Today should have been Dave’s 50th birthday.  We should have been celebrating this milestone birthday with friends and family.  Back in April, I had convinced him to let me throw him a party.

For his 40th, we had his party at the house.  The basement was like a mosh pit.  I really had no idea my basement could hold that many people.  All the levels of our house could not contain the number of people who are ready to celebrate his almost 50 years though.


I shared this picture on Facebook this morning.  It is bittersweet for me.  He is so healthy and happy and so it is again so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that he is gone.  This was on one of our many family trips to Disney World.  He had been taking a chinese language class and was eager to try out his new skills.  The kids and I were doubled over laughing when he inadvertently told a young worker from Beijing that he loved her.  That was Dave though – never afraid to try something new even if he ended up a little bit red in the face afterwards.  One of the many things I admired about him and learned from him.

Happy Birthday, Babe.  I love you and miss you.




My life took an unexpected time out last Tuesday.  I woke up feeling a little off and had a slight twinge in my right upper thigh that I blew off thinking it was just related to that special time of the month.  Midday I was walking around getting some things done when suddenly I could not catch my breath.  I was breathing in but the air didn’t seem to be going anywhere.  Terrifying would be a fairly accurate description.  Also, heartbreaking as I couldn’t help but think of Dave during his last day or so and how he must have felt.  I caught my breath after sitting for a few moments and thought that perhaps I had had a panic attack.  But as the afternoon went on, I had this nagging sense that perhaps this was a bigger deal.  I called my mom and told her “I think that I need to go to the ER.”  She picked me up and we headed straight there.

If you want to get seen quickly in the ER, check the “shortness of breath” box.  Within minutes I had an EKG and the doctor was in to talk to me.  The good news is that I wasn’t having a heart attack.  However, my blood pressure and heart rate were through the roof.  I tried to explain that I was stressed about my breathing but that I was also anxious because my husband had died in this very hospital in June.  I am sure it was difficult to understand me through my tears, but the nurse could not have been kinder or more comforting.  I wish I knew her name as she was a Godsend.   The doctor ordered a big dose of Ativan to calm me down.

It was a shift change so a new doctor came in to see me.  I happened to mention the twinge in my leg earlier in the day.  He ordered a chest x-ray, CT scan and an ultrasound of my leg which I had quickly all in a row.  Apparently I had experienced a pulmonary embolism – a large clot traveled from my leg and I ended up with clots to each lung in the pulmonary arteries.  Sadly for me this meant that I had to be admitted to the hospital where I most definitely didn’t want to stay.

The long story short is that I spent Tuesday through Friday night there.  Fortunately, I wasn’t lacking in visitors to keep my company.  My parents held down the fort at home and also visited to check on me and bring necessities (hello, deodorant and toothpaste).  I had an echocardiogram done as well to check on my heart.  There is some effect but the damage should be completely reversible and heal over time.  In the end, the assortment of doctors couldn’t quite agree as to whether something seen in my heart was another clot or not.  At first they said it was and then one said he wasn’t convinced.  Perhaps they were looking at the part of my heart that broke this summer when Dave died.

So I am home.  And very happy to be here with the kids.  I was tired of being in the hospital and all that comes with it.  The constant blood testing and vitals checks were making me crazy.  I am thankful that, as many of the nurses and doctors told me, “things didn’t turn out differently”.  I am trying to take it easy and keep in the forefront of my mind that my kids should not be screwed out of having both parents.  I am tired and a little anxious but as my lungs and heart heal and my breathing gets easier, I know those effects will also resolve themselves.

Prayers welcome.




I seriously debated whether or not to press “publish” on this one and thought this might be best left written but unshared. Then I decided that I have been brutally honest before so why stop now. I know that generally people just want to hear that we are okay. And generally we are, but I have my moments. My standard disclaimer that nothing in here is addressed towards anyone in particular applies.

About a month ago, I met three of my high school friends for dinner. I think we were together for over five hours catching up, laughing, sharing stories. One of my friends, Christy, made a comment about the strength that I have shown during the last months. I half-jokingly replied, “It is all bullshit.”

It is not that I don’t think that I am strong. I just feel that I don’t really have a choice. I have said it before, when you have kids you don’t get the option of just curling up in a ball and staying there. I have confided in a few people that I am worried that my spectacular meltdown, which I have managed to avoid these last four plus months, is going to happen on or around the party. I have never had a good poker face. My feelings are written all over my face.

