One Year Gone

It’s been one hell of a year.


We talked about this, remember? It’s been a year already since you’ve gone and I’ve got to tell you a few things. I haven’t sat on my ass and moped around, just like we talked about. No, I haven’t forgotten all the things we’ve talked about doing, and I certainly haven’t forgotten about you, but here is the rundown on the things you and I both know you’ve been part of:

  1. We made the trip to Bakersfield via Las Vegas for the girls. It’s a gorgeous place in it’s own right, and may just be a good place to live, we will have to see when we can get back and if it’s still as nice as we think in the winter months
  2. Elly is nailing first grade, has lost her first tooth (soon to be the second). She is tall, which is nice, and yes, her hair is the blonde version of yours, thank you, makes it super easy to maintain in the mornings 🙂 (you saw that she butch-cut her and her sister’s hair, so I am happy to say it’s growing back nicely) She is also reading so well.
  3. Gloria is talking up a storm, has quite the personality. She loves to sing and is showing quite the interest in mirroring everything I do, this is kind of fun. She tends to want to sleep extra after waking up, and wants to stay up late, opposite her sister. She parrots the behavior of sissy and drives me just nuts. She is an extremely emotional girl, which I love, her sappiness is real.
  4. I’m doing fine. I didn’t sit on my ass and not move forward. Just like we talked about, I have been making the best life possible for the girls, and even taking some time for myself. I’ve got an amazing person in my life who helps me make better decisions, who pushes me to be the best dad and person I can be every day, and that makes the world of difference. It took me quite some time, but I finally took my ring off and they are going to be forever kept together as they should. There has been no retaliation depression, and if I am honest, some days I really miss the things we used to do, however big or small they were. I’ve been keeping my promise to you, all the things I said I would do, I am going to do them until the day I die, and I truly believe the girls are much happier for it.

There’s something to be said about the people you surround yourself with, and I can honestly say that with the one, and a new found group of friends, and the support of your mom and dad and my kid sister, things are about as good as they can be.

It sucks to have to type a letter to you instead of saying all of this to you, but we don’t get the choice to say when and where we will go sometimes, and I know you are watching over us each and every day.

I’ll keep talking to you, I’ll keep missing you.

Just because I don’t break down and cry every day doesn’t mean I don’t miss you.

I’m looking forward to a few things, the next two days not really being part of it, but we will make it through.


I Love You and we do miss you – thank you so much for what you are doing to help us.



Pandas and the Anniversary

One year ago we arrived back home from an amazing trip to San Diego Zoo (among other things) and through much excitement we had solidly settled on calling Elly and Gloria ‘the pandas’, much due to the ironic nature in visiting many zoo’s and having yet to see a single panda bear. Irony at work.

So it’s been a year and I am making this happen for the girls.

We are seeing frickin pandas this year.

Yes, we are crazy, this was determined many years ago, so it should be no surprise that amid a work week, we will hit the road and head toward our zoo that 100% for sure no question asked has EFFING PANDAS.

Here’s the idea: Leave this village in the next couple of days and head to our destination. We have no hotel plans, no mandatory on-the-way-there forced stops or timelines, it’s the best kind of travel.

The Map: this will hopefully work and I will do an iffy job (let’s be honest, it’s not first priority when on the road) updating the ‘where we are’ and if anything eventful happened.

We’ve recently added a compressor and fire extinguisher to the vehicle (being we are putting on quite the miles), just in case.


    (*For those wanting to catch up on the crazy, we’ve done the Bakersfield trip already, if you add in the next 2 trips (Pandas and Solar Eclipse) this is what the Novak’s summer 2017 looks like by close/rough calculation: Fun Map Clicky)

    114 hours of just road time

    7,732 road miles

    Endless breaks for sightseeing and touristy things, including 5 drives up and down the Vegas strip 🙂


    It’s been a while…

    It has been some time since I updated this, and if I am honest, I actually let the site slide a bit due to the drop in visitors (not sure if people wanted updates…)

    So we’re back…

    What has happened since March?

