, I can sit and look through hundreds of pictures and videos and remember all of the amazing times I shared with them, I can live a life that honors God and I can listen, really listen and go where he leads me. I can choose a joyful life that honors my girls and shares their story, a love-drenched life!

Last night a group (a big group) of Anna and Abigail’s friends and their parents stood outside of my house with candles flickering and sang Christmas carols. We then walked around our neighborhood singing to Old Town while Anna’s little friends held my hands.  There was so much love and joy, I couldn’t help but have a huge smile on my face. My husband belted out songs as though he was preforming in front of a stadium of people. It made my heart so warm to see him surrounded by this love and to hear his beautiful voice. He was definitely singing to the Heavens.

At one point we were all standing in the alley next to our house figuring out where we were going to go next. This was the same spot I stood in the night of the accident. Over the last 2 months being outside at night has been very difficult for both of us. I’ve avoided the alley and generally made any time outside at night very brief. We are both struggling with images of that night and the triggers are countless…being in the alley I felt would definitely be a trigger.

As I stood there, in the exact spot I stood that night, I had an overwhelming sense of peace. I looked around at all of these people that love us and our girls so much. There was so much Joy! I can say at that moment I felt the images of fire trucks, policemen and my little girl covered with a white sheet vanish. I now have a new image to hold onto that is so beautiful! It’s the image of friends singing, beautiful faces laughing and my two little angels sitting in their tree smiling at their parents having joy.

I am so grateful for God’s Love being poured on us by our community.

I am grateful for a Dad who taught me, through his example, to be positive even when life is tough. We don’t always get to choose what happens to us but we can choose how we respond to it. My girls LOVE their Papa with all their heart and he loves them with all of his.

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Best Friends Forever

When I was 5 years old I liked to “hang out” by the drinking fountain in my kindergarten class. Not exactly sure why I was “hanging out” there but I did along with another girl from my class, Laurie. One day we started chatting about boy in our class who we both thought was really funny (and cute). The hanging out turned into play dates at each other’s house, sleepovers whenever we could, spending everyday in the summer together, talking for hours on the phone, bike rides around town, family vacations, being dorm neighbors in college, discussions about meeting “the one”, shoulders to cry on when “the one” didn’t work out, distance but always knowing how to reconnect, being room mates in our 20’s, tropical vacations together, wedding day fun, celebrations of our first-born and more recently a shoulder to cry on after my tragic loss.  This girl, my Lu, is my friend that I’ve known the longest. She is my rock and I can not imagine my world without her.

Yesterday we both figured out that we had the ability to facetime each other, this is something new for Tom and I. As we were sitting there face to face through the lens of technology, we started making faces just like we would have done when we were kids. I began to laugh, in a way that only Laurie can make me laugh. We continued to do this for the next couple of minutes with hardly any words exchanged.

Over my lifetime her friendship has brought me so much joy, even in my darkest hours. She has always had the ability to know exactly what I need at the exact moment I need it. She is my “soul friend” and I am so glad we found each other that day at the drinking fountain.

This is where, if I had a scanner, I would insert some really great pictures from when we were young. Instead I will insert just one…my new favorite of us and our little ones. This picture and the memories it holds are some of my favorite, our most recent time together. It was such a great day.

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Both Anna and Abigail have a “soul friend,” the one they laugh uncontrollably with and tell all their deepest secrets to. I am so thankful they were both able to enjoy this type of friendship in their short lives here on earth. I am also thankful that these two girls, McKenna and Paige, were given the opportunity to really know my daughters and all of their goodness. I often would tell Anna and Abigail that the friendship they had with Mckenna and Paige was just like my friendship with Laurie…it was going to last a lifetime (and beyond).

I know that every single day, for a very long time (if not for the rest of their days) these girls will have joy in their heart because of the friendship they have with my girls. This friendship is eternal and I know that my girls will ALWAYS watch out for their BFF. They are wearing their necklaces in Heaven.

My girls are lucky to have them and they are lucky to have my girls.

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Dance Party

This weekend was a busy one with three Annie productions and Ballet Forest Grove’s The Nutcracker. We are so lucky to live in a town that has so many amazing programs for kids and for the community. The Nutcracker was absolutely amazing. The show was dedicated to our girls and was rich in blue and purple accents. The dancers, many of our girls’ friends and role models, are so incredibly talented. They put on a show for our community that was absolutely beautiful. Tom and I felt so blessed to have the girls be honored in this way.

Anna in the 2012 Nutcracker.
Anna in the 2012 Nutcracker.

Forest Grove Dance Arts  has a yearly scholarship set up in Anna and Abigail’s name. It will provide dance lessons for a year and recital costumes to a number of girls that would not be able to afford participating in dance at the studio. Being a teacher, I know a lot of girls that would love to be involved but can’t due to financial restraints. This scholarship means so much to Tom and I. Miss Patty, the director of the studio, has done so much, not only for our girls but for so many little girls in this community. She is so amazing and I feel so blessed to have had her be in Anna and Abigail’s life. I really can’t thank her and the entire staff of instructors enough for all they have done for us as a family. I’m sure lots of people in Forest Grove feel the same way we do.

Yesterday Tom posted on his Facebook page that he wished he could have dance party with the girls. Dance party is a nightly ritual at the Dieter-Robinson house. Tom would take the girls into the family room and let them put on current pop tunes and they would all dance their little hearts out. Tom often would use this as a form of exercise, busting out 100 sit-up or 40 push-ups while the girls danced around him (or on top of him for added resistance). I was usually dancing in the kitchen doing dishes or taking a few minutes to myself while Tom had the girls completely enthralled in complete dancing joy.  They would all surface after about 3 or 4 songs sweaty, smiling and begging for more.

