Happiness is a choice. It isn’t always easy to make that choice and certainly life is not always fair, but looking for the blessings and for the small things that spark contentment is easier that the energy it takes to endure a enduring pity party. The choice involves thought and intentionality because people innately fixate on what is going wrong, what is missing, or on what should or could be. When Phil was assassinated, early on I recognized how that if I didn’t have the energy to waste thinking about Phil’s assassin. I recognized that anger or wanting revenge would not bring Phil back, but it would in essence give Phil’s assassin my life, too. Perhaps it would have been different if I was sitting in a room with this man, but I made a choice to use my time, energy, and focus on honoring the man Phil was as a military officer, husband, and a father. He was about so much more than the way he was killed.


Like most people, I assumed a lot of things about my life. I thought I knew how my fifties were going to look, and this is not what I saw. The last of our five children had just left the house the year Phil deployed. Since he married me and became dad to Patrick, Josh, and Emily, we never had time without children. We were looking forward to traveling without children, building our dream house, and eventually retiring to WA state. I made assumptions about life in other ways, too. I assumed that if I prayed, and if everyone else prayed, that God would protect Phil from violence. I have had to come to grips with my assumptive world shattering. My thinking has shifted and I have come to recognize that bad things happen to really good people and that life isn’t always fair, thus I must not waste my life’s moments by living in the shadows, cowering, or wishing for what is not possible.


Shifting my paradigms to look at what I do have to be thankful for has been key. This gratitude starts with shifting my thinking from feeling cheated with Phil’s death to being thankful for the 23 years we did have together. On my dark days, I force myself to acknowledge three things that I am grateful for. This act is not easy and I have to really think about it on those days, but when I find those nuggets, it sparks something. Those sparks remind me of what I do have, what I have to get up for in the morning, and more than that, it gives me hope. 

The second act that I do on my dark days of my pity parties is that I consciously look for ways to do random acts of kindness or service to others. When my focus is off of me, I am able to act. In giving, my batteries are reset. My focus leaves me and becomes in a bigger world beyond me. I see pain in others and by reaching, we heal together. 

I also force myself to get outside. There is something in moving that brings me sparks of joy. I find myself centering and working through the tears. I run, listen to meaningful music, fall into my faith, and I come home and write those thoughts. Through those simple acts, I am able to purge the darkness most days. Make no mistake, it isn’t easy some days or even weeks, but in the conscious deciding that I cannot give up living because it would mean that the assassin got me too, I am able to act. Phil did not have a choice about his death, but I have a choice about how I want to live. I choose life always–that means I show up and live my life fighting for happiness and meaning.




It’s All About That Bass

I’m All About That Bass

There is a song that states “It’s all about that bass, about that bass.” That song means something different to me than others, I am sure. When I hear that song, I immediately consider my attitude. It is all about that attitude. While I cannot deny that I still have pity parties and days that I break out in tears, I can say that each and every day I make a choice to be happy. How can I subtly shift my paradigms when the very person I built my past and my future on was unfairly taken from me? I fight for it.

Every day I get out of bed and I lace up my running shoes. That simple choice is one that I made from the start. I don’t always feel like it and it doesn’t always work, but in the early morning hours I find grounding. I am able to work through my fears, my tears, and a crushing grief that threatens to steal my life. When I am running, I can feel sparks of happiness, and I can see that if I press on one second at a time, one minute at a time, one hour at a time, one mile at a time, one marathon at a time, I can do it. There will be times that hurt and times when I am consumed with thinking that I cannot face what lies ahead, but if I press on through the ache, I will find my footing and I will find joy in the journey. Easy? Never, but the choice is to face the darkness and fight the will that sometimes is counter to what I should do.

Five days after Phil was buried, I made the choice to return to work. I didn’t have to, but I needed something to get up for in the morning. I needed to take my focus off of the crushing pain consuming me to finding a new normal. It would have been easier to hide and to isolate. It felt like nobody knew what I was going through and I had no roadmap to help me navigate. Work gave me connections and it showed me that even in my broken state I had worth and that there were people who valued me.

Work also gave me a platform to help others and then it gave me a platform to effect change in the military world. Because of how Phil died, and because of the way I have processed my grief through writing and speaking on military loss, the brotherhood, and the resiliency that defines my choices, I have grown as a person. I surely would choose to have the life I once had—a life where I lived in the shadows of my very successful family, but I cannot live my days wishing for what can never be. I cannot let anger, regret, or living in the past consume my actions and thoughts, for if I do, the assassin got me to. It is in that choice, I can make something positive come from the darkness.

Three and a half years later, I find meaning and purpose in helping others and in knowing that I am making a difference for those families coming after this girl. It isn’t easy and sometimes I want to be Linda and not “that girl”. On Phil’s angel anniversary, however, I have found that while my heart is bleeding, if I reach out and do random acts of kindness for other people, I feel better. It gets the focus off of me and those thoughts of what should have been….what I thought my life was going to be in my fifties.

One of the biggest shifts in my paradigms happened this fall. One day I realized that life isn’t always fair and that I had come to peace with the fact that I had prayed every day for Phil to come home to me. He didn’t and it rocked my assumptive world view. My shift was in realizing that bad things happen to good people,–children even—and that I had been blessed to have had a man who loved me well for 23 years. Many people want what we had and I am blessed that I had it for as long as I had it. I know what it is to love well, be loved well, and what a good marriage looks like. In the choice to embrace gratitude for the 23 years we shared, my focus shifted from the pity party of one when I am lonely. Do I still get lonely and cry? You bet, but I breathe through the storms and concentrate on the aspects of what I can control. On those days when darkness closes in, I embrace pink polka dots, bubbles, sparkles, and my friends. I know that soon the sun will rise again and I choose happiness because it is all about “that bass”—my attitude says it all.