    The girls were hopelessly addicted to a song by Panic At The Disco called ‘Vegas Lights’ – due to this massive addiction and the huge smiles on their faces every single day, I took a couple of weeks off of work and without telling anyone but a sole person, we drove from home to Las Vegas, Nevada so the girls could see all about Las Vegas. While on this trip, we saw so many things, stopped at a few of AJ and my gaming friends (hello The Olde Guard!!!) houses and ended up in Bakersfield, California for a few days. We stayed with an amazing friend of ours who didn’t hesitate opening his home to us and giving us a great place to stay while we were there.

    There was a get-together with a whole bunch of friends at another home, just an amazing time with all. We are so grateful to have an amazing support group of true friends who dealt with our craziness.

    The trip back was just as fun, and even though we do NOT have a love for ‘WHYoming’, the rest of the states were amazing.

    There is so much more, and for a quick ‘we’re alive’ update, this will do! 🙂

    Next up: 3 and 5 days until the girls 3rd and 6th birthdays! 😀


    It’s almost your birthday.

    This is the week where you would have gotten the most crap from your husband, letting you know how you are older than him and you are a cradle robber. This was something that I so dearly miss joking with you about.

    You may have been just under 2 months older than I, but it was something both of us gave each other crap about so often. This week there will be no sleeping in for you. There will be no sneaking the girls out of the house before you wake on Wednesday, no breakfast in bed, no Caribou coffee in bed. There will be no surprise presents or looking forward to your bath and body works lotions and victorias secret gift cards. The excitement in your eyes on a birthday morning will not be here.

    It already sucks so badly, and I am trying my damnedest to keep smiling for the girls. I packed up all your clothes and stored them away for the pandas. If it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t be much around here to keep going. You did end up sending someone my way to talk to about everything and to lean on when it gets hard, and I do thank you for that. We are both very convinced you are in the music we listen to every day, throwing a song or two in there.

    I miss you Andrea Joy – I get to see your eyes in Gloria, your smile in Eleanor, and part of your attitude, too. I miss you though. It’s not quite the same here without the joking and being together all the time.

    We have come to a place here where we are able to keep up with everything and still have fun. We will be just fine.

    I Love You and miss you so fucking much it hurts.

    Happy Birthday my Andrea Joy. I Love You.

    Until The Day I Die

    The first of the 2017 updates…

    Ahh, the long awaited post-holidays update. We survived relatively in one piece 🙂 I kid, everyone seems to have made it fine through the first ‘hardest’ holiday. The girls and I are doing just fine and although they terribly miss their mom, both #1 and #2 are having a ton of fun, learning lots and not surprising at all, growing up very fast.

    The girls have an amazing support network with the Aunties and Uncles, Cousins and Grandma and Grandpa that spoiled the crap out of them over Christmas and have been constantly going out of their way to make sure these girls know they are good girls, and no thanks will ever be good enough to show our appreciation for everything.

    At this time we’re kind of in a holding pattern of the same old weekly routines as much as possible while we wait to hear any update as to the wonderful news that the home we’ve been renting will be sold early this year sometime. I am not sure if it is feasible to ‘purchase’ anything as large as a home, and to be honest, with the way my team at work seems to be falling in to pieces and not getting better, it may be best to wait it out and be patient. It would suck to have to try and find a reasonable place to live in this town, as Grand Forks is a jump up or two in price from what we had been paying in Fargo, and everyone knows that once you get the house living, and everything a family of four needs and wants to live on in once place, that it is nearly impossible to transition back in to a lack-of-storage apartment, which would be our only route when the house is sold. We’ll deal with that sooner than later, I would expect.

    Ohhh, and if anyone is a taxes expert out there, have I got a perfect customer just for you (wink wink…) 😉

    In one way or another this weekly grind has been keeping us in check, there have been no major meltdowns with anyone, and incorporating things like the bedtime books AJ took the time to record herself reading and watching the videos of AJ singing or laughing really have helped everything quite a bit. I am still not able to really cope with rearranging the room or trying to put any of the mess away that we call our bedroom, but I expect that will come in due time (whether I want to or not, I fear).