Before we met Tom and the kids, Anna and I would have dance party on a regular basis. We would dance on beds, around Sampson or I would pick her up and swing her around the room to music. One night this Fall she reminded me of this little bonding experience we used to have and asked if we could do it again. So before bed one evening, I picked Anna up like I did when she was 3 and danced around the room with her. She held on tight with her legs wrapped around me. I remember thinking that my little girl wasn’t so little anymore. My heart melted as we danced around the room to 22 by Taylor Swift.

Dance Party to All the Single Ladies

When we blended our families, Anna and I quickly learned that Tom and the kids also liked to rock out to music. We had “dance parties” and they had “rocking out sessions.” Tom would turn one of his favorite “Rocker” songs on and the kids would all dance around the living room. It didn’t take much to get this started – just a little music then Tom putting his hands up and starting to move like only Tom knows how. I love watching Tom dance. How he dances at home is very different then how he dances as a servant of Mr. Warbucks in Annie….just saying.

Rocking Out Robinson Style

We haven’t had dance party in almost 2 months. I’m sure one of these days, when the mood is just right and the song on the radio speaks to us, we will get up and dance again. When we do I know, without a doubt, our girls will be dancing with us.

My Net

One of my favorite blogs to read is Enjoying the Small Things. Kelle Hampton is a mom of three kids living in Florida enjoying all the little things that life has to offer. I’m not exactly sure how I found this blog but it was a morning ritual to read and soak in all of her families’ goodness. Her middle daughter, Nella, was born with Downs Syndrome which lead her on a road that wasn’t the plan she had for her life, but rather a plan that she graciously accepted and has blossomed from since the day that little one was born.  I love this blog for so many reasons.

Some of my favorite post are the ones when Kelle talks about her Net. The group of women she has in her life that catch her when she is falling. I remember thinking about my Net, that group of women that if needed would catch me.

My Net, I don’t need to name you because you know who you are, come from all over the World.  There are so many of you!  Childhood friends, college friends, sister-in-laws, grown-up friends, cousins, work friends and the list goes on and on. I have been blessed with so many amazing women in my life to nurture me, stand by me, cry with me, laugh with me and keep me accountable. I am so blessed to call each and every one of you my friend.

The past 2 months I have especially been grateful for these friendships. Your prayers, your thoughts, your notes of love, your advise and your shoulder to cry on. I know that without you this journey I am on would be harder than it already is. Thank you for catching me and holding me tight by your words, your prayers and your arms.

I used to think about getting all of the amazing women I know together for a retreat of some kind. I would think “wouldn’t it be amazing to meet in a condo (or several) in Colorado for a long weekend?” The energy of all of my friends intertwined would be something special. Right now I feel that this site and my Facebook page have become that condo. Friends have intertwined with posts and comments that have inspired me and have put joy into my aching heart. They have reached out to one another just for the sake of providing Tom and I comfort in this very hard time.

My girls used to comment often about our friendships and how they felt so blessed by the people we had in our lives. Last year Abigail made a special Mother’s Day treat for the moms that she admired in our community. These women are part of my Net, they mothered my girls and nurtured them. I always thought that if anything ever happened to me, my girls would be taken care of by the love of so many. My girls are in Heaven with happy hearts because they know I am being taken care of by you, My Net.

I wish I had pictures of all of you. I will definitely will be bringing my camera to our retreat.

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Tiva

 This is Red, a horse at the barn where Anna went riding. I love this picture so much.

This is Red, a horse at the barn where Anna rides. I love this picture.

When I went this morning to let the dog out I found a sheet of window snowman stickers sitting on my front porch with a note attached.

Here are some happy snowmen for your windows or mirrors.

Love your Secret Santa

I smiled. What a happy way to start my day. I knew exactly where I was going to put them…Anna’s room. Her bedroom windows look out over Main Street so anyone walking by will be able to see them. I immediately headed up stairs and turned on the light. Oh how I miss my girl. I walked in and looked around, saying hi to her dolls and stuffed animals like I always do. I’m sure they are so lonely without having her to play with them daily. I sat down on her bed and took a deep breath. It’s really hard to imagine her never being in that space again. Every inch of it screams Anna’s room.

I looked down next to her bed and a book, which has been sitting there since the beginning of October, jumped out at me: Horses, a book she bought with her own allowance. She would look through it nightly and day-dream of having a horse of her own someday. She would tell me that she wanted a horse just like Tiva, or better yet, maybe we could buy Tiva?

Anna started riding Tiva over the summer and did so weekly up until Oct. 17.  During her last lesson we talked about a future of riding English and jumping, both she was really excited about. I absolutely loved to watch her ride. She was such a strong little girl and was able to move Tiva wherever she wanted him to go. He was so gentle with her and for that I am grateful.

She loved that horse so much. I remember during her last lesson, while her instructor was setting up some obstacles and Anna was waiting for her to be done, she laid forward wrapping her arms around his giant neck. Tiva could have put his head down and Anna would have gone rolling off the front of him, but he didn’t. He held his head up and allowed her to love on him in a way that melted this Mama’s heart. I love remembering that exact moment and the feeling I had. I was a proud Mama and my heart was filled with so much joy. Anna was so happy.

My girl loved that horse and I think he loved her too. I’m so glad she had those experiences.

So, whoever left the stickers on our front porch this morning I thank you. Your kind gesture triggered a chain of events that reminded me of a moment that I had not thought about since the day it happened. I’m sure there was a greater hand in it all but I am grateful for the gesture of love that you gave. The stickers are in Anna’s window and my heart is full of joy for a little girl that loved a really big horse.

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