My emotions have been all over the place with this party planning. On the one hand, I have hired out almost every aspect of it so as not to feel overly stressed. On the other hand, that is not without its own set of tasks and stressors either. I get to celebrate the life of my incredible man with 400+ others which is amazing. But in the same vein, I am having a party for someone who will never again walk through the door and be in my day to day life, which is devastating. I have both smiled and bristled at messages from people saying they “can’t wait” or are “looking forward to” the event. I’ve said these things myself.

My time has been occupied with this party, work, the kids, and general day to day tasks. Occasionally someone will ask me to do something extra, a favor. And I kid you not when I say that there are times that I want to look them in the eye and say, “Are you kidding me? You are asking me for a favor? Do you not remember that I am a widow and a single mom? Do you think your problem is bigger than mine?” I know. SO uncharitable and awful. I never say it. But I do think it. And generally, if it is reasonable and I can help, I do. When I stop to think about the anger and frustration this bubbles to the surface, I realize that my life is a careful balance. I have taken on what I think that I can handle. Anything else, no matter how tiny, feels like it is going to tip the scale and send everything else tumbling. It won’t, of course. But that is how I feel, and how I live.

I am sure that as time goes on I won’t live in a state of continual breath holding. Small things won’t send me in to a tailspin. I will remember what it is like to fully relax. Maybe having this party and celebrating Dave will be the first step in moving forward. I’m not sure.



Dave’s Legacy

Dave is best known for his bright orange attire.  Some days he would be dressed head to toe in orange much to the students’ delight.  Other days, when protocol dictated, he might only have a hint of orange in the form of his lapel pin or socks.  I think that it is safe to say that Dave reinvigorated school spirit at Hayfield.  Yet, to him, it was so much more than that.

1. Wearing your Hayfield t-shirt to school leveled the playing field.  You were part of the Hayfield family rather than one particular clique or another.  Dave’s mission was to create “one school” where everyone had a place from 7th grade until graduation and beyond.  Nothing was more heartbreaking to Dave than when he heard about a teen suicide in the county.  We would talk about that child and the whys and what ifs.  Dave wanted to create a community that said, “You belong here.  You are not alone.  Let’s look out for each other.”  There is a reason he made efforts to learn as many student names as possible.

2.  Dave was known for enthusiastically belting out the fight song over the intercom.  More and more students actually learned the words over the years.  He offered prizes to students and staff for showing their Hayfield spirit.  He wanted to create a place where people took pride in their SCHOOL, in THEMSELVES and in EACH OTHER.  He believed that more learning is going to take place when you have confidence in yourself and know that others are there to back you up and not put you down – that more learning can take place when students feel safe.

3.  I think the other message that Dave always conveyed is not to take yourself too seriously.  He wasn’t afraid to walk around in a giant orange foam hat or orange and white checked overalls.  Life is short.  Laugh.  Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.  You get one go around.  You might as well have a good time.




I’m SO Pleased to Announce…

that we are going to be able to offer 4 – $2500 scholarships this year to graduating Hayfield seniors.


We are also going to be able to contribute to the Hayfield drama department and to the Bob Pass Tennis Foundation.  This is all due to the generosity of the 153 supporters of our online fundraising site as well as some very supportive offline donors.  I think that Dave would be thrilled with what is being done in his name.

Establishing a scholarship is not as easy as I had imagined.  I thought we would raise some money, throw it into an account somewhere, accept applications and then hand out checks to students to use for their post-graduation needs.  In my mind this might be dorm gear, a computer, or some sort of professional license that would aid someone in getting a job.  But, even establishing the account was trickier than I knew.  And forget about handing checks to students.  I understand the need for accountability, but I just wanted to operate on trust.  I am pretty clueless sometimes.

With the support of Cheryl (finance tech at Hayfield), Dana (the PTSA president) and Amy (the career center specialist), I ended up connecting with Tessie who runs College Access Fairfax.  CAF will manage the applications, set up the fund, and write the checks.  Extra money will go into a credit union account to earn a little interest until we need it.  CAF will read through the applications and forward the best ones on to us to make the final decision.