    We have come to what I think is a stable point with Social Services and AJ’s Social Security payments for the girls, that was one very tough nut to crack. As far as I’m aware, Grand Forks county will still not provide any assistance to this house which sucks, but not even looking further in to it and fighting with them really helps the stress level to stay grounded. 🙂

    It’s been very tough working overnights and staying up with the girls during the day, but I think that was reasonably solved by sleeping the heck out of the overnights on my two days off a week, and more often than not having awesome family members watch the girls either during the daytime hours or even overnight a day or two on most weekends. This gives a solid 3 day sleep cycle, not including the two or three hours I can squeak in once a week between the girls bedtime and my work start time.

    Through all of this I have had the most amazing group of guys (and a woman or two) supporting me mentally and listening to me whine about the daily/weekly nonsense, so an amazingly huge and genuine THANK YOU to every one of the gamers I play with in The Olde Guard old-fogie gamers group.

    Like we said before, we’ll keep updating every few weeks so people know the latest, so until next update, please be kind and take care. We miss you Andrea Joy/Mom.

    Merry Christmas from the Novak’s

    Here’s the latest:

    I’ll start with (unbelievably) some good news! Social Services of Grand Forks County has approved C.J. as the primary care provider for the girls! This means he can finally receive the benefits from Social Security for the girls, this is a move in the right direction. They still won’t give any other assistance, but honestly, I’m just done trying, there is no point with them.


    We had a good turkey day, and family members made some very good food – thank you Sara for hosting this year’s feed-fest again 🙂


    We are making it all work, figuring how to re-measure all the things we do on a daily/weekly basis, and trying to get back in to swing of ‘normality’. It’s super hard to re-learn how to buy groceries, for example. No more making 2 pounds of hamburger and 2 boxes of hamburger helper, sounds trivial, right? Nope, everything changes when someone is gone. No longer do we need milk for oreos, creamer or coffee. Gone are the 10 flavors of yogurt and taco pizza’s.


    It’s a different world from losing a person who is in your life daily, for example when Darrin died. Yes, it is still a void that can not be filled, but it didn’t impact the household in whole. Was there anger, crying, depression and angst? Yes, but it is very very different from losing your wife. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I will tell you there is a surreal feeling when you’re expecting to round a corner and bump in to someone. It’s also very very mentally taxing when you’re watching a show you used to with a person, and you react to what’s happening and turn to see an empty seat.


    It’s very hard to do the things that AJ loved to do, like setting up her Christmas tree. This was her thing, she absolutely had to do it every year. Well, I contemplated it, honestly, was it worth putting up the tree for the one person who enjoyed the hell out of it? Yes, it is, because those two girls deserve to keep those memories and see it every year. All this being said:


    Merry Christmas From The Novak’s

    your smile

    your smile

    holding your hand

    petty arguments

    finding two squares left on the toilet paper roll

    watching movies

    watching stupid tv shows

    kissing your forehead

    cruising around

    watching dumb videos

    making breakfast

    getting your coffee

    tripping over shoes

    scaring you

    getting attitude back

    tall hugs

    butt dance

    stupid songs

    story time

    rubbing the bump on your head


    rubbing your leg while driving

    your eyes

    tucking you in

    eskimo kisses

    goodnight sweets


    First and foremost, thank you to each and every single person who has been helping through this. It’s hard, yes, and it doesn’t ever get easy. With each and every person caring so much, it’s no wonder why AJ wanted us here, and here we’ll stay. Thank you.




    Cancer is a scary monster.

    This isn’t the same old ‘cancer sucks’ rant, although it does and we all know it.

    Just about two and a half years ago we were gifted by the most wonderful gift again, a second amazingly gorgeous daughter. That same day we were also dealt a pain in the ass, cancer. Much like everyone else that has been dealt the same hand, we were a bit sickened by what was there, but we pressed on.

    We decided to fight this, and fight we did. By we, I mean AJ did a damn fine job at being herself – the strong quiet person. Don’t get me wrong, AJ was devastated Although she put on a good front, the honest truth is she was very hurt with the surgery, and losing some of her hair – but remained positive it would grow back. After that the radiation and a ton of hair lost. We went through several weeks of missing small events due to not wanting to go out, if only to the grace of caring family members, AJ found the love of her signature headbands to cover the sparse hair she hated.

    Around this same time we had a meeting with the Oncology team at Mayo and got a very detailed write-up to confirm what we had heard – one to two years at best, and in an absolute miracle world, three to four.

    We knew going in to this the progression of things, and that had always been a topic of conversation between AJ and I. We spoke weekly of the upcoming with the progression and what we would be doing about what’s coming down the pipe. We have never spoken in secret about anything and as much as it took to suck back any tears, we have always been up front and honest with the girls.

    AJ and I both knew that the clock was ticking, and from September on through our last meeting, our last real conversation where we could both talk to each other, we spoke about things to do, what to say to whom, how to progress after she dies.

    Yes, we spoke about dying not because we had to, but I believe it helped AJ a bit, even though she was scared shitless as to the impending outcome of her ever so short gifted life with us.

    We spent two years trying our damnedest to make memories, on my part I was trying to make sure that the amazing benefit everyone put so much work in to, from my little sister and estranged family I had been largely ignoring due to a previous family spat, to the whole breadth of what seemed like decades of work with the entirety of northern Minnesota coming together as one family on AJ’s side (let’s be honest, northern Minnesota is one giant family, related or not, they act in each others positive nature no matter who it is). Needless to say, we did our best.

    We came close to nailing AJ’s list of zoo’s – which was five or six lists of the top 10 zoo’s concatenated (<== AJ HATES that word, sorry sweets!) and the top 10 compiled, re-ordered and listed in the order AJ wanted to get to them. We will complete this list for her, the girls and I will finish it no matter what.

    Through this entire thing we’ve made light of none of our candid conversations about death, regression, stress, worry and fear to anyone. AJ may have shared with her mother, as they are extremely close, but there wasn’t a mass discussion with everyone around.

    We tried not to take things too seriously, as AJ and I spoke very thoroughly about things on the first (several) drives to Mayo – 6 hours of talking is QUITE a lot. At this point two years ago, we were done and ready to keep living and not letting this shit get to us. I’ll call it like it is, this is shit, this whole stupid thing has been a pile of steaming shit nobody should ever have to be dealt.

    I would be lying if I said that any of the many talks, hugs, crying, angry songs, fast drives, short talks, cuddling, running of hands though her hair or smiles have lessened this pain today. Yes, it helped quite a bit, but honestly, this sucks SO BADLY.

    We’re making things through, but to be completely honest, I wondered why people keep asking ‘are you going to stay around here for at least a while’. This isn’t something I expected nor had an answer for. Why would it be an option? What did we say or do to signal possibly leaving? Nothing. But after today’s walking in to Sam’s Club with Gloria – and her looking endlessly for Mom the whole time in there, it dawned on me, that’s why people leave.

    We won’t be though, just need to reiterate that for any family members still going to this site who may or not freak out when they read that.

    Even though it’s hard sometime, it’s great having everyone here to help with everything. We have been dealt a few crappy cards this past week, but nothing will compare with the week before, so it will be dealt with.

    This will the the last update for a few weeks as we get this new schedule of life down a bit more. I am not sure if I will be able to keep working this third shift, even though it has taken many years to get to this point in the career path, I’ll most likely have to drop to something crappy locally here and see if we can keep making it. It will suck to leave this job, as it’s really spoiled this household, but there isn’t anything like it in this town that refuses to grow with the times.

    The fact that Grand Forks County won’t help this household with childcare or any assistance whatsoever adds to the pile, really. I have never been so frustrated trying to get something accomplished as to deal with a whole county that won’t help a family in need. But we’ve been through this rant before, right?! I am still genuinely curious to know how the hell people get assistance, afford childcare, sports, events, movies, trips and groceries without help of Grand Forks county – just knowing we don’t possibly qualify for any help, of any family in any situation, you would think this one could use a stupid break.

    We will continue to update this site with updates on the girls, as it’ll be nice to see them grow up and live the lives AJ and I swore to each other they would.

    There aren’t enough thanks to go around to each and every person who has helped, sent a card, smile or even said hi. Sometime even acknowledging a fellow parent waiting to pick up a child can keep a grieving person going.

    For now, off to figure out how to keep a pair of oh-too-sassy girls busy for a few hours between meals.

    Maybe today is an super cheesy egg kind of morning sweetie.

    Memorial Service

    The memorial service for AJ will be Friday, November 4th at 11:00am at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, MN.


    There will be a visitation starting at 10:00am with a luncheon provided afterwards by the Forest River Community Hutterites.