Applicants don’t have to be going to a 4 year college.  My understanding is that the program they are doing just has to accept FAFSA.  It is important to me that we are not basing these scholarships on merit or even financial need necessarily.  I have a child with a genetic disorder who had a dad who was dying from cancer during her last two years of high school.  The resilience and perseverance she has shown throughout her life is not something that can be measured by GPA or FAFSA (although I think she had a GPA to be very proud of).  I would love to recognize kids who have a similar strength of character.  Kids who have persisted through a challenge.  Kids who have done for others and given back to their community in some way.  Dave wasn’t a 4.0 student.  Nor would he have had the minimal Expected Family Contribution.  (In the interest of full disclosure, he did have tennis though.)

Our hope is to continue these scholarships for years to come.  So, if you would like to still donate, it is not too late.


The scholarship application opens up on November 15th.  I am excited to read applications and hope that lots of kids will apply.  I will post a reminder here and on Facebook when the application is live.

Thank you to everyone who has made this possible.  The entire Tremaine family is so very grateful.




It would be easy to rewrite history and idealize a 22 year relationship.  The truth is that Dave and I butted heads on a pretty regular basis.  That is what happens when two know-it-alls get together.  Sometimes, most of the time, the issues were small and fairly ridiculous.  Other times had one or both of us eyeing the door with consideration.  Dave was impulsive. I over think things.  Dave wasn’t much for thinking long term repercussions.  I am not one who really throws caution to the wind.  But at the end of the day, we always came out of whatever it was stronger.  The strength in our relationship came from hard work and finding the right balance.  From persevering through the tough times.  And from keeping our focus on each other.  After all, outside support always takes the side of one person or the other.

Now that my other half is physically gone, I try to honor what I have learned from him.  I am determined to take the best of each of us and apply it to my life.  Sometimes this means pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  Other times it means looking at situations through a different lens.  During the toughest moments I consider, “What would Dave think?”  Early in the summer I was struggling with an issue in which I wondered if I was overreacting or being too sensitive.  As I contemplated aloud what Dave would want me to do, Sam knew the answer.  He had shared with her some very specific opinions and thoughts.  I felt stronger in my resolve and relieved to be doing right by him.

He is with me.  In my dreams.  In my decision making.  Forever in my head and my heart.




Little Reminders

I wake up and he is not on his side of the bed.  As I brush my teeth, I stare at his prized razor and brush.  Grabbing a mug out of the cupboard I note that it is from Annandale High School.  I sit down at my spot at the table and have no one with whom to discuss the day’s news.  As I recycle the paper, I notice his Hayfield letter jacket hanging in the closet.  I drive to work in his car and pass the sushi restaurant he enjoyed and travel the same route we drove together when we taught together all those years ago.  Even at work, I wonder how he would react to a situation or person.  Sometimes I suppress the urge to make a comment that involves him.  Other times, I share away.  Everything reminds me of him.  Everything.

On days when I am feeling strong, the memories are welcome and reassuring.  Other days, I feel his loss so profoundly with every step that I take.  I have fleeting thoughts of moving or redecorating or just escaping for a while.  None of these is the right answer right now.  There are days when I DRAG myself to work and, in the end, I am happy to be there- distracted and busy.  I turned on the tv this weekend and caught the end of the movie The Way Way Back.  And I sat on my bed and cried.  We both really enjoyed that movie.

Dave comes to me in my dreams the way that Snuffleupagus visited Big Bird.  I am the only one who can see him.  Last night we were standing in line at the grocery loading our items onto the belt when he asked me if I had made an appointment for some test.  I assured him that he had already had that appointment.  When I woke up I was left wondering, if we had done things differently, if the results would have been the same.  I am not much for “what ifs” so I let go of that thought almost as quickly as I had synthesized it.

There are moments of most days that I will think of him out of the blue.  In my mind, I see him during those last few weeks, and I still can’t believe how it all went down.  Tears inevitably fill my eyes as I shake my head in disbelief.  So, if you were wondering how that whole acceptance thing was going, it’s not.

It’s Monday again.  I know exactly how many weeks it has been.  Thursday marks the fourth month point since I last saw him and held his hand and whispered to him that it was okay – that he didn’t have to fight anymore, that we loved him, and that it was time for him to rest, that we would be okay.  And we are okay.  As okay as you can be when you are left with a Dave-sized gap in your life.